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[The following interview contains spoilers for You season three.]
Scott Speedman is no stranger to hit television shows, and his role on You season three now joins the ranks of Felicity, Grey’s Anatomy and Animal Kingdom. The psychological thriller has been dominating Netflix’s top 10 charts since the third season premiered a few weeks ago, and the latest season also tallied its highest Rotten Tomatoes score to date at 94 percent. So Speedman is now reflecting on season three as a whole and how his surveillance-tech entrepreneur character, Matthew Engler, is one of the few characters to actually survive serial killer Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley). Like the audience, he also assumed his character’s death was inevitable.
“Once I started to see where Matthew and his stepson [Dylan Arnold] were going and who they were messing with, I kind of figured that one of us wasn’t going to make it here,” Speedman tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But understanding the show, you kind of almost want to be killed by Joe Goldberg; it could be kind of fun. So it’s fun to make it, but it also would’ve been fun to not make it. I think that’s the charm of the show.”
Speedman also made headlines recently for his surprise return to ABC’s top-rated scripted series, Grey’s Anatomy, which he last appeared on as a guest star in season 14. And he, too, can’t believe the secret was somehow kept.
“Even I kept wondering how they were doing it,” Speedman says. “I think the Grey’s showrunners and the whole show had done it the year before with Patrick Dempsey and other returning people, so they had this infrastructure that knew how to do it. I wasn’t allowed to do read-throughs. My name was gone from everything. We changed the character name. We shot three episodes in four days, so they just backlogged it. So people knew about it, but they held off on it based on whatever relationship they have with Grey’s, ABC or Disney. They held their press release until it came out, which was nice.”
The British Canadian actor is also looking ahead to David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, which he recently wrapped in Greece, alongside Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux. While Cronenberg already made a version of the film in 1970, Speedman makes it clear that this rendition bears little resemblance to the original.
“[Cronenberg] was like, ‘Don’t bother watching that,'” Speedman shares. “It just didn’t relate to the movie we’re doing now. I think he wrote this script maybe a decade ago, … and he’s been wanting to make it. It definitely goes back to his body horror, science fiction-horror days. I think his fans are going to be very excited by this movie.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Speedman dove deep into You season three’s many twists and turns. Then he offered his thoughts on Sir Michael Caine’s recent retirement mixup and how he briefly thought he was in the acclaimed British actor’s final film.
Well, congratulations on being one of the few to survive Penn Badgley’s lunatic character, Joe Goldberg.
(Laughs.) I didn’t know until I got to the end, myself. So it’s exciting.
As you were receiving the scripts throughout the season, did you assume your character’s demise was inevitable?
Yeah, once I started to see where Matthew and his stepson [Dylan Arnold] were going and who they were messing with, I kind of figured that one of us wasn’t going to make it here. But understanding the show, you kind of almost want to be killed by Joe Goldberg; it could be kind of fun. So it’s fun to make it, but it also would’ve been fun to not make it. I think that’s the charm of the show.
Matthew will probably believe that Joe really died in that fire because he last saw him paralyzed on the floor. So I thought it was clever how the writers used their last exchange to help sell Joe’s manufactured crime scene.
I mean, I kind of saw it slightly differently. Well, yes, I guess that is true. It’s possible that that’s what he would think. When you say it like that, I see it that way. But I think he felt like he might have gotten away. There were some different iterations of the writing in that scene, but something tells me that Matthew is pretty sharp that way. So I’m not totally sure on that one.
Matthew even said to Joe, “Enjoy whatever Love [Victoria Pedretti] does to you.”
Yes, exactly. It can go both ways. It’s ambiguous. I like that. They made it even more ambiguous in the cut, which is totally cool. To finally go head to head with him in that way was a really fun scene to do. I don’t know the show all that well, but what I like about it is the premise of reinventing the show every year, whether it’s New York, L.A., a fake town in Silicon Valley and now Paris. I think that’s really fun. So wherever that narrative ends for Matthew is pretty much it for him.
Your character uses surveillance tech to hunt for his wife’s [Michaela McManus] killer. Even though there are certain advantages to such technology, does it freak you out that mass surveillance is no longer a piece of fiction?
(Laughs.) In my brain, I’m a luddite. Big time. It took me 17 minutes to log on to your Zoom interview. (Laughs.) When I told my friend — who is very much not a luddite — who and what I was playing, he laughed at me. So on the macro level, yes, [it freaked me out]. When I’m trying to do a dynamic role and I’m trying to get into it, I try not to get too worried about such things like that, but because he was surveilling a somewhat smaller community and not New York City, I could get my head around that idea. But, of course, it’s crazy in itself that it’s not fiction anymore; it’s crazy that we can actually do that.
