There are shows with twisty plots, and then there’s Behind Her Eyes. In the Netflix psychological thriller, adapted from Sarah Pinborough’s 2017 novel, the sparks that fly between single mum Louise (Simona Brown) and her new boss, psychiatrist David (Tom Bateman), and the subsequent friendship David’s icy wife orchestrates between herself and Louise, are merely prologue. Eve Hewson plays this wife, Adele, a lonely, rich woman who may still be traumatized by the death of her parents in a fire from which David heroically saved her. Now he’s more like her jailer, monitoring and medicating her as she draws Louise in, making her promise not to tell David about their relationship. But Louise’s and David’s secrets pale in comparison to the whopper Adele has been keeping: As revealed in the miniseries’ finale, Adele is actually Rob (Robert Aramayo), an addict Adele met in a mental facility who swapped bodies with the heiress after falling for David.
“It sounds insane, but people genuinely do this,” Hewson says, laughing when asked about astral projection, the supernatural process by which Rob pulls off his implausible feat. Hewson had her own experience with the out-of-body phenomenon that’s laid out in the show via a notebook of Rob’s that Adele gives Louise to help cure her night terrors. “We did a whole meditation, a whole movement thing,” with a professor the production brought in before filming, Hewson explains. “I was lying on the ground, and [the professor] said, ‘You’ll feel as though your body is peeling off of you.’ And I felt like I was sitting up on the floor. But I opened my eyes, and I was lying back down.”
There’s a lot going on behind Adele’s killer baby blues. She convinced David that Rob’s death was an overdose. She knows about her husband and Louise. And she has inherited Rob’s heroin habit, which she ultimately uses to kill Louise—but not before swapping bodies with her. The Irish actress, who has been quarantining with her family, isn’t sure what to make of her habit of playing junkies. (She is currently a 19th-century laudanum user in Starz’s The Luminaries and was a cocaine-abusing nurse in The Knick.) “The roles choose you,” she chuckles. “It’s like in Harry Potter. You don’t choose the wand; the wand chooses you.”
For Eyes, Hewson says that, except for in the flashbacks, she was playing Rob being Adele. She filled Vulture in on how that worked, as well as the breadcrumbs and foreshadowing that went into pulling off the story’s paranormal surprise.
When Louise bumps into Adele on the street and knocks her down in episode one, has Adele already used astral projection to know that David and Louise have met and that she’s his assistant? Because Adele says you can only project yourself to places you know and can visualize.
Okay, so this is what happens, I think I have this right: She goes to the office with David before she meets Louise. So she — I don’t know if you caught this at all — but Adele is looking around, taking note of the room. Or at least that’s how we shot it. So she’s already visualizing that. And then she would have seen the conversation with David and Louise in his office, which was about their meeting. That’s how she then bumped into Louise.
Should we assume that every time Louise and David are together Adele knows? And that’s why she initially gets close to Louise — to scope out the competition?
Yes, that’s damn right.
Adele gives Louise Rob’s book to help with her nightmares. Later, Louise says she feels bad reading about Adele’s past from someone else. But Adele encourages her to keep reading. Does she want Louise to know who she really is?
No, but she wants Louise to be so good at astral projection that she can then get inside of her body. She’s already basically grooming [her], I guess you could say. Grooming Louise so that she can become Louise.
Louise has a dream in which she opens a door, and Adele is there in flames. Is that Louise’s subconscious warning her about Adele?
I think it’s supposed to mean that Louise thinks that Adele needs to be saved. Because I’m screaming, “Help me! Help me!” This is all my interpretation of the character. So Erik [Richter Strand], our director, or actually Rob Aramoyo might have different interpretations … But [that’s] how I played it.
The series gives hints as to Adele’s true identity, like her always telling David that she loves him, which he doesn’t often reciprocate. Did you take anything from Rob’s performance to indicate who Adele is?
Rob had this thing he does with an elastic band that he plays with. I don’t know because I haven’t seen the edits, but we tried to put that in too with Adele. Whenever she was in an uncomfortable moment or she felt nervous, I would play with my sleeve. So that was one thing, a mannerism. But mainly the thing about Rob was that [he] was so desperate and had had such a painful life. Adele was like his life raft, up until he saw what Adele and David had together. [He] so badly wanted that love that he couldn’t not take it. I think the interesting thing about Rob and Rob-Adele is that they are just longing for love. When Adele says to David, “I love you,” she means it because Rob means it. Rob has been trying for the past ten years to just get a sliver of that love that he saw between Adele and David.
David’s specialty is addiction. Why doesn’t he know he’s living with a heroin addict? And is the idea that when a soul or consciousness inhabits a new body, its drug habits come too?
Yeah, that’s definitely how we played it. I mean, the thing with Adele and her drug addiction is that David is already drugging her. So her acting out of it or strange would be covered up by the side effects of the tranquilizers he’s giving her. She’s a heroin addict, but most heroin addicts I’m aware of wouldn’t be shooting up every day. It’s more of a binge situation. And she is pretty clever about it. She puts it between her toes. And he’s gone a lot. He’s not having sex with her. He’s not examining her body. I think that’s why she gets away with it.
Watching a second time, I noticed a lot of foreshadowing in the flashback scenes between Rob and Adele that I didn’t catch the first time. Did you play those scenes knowing you were dropping clues?
Yeah, we were really conscious of what was being said. And it was really important for us to play them in a way that wasn’t obvious. We had a two-week rehearsal where we broke down the scenes, and we talked about what was really being played, and what the subtext was, and what it meant for the story. What we needed to show in order to convince the audience of the story in that moment. And then also what would be interesting for people to see once they knew the twists and they went back to watch it a second time.
David always protects Adele, from saving her at the Fairdale fire — when she was really Adele — to not reporting Rob’s “death,” to moving after Adele ransacks the café owner’s house. He says he doesn’t care about her money, so why does he stay with her, especially with her creepy habit of knowing things she can’t possibly know?
Tom and I were just talking about that. You know, “Why didn’t they get a divorce?” The twist [is] so out there that he’s not living in the world the story is living… She’s been traumatized by the secret that they have, and he still loves her. He’s always loved her from when they were kids. I think, also, he’s scared of leaving her because of the secret that they share. I mean, Tom would be able to explain this to you better, but I think he might feel that no one else would really understand him or what he’s going through. No matter how bizarre she is, and how painful she is, that sort of bonded them.
As Adele, you had to show both restrained anger and uncontrolled rage. After Louise tells her that she’s sent a letter to the police saying David killed Rob, Adele does a crescendo of “fuck offs” into the phone. How did you prepare for all that emotion?
I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able, on a very busy TV schedule, to get up to those heights of rage and anger and frustration as quickly as I needed to. I remember, in drama school, a teacher telling us that one of her students was playing a murderer, and she made him bring in a watermelon and smash it up, so that he could feel what it was like to smash in someone’s skull, the rage that you needed to actually do that to someone. It was really about your physical behavior informing your emotional behavior. So I asked props to get me a bat and a pillow. We had that with me on set every day. And when I had to get really into it and get really upset, I would whack away at that pillow like a mad woman just before they called “action.” And then I’d throw it away, and we’d go into the scene.
That’s a cool shot at the end of Adele’s eye as her pupil widens, and we see Louise in it. Then her last word is “Adam,” the name of Louise’s son.
I’m glad you liked that. I’ve never died in a movie or a TV show before, and I was so excited to do it.
Any special preparation?
Actually, watching Rob die — I kind of stole from him. He went to Juilliard [and is] a very good actor. So I kind of was like, Oh, that’s how he does it. Maybe I’ll do it like that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.