Awards Daily talks to Snowpiercer’s Alison Wright (Ruth) about that game-changing season finale and what’s in store for Season 2.
Alison Wright has a knack for playing loyal characters.
On FX’s The Americans, Wright played Martha, whose steadfast love helped Russian spy Clark Westerfield aka Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) infiltrate the FBI (and the role garnered her a 2017 Emmy nom for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series). Now on TNT’s Snowpiercer, where the last remaining survivors on planet earth all reside on a train traversing the globe, Wright plays hospitality attendant Ruth, a staunch worker who refuses to believe that anyone other than Mr. Wilford is fit to run the train.
In a cast of vastly different characters with unique motives, Ruth is the most interesting character on the show. Wright plays her in a layered performance rich with backstory, even before we learn she has one. As Wright tells me, Ruth’s life on the train, in a post-apocalyptic world, is better than it was before the train.
I talked to Wright about why she loves to play Ruth, why her character is afraid to take charge, and why Season 2 of the series will have her in 7th Heaven (Mr. Wilford returns!).
Awards Daily: I keep thinking about when we first meet Ruth. I think Melanie says something like, “Grab the fur. Your favorite part.” The fur even returns in the last episode. What is it about putting on that fur that gives Ruth a little kick? Something in it is very special.
Alison Wright: Primarily, it’s cold in the back of the tail, that’s where it comes from initially, but that jacket does have quite a bit of panache, doesn’t it? It’s for more than just staying warm. I think in that beginning scene that you’re talking about, I always find it interesting that Ruth doesn’t like to have to deal with all that, she wishes that she didn’t, but in Melanie saying, “Go ahead—put your fur on,” it’s like the one good part of it, the fun part, like when you’re bribing a child. That’s how I see it. Then it just becomes her thing; she always wears it to go in the back.
AD: I guess it comes into play in another scene, that I’ll ask you about in a second. I think Ruth is the most interesting character on the show, and I love how she describes meeting Mr. Wilford. What do you think life was like for her before Mr. Wilford and why do you think he approached her at the B&B she worked at?
AW: I think that meeting, that night that she talked about was probably the most exciting, thrilling thing that had ever happened to her. Him coming into her life like that, the way she describes it, in the middle of a rain storm, like he just appeared. I think her life is better on the train now than it was before. Although everyone has lost a lot of things, I think life is still better for her now.
AD: Mr. Wilford almost represents a religion to her in some sense. When Melanie’s lies come to light, Ruth has such an emotional reaction. Most people get angry, which she does, too, but at first she’s emotionally devastated. What do you think Mr. Wilford represents to her?
AW: I think it is very similar to a religion or a cult, the feelings she has for him. She’s put all of her hope and faith in him. When Melanie tries to tell her about who he was and the fact that Melanie did all that she did, Ruth won’t even for a millimeter allow that possibility in. She won’t hear it at all. She’s disgusted that Melanie could ever speak badly of Mr. Wilford who she thinks is our lord and savior and the only reason that we’re all alive and still here. The fact that she would dare to speak poorly of Mr. Wilford, Ruth can’t even let that in at all. She’s not willing to let any logical argument in at all. She’s fully in Mr. Wilford’s camp.
AD: I also kept thinking about why she’s never been suspicious. He’s not been on the train since the beginning. How has she been able to stay so faithful to this idea?
AW: Yeah. What they had told the actors was what the real belief was that Mr. Wilford for his own safety was hermetically sealed in front of the train and we couldn’t afford to get him sick. I don’t know if we explained that in the show, to see why the characters would believe. But they keep hearing him on the announcements, and they keep hearing his voice, because Melanie was doing that. So they do think they’re hearing from him on a regular basis, and they do think they’re getting communication from him on a regular basis. But I agree with you.
AD: I also wonder, if you put yourself in that situation, I could be Ruth. Does Ruth represent human complicity, turning the other head and blindly believing?
AW: I think she could definitely represent that. Probably lots of things, but definitely that, too. Maybe as we move through the story, we might see what the price is if you just do that, if you just blindly believe in something and if you don’t think critically about it at all. But as you see, all of the thoughts have disappeared for Ruth at this point, because she’s over the moon. He’s coming back! She doesn’t actually have to think about those big questions. He’s coming back, so it’ll be okay.
AD: I want to talk about that final scene, where she shows up in the fur with the kids. They’re about to go against Layton, and Layton says something to her like, “I need you by my side.” And she’s like, oh, okay. I love the way he convinces her, almost in a patronizing way. Why do you think she likes to be second in command? She was so close to leading the charge on her own.
AW: She’s just desperate to be as close to [Mr. Wilford] as she possibly can be. And at this moment the hospitality department on the train seems to be fractured. Melanie is essentially her closest friend who’s gone and out of the picture, and had been lying to her all this time. There’s chaos in terms of who’s going to take over the train, and she’s trying to do what hospitality would normally do in this situation. She’s trying to carry on as normal with tradition in that moment. I think she feels like she’s doing it all on her own. She’s against all of those people. She’s much more interested in Mr. Wilford behind that train door than anyone else there.
AD: The finale was such a game-changer. Melanie’s daughter showing up! I know you have filmed some of Season 2, but can you tease anything of what’s in store for the next season?
AW: It is an amazing moment. It’s so shocking for all of the characters as well. And Ruth realizes in that moment of course—she knows who Alexandra is. It’s very exciting and shocking from this point moving forward for all of the different characters on different levels. But Ruth is thrilled. Her hero is back finally. She plans to get close to him as she possibly can.
Snowpiercer Season 1 is available on TNTdrama.com.