To your knowledge, did the writers bypass the pandemic so that the audience could escape its current existence?
I think so, yeah. I’m on another show [Grey’s Anatomy] right now that went deep into it. It’s a medical show so there was no way for them to really avoid it. If they wanted to have any authenticity at all, they had to dive into it. But I think every show has its own decisions about what to do with that, and I think you have to understand what your show is. There’s an escapist nature to the show You, and escapism seems to be what’s working and what people are turning to, especially at that moment. Everybody was stressed and needed a break. So some of the writing was geared toward when this show was coming out as everybody wanted to move on. From the beginning of television, we turned it on to turn off, in a sense, and relax into something that satiates. So I think it was really vital that we were able to move on from the pandemic in that way.
What did you make of his relationship with his ex-stepson? That’s obviously not the most common arrangement.
(Laughs.) Yeah, that was really cool. I’m a guy of a certain age and totally could’ve had a son that age. But I had no idea what it was like to have a son of that age at all, stepson or otherwise. So that took me a minute to get my head around, but I was lucky enough that Dylan Arnold was great. I loved working with him. He’s a really loose, organic, inventive actor. So that was really fun, but I didn’t prepare too much for that. I just saw what our chemistry and dynamic was and went from there.
When Joe is recovering on Matthew’s couch, his voiceover is commenting in between their own conversation. How did you account for that on the day? How did that voiceover affect your side of things?
I’d worked with him a couple of times before with minimal voiceover, but that scene has a lot of voiceover. I’d been introduced as this character before, but that’s what I looked at as the introduction of my character. It’s really interesting because you’ll be sitting right across from Joe, doing the scene, and it’s sort of this James Bond, ubervillain scene where you’re trying to figure out what the other person knows. And you’ll have somebody off-screen reading what Joe is thinking in between your dialogue. And to be totally honest with you, it took me a minute or two to get used to it. It’s almost like a second director telling you how to process this next moment. But it was cool. That’s the fun part about that show: It’s unique and different, as is the shooting of it, but once you get your feet under you in that way, it’s all good.
I’m envious of actors who get to do this sort of thing, but did you feel like Jack Torrance when you sent those computer monitors flying?
(Laughs.) It’s always fun to have that sort of explosive moment, especially when you’re playing a control freak whose whole life is based on keeping it all buttoned up. So it’s fun to watch a guy like that completely lose it, and it’s an added bonus that you get to trash a few expensive computers. That’s a good time.
You touched on some topics that have been quite relevant lately. When Matthew’s wife goes missing, a couple of characters comment on how there’s more priority given to certain missing people than others, and that’s been a big discussion ever since the Gabby Petito case started dominating headlines. Have you thought about this at all, and do you tend to draw parallels to your own work?
To be totally honest with you, I don’t [draw parallels to my work]. It depends on the character. If the character dealt with those things and had to discuss them intelligently and articulate them as part of his job, then that would become part of my narrative and process. But really, I try to take the character that I’m playing and not worry about the social ramifications of the show itself. I try not to get too heady about those things. I just try to bring everything that I can to this character or that character, and playing Matthew, that wasn’t part of his thinking. But I think that’s a really interesting thing for the writers to discuss on the show, for sure. We saw that with the Gabby Petito case, which just exploded, and why that is versus other things is a really interesting subject, for sure.
I watched Best Sellers recently, and your co-star Sir Michael Caine happened to be in the news recently. For 24 hours, everyone thought that Best Sellers was his final role. So were you watching his retirement saga unfold?
I saw it and I thought it was hilarious. My friend sent me a bunch of jokes, saying, “One time working with you and the dude had to retire.” (Laughs.) But he’s since amended that or changed his mind. Maybe it came out in an odd way in an interview. I worked with him briefly, but that was really fun. I wouldn’t have minded if Best Sellers had been his last movie just so I could say that I was in Michael Caine’s last movie. But hopefully, he’ll get to do more things soon. That was a fun movie to shoot. We shot it at the end of 2019, I believe, and that whole type of movie has completely changed now. I don’t even know if that movie gets made right now. I’m sure it will again, but if it does get made, I think it’s a Netflix movie. Whatever the budget was, this two-hander type thing with two really great actors [Sir Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza] is a challenging thing to do right now. When it came out, how it came out and its reception was interesting to me, and I wonder how it would be received in another era of movie watching.
You also made headlines of your own recently after an unannounced return to Grey’s Anatomy. How does one pull off a surprise like this when the entire population carries around mobile surveillance technology?
