‘Servant’ star Nell Tiger Free: Leanne was always destined to find her power


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Left to right, Toby Kebbell, Lauren Ambrose, Nell Tiger Free and Rupert Grint arrive on the red carpet at the world premiere of Apple TV+'s "Servant" at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in 2019 in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Left to right, Toby Kebbell, Lauren Ambrose, Nell Tiger Free and Rupert Grint arrive on the red carpet at the world premiere of Apple TV+’s “Servant” at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in 2019 in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, March 17 (UPI) — Game of Thrones alum Nell Tiger Free says Leanne, the meek and mysterious teen nanny she plays on the horror dramedy Servant, is a completely different woman by the time the series finale airs on Apple TV+ Friday.

“It has been quite a ride. From where she began to where she is now is two totally different people,” Free told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

“Getting there without it feeling forced or feeling like a jump in character purely for entertainment, I think she has risen naturally,” the 23-year-old actress added. “She was always destined to become stronger and find her power, and maybe her power is starting to overtake her a little bit.”

As Leanne overcomes her insecurities and becomes more indispensable, she starts to make dangerous miscalculations.

“No one is safe from their own ego. Anyone can fall victim to it,” Free said. “It’s very possible that that is starting to happen with Leanne.”

Executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan and created by Tony Bagsgallop, the show follows wealthy Philadelphia couple Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell), who hire Leanne to care for a life-like doll Dorothy believes is their infant son Jericho.

In reality, Jericho died in a tragic accident Dorothy is only recently starting to remember.

When a real baby appears in their home, Dorothy doesn’t seem to notice anything amiss, while Sean, Dorothy’s brother, Julian (Rupert Grint), and TV viewers are left trying to figure out what is going on.

Each season, Leanne gains more control over the family as a dangerous religious cult repeatedly tries to bring her back into its fold.

“I always knew the rough trajectory that she was going on, but certainly not the details of it. I was prepared for an ever-changing young lady,” Free said.

Going into the last episode, audiences still don’t know if Leanne has supernatural powers or if she is just a master manipulator determined to have Dorothy and Jericho to herself.

Fans also still wonder who the baby is and what the deal is with the house, which seems to be a living entity of its own.

Free wouldn’t say whether those questions are ultimately resolved.

“I can only hope that they get answered enough for the viewers, and I can only hope that you walk away feeling like you weren’t shorthanded,” the actress said. “Hopefully, everyone will be satisfied with the conclusion that they are given.

“All I can do is cross my fingers and run away screaming,” she laughed.

The story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, meaning it theoretically could continue should there be demand for it.

“There is always more story, no matter how anything ends. You could kill every character on a TV show and still do a spinoff or you could do a prequel,” she said.

“I definitely think there is an element of finality to this story. We are closing the doors to the Turner brownstone because this story has been told now. Having said that, they are remaking everything. I just did a prequel, so who knows?” she said, referring to her upcoming film, The First Omen.

Free thinks Sean and Dorothy’s lives would be different and less eventful had Leanne not entered their home.

“Perhaps there would have been less distractions from the true pain and maybe they would have dealt with their grief sooner and maybe they would have healed,” she said. “Or maybe Dorothy would have lived the rest of her life in a pure lie.”

In addition to being obsessed with the Turners, Leanne also is in a toxic relationship with Julian.

“She loves him. She loves him the way she loves Sean and she loves Dorothy,” Free said. “I don’t know how sexual it is. I think he is more of her own explorative kind of experiment and if that element was taken away, it wouldn’t necessarily hurt her. But I think if he were taken away, it would hurt him.”

Veering from the disturbing to heartbreaking to ridiculous, the show offers something for everyone, Free said.

“Some people will be gripped because of the story of the family and their troubles and their tribulations. Some people get pulled in because maybe they’ve experienced a loss or they’ve experienced a distance or an estrangement in the family,” she added.

“Some people are there purely for the thrills, purely for the horror to see what M. Night has up his sleeve. We really do come at you from all angles. Hopefully, people resonate with one of the things we are throwing at them.”

The show also has a wicked sense of humor, not that Leanne gets to crack any jokes.

“They never let me be funny — ever,” Free said.

“The other three are absolutely hilarious and they are so funny in real life. It’s impossible to get a scene done with the four of us because we are just in tears, laughing. Toby is leading the charge at desperately trying to make us have a breakdown.”

Although the job was difficult to walk away from when it was over — in fact, the actress said she had never cried so hard in her life — she anticipates Leanne remaining with her for years to come.

“She’s in me. She’ll be in me always. I can’t say that about every character I’ve ever played. There are some you could easily let go of,” she added.

“But she’s not one of them. She was the first time I felt like I could really discover me and my limitations and my ceilings and whether I was actually good enough to do this job. I didn’t know if I was good enough to do four seasons of this character.”

Free was cast after reading one page of dialogue for the filmmakers. Before that she was mainly known for playing Myrcella Baratheon — doomed daughter of Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) on Game of Thrones.

“It was a real gamble for everyone,” she said of landing the lead in Servant. “I don’t think I could ever lose her because of that. I will always cherish her very much. She’ll be very special to me forever.”

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