Interview with Lauren Lee Smith, Marc Blucas, Linda Purl and Patrick Duffy in “Doomsday Mom: The Lori Vallow Story” on Lifetime by Suzanne 5/19/21
I’ll admit I did gush a little talking to these fine actors. I’m familiar with them all from their previous TV roles. I literally grew up watching Linda Purl and Patrick Duffy in the 70’s, and I saw Marc Blucas and Lauren Lee Smith in their great scifi/fantasy roles later on. It was hard not to tell them how much I enjoyed their work. They were very kind and even made some fun jokes during the interview. This was a press call that was part of a series of calls we did all on that same day for Lifetime movies this summer.
DOOMSDAY MOM PANEL
Moderator: Hi all, our next panel is Doomsday Mom, The Lori Vallow Story. I’d like to introduce our cast Lauren Lee Smith, Marc Blucas, Linda Purl and Patrick Duffy.
Hi everyone. Question is for Lauren, how familiar were you with the Lori Vallow case before taking on this role? And what was the most surprising thing you learned about the case that you wanted to make sure it was portrayed on screen and the same to you, Marc?
Lauren Lee Smith: Wow, no, I actually wasn’t. It was at a time where I think we were all in full blown, lockdown covid craziness and I was up here in Toronto with my young daughter just trying to sort of keep sane and there was no TV around. So I had no idea about this story. It first was brought to my attention through our director, actually Bradley Walsh. He had reached out to me a couple of weeks before shooting and we were just sort of catching up and he was asking me like what I would like to do next and then I was like yeah I’m really looking for something you know to sort of sink my teeth into and challenge me in a new, exciting way. And yeah, it’s sort of it all, one thing led to another and and then yeah, I found out that that I would be coming to do this with him. And I think what surprised me the most was, you know, just the initial sort of the initial reaction of finding out the story in general and finding out exactly who this this woman is and what had happened. I think the initial shock.
Moderator: How about you Marc?
Marc Blucas: You know, for me you know I had known about it and it’s I guess in the in a very peripheral kind of way and it had been a year since everything had happened. So you know, the first thing I did as we probably all do, is you get on the Internet. Boom, you type these two in and the first thing that came up was the mug shot and to me two things came to my right mind right away when I saw them that really attracted me to the project and taking on the role of Chad which was when I saw that I saw two people, and this is going to sound very shallow at first, but you kind of look at Lori on the surface and in a very just first glance way, it’s like, oh, there’s a you know,very attractive, you know woman there and then you see Chad and I was like, oh, maybe not so much, and I was like oh what was the initial draw? And the other thing I thought about that about that mug shot was that in his face I saw remorse an in hers I didn’t and from what I had recalled the story and what I just started the research of it, It was kind of like it really felt like and again we have a lot here, we don’t have all the answers to just yet, but that Chad really started going, taking Lori down a very committed path and at some point in their journey, it’s almost like she leapfrog him in in the in the power dynamics or in the commitment of their beliefs. And I just thought that was a fascinating study, not only is as an actor, but as a singular character, but seeing how we could make that relationship evolve because what the public know, we already know that the public knows so much. So what Lauren and I and Bradley had all talked about is like, what we don’t know is what happened behind closed doors between these two people and exploring that to see this journey and how they get to make these decisions that they made, I thought, was an interesting study.
Moderator: Thanks so much. Our next question is from Jamie.
Jamie Ruby (SciFi Vision): Sorry, forgot to unmute there for a second. Thanks for talking to us guys. So obviously these characters are based on real life people but what I want to know is what part of yourselves did you bring into the roles?
Lauren Lee Smith: Well. That’s a tough one, but.
Marc Blucas: Well, I’m a passionate person. That there.
Jamie Ruby (SciFi Vision): You know, maybe there’s a better way to say it, how did you connect to them as people? Maybe that was a better way to phrase it.
