Exclusive Interview: House of Lies’ Dawn Olivieri Talks About Being Monica, Being Naked and Coming Back On The Vampire Diaries

House of Lies Dawn Olivieri

Don’t you wish you could manipulate, lie, cheat AND get paid for it?

Well, Dawn Olivieri gets to be that person when she plays Monica, the manipulative psychopatic consultant and ex-wife to Don Cheadle’s Marty Caan on the amazing Showtime series ‘House of Lies’. We had the opportunity to chat with the delightfully charming Dawn about her role, the challenges of being naked on camera and why she wouldn’t mind heading back to ‘The Vampire Diaries’ for a bit.

Check out what she had to say below and don’t miss the next episode of House of Lies “Utah” which airs this Sunday February 5th at 10 PM ET/PT on Showtime. Also make sure to follow Dawn on Twitter because she will be live tweeting the episode.


What drew you to Monica, your character on the show?

Dawn Olivieri: Monica is a lot like Dawn, not in the psychopathic sense, but just in the sense that I know how to do what Monica is good at doing. I just choose not to behave that way. So, it’s really fun for me to play her because it’s almost like getting to act those satanic wants in dealing with human beings and manipulating emotions and that sort of stuff.

So, you could do it, but you choose not to because you’re a good person and it’s fun to play someone who does?

Dawn Olivieri: Yeah, exactly.

The dialogue on the show is so crisp and it feels so spontaneous. Is there any improvising on the show or is it always from the script?

Dawn Olivieri: That’s a funny question because in the beginning, I as an actress tend to play with the dialogue a lot. When I first got the job that was a question that I wanted to know the answer to as well because I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I didn’t stick a hundred percent to the script when I auditioned for it and when I got it. So, what does that mean? Does that mean I can continue to behave this way?’ So, in the pilot episode I did get a little reprimand to stick a little closer to the script.

So, I did, but then I was hearing about everyone else improvising and so I started doing it a little bit more and I think they got more lax about the whole script because I think they were believing in the actors more and they saw what they were bringing when we did our own thing a little bit. So, there’s a little bit of both. I think depending on what takes they use, some takes have a lot of improv and then others don’t. Sometimes they prefer the ones that stick to the script, but they’re a lot better than it was at the beginning of the season. We don’t have the script supervisor coming up to us every five seconds telling us about an ‘and’ or an ‘or’ that missed. It’s definitely not like that on set at all.

What’s coming up for your character this season?

Dawn Olivieri: Well, I have a really great episode in episode five. If I’m not mistaken that’s a great episode for me and I have a ton of fun story development, plot development as you go towards the end of the season.

I’m curious about the origin story between Monica and Marty. Will we find out more about that?

Dawn Olivieri: Yeah, definitely. There’s going to be a lot more family unveiling as you go through because I think that in the beginningit’s always about the consultants because we had to help the audience understand what tools we’re working with, what we’re saying when we’re saying what we’re saying. I think that as the show progresses it becomes more about the relationships because that’s where you can empathize. You can see if it’s a love story or what it is, this relationship between him and his son and him and Monica and him and Jeannie even.

Monica and Marty seem to have a complicated relationship. She’s sort of his kryptonite

Dawn Olivieri: Yeah, absolutely and him for her. I think throughout the season she’s referred to as a psychopath. I did a lot of research on psychopaths and it’s an interesting dilemma as far as the mind is concerned because it’s the conscience that’s in question when you’re dealing with a psychopath. The scary thing about psychopath is that they learn and they study how to manipulate other human beings, even so far as to mimic being sad and being frightened. Those feeling don’t actually register in their repertoire. They don’t exist.

So, Monica, although he is her kryptonite I think it’s more so her knowing what fear looks like or knowing what love looks like and trying to understand what that means for her. It turns into a business deal over and over again. I think you’re going to watch this happen, this realization for her as it goes through season one and definitely in season two and finding out if she’s a true text based psychopath or can she pull herself out of it. I think that Marty holds a big key to that, Marty and her son.

Is there going to be a season two?

Dawn Olivieri: I love that you just went to that one. In my telepathic heart, yes. I think that this show is too great. The actors in this show, I’m watching TV here and TV there and we have something special on this show. We have a lot of talent and no one is going to let that go to waste in one season. You’ve watched other TV shows, and even if maybe they’re slow in the beginning everyone finds their wings and figures out what they want to do and then they just go.

So, that’s a yes for season two?

Dawn Olivieri: [laughs] Yeah, lets just that for now.

You had some risqué moments in the first couple of scenes you did with Don Cheadle. From an acting perspective how do you prepare for that?

