From a one-time Wonder Woman to gung ho trooper, Adrienne Palicki is developing quite the nerd-friendly resumé. Padding that resumé recently, Palicki joined the cast as Seth Gecko’s hard nosed ex-wife Vanessa Styles on the confirmed-for-a-second season hit show From Dusk Till Dawn. Adrienne’s character fits into the series in a very cool way in that she is referenced but never seen in the original film, and her scenes take place at the infamous Big Kahuna Burger, fitting in neatly where the source material had George Clooney’s Seth step out for a moment and return with a Big Kahuna Burger for his insane brother Richie.
Nerdist recently had a chance to catch up with Adrienne:
NERDIST: First off, good job on From Dusk till Dawn. Your character is really intense and very cool.
ADRIENNE PALICKI: Oh, thank you! That’s all Robert’s doing.
N: How did this all come together, you getting to go back to Austin and film this really cool role?
AP: Well, funnily enough, I was already in Austin, visiting friends, and I knew D.J. [Cotrona] was shooting down there, so I went to visit him on set. Half of the crew is actually Friday Night Lights‘ crew, so it was amazing – I could pretty much see my family, you know? Robert approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in this role. I was like, “OK, Robert Rodriguez, I will do this role!” [chuckling] It was really flattering, and very humbling, and I was just really excited to get to be a part of the show and get to work with him.
N: I had the pleasure of meeting Robert at SXSW, and he’s a very engaged individual. When he likes something, he loves it. That had to have been – just being around that kind of energy, just for a few minutes, was really weird for me. It had to have been interesting to have that type of personality to say, “Let’s work together.”
AP: Oh, absolutely! Because when he’s passionate about something, he’s really passionate. And it’s exciting, because it gets you passionate about it as well.
N: When he was talking to you about the character, was it a fully formed character, or was it just this idea? We knew from the movie that Seth had an ex, and we knew he went to (Big) Kahuna Burger, but the fact that they’re filling in that part of the story with that kind of thing-was there a lot for you to be able to work with Robert in figuring out who she was, or was it something that was already there on the page?
AP: I mean, it was pretty much on the page. They really wanted – the way they were looking at it was like a Veronica Lake, you know what I mean? Like a modern-day Veronica Lake – sexy, sultry, strong. The words spoke for themselves. Obviously, a lot of dialogue, as it should be, as a Robert Rodriguez movie or TV show should be. But it was kind of there, and it was just fun to get to play. He was so supportive and awesome and open whenever I grasped the character.
N: Did you get to paint with him?
AP: I did not get to paint with him! He has this cool book, but everybody who’s done the movie or worked with him actually can draw or paint something. It’s a special book. I sadly had to go shoot – I was also shooting a film at the time in New York, so it was kind of – they gave me two days off to go to Austin, and shoot two episodes. It went off very fast, so I didn’t get a chance to do that, but hopefully the next time I see him.
N: Hopefully. I’d love to see what you would end up doing. How is it doing a scene that is so intense, but you’re trying to keep it quiet? That’s got to be a yell-whisper. How did you approach the energy of that scene?
AP: You know, how I would actually approach it in real life, if I was trying to have that kind of conversation in a diner. I just try to bring a kind of reality to the situation, into play, as much as you can. I’ve never robbed anybody. [laughs] Never been a party to anything like that. Just having that kind of passion for somebody, and frustration-trying to have a conversation in a crowded area.
N: The character could have easily been turned into this jilted lover, but it seems more that the anger comes from a place of disrespect, like “I can’t believe you didn’t trust me and you didn’t understand that I could have kept you out of the scenario.” There’s a lot of caring that comes out. It’s more like the idea that you’re mad at him because he’s screwed up his life, more than screwed up anything between you. Is that something that was at play when you were trying to lay out the beats of the scene with the other actors and the director?
AP: Yeah, and you know, a lot of it comes from hurt. She was in love with Seth, and at the end of the day, he ends up picking his brother over here. I think that that was the gist of their relationship all together, and she was sick of it. And so you can imagine a lot of it comes from pain, though there’s a lot of passion still between the two of them, and love, there. I think on his side, there’s love, but it just couldn’t work, based on his crazy-weird relationship with his brother.
N: Episode four is about to air, and you’re in there, and it’s a very intense stand-off right away. How was the dynamic shift? I imagine one was one day and the next day it was the hostage situation. How did you ramp yourself up for that?
AP: Well, the shift was interesting. I went from bashing in Seth’s car, because I was so pissed off, to pretty much saving his life. So having that switch decision – I think that all of these characters are interesting because there is such a fantasy element to it, and I think they’re all a little nuts. And I think that’s her. I think that she’s really passionate, but at the same time, she really loves Seth. That’s why she bashed in his car, because she’s hurt, and she decides that she’s going to do the right thing, and stand up for him, and ultimately take the brunt of it.
And I think with that, she’s a broken woman, and I think that’s just the place I had to come from with the character, was that no choices she makes are grounded in sanity, ultimately. She’s broken and she’s hurt, and she’s had her heart broke, and she’s just following that. I think it’s romantic, in a weird way.
N: Actually, yeah, that was kind of the next question. You did a nice job of exuding hope underneath all of that, if that makes sense. It seems that, at the end of the day, there still seemed to be a connection between the characters, so it was very well played.