Marc Blucas: Uh, I again, I, it was kind of said in jest, but you know…look, I mean at the end of the day, these are not great people and it’s our jobs as actors to kind of find how we can like them ourselves and portray something that’s three dimensional and real. And at the end of the day, I just said it in a way, it’s just like hey look I’m a very committed and passionate person and I’m about different things that I think that Chad was committed and passionate about and what he tried to do or what he tried to bring people together as a leader, I guess in this. But there’s no, you can’t question the fact that they had a conviction of what they believed, and I may not be in the same category in what they believed, but having that kind of conviction I could relate to and start there from.
Lauren Lee Smith: Yeah, exactly like that’s really sort of all you can do. You know with these characters is find exactly that and then you know just trying to come and find the little moments you can of sort of humanity, you know, I’m a mother, so trying to sort of find those moments where you know you could see her love for JJ and for Tylee and sort of really infused that as much as possible. But yeah, other than that it was that wasn’t the easiest part of this job.
Jamie Ruby (SciFi Vision): Patrick, Linda anything to add?
Patrick Duffy: Well, we have the easier track of these characters. We had to be the sort of calming, and rational side of looking at all of these horrific things that were happening. So, you know, we were grandparents in and of itself and as a grandparent myself I know what that feels like and I could then was able to completely support what Linda was doing as really the fire brand of the two characters that we played. She was the relentless one that was in pursuit of justice in an ongoing situation, which is even more difficult in making this film. And I credit everybody from Karen and Ann and the actors Marc and Lauren and Bradley and everybody with being able to thread that fine line of fiction that we are doing based on a real story but keep these, especially those two characters, you know keeping them in a humanity arena so that it does not become,
I mean it in this way, it does not become cartoonish, in its evilness that it that everybody has to recognize a bit of humanity that contains that devilish nature and we are in control of it most of the time. And that, to me, is the interesting part about the script, and let the two lead actors were you know, really tasked with doing which is amazing and plus the fact we never except for
one little Christmas dinner scene, we never shared the camera with either of those two characters, so we had our own little movie going that you guys didn’t even know about.
Marc Blucas: That’s why you said yes to the job we know.
Lauren Lee Smith: We get it.
Linda Purl: I think the you know as Lauren said and Mark two that we’re all parents, and so it ignites certainly the Mama bear in me and I mean it. It’s actually unimaginable. Thank God, you know, the horror that this that this tale unfolds. But I think that that you know unbelievable journey of not knowing where your loved ones are, was interesting to visit.
Moderator: Thanks Jamie. Jay, You’re up next.
Jay Bobbin (Gracenote): Hello everyone, thank you for doing this. Actually my question is for Patrick and Linda is nice to see you together, since we know you’re together and I hope that doesn’t sound too and ingracious. But were the two of you cast a package deal in this? Or was one of you cast 1st and super suggested the other person?
Patrick Duffy: Well, we were driving to Colorado from California when the phone rang and we almost made a U turn but we said no we gotta, we gotta get back to change our underwear and then go back to work so. But I actually I think you know, in deference, I think Linda’s name might have been mentioned first in terms of this when I look at the chronology and the phone messages, and then you know the conversations that all of your people have when you’re doing these things, so you know, I think the sequence was Linda and Patrick, not Patrick and Linda.
Linda Purl: I think it was Patrick and Linda.
Patrick Duffy: But it doesn’t matter. It was our first chance to work together. Yeah, you know, first chance to actually play a husband and wife, which was even more, and the other thing that Linda keeps saying, and so I’m stealing all of her good lines, that it’s the first time as actors we’ve ever walked to the set holding hands with the person you’re with.
Linda Purl: It felt weird but yeah, I guess it’s OK. At the end of a scene, I guess, Patrick patted me on the bottom and said nice job honey and I thought, well, that’s the first time that’s ever happened. It was fun.
Patrick Duffy: It was wonderful and yeah, and it was a great thing for us because you never know.
Linda Purl: It could have been a disaster.
Patrick Duffy: We could have completely polar opposite ways.
Linda Purl: That’s how you’re gonna do the scene?
