Hulu’s The Path co-star Michelle Monaghan talks to Awards Daily TV about her character’s motivations and the potential for future growth.
The Path‘s airs its season finale today, and after last week’s explosive episode was filled with emotional twists and turns, what happens in the finale is anyone’s guess. Hulu’s drama about Meyerism, a cult-like movement, fascinates, and its story line gets even more interesting in Season 2 as we learn more about the characters and as we understand more about the misdeeds of the movement. At its center is an all-star cast featuring Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, and Hugh Dancy.
I caught up with Michelle who plays Sarah Lane. Her character is tied to Meyerism, and it’s all she’s known. However, she’s fallen deeper into a black hole, getting into the nitty-gritty.
I saw the episode and Sarah is going into a downward spiral.
Yes! Yes, she is. She put herself in a really complicated position. In the first season, she was leading with blind faith. She’s incredibly dogmatic and convicted and didn’t really see any other way. As a result of finding out things at the end of the first season, she became less naive. I think, in order to take the movement to the next level, she understands the complexities of running the religion and movement now. She’s conflicted and compromised some of her own spiritual beliefs for the sake of the greater good. As a result, she’s in a downward spiral and it’s a bit of a slippery slope for her at this point.
It was a tense finale.
I love that you really responded to the show.
I love Sarah’s journey and you playing her. At what point do you feel that was where she wanted to be because you think she’s settled and then everything isn’t what you think it is and who knows what’s going to happen to her?
She was so convicted in her first season, and I felt it was important as a result of her discovering the things at the end of the first season about Silas. Her first priority is the movement because it’s the only thing she’s ever known. I wanted to see what she would be willing to sacrifice in order to preserve the movement. It’s almost self-sabotage in a way, self-preservation. Sacrificing herself personally to support herself spiritually and as a result of that, I wanted to see that shift in her.
It’s obviously complicated, but I thought it would be interesting to play. It was important for me to see her moral compass shift from the first season to have it be a little off. She’s slightly hypocritical, her behavior is full of hypocrisy now in terms of what they preach. She’s not practicing what she preaches. I wanted her to live in that morally ambiguous area as opposed to how she was so dogmatic in the first season as to what was right and what was wrong. I wanted her to live in that gray area this season. it certainly makes for great storytelling, but it also allows for the audience to connect to these character’s moral dilemmas in a deeper way.
She is this wonderfully, complicated character, and we’re learning more about her as we go along.
We discover a lot as we go. Jessica Goldberg was so forthcoming. We had all these terms, and it’s like a Bible of sorts in terms of what Meyerism is. So, we had a great understanding of the movement and in terms of all of the different verbiage that we use. We had a glossary for what it means to unburden, to live with transparency, and that was essentially a guidebook.
Personally, it was clear to me that Sarah grew up on the compound and it was the only thing she had ever seen or known so she’s never seen another perspective outside of that. She firmly believes they’re all meant to live in the garden and that there is only one way to get there, and anybody else outside of the religion she has compassion for because they’re IP’s (Ignorant People). It’s so interesting because she projects that, but really, she is an IP herself. She is quite ignorant, at least in the first season. I was really intrigued by this personality who is so unlike who I am. I understood that as a result of who her parents were, and her sister walked out. She never really had a relationship so that really helped informed a lot.
I knew going into the first season that I had a sister who we denied, and I found that to be a great piece of information for me in terms of character building. As a result of having that, I went to Jessica and asked if I could have Sarah tell Hawk to leave the movement. She said, “That’s really harsh.” I told her that I felt strongly about it, and it wasn’t emotional at all, but more as a matter of fact. It would be the toughest kind of love any parent could give a child if they were going through a problem, and that were the bottom line. I wanted that ultimatum. I felt as an audience member watching, you’d appreciate how far gone and how convicted she is and really understand that the movement is the priority to her.
That was a really profound moment for me and the character in the show. It set me up in the direction in which Jessica and I wanted to take Sarah in the second season where you see the darker side of Sarah.
She turns dark.
She goes dark. It’s interesting to see how audiences are uncomfortable with it. There are other dark characters in the show, but they’re the male characters and people aren’t as uncomfortable with it. But to see Sarah go to the dark side people have been very open to me saying they don’t like her much this season. [Laughs]
I feel the motivation behind Sarah’s behavior has never changed. It’s always been consistent in that she will do and say and go to extreme places in order to preserve the only thing that she knows. I think because she is in a position of being the co-guardian and she understands the complexities of running a movement and making it bigger and having to deal with finances, it has forced her to take a more extreme approach in preserving the movement and therefore compromising some of those beliefs that she really holds true to herself.
On a side note, Kathleen Turner as Brenda is incredible. Those scenes are so good.
Everybody is so good. That was another moment that I pitched to them in the first season because I have such a spiritual connection to Cal’s character and, when he relapses and his mother pushes him to the brink, I get very protective over that. Sarah is such a nurturer. I said I would really love a moment with Cal’s mother because I think there’s some unfinished business between the two of them. I loved how they wrote it. Sarah gets the message and goes there not wanting to go there, and I’m there and you see that nurturing side of her. It’s also uncomfortable too, and his mother calls Sarah out on her baloney. It’s so confronting and Sarah feels she’s in control, the tables turns, and she’s constantly being confronted with all of these things and that haunts her.
All of it is leading to a bit of a revelation by the end of the season, and it’s all leading somewhere. You saw it, so this is the last episode. It’s so good. Jessica Goldberg directed the last episode, and it’s TERRIFIC. You’ll understand where it’s come to. It comes to a head for Sarah, and without giving too much away, she’s willing to walk away at this point because she hit her rock bottom.
Where would you like to see Sarah go?
If we’re fortunate to get a third season, and because of the way this season ends, there is a revelation for Sarah. I feel as though it’s really about her redeeming herself in the second season and atoning for the transgressions that she made in the first season. Really grounding herself back with her family and really try to reestablish this relationship with Eddie and not have it held by the strings of the movement.
I think that is the shift that I’d like to see her make, and start to see the movement with clarity.
The show has a lot of love. I follow it on social media and see the excitement and engagement people experience around the show. What do you think makes it so appealing?
It’s really interesting because I think the idea of religion and cults and what happens behind closed doors is a very intriguing aspect of the show. Talking about religion and faith is a universal theme as well. The show and the movement feel very contemporary, yet it feels traditional at the same time. Regardless of your position when it comes to faith and spirituality, it allows everybody an opportunity to identify with one aspect of the show or not. I think the show has done a really great job of balancing reality with mysticism and mythology. I think it’s done in a timely way which is such a testament to the writers.
It’s exciting to read the comments when everyone is very engaged.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully, in summer, we’ll be shooting The Path. I have a film, Sidney Hall, coming out and that was just bought by A24. It premiered at Sundance and stars Elle Fanning and Logan Lerman, so that’s wonderful news and I look forward to that.
The Path Season 2 finale is now streaming on Hulu.