Pop-Culturalist Chats with Damnation’s Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones’ impressive body of work speaks for itself. Her outstanding performances continue to wow audiences, whether that be in starring roles on HBO’s Big Love, FX’s Sons of Anarchy, Hulu’s The Path or on the big screen. Currently, she’s starring as Amelia Davenport on USA’s breakout hit, Damnation. The series is an epic saga about the struggle and conflict between big money and the downtrodden in the 1930s. Her character, Amelia, puts on a modest front as a preacher’s wife to disgust her political ambitions. Pop-Culturalist spoke with Sarah about the role, the issues the series tackles, and her character’s strong moral compass.
P-C: Tell us about Damnation and your character on the show.
Sarah: For me, it centers around the lives of various people of diverse paths who have found themselves in the cross hairs of corporate greed threatening their way of life. However personal or abstract the social and political environment is to each character, they’re affected by it, have to reckon with what it means to them and ultimately decide where they stand with themselves and their community. My character, Amelia, is playing the part of a preacher’s wife along with her husband, Seth, who is playing the part of a preacher. They moonlight as a preacher and preacher’s wife hoping that they can radicalize the local farmers to strike against the local bank and food distributor who are setting low prices for their goods so that ultimately the bank can foreclose and take ownership of the farmland. While Seth is the leader, Amelia is somewhat of the mastermind. Always thinking a few steps ahead of everyone else in order to maintain their cause of strengthening the working class.
P-C: Set during The Great Depression, Damnation tackles many issues that are still relevant in today’s society. Did that help with your preparation and what do you hope viewers take away from watching the series?
Sarah: In terms of preparing for the season and how Amelia feels about the injustice of the wealthy, powerful few exploiting the working class, it certainly helped with emotional preparation in that I personally relate and believe there’s currently a destructive imbalance between corporate power and human rights; but this isn’t a recent issue. This is an international problem that we have never seem to overcome. At the end of the day, Damnation is a TV show; so with that said, I hope the viewers get the satisfying experience of escaping into another world with characters they can relate to and are moved by.
P-C: Amelia is guided by her moral compass and the fight for justice. Which of her traits do you admire the most and what have you learned about yourself from embodying this character?
Sarah: [laughs] Her poise is unparalleled! In playing Amelia, I admire her ability to observe and take in everything around her, and to not only listen to what someone is saying but to hear it. It enables her to see the big picture and know when her words and actions will carry the most weight. She never forfeits her passion or compromises her moral compass, but understands what society expects of her and uses it to her advantage instead of seeing it as a limitation. We share the same trait of refraining from hypocrisy knowing that if you don’t, you run the risk of losing credibility and trust (not to mention, it’s a wake up call that you’re not being entirely honest with yourself).
P-C: What was the most challenging scene to film this season and why?
Sarah: It was probably the scene in which Bessie comes to the church asking for Seth and Amelia’s help. Chasten (who plays Bessie) and I wanted to make sure that we were giving an honest female perspective in terms of the gravity of the situation Bessie was in. That, momentarily, there are no sides, there are two women who understand that they have to trust each other regardless on how they feel about each other in order to ensure their safety. I wanted to make sure that the scene didn’t come off as Amelia exploiting the danger that Bessie was in, but that she needed as much information from Bessie to protect both Bessie and the farmers. We were both pleased with how the scene turned out!
P-C: Tell us about Amelia’s relationship with Seth and how they complement each other. How did you and Killian build that bond?
Sarah: Well, like I said earlier, Seth is the leader while Amelia is sort of the mastermind behind what they’re doing. Both understand and respect their roles, never resenting the other for the role they take on. There’s something unique about that kind of bond. In terms of their personality, they’re both passionate people, but know how to keep each other in check which enables them to further their cause with a pragmatic approach and maintaining cool heads for the most part [laughs]. It wasn’t something that Killian and I had to build in preparation for the season, it just seemed to work itself out that way organically through both the writing and how we worked and related to each other in a scene. That seemed to be the theme with all of the actors whether they were in the entire season or in one episode—the ease of working with and off of each other was seamless.
P-C: What can you tease about the rest of the season?
Sarah: Watch the finale! It will not disappoint.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
Sarah: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
Sarah: Reality Bites
P-C: Favorite book?
P-C: Favorite play or musical?
Sarah: 12 Angry Men. I’m cheating a bit, but I rewatched it recently and it’s been on my brain.
P-C: A band or artist that fans would be surprised to learn is on your playlist?
Sarah: I have no idea what would surprise anyone, but I’m currently obsessed with Jan Hammer Group’s album, Melodies.
P-C: Favorite social media platform?
Sarah: Myspace…has it made a comeback yet?
P-C: Last person you texted?
Sarah: Chasten and Melinda in a group text (who play Bessie and Connie on the show).
P-C: Hidden talent?
Sarah: I’ve got a few cocktails I’ve come up with that don’t seem to disappoint.
Tune into the season finale of Damnation on January 18th at 10/9C on USA Network.
Photo Credit: Logan Cole / Hair and Makeup by Travisean Haynes