Emily Meade Knows Lori Isn’t “The Hooker With a Heart of Gold”

by Olivia Armstrong

The actor discusses how she was approached for the provocative role of Lori, why she was drawn to her character’s “cunning, manipulative” game, and working with female directors.

  • Can you talk about working with [series creators] David Simon and George Pelecanos?

  • It’s a huge, intimidating honor to be chosen to get involved in their world. They were both so accessible and willing to collaborate. In an ensemble show, it’s easy to feel unimportant and they really took the time to care about each character. They made it clear how important everybody was and involved us all.

  • A number of women helm the first season of The Deuce. How was it being directed by three different women on the same show?

  • The expectations are different for women, especially in a position of power. It was interesting to observe how each [director] found her balance... I feel like women are expected to have an instinctive warmth or kindness, so it was fascinating to see how each of them maintained that while also telling people what to do. It’s empowering — and so rare — because, as a woman, you’re so used to being told what to do by men.

  • How did you know you wanted to play Lori?

  • I initially auditioned for Candy, and then several times for Abby. Since there are so many characters, when I first got the script, [David and George] were still figuring out where to place people. Lori isn’t in the pilot much, but I was really intrigued by how she’s not exactly what she seems, and where her story would go. Eventually David reached out to me about the part, which I never auditioned for, but ended up being the best fit for me.

  • Lori may be from the Midwest, but she’s not scared of the big city. What do you think her endgame is when she arrives in New York and joins C.C.’s squad?

  • Like so many young people, I don’t think she has an endgame. She thinks she’s immortal. When you first meet her, she seems super naive, but you soon learn she’s not — at least on the outside. But of course she thinks she holds more power than she actually does.

    There are all these layers to her. She’s definitely not the hooker with the heart of gold from the Midwest. She’s cunning and manipulative, and seeking trouble and power. She thinks she has [power], but has that tragic element of youth to her that we can all relate to on some level.

  • Can we talk about that intimate scene in the hotel room with Lori and C.C.? Why do you think he chooses to confide in her?

  • It’s a mixture of his own narcissism and their odd bond. C.C. is young for a pimp and I think they’re both power-hungry young people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the top. What’s fun about their dynamic is they both constantly think they’re outsmarting the other. While that can be dangerous, there are also these surprising elements of humor to their relationship.

  • When Lori is confronted with a dangerous client, is C.C. worried about her or his product?

  • He knows she’s worth something and that he can get ahead with her. I was really glad [that scene] happened so soon in the season as a way to show Lori getting knocked off her feet a little. There’s something heroic and, almost romantic, about C.C. coming to her rescue, but also something really frightening about seeing how savage and brutal he can be. She’s almost indebted to him now and even more owned by him.