‘Severance’ Star Jen Tullock on Mark’s Finale Bombshell & What it Could Mean for Devon
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 1 of Severance.]
Severance posed the question of what life might look like if you separated your consciousness between work and home, but what happens when those two come crashing back together?
In the show’s riveting and well-paced Season 1 finale, that question is mostly answered as Mark (Adam Scott) uncovers major revelations about his life outside of work while in his “innie” conscious state. Helping him put the pieces together is his supportive sister Devon (Jen Tullock) who now holds one of the show’s most important secrets in her pocket — that Mark’s believed-to-be-dead wife, Gemma (Dichen Lachman), is in fact alive and also working at Lumon.
So, what could a nugget of information like that mean for the siblings moving forward? Tullock opens up about her character’s thoughts on Lumon, her protective state over Mark, and what’s next for Apple TV+’s absorbing dark drama.
The finale was intense. What kind of emotions or reactions did you go through when reading the script?
Jen Tullock: I had made the interesting choice early on not to be privy to much of the Lumon goings-on. So when I was going through the scripts, I really only made myself hip to what was happening in Devon’s world. I knew some of the basic plot arcs, just because they were inevitable not to know, but there were certainly some surprises. I watched the episodes, week to week in real-time with my friends. And so, there are definitely some gasps I had at moments, which was cool.
It was emotional. Building the relationship between Devon and Mark was so important to me and Adam. And getting to see that final moment of trust and love between them, as one of the featured moments of the finale, was really [special]. It got me emotional because I’m super close with my brother in real life. And that moment, I remember when we were shooting, where Adam was running in the hall and he says, “She’s alive,” and he’s saying my name, we both got a little catch in our hearts when we were shooting it. So it was special to see it come to fruition.
It’s certainly nice to see that sibling bond at play, even when Mark isn’t in his outie headspace. Considering that, Mark drops a major bombshell on Devon when he reveals that Gemma’s alive. Does Devon knowing this secret make her one of Severance‘s most valuable players?
Yeah. Dan Erickson, the show creator, and I had talked early on about how that trajectory may work, moving into a second season for Devon and how she may come into play more than just being the supportive sister. What’s cool about the slow burn of that character is that we meet her as a caretaker and keeper of the male egos around her. I loved the metaphor of her physically carrying another life and then giving birth to it. [It was fun] getting to watch the shift from that sense of care and compassion and concern, reaching a fever pitch of rage and confusion and terror, and then how that may metabolize into a second season, as far as her being able to make actionable choices about how Mark is being affected at Lumon.
Before Mark’s innie personality is switched off, Devon suggests they bring the story to a high-profile reporter. Will that be necessary with Helly (Britt Lower) spilling all kinds of secrets on the Lumon presentation stage?
At that moment, there’s obviously a sense of mania between Devon and innie Mark because she’s just received all of this information, and is in a state of shock. And I think as she continues to formulate a plan, it’ll be interesting to see how specific that becomes. She’s a deeply smart person. She’s savvy, she’s intelligent, she’s good with people. So I think regardless of what avenue they choose, I think she’s going to be able to be pretty shifty, as far as getting further information about Lumon. Now, how this will play out with Selvig/Cobel remains to be seen.
Will Devon keep innie Mark’s secrets to herself or will she share them with outie Mark?
I will say this, I think in the first season, the way we got to know Devon was through these micro-moments of her watching everyone around her. And I love that about her. She was sort of the one satellite character that was really just observing the entire debacle from the outside. Because even Ricken (Michael Chernus) is in his literary world.
So I feel like Devon is the only character who’s quietly watching all of this, clocking everything, building a narrative for herself, and starting to piece things together. Regardless of where we pick up in the second season and where she is with innie/outie Mark, I think we’re going to see that love and concern and compassion that we came to know her for in season one be a little harsher and more desperate. Because at this point, there’s no going back.
Devon has two experiences this season between meeting the senator and his wife, who we later learn used Severance to get through her pregnancies, and Ms. Selvig (a.k.a. Harmony Cobel [Patricia Arquette]). Which experience do you think sparked her interest in Lumon more?
I think the practical intrigue, the moments with the senator, the moments of realizing that his wife had severed pregnancies are what set her wheels turning. But I really think what activates her is the emotional experience of talking to innie Mark at that moment where he says, “I just want to know why he did this.” The emotional experience of looking into the eyes of this person she loves so much who isn’t even that person because it’s his separate consciousness is what alters her on a molecular level.
Mark decided to sever because of the pain and grief from losing his wife. Will having that awareness in his innie state be detrimental, or do you think that realization about her being alive makes things hopeful for him?
The thing I love most about this show in the world that Dan and Ben [Stiller] created is that it asks the question, are we better for experiencing and addressing our pain? And if the Severance procedure gives us the out of shelving our pain and our grief and our discomfort, are we better for that? Are we more functional?
And the conceit of the show, obviously, it’s about the work-life balance and productivity. But to me, it’s a larger ethical and philosophical question of, how much responsibility do we have to ourselves in humanity at large to address our own pain? To me, Devon represented the emotional sobriety of someone who hasn’t severed. Post childbirth, she’s dealing with not being able to nurse, with postpartum. She’s dealing with a husband that she loves very much, but that doesn’t always make her feel super seen, while she’s taking care of him and Mark. And I think that question is going to have a more direct answer as we move into [Season 2].
While Devon plays a pivotal role in Mark’s story, are there any other characters you hope to see explored more in Season 2?
Well, I’m possibly the world’s biggest Tramell Tillman fan. I think that he’s an absolute genius, and I’m so blown away by the work he did in that character. And I’m also just equally fascinated by the character of Milchick, and I’d love to see more of his backstory, and I [think we] certainly will. Because what Tramell did so brilliantly was build this terrifying veneer for this character, but we have no idea how he ended up at Lumon. And that’s the backstory I’m craving most as a fan, both because I think he’s such an incredible actor, and also because that character is my favorite.
He’s amazingly terrifying as that character.
He’s the best villain I’ve seen on TV in a while.
Between him and Patricia, Cobel and Milchick are such a power duo.
Severance, Season 2, TBA, Apple TV+