Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Run’s fifth episode, “Jump.”
“I think she's starving for something. I think she's been starving for a long time and it's ultimately impossible to resist the thing she's craving when it's suddenly offered,” Run star Merritt Wever wrote to Refinery29 over email. The Emmy-winning actress is talking about her character, Ruby, who embarks on a cross-country train journey with her college boyfriend Billy (Irish dreamboat Domhnall Gleeson). Billy is the thing Ruby has been “starving for.” This would be an immaculately romantic tale if it wasn’t for a few small details: Ruby abandoned her husband and son to reunite with Billy, who also has his own secrets.
As of Sunday night’s episode, “Jump,” written by creator and Phoebe Waller-Bridge collaborator Vicky Jones, the couple runs into some even bigger crises. Namely there’s the death of Billy’s understandably obsessive employee Fiona (Archie Panjabi). “Jump” follows Billy and Ruby as they throw themselves off of a moving train in an effort to catch Fiona, who is in possession of their small cash fortune. Eventually, Billy and Ruby track Fiona down to a random house in the middle of nowhere. As Billy and Fiona scuffle off-screen, the latter tumbles out of a window and onto a series of spikes below. Still, for a moment, Run’s central pair hopes Fiona isn’t dead.
Is someone a bad person for laughing at this impossible level of optimism (and the appearance of spikes, of all things)? “I don't know, but phone me from Hell and tell me who else is down there,” Wever said. “Never mind, I'll see for myself.”
It’s difficult to keep such an over-the-top tragedy grounded, but Wever and scene partner Gleeson manage to pull it off. Keep reading to find out how — and what it was like to work with Run executive producer Waller-Bridge, who shows up in “Jump” in her weirdest role yet as taxidermist Laurel.
Refinery29: How did you feel about the twist? It makes Run an entirely new, accidental Bonnie and Clyde-type show.
“My job was to try to pull it off. To keep her as honest and believable as possible even in increasingly crazed circumstances. In those moments when I stopped fully recognizing her or where she was, it was my job to perhaps use and embrace that frantic disorientation. I hoped that if I did my job, these moments would stay honest and weave together and Ruby would remain emotionally comprehensible in the midst of it all.
“Because at the end of the day, it's what's happening inside of and between Ruby and Billy that I'm most interested and invested in. The rest of it is the container. Like some constantly shape-shifting pinball machine.”
What surprised you most about acting with Phoebe in “Jump?” I can’t believe her wig.
“When we shot together, it was so cold and late at night that I don't think I had the mental capacity to experience surprise anymore. I think that may be a state of mind not critical for survival and therefore one you lose access to during freezing night shoots.”
“It's a completely fair question, but I don't want to diminish Run or Vicky by setting either up to be derivative. I fucking loved Fleabag. I'd call it as close to perfect as they come and certainly astonishingly satisfying. I'm so glad that show and that character are in the world. But I think the answer to your second question, at least at this point in the process for me, is best left as the concern of others. It doesn't help me get inside of Ruby to think about her from the outside like that. To compare her.”
Ruby and Billy’s attraction feels so lived in, down to the hand gestures. It’s in the writing, but it’s also clearly in the acting. How did you accomplish that?
“I just tried to play what Vicky was giving me. Domhnall and I both did our best to listen and respond to each other and perhaps that made it seem that these were two people who were paying very close attention to one another.
“It was a tremendous exercise, for me, in playing someone completely susceptible to someone else, completely aware of and vulnerable to them and their every move, while also staying tethered to myself and what I needed as an actor. Sometimes it felt like quite the energetic see saw. But perhaps that's not necessarily inappropriate, given the material.”
Billy finds out Ruby is a mom by the end of the premiere. Is there a “good” way he should have reacted? Did you ever judge Ruby for RUN-ing as a mom?
“I could not have less interest in judging her choices or ironing out her wrinkles or robbing her of her complications. I've never anticipated her actions in that episode as being so incomprehensible to people, either.
“I always felt that, whether she knows it or not, this is not just about missing or wanting Billy. This is also about missing and wanting the person she got to be at that time in her life [with him]. The person she thought she was going to be. Billy represents that point of divergence. I don't think she's gotten to be that vibrant, alive self in a very long time. The chance to feel that way again and the chance to potentially be seen that way again is too much to pass up.
I really can’t stop thinking about this — why taxidermy for Laurel?
“Why not? Also, totally above my pay grade … But I cannot imagine that seeing a dead thing is exactly settling to them at that point in their travels. I guess there may be something to be said about the fact that they are, perhaps, mid-resurrection themselves. Will this thing that was once so alive bear any resemblance to its old self in its new and current form? What value will it have in this new iteration? Will it look the same, feel the same? In summary, is there life left in it?
“But that's just an attempt to give you an answer. Doesn't mean it's true.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.