RELLIK (“KILLER” backwards) is a crime thriller airing Friday nights on Cinemax. The show stars Richard Dormer as Detective Gabriel Markham, a physically disfigured man pursuing the serial killer who nearly took his life. Jodi Balfour also stars as his partner, the secretive Detective Elaine Shepard. We caught up with Jodi last week ahead of RELLIK’s penultimate episode. Check out what she had to say about playing such a complicated character, telling a story in reverse, and why she thinks Oscar winner Mahershala Ali is the GOAT.
Black Nerd Problems: When RELLIK starts, we think we know who Shepard is – a detective in a complicated relationship with her partner. But we soon learn that she’s a lot more complicated than we thought. How was it playing such a complex character whose story unfolds in reverse?
Jodi Balfour: It was a huge challenge, even just technically speaking, because of the way the show is told in reverse. As audiences see with the end of (last week’s) episode, there’s a huge reveal that I’m completely wrapped up in. The added challenge with RELLIK was that I had to keep a lot close to my chest because the storytellers – the directors and writers – really wanted to conceal the twist that comes in episode 5 from the audience. So ordinarily if I was playing someone as damaged and as emotionally traumatized and complicated as Elaine is, I would have opportunities to show that. So yeah, it was really challenging.
BNP: What were your first thoughts when you were pitched a show whose story is told in reverse?
Jodi Balfour: I was totally intrigued. I think I sat down with one of the people I’d worked with before, Kary Antholis (President of Cinemax), before I sat down with everyone at the BBC as the show was a co-production. I remember him telling me about the concept, similar to Memento and a few other stories that had been told backwards. I was absolutely intrigued and immediately into my actor brain. It felt like a risk, but also really exciting challenge.
BNP: RELLIK is an emotionally heavy show and you play such a pivotal character. Was Det. Shepard an emotionally taxing character to play? If so, how did you handle that challenge?
Jodi Balfour: I know Richard (Dormer) had a trickier time with shaking the character and the show. Because it was really demanding, every day on set we were talking and thinking about being present in moments of real drama and trauma. I mean really edgy, dark subject matter that sadly isn’t that dislocated from reality. But I have a strange ability to just sort of switch that off, and compartmentalize. That’s kind of what I just had to do. It’s a bit of a survival tactic, I guess. I would just go home and make sure I saw friends while away filming in London.
BNP: RELLIK is full of crazy twists and turns. Were there any for your character that shocked you?
Jodi Balfour: Episode 5, which is right before the finale (airing May 18), is really like the meat and potatoes of the story. It’s the real substance of where this all began, and the cause for all of the madness. It’s kind of like opening a can of worms, because by the end of episode 5 will be a really big reveal for the audience. Then in episode 6, you go inside of that and you begin to understand why the killer became who they are and have done the things that they’ve done. It’s probably the most danger-filled television I’ve ever been a part of. Lost of special effects, lots of fire, all of that good stuff.
BNP: Is there anything you’re going to miss about playing Det. Shepard?
Jodi Balfour: (Laughs) Purely selfishly or just for my psyche? I don’t know if it’s good for the world to have her exist within it! But I really enjoyed getting to play a character that was truly irredeemable in a way. I find that more often than not I people see me as, and I get cast as, the slightly damaged girl next door or whatnot. Though that’s changing more and more, and I’m so grateful for that. But this was really the first time I got to get my hands dirty with a character that was really, really quite unlikable in many ways.
And despite me saying she’s irredeemable, it was also really enjoyable and fascinating to learn about the way early childhood trauma has ripple effects throughout a human being’s life — getting to understand what it would be like to be someone like Elaine, which is always my favorite part of acting. getting to really wear someone else’s shoes and develop empathy.
BNP: Will RELLIK get a season 2?
Jodi Balfour: I think they wanted to leave it somewhat open-ended in case there seems to be a demand for it, but it was always written as a self-contained story. We all signed onto it as a mini-series, but who knows? Maybe years down the line if there was an audience demand for it, you never know. As of right now, it’s gonna live as a mini-series.
BNP: You’ve had an incredible year. What’s next for you?
Jodi Balfour: It’s been a really fun year this year. I’m working right now on the new season of True Detective with Mahershala Ali, Stephen Dorff, and Carmen Ejogo, which is a dream come true. Mahershala is one of my favorite actors of all time, ever!
Moonlight was the best film experience I expect to have in my whole life. I’ve just done one day so far and Mahershala was there. I tried to play it cool and then eventually I just crumbled and was like, “I have to ask you everything about Moonlight! I don’t think I’ve ever screamed at a TV screen as loud as I did when you won your Oscar!” He’s the real deal.
Check out RELLIK Fridays at 10 pm on Cinemax. And don’t miss the finale on Friday, May 18.