Huge Sky’s Valerie Mahaffey talks about Helen / Ronald Level of No Return: “She simply threw his tail out”
Warning: This post contains spoilers from Big Sky on Tuesday.
A mother’s job is never done.
Tuesday’s Big Sky distributed several shockers, including Rick Legarski’s return to consciousness and the moment Cassie and Jenny identified Ronald as Legarski’s sex trafficking accomplices. But none was as abrupt or deadly as the moment an angry Ronald grabbed his mother’s neck and killed her.
Yes, the hypocritical, insane Helen Pergman is no longer one of the living. But we couldn’t let her go without talking to her actress, the adorable Valerie Mahaffey, on the phone to rewarm Helen’s last episode. Read on as the Emmy winner, whose long TV résumé includes Desperate Housewives and Northern Exposure and next in the movie French Exit, gives us a glimpse into the scene she and co-star Brian are about Gerraghty have fought series. (Trust us, you will remember.)
TVLINE | Were you privy to Helen’s whole arch when you signed up for the show?
I was the last, so to speak [series] regularly invited to the party. [Executive producers] David Kelley and Ross Fineman called me and offered me this part. I read the pilot and the second episode and it was very interesting. [Laughs] Your whole thing and you, what do we call it? “A really bad mother’s agenda went wrong.” I get very clever afterwards – I didn’t think so at the time. But I am a mother and have found that I am not alone: Parents … have plans to make their children perfect. I finally appreciated when my daughter – who was a very good little girl, well, well, well – didn’t all get rebellious when people said she would. She was late for that party. But then she started to rebel. And I realized that was a good thing. I think kids should. And Helen, she just took that weak boy and kept re-emphasizing her idea of how to be in the world and just taking him to hell. It’s not always the parents’ fault, society is in there, right? And these days social media that I just want to kill.
TVLINE | What I took away from the way Helen had this very well-kept home and a son who always wore a shirt and tie was that she took comfort in having things exactly the way she wanted them. Is that right?
I think that’s extremely accurate. There was a very religious component, a very strict adherence to things … When people find solace in being in control of everything, something will flow out in the wrong way. I think that’s exactly what happened. If she looked at him, you’re right: he was perfectly dressed and he seemed kind of okay. And? Not as much.
TVLINE | How much of Ronald and Helen’s relationship was right off the side? Did you and Brian come up with background stories or nuances yourself?
Obviously some are on the page at the beginning. I adore Brian. When I work with an actor who is so passionate about what he does, it increases my passion too. And we were very adamant about certain things and we stood up for certain things … We moved on and found things. There has been a lot of push-pull with whoever is in power at any given moment. And that was very interesting to explore … There was one time when I started laughing at him and I think I saw a glimmer in his eyes: “Oh, Valerie is laughing.” But then it was no, it was Helen who laughed at him. He kept going, to his credit, but that was different from how I’d played it for the last three or four takes. I was just starting to laugh at him. I don’t pat myself on the back, but these moments are gold.
TVLINE | I want to come back to what you said about how you and Brian stood up for things in scenes. Do you remember what one of them was?
I don’t know if you remember, but apparently there was in the second episode [Laughs] – and I kind of understand why – a scene where Helen tells him to masturbate himself. According to my friends – I’m not on social media – it apparently exploded.
TVLINE | Yes. I remember it.
[Laughs] And when he crawls into bed with me later, I think it was someone else. But that for a moment [first] Scene went away. And Brian and I both said, “No! Please keep this. Please put this back! “Because it’s really starting to inform that he’s not just a bad guy out of nowhere. And they put it back, to their credit. Because it’s really important that we see why he’s not feeling so well on his mind.
TVLINE | Do you think Helen ever had the idea that Ronald would actually harm her physically?
Yes. I think it turned out that way. At first she was the power broker of the whole thing and could chastise him and let him slip away. In the episode where he ultimately kills her, do you remember the scene where she walks over to his truck? And he yells at her to get out? It was scary. She has it. And he throttled it a few episodes earlier. So the tide began to turn. Yes, she was scared. Even when I saw it, I knew what was coming and I said, “Oh, that’s terrible!”