Interview with The Lazarus Project’s Anjli Mohindra
As time-travel epic The Lazarus Project explodes back onto our screens with a brutally action-packed second season, we caught up with leading lass Anjli Mohindra to find out more about stepping back into Archie’s prolific stomping boots, winning the prestigious golden face of BAFTA Cymru, and what goes on in the ‘Laz-R-Us’ groupchat…
Interview By: Beth Bennett & Aster Sage | Photography By: Dan Li
EJ: So just last week, the first series of The Lazarus Project won Best TV Drama at the BAFTA Cymru Awards, and now you’re launched into the press circuit for the second series out later this month. How’s that working out for you?
AM: It was such a lovely, genuinely pleasant surprise. I think people go into a job with the intention of making something that’ll be well-received and hope that leads to a sense of critical acclaim but it’s really all about making something that you enjoy and that other people will enjoy. The awards praise is always a bit of a bonus especially this time around because the show came out almost a year and a half ago, so I felt that our awards potential had passed. But no, it hadn’t! It’s been lovely going to a screening, doing a bit of press, and chatting about a show hot off the heels of having a nice, shiny gold face.
EJ: Oh no, you’re going to be stealing it from Marco [Kreuzpainter] and Joe [Barton] now, aren’t you?
AM: No, no. They can keep that one but if we win one for the second season, I’ll be having it. Once you’ve got more than two, the second one should go out on a loan.
EJ: Like a class hamster? Paapa [Essiedu] gets him one month, you get him the next.
AM: Exactly! Or anyone who needs to borrow it for a Zoom interview, bit of background decor.
EJ: Rosamund Pike said once that she buried her Emmy Award in her back garden so that when she sold her house the new person who moved in would find it like some sort of long lost treasure.
AM: That’s quite cool. I sometimes think if the world is on the brink of extinction, we should all start doing things like that.
EJ: [laughs] Do you have any paraphernalia from your many, many, many years of acting that you could just start hiding around London?
AM: I do have a clapper board I got for the last project I worked on but that’s too recent to really be leaving around.
EJ: So no K-9 cutting about your room from The Sarah Jane Adventures?
AM: No! But I do have some Rani figurines, they could be fun.
EJ: You need some Archie figures that you can hide around Newport to memorialise Lazarus.
AM: Yeah! Yeah! Pop them around where we shot in Europe too.
EJ: I know in the first season there were quite a few sequences shot all over Europe. Can we expect any of that in this one?
AM: Well. Everything was kept quite a mystery up until a couple of weeks before we were supposed to start shooting when my agent asked me to send in my passport. I got very excited, of course, because last time I went to Prague which was amazing and this time there were murmurs of Morocco, The Alps, Strausberg. We were all chatting like ‘oh I wonder which one we’ll get’. Now, in Episode 1, Joe [Barton] had written this incredible fight sequence, set abroad, that went from moving vehicles to a restaurant…
EJ: A classic, blockbuster fight sequence?
AM: Yes! Like a Tom Cruise sequence all the way through. And this was something that I’d petitioned for; whilst he was writing this season, I was texting Joe and campaigning for Archie to have this big fight scene. I’d done an episode of this show called The Peripheral during the break and I made sure Joe saw it so he knew that I could do these fight scenes, not just that I liked them. I was so excited for it, to be to go to Europe, do this epic sequence, so I sent over my passport. Then, three days later, I broke my foot.
EJ: Oh my god.
AM: I was so upset about it but whilst it was happening, I was a bit…I didn’t take it as seriously as I should. I’m definitely a humour as a coping mechanism kind of person so I was like it’s fine, it’s fine. I messaged Paapa when I got back from A&E and I was just trying to laugh it off but he was like ‘have you told production?’ And so I had to blow up all of their scheduling they’d finally just cracked. Scripts were changed.
EJ: I’m loving this image of you being like ‘everything will be fine’ while Paapa’s being, sort of like an older brother, ‘no you need to get this sorted’.
AM: Oh pretty much. That’s how we work.
EJ: Joe had mentioned to me during filming, I think, that it was quite a bad injury, wasn’t it? You had to spend pretty much the first half of the season sitting down?
AM: Yeah, exactly that. I had a wheely chair for my leg to be propped onto so a lot of camera trickery to make it look like I’m completely as strong as my torso and face are trying to say.
EJ: I picture it like when you’re watching a long-running drama and someone gets pregnant or injured like yourself and suddenly there’s an increase in artfully placed lamps, lots of handbags.
AM: Yup. I was constantly working on ways for me to be sat down and still look like a badass. It ended up working for the character, to be honest, as Archie’s stepping into this more authoritative role. Inside though, I was getting slightly frustrated by not being able to move as much.
EJ: Personally, I think they should have written the wheelchair in. You could have been Newport’s own Professor X.
AM: Oh I’d have been so great at that.
EJ: So I feel like I’ve seen you in something pretty much every year of my conscious telly watching life. Obviously, there was The Sarah Jane Adventures several years ago, but more recently you’ve done a lot of standalone series’, or standalone roles, in the likes of Bodyguard and Vigil. What was it like to finally be able to come back to a series again? Get that go at a second season?
AM: Oh my god, it was pure joy. I was so happy. We have a little WhatsApp group called ‘Laz-R-Us’ and we were messaging each other all the time like ‘any news? Anyone heard anything?’. We kept in touch quite a lot after shooting the first series because we just all really got on as a cast and crew. There’s also just something so epic about the show itself, like it feels like a blockbuster film, so as someone who’s mainly acted in TV, it really allowed me to stretch myself and my skill set outside of what I’d done so far. Getting to fill those iconic Archie boots again…it was just like winning the lottery.
EJ: So where is Archie at going into this season?
AM: Season 1, Archie really acted as the key to introducing George (Paapa Essiedu) into the fold of The Lazarus Project and then dealing with the fall out of the chaos that George ends up leaving in his wake. When she discovers this, when she finds out that George has betrayed her and lied to her to use the organisation’s time travel ability to bring his girlfriend back, she’d livid. But I think that rage is almost like a mask for her own internal plates shifting? Because what George has done by saving his girlfriend has acted as a catalyst in a fuck-tonne of internal processing that Archie now has to do. Maybe she could have fought harder to keep her own love alive and if she didn’t then…well, maybe she didn’t love him as much as she thought she did. So I think her internal devotion to the project is really being challenged. Meanwhile, she also has to put her less than friendly feelings towards George to the side because they need to unite to stop the world ending as a result of this infinite time loop.
EJ: So quite low stakes then, really?
AM: Yeah. Very mundane. Not at all bigger in every possible way.
EJ: Every way?
AM: It’s funnier. Bolder. Even more of a mind-fuck. There’s some brilliant new characters coming in this season that I know people are going to love. It’s ten times more epic. Bigger guns. More action.
EJ: Unfortunately, not for you personally.
AM: Maybe in the next one!
EJ: Are you hoping for a third season?
AM: Definitely. Season two, much like season one, ends on such a cliffhanger that I feel like we need to see how the next chapter is going to play out. I need to see it. I need to see what Joe comes up with next. I’m not quite ready to take off Archie’s boots yet.
Season 2 of The Lazarus Project is now available on Sky and Now TV