WARNING: This post contains spoilers from the Big Little Lies season finale. Read at your own risk!
As you probably know by now, Alexander Skarsgård’s Perry Wright died at the end of the seventh episode of Big Little Lies. Some might call it murder, some might prefer the ladies’ explanation that he fell to his death. Either way, Skarsgard made for an excellent villain. Regardless of the hate he inspired because of how he treated his wife, he also wanted to change and really did love Celeste. Those were some dark demons residing inside of him, demons he was unable to exorcise, regardless of how he tried.
We talked to Skarsgard about his character, the challenges of playing him, and why he’s pretty sure he’s not going to be working again in Hollywood anytime soon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your storyline with Nicole Kidman was one of the most compelling in the show. What was your first reaction when you read the scripts?
ALEXANDER SKARSGÅRD: I was very excited. I thought the tone was so unique. It’s funny and twisted and camp and then really dark and twisted. The pendulum would swing back and forth between different tones. I was very intrigued by the relationship between Celeste and Perry. I thought it was an opportunity to tell a story about an abusive husband that wasn’t a stereotypical wife-beater. I thought it was fascinating that he was a good dad, loves his kids, and adores his wife. On the surface, they have a perfect life and then he’s struggling with these demons and he doesn’t know how to handle that. It’s almost like a switch flips and he goes black and he goes violent.
The intimacy between your character and Nicole’s is really intense, both the violence and the sex. How did you two approach that? Was it difficult?
We had some time to get to know each before we started filming. It was important to build that trust and understanding, knowing this journey we were about to embark on. It is a very physical relationship. It’s the envy of most people when they first see this couple. It’s too good to be true. The kids, the house, the sex, everything. There is more to it than that. It muddles the line because their sex life is violent and they both get off on it. It makes it difficult for her to draw the line, for her to feel that he’s abusive, because she feels like an accomplice. But there is a difference between liking it rough in the bed and pure abuse which he crosses that line early on. It’s tough and I think that’s what makes it interesting on a character level. Because it’s tough for her to move and to accept the fact that he’s bad for her and the kids. There is a lot of love. She loves him when he’s not abusive. In those moments he’s great. And that’s what makes it an interesting story.
Career-wise, what did you think about when you took this part?
I have a feeling this is going to be my last interview ever (laughs) because after Perry Wright, I’ll never get another job. But, hell, it was worth it.
Why do you think that? Because he’s such a monster?
(Laughs) Yeah. I’ll never play leading man, that’s for sure.
So, you’ve typecast yourself?
Sure, but if you ever need an abusive asshole, I’m your guy (laughs).
Did you take that into account when you signed on?
Nah, I don’t ever think about that. I played a guy who had sex with an underage teenage girl in Diary of a Teenage Girl. I’m either drawn to material or I’m not. It’s a visceral reaction. There isn’t a strategy to it. I don’t think about what it’s going to do to my career. I always know instinctively if I’m right for something or I’m not. If I’m not intrigued by the character, I shouldn’t do it. In this case, it was easy. The material was so well written. It was such a fascinating character, albeit incredibly, incredibly dark. And I was drawn to him. He wasn’t a one-dimensional bad guy. It was very interesting. In the same way Monroe in Diary of a Teenage Girl wasn’t a typical bad guy. He was a soft, sweet guy and there was a lot of darkness there as well. I guess I’m drawn to that. That’s all I’ve got. When I read something, if I don’t want to learn more about that character, it’s not going to be something for me.