This post discusses the finale of Pieces of Her. Much like Laura’s secrets, many spoilers are scattered throughout.
Andy Oliver (Bella Heathcote) is in a rut. Described by Karin Slaughter in her novel Pieces of Her as having “the pallor of hot-dog water,” the 30-year-old lives with her mom, Laura (Toni Collette), in a small seaside Georgia town, and as Netflix’s series adaptation opens, she’s newly dumped and stuck in a dead-end job she hates. This stagnant life is soon shattered by a shooting rampage in the town diner, and Laura’s unexpected act of heroism upends Andy’s world. As her mother makes headlines, Andy unearths Laura’s hidden past as a Vanderbilt-esque piano prodigy and takes on the extremist group responsible for assassinating Laura’s billionaire father.
While uncovering her mother’s role in the murder, Andy reconnects with an old passion (art, which primarily means doodling on diner napkins), discovers a new one (handling a gun), and makes a series of mind-boggling decisions, from telling a stranger about the hotel where she’s staying to refusing to escape to Maine when her life is at risk. Still, Heathcote finds Andy relatable and Pieces of Her a reprieve from the horror projects she often works on. Zooming with Vulture from her home in Australia, Heathcote gets to the marrow of Andy and Laura’s tense mother-daughter dynamic, the season’s biggest plot twist, and perfecting her American accent.
Why did you want to play Andy?
I have been through those periods of my life where I felt a bit lost. When the story opens, it’s her 30th birthday, and she’s getting dumped by some dude. She’s living at home with her mum. She’s not working a job that makes her happy or fulfilled, and she’s not feeling too good about herself. Her behavior and choices really reaffirm that idea that she’s not good enough. I certainly related to that.
What was the process of filming episode one’s shooting sequence like?
Oh, it was rough. We shot it over two or three days. We broke it down into moments. We shot all the dialogue stuff first and then all the stunt work in different pieces: We’d break it down into the mother-daughter piece, the shooter piece, Toni tackling me.
What do you think stops Andy from running away when Laura tells her to? It’s the first of many times we see her ignore her mother’s commands.
It’s primal, the flight or freeze, and Andy just froze. What follows from there is reaffirming this idea that she’s not good enough, she’s not capable. She has training in terms of what to do in a crisis, and she completely freezes. And to watch her mum — who, as far as she knows, has no experience with any of this stuff — just handle it, it’s another example of her being a fuckup.
What do you think her experience was like growing up and knowing so little about her mom’s past?
There’s a scene toward the end of the show where she goes, “I thought it was me.” A lot of children have had this experience. If your parents get divorced or there’s something wrong with the adult relationship in the household, children often assume it’s their fault. I think Andy always knew something was up but didn’t have any answers, so she assumed it was her — that she’d somehow upset her mum, or she wasn’t good enough, so her mum was weird.
Once Andy learns about Laura’s family’s wealth, do you think there’s any resentment toward her mom for not allowing her to experience the same privilege?
I think the resentment is built more around the fact that Andy’s entire life is a lie. The person she thinks is her dad is a lie. She’s grown up with no family to speak of, and it turns out there’s a whole family out there she could’ve had. I couldn’t think of a much worse betrayal than finding out that everything she believed to be true is not what she thought it was. And her mum has completely fabricated this life. Andy doesn’t even know what her real birthday is.
Speaking of betrayal, Andy is really surprised when she learns that Nick — the leader of the movement that assassinated Laura’s father — is actually her dad. How do her feelings change about Nick in that moment?
Before, she knows little about him, but what she thinks she knows is that he’s a monster. After, I think it’s much more complicated. There’s this scene where she’s sitting with him and watching him to try to identify where she is in him and where he is in her.
In the finale, there’s a twisted family reunion between Andy and her parents. Laura tells Nick, “Of course she reminds me of you. You’ve been there looking back at me every fucking day.” That’s a pretty painful statement.
Imagine finding out that every time your parent sees you, it triggers a negative response in them. It affirms everything Andy believes. The stakes are pretty high in that scene, but I don’t think she really has much time to indulge that feeling before the action ensues.
How does Andy’s dynamic with her mother change when Andy realizes Laura was involved in her father’s assassination?
There’s some level of maturity being gained throughout the season. If you broke that down into a single event without any familial ties, it seems pretty horrific. But when you piece together her motives, I think she loves her mum, and it’s this opportunity for them to have a real and honest relationship as equals for the first time in either of their lives. It’s a moment for true intimacy between them.
Andy relies heavily on her mom for emotional support, and though Laura is more independent, she also relies heavily on her daughter. Who do you think needs the other more?
I think it flips. At the start, Andy needed her mum more. Andy’s unconditional love, given everything that’s happened, everything that she’s learned, is the foundation from where Laura’s self-forgiveness could come from. I certainly don’t think Laura’s there at the end of the season, but I feel there’s a crack in the armor and Andy’s going to give her that forgiveness.
You’re Australian. Your character doesn’t have a southern accent per se, but how did you channel the way people talk in coastal Georgia?
Bless you for saying that. Going in at the start, I wanted to do more of a Georgia accent, and the director, Minkie Spiro, and the series creator, Charlotte Stoudt, thought, Let’s go general. Andy’s been living in New York, so we went for more of a general American vibe.
If you met Andy in real life, do you think you would like her?
I reckon, because I feel like I see so much of myself in her, particularly at the end. She’s pretty fun in those moments between her and Mike once they get to know each other when they’re at the bar. We see her in scenarios that are so extreme, but if you saw Andy at the pub on Tuesday night, she’d just want to have a good time.
I read that you played a few pranks on set. What was your favorite?
Poor Jacob Scipio. He at some point referred to his legs or his lips or any part of his body as puppies, so we just started calling them puppies. Then he came into work one day and we substituted his lip balm for lip scrub. Just watching him smear it on his lips and watching his face change because he was trying to figure out what the fuck was going on — that was pretty fun. I’m trying to remember if he got me back. I know he certainly tried to.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.