Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

High Desert's Weruche Opia And Rupert Friend Share The Fun And Madness Of The Show - Exclusive Interview

The dramedy "High Desert" is like nothing you've seen before. It centers on Peggy (Patricia Arquette), who struggles with a drug addiction while mourning her mother. But when her sister threatens to sell the house she lived in with her mom, Peggy decides she has to get a real job as a Private Investigator, and that's when things get really crazy.

Weruche Opia's Carol and Rupert Friend's Guru Bob are part of Peggy's mad world. Carol is Peggy's only real friend, and she takes her mind off her own troubles — which we barely scratch the surface of this season — by helping Peggy. Guru Bob, meanwhile, is a former news anchor turned guru who possesses art that Peggy insists is fake. But to get near it, Peggy has to con her way into Guru Bob's home multiple times and hopefully avoid the father and daughter that are already out to get him.

Luckily, Opia and Friend lead more peaceful lives than their counterparts in "High Desert." Opia has starred in movies and TV roles like Cleo in "Bad Education" and Agent Green in "Slumberland," and she was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for her role as Terry in "I May Destroy You." Meanwhile, Friend has appeared in everything from "The Young Victoria" as Prince Albert and "Hitman: Agent 47" as the title character to "Obi-Wan Kenobi" as the Grand Inquisitor and "Anatomy of a Scandal" as James Whitehouse. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for playing Peter Quinn in "Homeland."

Opia and Friend sat down with Looper to discuss what it was like to be a part of "High Desert," including what Opia thinks about her character's friendship with Peggy and what it was like for Friend to film (still funny) scenes of torture.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Joining High Desert

"High Desert" is a trip. What has it been like for you both to join the mad world of "High Desert"?

Rupert Friend: A huge privilege. Sometimes with a show, you come in maybe a season in or episodes in and you have a sense of it. But for all of us, this was like flying to the moon. We all knew it was there, but we'd never been. We just knew that we had this wonderful script, we had this incredible lead actor and director, and this catalog of eccentrics played by some of our greatest talent. As a package, it's pretty irresistible.

I can imagine. What about you, Weruche?

Weruche Opia: Sign me up, let's go to the moon, 'cause that is an incredible [comparison] ...

Friend: It just came to me.

Opia: I love it! Yes — to be part of something so different, something that hasn't been done, a world that is made by being a pioneer, in this sense ... Getting to build these characters, not from scratch — 'cause a lot of them are actually based on people — but to breathe life into it, I actually really enjoy that. Being the first to do that, to give life to something and be a part of this wonderful creation, is such a treat and an honor.

You mentioned some of them are based on real people. Are your characters based on real people?

Friend: Mine's not.

Opia: Mine is, but I don't know how much I can say.

Friend: There's some secrets there [that] may or may not be revealed.

Opia: May or may not. I'm going to plead the fifth.

Why Carol enjoys her friendship with Peggy

Weruche, your character, Carol, is Peggy's best friend. You pick up her slack and do her dirty work a lot. Why do you think your character enjoys her friendship with Peggy?

Opia: In this season, we don't actually get to know a lot of the backstory of Carol. But Carol also has a big secret that only Peggy knows about. The fact that Carol is where Peggy is has been orchestrated by Peggy. Carol was in some trouble, and Peggy did her a big solid, so she owes Peggy a lot. That is part of the reason why she's very happy to pick up the slack.

But she also enjoys Peggy. It's also a way of deflection, distracting herself from what she's running away from. We see it in the first episode where she's having a panic attack because she thinks somebody's found her out. Peggy's the only one who knows, so she delves headfirst into Peggy's business to avoid addressing hers. It's a big ploy of deflection. But she genuinely loves Peggy and wants to help Peggy 'cause she knows that Peggy's in a very delicate situation right now. Her family's not there for her to help her with the loss of her mom, so Carol is happy to take on the role of her biggest support system.

Filming the torture scenes

Rupert, after he first meets Peggy, Guru Bob, your character, is quickly tortured. Even though it has nothing to do with Peggy, she still lets it happen. What was it like to film those scenes?

Friend: At times, quite terrifying. Part of the brilliance of the storytelling is that Peggy is, as you said, just there. She wanders in, and Bob later says something like, "I was making hostage eyes at you," so he's got no one to turn to.

That's one of the tragedies of Guru Bob. He doesn't have anyone. He doesn't have any family or friends. He has acolytes, he has marks, people he's trying to pawn paintings off on, and that's it. If I could want anything for him, I'd want him to have a friend. Maybe it would be Peggy; I don't know. But there's definitely something linking them together.

It's also very strange to see your nipple recreated as a prosthetic and then to see an exacto blade slicing through it.

I can imagine that would be very strange.

Friend: Even though it's not real, it still gives you the Magic Johnsons. It's like, "Ew."

An uncaring stepchild

Weruche, your character is a stepmom to an uncaring stepchild, but you let her get away with a lot. Why do you think she isn't more bothered by her stepchild's attitude?

Opia: Carol's secret has a big hold on her, so she is playing the stepmom. She's not actually the official stepmom because she's not married to the character's father. Also, because she's such an empath, she feels the need — the young girl's mom left, so she feels the need to mother this young lady. But [there's] teenage angst, and she's looking over her shoulder the whole time. I don't think Carol quite knows how to handle that situation.

Because she's such an easy-breezy person, she's trying not to get invested in that relationship in case she has to skip town and keep running from her secret. That's why she's hands-offish but then has her moments where she's like, "You have to react." But it's something that possibly could be explored in seasons to come — if we get them — because there's a lot of backstory that informs that.

The first three episodes of "High Desert" premiere Wednesday, May 17, on Apple TV+, with one new episode premiering weekly after that.

This interview has been edited for clarity.