Patrick Duffy: Yeah, well, I usually have a drink before every scene.
Marc Blucas: It was at least reassuring. I was so glad to see you were still together. Are they flying together? Or independently?
Linda Purl: Quarantine was the challenge. It was like are we gonna make it through 14 days of quarantine? But we did. Yeah it was fun.
Jay Bobbin (Gracenote): Thank you both.
Moderator: Thank you so much. Suzanne. You’re up next.
Suzanne Lanoue (TVMeg): Hi, thanks for the call, I’m so familiar with all your guys’ work. I grew up in the 70s, and so I love Patrick and Linda from so many different things, especially “Dallas”, of course– One of my favorite shows growing up… and Marc from “Buffy” and other projects, and Lauren from “Mutant X” and so many great things. So I’m just honored to talk to you all.. but I was wondering, Linda and Patrick, if you could give us any background as to what you think your characters were like before the movie started, and then how they progressed. Some of us haven’t actually seen the movie because it wasn’t on the screener site, so…
Linda Purl: We don’t know that much really. I mean just what’s available on the on the Internet and what the script gave us, but they seem to be very hardworking, family-oriented people, smart, successful in their careers and then suddenly this. You know, they were a very closely knit family, we would say, right?
Patrick Duffy: And if you’re– if you’re asking the question personally, what happens to us after doing something like this? Although we weren’t in the depths that Lauren and Marc were, but you, you are affected by it, especially when you have children. And now that I have four grandchildren, and, it is inconceivable, first of all, to right-minded people that these things actually occur… and you enter, going into this, reading the script, I’m doing it but in the– in the heat of the scenes — of which we were together as a couple. It builds, and your fascination and repulsion build at the same time as to what these human beings have to go through and what they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. And you get just a smattering of it by having occupied their space for a moment, and you look at your children differently because you know what the potential is, and it does affect you, and it affected me, not deeply, in the sense that I’m tormented by it, but I am aware of it in different depth now of what the potential is in the human being. And it’s frightening and encouraging in terms of who you look at as your characters in this film.
Suzanne Lanoue (TVMeg): And Linda, did you have anything to add to that?
Linda Purl: oh thank you, well…
Patrick Duffy: I don’t see how she could.
Linda Purl: I thought it was brilliant. It was, really. I was in the Grand Canyon with my son, who was then about 8 years old, and I lost him for the ten longest minutes of my life, and it’s an out-of-body electric shock experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So I was able to, you know, sort of conjure that up when we’re looking for justice, when we’re looking for the grandkids, or were when we know my brother’s been killed. And so, but I think you know, as Patrick says, you just drop to your knees grateful that your family is safe, and it tends to highlight that gratitude in our lives when you walk down, even for a few minutes, the road of these people who have lost so much. I have no idea how you recover from that.
Suzanne Lanoue (TVMeg): And Lauren, what do you think? How do you think the character or the real person… however you like to interpret it… how she went from two loving parents to becoming this person who ends up killing her own children?
Lauren Lee Smith: Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely something that I had to sort of, I think, play around with in my own sort of interpretation of this character, even though, you know, it’s…. she’s very much alive and we, you know, know certain facts about her. I think for me, just on a personal level, to sort of dig into this, this character and sort of not, justified, but… give you know some sort of back-story and create this sort of, you know, back-story in my own head for her, so, you know… it’s very strange. I don’t know, I don’t… I don’t. It’s unimaginable to me how someone can go from, you know, having this sort of… being brought up in this loving family, which is is what we’ve been, you know, told to believe to, you know, becoming this person who would do these absolutely heinous things. So, yeah, I guess the only way that that I was able to sort of come to terms with it is to sort of… yeah, to really come up with my own back-story that perhaps, you know her, her past and her childhood, and her personal life, and whatever is maybe… not exactly, what we evolved, you know, read or seen or believed up until this point, that there perhaps is some major trauma or some major incidents or some… whatever it could possibly be to bring her to the point that she, you know, is at, and was at in her life. I answered it, took it upon myself to do that.