(Laughs.) Right?! That’s a really good question. Even I kept wondering how they were doing it. I think the Grey’s showrunners and the whole show had done it the year before with Patrick Dempsey and other returning people, so they had this infrastructure that knew how to do it. I wasn’t allowed to do read-throughs. My name was gone from everything. We changed the character name. We shot three episodes in four days, so they just backlogged it. They had it down, but I was like, “If anybody really cares about this, an extra or somebody could say it.” So people knew about it, but they held off on it based on whatever relationship they have with Grey’s, ABC or Disney. They held their press release until it came out, which was nice.
Can I ask what happened with you and Animal Kingdom?
I loved doing that show and I loved all those guys. First of all, somebody had to die on that show. We were going along and taking so many risks, so somebody had to die. So they came to me with the idea that it would be me, and I was looking to do more lead-type stuff. I really wanted to be on a show in a more lead-type of way. I was just ready to do something different at that time, and it just kind of came together for me. It’s always a hard thing to get off of a show, so you have to have an instinct about it. You don’t want to cause any trouble, you want it to go the right way, and you want to be in service to the showrunners. And [executive producer] John Wells and all of those guys were amazing to work with, but I was just ready to do different things. That’s basically what it is.
When actors are first starting out, all they want is job security, but once they make a name for themselves, then they don’t want too much security.
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.
While I’ve heard that these type of deals are going by the wayside, it’s got to be tough to make a 7-year commitment to television these days.
Yeah, I think all of that is changing. All of that is going to continue to evolve and change. It feels very fluid right now. That old model of packaging and 7-year contracts just feels way up in the air right now. That’s a business thing, but as a life or artistic thing, however you want to put it, I was restless to do different things from the beginning. Of course, financial security is awesome. I’m about to have a kid [Speedman and Lindsay Rae Hoffman welcomed their first child a few days after this interview]. I love making money, but doing the same thing for a long time starts to get old for me. I love working and I love working hard, but television, by its nature, is repetitive. It’s hard to continue to do really well all the time. When I got off Animal Kingdom, I didn’t work right away. I was trying to figure it out, so I actually just took some time to go away. And now I’ve come back, whether it’s a role on You, or this role on Grey’s Anatomy, or working with David Cronenberg and Lena Dunham. Those four projects could not be more different. The two shows are very poppy and in the zeitgeist, and then two high-level indies where I’m really stretching it out, character-wise. So that’s kind of what I’m looking to do. I look at a guy like Walton Goggins, who seems to be able to do anything. He can go do a CBS show and then a Tarantino movie. That, to me, is the goal. I used to really look at things like, “Oh, this boxes you into that and this boxes you into that,” especially when it comes to television. That’s what I was pushing out on and I didn’t want to get too in the weeds with that stuff. So that’s what I’m going for now. I think I’m getting more toward the place where it’s like, “Oh, he did that, he did that and now he’s doing this. And that’s cool.” So those are my goals now.
Since you mentioned him, how was your time in Greece with David Cronenberg?
It was awesome. He was really the most exciting part to me. I’ve always wanted to work with him. Being a Canadian, there are a few directors in Canada that you want to work with before they hang it up, and he was definitely one. The Greece thing was wild because we were in this insanely beautiful place, doing this very dark movie [Crimes of the Future]. But he was amazing, and I learned a ton about my job, in a weird way, while working with him. He has a very unique style of shooting, which I didn’t see coming. He doesn’t have a big shot list or anything like that. He’ll reinvent the scene on the day. He’ll have something in his head, but if it’s different on that day, he’ll shoot it differently. As an actor, that was really fun to be around. It’s probably the best cast I’ve been involved in, top to bottom, with Léa Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart. Kristen is at the top of her game right now, so that was exciting. I had a really dynamic role in it, and I had to step up and meet these amazing actors. So that was exciting and scary, to be totally honest.
For the uninitiated, Cronenberg is remaking Crimes of the Future, which he already made in 1970. I believe it was only released as a special feature on some of his other films’ Blu-rays. So how did he address the existing work?
He was like, “Don’t bother watching that.” It just didn’t relate to the movie we’re doing now. I think he wrote this script maybe a decade ago. It’s just been sitting there, and he’s been wanting to make it. It definitely goes back to his body horror, science fiction-horror days. I think his fans are going to be very excited by this movie.
Lastly, does Underworld feel like another lifetime ago?
All that stuff does. I don’t think I’ve completely hung it up with that movie in a certain kind of way. What’s more important to me, through the Underworld thing, is my relationship with [director] Len Wiseman. We’ve remained good friends and are closer now than ever. And we talk about doing stuff all the time, so who knows what happens with that one.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You is now streaming on Netflix.
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