What the blue blazes has happened to Lady Mary?
Michelle Dockery, a viewer favorite from Downton Abbey, has turned up in a new TV series playing a character that couldn’t be more different from the previous prim and proper persona.
Now she’s Letty — a thief, grifter, ex-con, addict, absentee mother, woman with regrets, woman in pain — in TNT’s Good Behavior, which premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Viewers who see this steamy Southern thriller after savoring Dockery’s performance in Downton Abbey, which was set in the world of an aristocratic family in post-Edwardian England, are sure to wonder if there’s anything the versatile actress can’t do.
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“I was very fortunate with Good Behavior,” Dockery says. “Downton was coming to an end, Season 6, and this script came to me and I fell in love with the character and the story … something so different from what I had been doing.
“I’ve loved it. Letty is an extraordinary character, so colorful and raw, and she’s fascinating to play.”
Letty, recently paroled from prison, has tried to be a better person. But it doesn’t take much to push her back to her old ways: burglarizing rooms at a high-end hotel. It is here that she overhears a conversation she can’t get out of her head: a professional killer plotting to murder his client’s wife.
Letty dons one of her many disguises and sets out to foil the scheme, but instead gets caught up in a torrid one-night stand with the hitman (played by Juan Diego Botto).
What follows over the course of the 10-episode season is a couple of deeply flawed characters in one of the most dysfunctional romances ever captured on television.
“The relationship between them is so interesting,” Dockery says. “It’s a messed up love story.”
Dockery says it doesn’t get much better as an actor than getting to play a character who does bad — even self-destructive — things.
“They’re the best of characters to play,” she says. “Some of the best characters don’t always behave well … (even though) they’re trying to be the best version of themselves.”
The self-help tapes that Letty has been listening to — “I am the best me I can be” — aren’t really working. But hooking up with this very bad man, ironically, could wind up being the best thing that has ever happened to both of them.
“It’s like a meeting of the minds, because they are so similar in many ways,” Dockery says.
Another thing the actress loves about Good Behavior — created by and executive-produced by Blake Crouch and Chad Hodge (Wayward Pines) — is the way the show defies easy categorization.
“You can’t really compare it to anything,” Dockery says. “When I first read it, it was like nothing else I had ever read before. It’s very difficult to put it in a genre, although a genre was created on our show.
“Our amazingly talented director, Charlotte Sieling, directed the pilot and she said to Chad that the genre of the show is ‘Poetic Noir.’ Chad said, ‘What is that?’ And she said. ‘I don’t know. We’ll find out.’
“And it really is that. It’s something that is very different — and as much as it’s dark, it also can be very light and extremely funny.
“I’m loving every minute. Hope it continues.”
- 8 p.m. Tuesday