Marc Blucas: You’re being very sweet for not throwing me under the bus. Suzanne, the reality is, is that when we both got there, we were freaking out, and I had called Lauren immediately, and I said, alright, ’cause that’s the big question, right? How did they go from everyday people that, we assume, think and decide and have a moral compass in a certain direction… suddenly getting to the point where they’re going to kill their kids and then walk around in Hawaii, and think that, like, as if nothing has happened, and we literally sat there and got Karen and Bradley on the phone after we made our, you know,4 gigabyte list of questions that we had. This is real, and how do we tackle this? Because this is it, and it goes back to what I had said before, a little bit, about that kind of, like, commitment and passion for something that you suddenly get so– the blinders get on so much that everything — all the collateral damage that happens — you, end up not seeing. And so, it was almost– I give Lauren a lot of credit because it was, it was kind of a two-part process of creating Chad for me. Like, I– we really, kind of, had to approach these characters together, in a sense, as one, because, I was in the process of gaining weight, so I kept saying, can we meet back at the croissant place? We kind of kept going to anywhere I could eat massive amounts of food to keep gaining weight for the role and trying to tackle and make sense of that question, and going through beat-by-beat of saying, “OK, here’s the arc of this, when does this moment happen?” Where they decide to go beyond the point of no return, almost.
Suzanne Lanoue (TVMeg): Alright, thank you, guys, great answers.
Moderator: Thank you so much. We have time for one more, and if there was anyone who had a question and wants it answered, feel free to email us, and we’re happy to get answers for you. So Rick, you will be our last question.
Rick Bentley (Tribune): Thank you. Hey Patrick and Linda, you play characters that are one generation of removed from the central story here. I’m just wondering when you go into those characters when you start thinking about them, did you think of them as people who should have felt guilty should have felt some responsibility, should have would have been in complete denial, I mean, how do you know where you start from on a point with parents of people who are parents of people who are involved with something like this?
Linda Purl: Well, I don’t think denial, although maybe we missed that, maybe we should have. No, I think that you know their merit in this in this story is that they. Is that they fearlessly sort of faced this possibility and became the champions for truth and protection. And I think that’s sort of a cautionary tale maybe to take away from the film, in that in these kinds of situations don’t fail to act. These people did not fail to act and all their actions and seeking of truth and pushing the police and the detectives it was. Too late, but in another instance it might not have been, and so you know in these kinds of horrid situations any one of us you know, God forbid we’re in it, but you, have to, you have to be vigilant and you have to be forceful.
Patrick Duffy: Yeah, I think there is an element of self-reflection when this happens. Maybe not regret or denial, but you know, as a parent, now my children are in their 40s but, you know when there would be rough patches in their upbringing where they might do things outside of the box that I thought was appropriate behavior, here is an element in me that says should I have foreseen this? Should I have forestalled this? Was there something I should have or could have or might have said that just would have deflected it enough? So for my character in this, although Linda’s character was much more doggedly active, my character was written as somewhat more passive and quiet, and I think part of that was that self-reflection of he was the, you know, quote, unquote, chauvinistically sounding, but the bread earner, the man of the family. And yet all of this happened, how could that happen on his watch had to be part of his processing, so that was the only thing that I could say where I might have felt a bit responsible as a character for the outcome, not that I thought I the character did anything wrong, but what could he have done, I think was the divergent point for me of accepting responsibility partially for what happened.
Linda Purl: And that’s probably human nature too. In any disaster, there’s that lovely phrase, magical thinking, and that we all know what on earth, no matter how irrational, what could I have done? How could I have changed things? How could I have missed the signs? I mean, I think we all go through these kinds of thoughts.
Doomsday Mom is produced by Lighthouse Pictures for Lifetime, with Sony Pictures Television distributing. Karen Glass and Tom Mazza of Everywhere Studios and Judith Verno of Peace Out Productions serve as executive producers. Stephen Tolkin wrote the script and Bradley Walsh directs.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda