Brace yourselves, Downton Abbey fans. The walking, talking raw wound that is Michelle Dockery’s Letty Raines in the sizzling TNT thrill ride Good Behavior — based on Blake Crouch’s Letty Dobesh book series — is about as far from Downton’s icy, elegant Lady Mary Crawley as the actress could get.
But you may not mind one bit.
Dockery is a force as Letty, a troubled but talented con who can’t get herself straight, despite an empathetic parole officer (an intriguing relationship she’ll play with Oz’s Terry Kinney) and a desperate longing to be a worthy parent to her preteen son, being raised by Letty’s bitter mom (Lusia Strus). When Letty crosses paths — and matches wits — with charismatic hitman Javier (your next TV crush, Juan Diego Botto), her life is by turns saved and hurled down a seductively dangerous path.
“When you’re introduced to her, you see that it’s been two years since she’s seen her son,” Dockery explains. “That is the good that she wants to succeed at — that if she tries her best, she can be a mother and maybe have that normal life. But then she encounters Javier and that all goes out the window because it’s like a roller coaster from then on.”
When the pair, not exactly by accident, first bond over drinks and Letty, working the daylights out of a platinum wig and faux drawl, claims to be a teacher and Javier says he’s in philanthropy — both knowing the other is completely full of crap — the games begin. “Instead of trying to make our lives more spectacular, what our version of lying on a first date is is to try to make an ordinary life,” laughs Botto. “She’s not saying, ‘Well, I’m a meth addict and I can steal from any hotel in the world,’ and he, ‘I’m a super hitman.’ Instead our lie is to try to be normal.”
But by the heart-stopping final moments of the premiere episode, each knows exactly how bad the other can be. And viewers wonder if twisted salvation or total destruction awaits.
“There is not a single cliché about these characters, and as the show goes along, we’re going to see that more,” says Botto. “The show is a very twisted, unconventional love story between these two outsiders, lone wolves, who can’t find their place in the world and are trying to find it with each other.”
“It’s almost like they can’t survive in the normal world,” Dockery adds. “They’re too beyond that; it’s too boring. Letty is constantly searching for the high, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the drugs and the substances. It’s anything that gives her that feeling of being alive, which is why the stealing and the dressing up and playing a different character, it thrills her. She loves the game of it.
“It’s like nothing I’d ever read before,” Dockery continues of leaving Lady Mary and her pomp and finery far, far behind. “I just wanted to play her so badly when I read it. I was thrilled that the creators [Crouch and Wayward Pines’ Chad Hodge] had such faith in me that I could do something very different.”
Dockery says playing Behavior’s twisty emotional dance with her dashing costar only heightened that thrill.
“I think the world’s going to fall in love with him,” she exclaims. “To work with him is just a dream. He’s huge in Spain, and he brought something to this character that I hadn’t initially seen on the first reading of the pilot. You have a stereotype of hitman in your head; he’s not what you expect at all. It’s very surprising what this character becomes. We have so much fun working on this show.”
In large part because, this time, Dockery’s playing a woman who doesn’t — or possibly can’t — give a damn what the world thinks of her and her exploits.
“The great thing about Letty is that she is unapologetic in what she does,” Dockery beams. “That’s the difference with this female character, and what I was drawn to. And that’s why it’s so enjoyable to watch — because she does these things and she doesn’t apologize!”
Lady Mary might approve.
Good Behavior airs Tuesdays at 9/8c beginning Nov. 15 on TNT