A graduate of the London Academy of Music and Art, Hera Hilmar is best known for her role as Vanessa in the TV series “Da Vinci’s Demons” and as Varya in “Anna Karenina.” She also starred as Eik in “Life in a Fishbowl;” and as Lillie in “The Ottoman Lieutenant.”
Hilmar was nominated for an EDDA award for her role as Hera in the drama “The Quiet Storm.” She later won the EDDA as Actress of the Year for her performance in “Life in a Fishbowl” and for her role as Anna in the crime thriller “Eiðurinn” (The Oath”). Most recently Hilmar played the female lead, Hester Shaw in the dystopian feature “Mortal Engines.”
In Apple TV’s post-apocalyptic series “SEE,” Hilmar is Maghra, a tribal leader’s wife who gives birth to gifted twins in a survivalist world where all are blind and sight is forbidden heresy.
“SEE” breaks new ground in its unconventional approach to post-apocalyptic storytelling. What attracted you to the role of Maghra?
Hera Hilmar: It’s her character, her independence, while at the same time sacrificing everything for her people. She had to leave and let go of something to achieve what she hoped for. At the end of the day, she raises her children and that becomes her life. The story is a beautiful family drama that everyone can relate to in some way. Then, externally, you have the power struggles with other characters. And how do you build a community that survives, with its housing, and weather and languages with people who can’t see? It’s the entire story. I just couldn’t stop reading it. And the challenge of it and making it work.
The idea of communicating with knots on a string was fascinating.
Hera: That idea was taken from the quipu, or knot-record used by the Incas and other ancient Andean cultures to keep records and communicate information.
Did you audition for this role? If so what was that like?
Hera: I sent in some audition tapes and met with Francis Lawrence in L.A. We shared the same vision. He’s a very creative man and I was inspired to work with him.
You play the nurturing mother of two children with a special gift. What did you draw from to bring Maghra to life?
Hera: There were many things. I’m not a mother, but I think nurturing is very primal in all of us. There were people in my life that I drew from. I think your body already knows how to react to motherhood. In terms of her character, she’s someone who believed that her life would be something else. You draw from people around you. And you try to imagine would it would be like to live without vision. But there are still so many layers of the onion that we have yet to see.
What did you find most challenging about your role and being in this series?
Hera: The blindness element was challenging because I wanted to do it with respect, to connect with people and to make it interesting to watch. Also challenging were the cold locations and the crazy hours we had to shoot. I made sure I was wearing about 16 layers of clothes. It’s a challenging story with a lot of self-sacrifices. Like the scene where we’re discussing the books. That’s something we had to create on the spot because it wasn’t really working. It doesn’t mean much to us, but it’s terrifying to them because Maghra knows what her son is about to do.
Can you go into your favorite scene?
Hera: It’s where Baba and I are talking, just before the Witchfinders come and we realize it might be the last conversation we have together. We shot it a few times because we hadn’t gotten to where we wanted it. We were really tight with time because the sun was just about to break over the mountain. We had one shot left before the light would change and then everything worked perfectly. The sun came over the mountain just as we needed this one close-up of Jason (Momoa). And it lit up his eyes.
What do you regard as the core message in “SEE”?
Hera: There are so many. I think it’s important when you’re creating an artful story to not be too obvious about the message you’re imparting. There’s family and what’s important in life, how we treat each other and the world around us.
So in Season 2, can we expect a reunion between Baba Voss’ outsiders and Maghra’s witchy clan?
Hera: Without giving anything away, I can tell you what I’m expecting to see. I want all these people to go even further. I want to peel away more layers. We’ve set up this world and we can now take things a step further. People will do things that we won’t necessarily see coming.
“SEE” is available on Apple TV