AP: Thank you. That’s what we were going for, so that’s a good thing!
N: So you have a lot of really fun, creative dialogue. It’s not a character that you’ve done before. I can’t really think of any characters that you’ve done – a little bit on Friday Night Lights, you had a snark and sarcasm, but it wasn’t nearly as – the character wasn’t written as articulate.
N: The analogies were very fun and clever, and you really got to explore some word play. How was that? Please correct me if I’m wrong – if there was a character that you feel that also did that, but it really seemed fresh for you, and it came off really well.
AP: It was really fresh. It was really exciting to do. It was nerve wracking, to be honest with you. I got five pages of dialogue, pretty much the night before, and I’ve never played this character, and I’m working with Robert Rodriguez, and I’m just like, I really don’t want to mess this up! But it was so nice having D.J. there, because we’ve worked together, and we have a friendship. And he’s been working in this environment for a while, so it kind of made me feel more comfortable and safe, and Robert being as open and awesome as he is – the character just kind of came. It was exciting and nerve wracking, and I guess it just kind of played into the scene a little bit as well.
N: That’s great. That’s interesting that your own nerves helped influence that. It worked really well. How was it-everybody knows the Kahuna Burger. How was it to actually be able to shoot in one?
AP: It was really cool! I mean, you know, being a huge fan, as obviously you are as well, it’s just something that you never imagined you’d get to do, taking my picture in front of the Kahuna Burger.
N: Was it a tasty burger?
AP: I didn’t eat the burger. I didn’t have a burger. Just being in that environment was pretty awesome.
N: I don’t want to give anything away, but your character has potential there, if they ever wanted to bring it back. Is this a character that you hope to revisit? Is it a possibility for you?
AP: Absolutely, and there’s been talk, so we’ll see. I would love to, anytime, go back and play that character again. She is so fun!
N: To be perfectly honest, now that I’ve seen your character talking to Seth, I really want to see your character talking to Richie. I really want to see that dynamic.
AP: I really want to see that dynamic too! That would be really fun! And how awesome is Zane [Holtz]?
N: Yeah, I love the supernatural elements that are coming into play a little bit more. The thing that I like about the show, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s been happening with it – I like that they’re going back, and it’s just now – it was already a very rich story, and now it’s even richer. There are gaps that are getting filled in that you didn’t realize were gaps. It’s almost being Peter Jackson-ed, a little bit. There were references to something or a paragraph about something, and now we’re getting to see that, like Seth referenced an ex, and now we’re getting to meet you. How do you feel about the show and the expansion there?
AP: Well, I think that’s always great about TV shows. I was a member of Friday Night Lights for that reason. That’s a great movie. The nice thing – the expansion that you can have, getting to see these characters grow and become something outside of the hour and a half or two hours, trying to control that environment and just shove a lot into that. But you don’t really get to see the growth, you don’t really get to see the back story, and you don’t really get to see all these interesting characters.
So I think that From Dusk Till Dawn does the same thing. The ability to play and have fun and get more involved in this world that you loved as a film, but now you get to love more as a TV series.
N: As you said, Robert Rodriguez offers you a role, you take it. But you now have this interesting aspect to your career where a lot of new media business models are being experimented with in shows you’re on. Have you realized that’s kind of happened? With Friday Night Lights and the DirecTV/NBC tag-team, and now El Rey experimenting with partnering with Univision, and almost immediately releasing on Netflix after the season is done. How do you feel about being an actor being in those front-of-the-line, trying new things networks and series?
AP: Well, I feel really lucky, and I think it’s the way of the future. Even, I remember Coffee Town was being released through just iTunes and Amazon. Just being able to be a part of things like that, where it’s branching out, people don’t watch TV live as much as they used to. Having the ability to go and watch something back-to-back – and that’s how I watch my television. I like to get through Breaking Bad in two days, you know what I mean?
N: Yeah, exactly.
AP: Falling in love with something and getting to see it and not having to wait every week to see something is really awesome. I think that’s kind of what’s happening, and I think it’s going to continue. I just feel humbled and lucky to be a part of all these great experiences that I’ve had, and just the fact that people are getting to see it, period, is really exciting.
N: That’s great. You mentioned you were working on a movie in New York. What was the title of that? What do you have coming up?
AP: I’m actually going up against myself tomorrow. I’m doing About a Boy. I’m still in that series, with Jason Katims, who was our writer on Friday Night Lights.
N: And Jon Favreau wrote the pilot on that.
AP: Yeah, exactly. It’s a really good show, a great cast. And I did a movie with Keanu Reeves and Willem Dafoe earlier this year, called John Wick. It’s an action film.
N: Oh, great!
AP: It kind of has that dark, Constantine element to it. It’s kind of gritty and fun, and I’m just constantly trying to do interesting new things to keep my tools sharp.
N: Well, from a fan perspective, you’re making all the right moves, because I’m enjoying your performances. Please keep doing those things.
AP: Thank you, I appreciate it.
And that about wraps up our awesome conversation with the wonderful Adrienne Palicki, which, as you can see, was truly a pleasure. Catch From Dusk Till Dawn on Tuesdays at 9/8c on El Rey Network.