Sarah Sutherland on Motherhood, Autonomy and Controlling Selina’s Wallet

The actor behind the first daughter-turned-vegan activist talks about her character’s maturation into motherhood.

HBO: What was your reaction to finding out about the baby storyline this season?

Sarah Sutherland: I was initially surprised. I knew the money thing would come into play and Catherine would start to come into her power more. Having a child was a new development, but I was really excited. It’s so much fun to have that physicality, and getting to wear the prosthetic belly was so great. The crew kept making fun of me because I was walking like a pregnant person.

HBO: How do you think Selina’s parenting will impact how Catherine is as a mother?

Sarah Sutherland: Catherine is such an earnest character. I think she has always been aware of her mother’s shortcomings. My instinct is that she would, with every fiber of her being, rebel against what her mother was and have a more hands-on, nurturing presence. Every once in awhile I think you see some of Selina’s behavior leak through in Catherine.

HBO: Catherine is sometimes the most level-headed person in the room and other times she is very naive.

Sarah Sutherland: There are so many ways she is morally a superior person than the people she constantly interacts with, but she also has had a really unusual life experience. She’s extremely privileged and unrelatable, and she’s not the most gracious. I think there is a complicated line to straddle with Catherine being the person who controls her parents’ funds. It’s been really fun as an actor to explore how that changes things, even if it’s subtle.

HBO: Catherine and Marjorie are very different people. Why do you think makes them work so well as a couple, and how do you think they will work as a parenting team?

Sarah Sutherland: I think they work so well together because Marjorie is such a no-nonsense character and Catherine has grown up in the trappings of false personalities and smiles. It’s refreshing to have someone in her life who is honest and direct and not false in any way. Marjorie really loves Catherine and the way she is unabashedly affectionate towards her to the point of saying nearly creepy things. It’s such an overcorrection to the way Selina treats Catherine. For Catherine, it’s like being let into a warm room after standing in the cold.

HBO: Is it hard playing a character who is constantly dismissed?

Sarah Sutherland: At first on the page, she was pretty angry and combative, and [creator] Armando Iannucci was quick to suggest she takes all of those things in and is just this puppy that keeps coming back for more. She really does have this unwavering loyalty to her mother that’s pretty dark and upsetting, but I think they do a good job of putting in moments that are an emotional crumb from Selina that keep Catherine hanging on.

HBO: One of those crumbs is in the finale in the flashback when Selina is the “spa.”

Sarah Sutherland: It’s one of those beautifully placed moments where you get a sense that things might change, and it makes it more devastating when they don’t. I think the flashback to the spa scene is a tender moment but then you pan out and realize she’s heavily medicated, she’s completely out of her mind.

HBO: With money and a family of her own, do you think Catherine will finally get to be happy?
Sarah Sutherland: I think so. It’s an interesting thing to watch joy filter through her face because she’s still someone who’s so resistant to smiling, and doesn’t speak very quickly or with much feeling or intonation. It’s just been so many years of being bogged down and defeated. But I do think the aperture of her life is starting to open up.