Dawn Olivieri: You workout a lot [laughs]. It’s part of the job for me. I’ve struggled with this for my entire career. Everyone always wants to see how much I’ll do. Everyone wants to see how naked I’ll be, and a lot of the times I have to refuse. I say, ‘No.’ This particular show, I knew coming into it what the character was going to be like and I knew what that meant for the situations that she was going to find herself in. So, I’m just at peace with it really. It’s a task for an actress or an actor to I think be completely vulnerable, whether that means without clothing, without walls, whatever that means.

I just look at it like just another monumental wall that I have to learn to break down because lets just be honest here, people, we were born naked before society imposed all these rules about how we were supposed to wear clothes all the time. It’s not who we are. It’s how we exist. We’ve only added in this element that we all have to wear clothes all the time. So, if anything I feel like there’s a freedom that’s reached if you can transcend that societal barrier that we’ve constructed about what’s appropriate and what’s not. Millions of people have to be watching me break down that wall for myself.

I guess I just have to be okay with my neighbor saying, ‘Hey, loved that episode last night,’ and me knowing that all he saw really was me getting banged in the bathroom by Don Cheadle’s character. So, it’s like, ‘Hey, thanks a lot, George.’ It’s a journey and I feel like being able to transcend that in acting, on any level, I just get a free pass because I’m an actress and I get to do that onscreen and power to me because it’s not easy. Also, it’s not easy being ruled by all these crashers.

I feel like you just kind of tuck yourself into it. You realize that that’s the moment. You’re there with your ex-husband and you’re waking up and those are the only things that really have anything to do anything. They’re the only credentials that matter. When you start thinking about your mom watching it and your neighbor watching it and how everyone is going to see you naked, you’re not thinking about that stuff when you’re at your significant other’s house and you’re yourself. Do you know what I’m saying?

Yes. You’re the character in that moment.

Dawn Olivieri: Yeah. I think that’s why I have this job, because if I was thinking of all those different things I wouldn’t be where I’m at because it would interfere with my performance.

You’re a consultant on the show. Did being exposed to that world interest you in that career?

Dawn Olivieri: I think I like my job. I think I’m a fan of my job, but it’s funny because it’s not just consulting. If you really break it down it’s the art of manipulation and that’s a talent that you can take to any workplace, honestly. It’s really what sets apart the bottom feeders from the elite. I don’t know if that’s the right way to call it, but it’s that innate sense of power and of elusiveness that these fortune five hundred companies live off of. It’s almost like a superpower. It’s a corporate superpower and these people that hold these positions that we’re portraying, they have this innate superpower.

It’s something you can’t go to school and learn. It’s not something that you can study. You can study and never achieve this level of power because it’s a confidence and it’s a way with words and it’s an eloquence and it’s the art of concealing the truth. So, I think it’s so provocative to play a human being, a group of human beings with these talents that have been scouted out at a young age, from being in college and doing whatever they were doing and them growing up together and how they coexist and eat each other alive and even how they have a relationship and a child together. I mean, that’s good TV. Sharks have babies. That’s what this show is about. Sharks have babies and don’t eat them when they’re born. That’s how this plays out. So, that’s what’s fun about it.

Do you have any other upcoming projects?

Dawn Olivieri: Yeah. There’s a couple. None of them have been solidified so I don’t probably want to make any announcements quite yet, but we’re in the works for two or three pretty great films. That’s what’s wonderful about this job and this show. It’s a half hour. We do thirteen episodes. We work from about July to the end of October and the rest of the time we’re out there doing films and being able to experiment with other types of characters is fun. It’s great. It’s the best job in Hollywood.

If you could guest star on any other TV show, which one would it be?

Dawn Olivieri: Well, how many episodes do I get?

As many as you want.

Dawn Olivieri: Oh, my gosh, well then it would have to be, and this is probably sacrilege to say, but it would have to be ‘Game of Thrones.’ I love it.

You’re in a Showtime series. You cannot say the “H” Word.

Dawn Olivieri: I know. I know, but listen, I’ve got love for everybody doing this. I’m not going to be prejudice, but if we’re just speaking honestly, how much fun would it be to do this corporate comedy and then jump across the fence and do this ‘Game of Thrones’ fantasy. Would my life be perfect? I think so. It’s a fantastic show. And if the network wouldn’t allow it I would love to go back and reappear as Andie Star on ‘Vampire Diaries.’ I didn’t get a chance to really play her out like I wanted to and maybe that would also be a fun job.

There are ghosts on that show, right?

Dawn Olivieri: I know, that’s what I’m saying. If given the chance and I can’t do ‘Game of Thrones’ because it’s HBO, I understand, then I would go back and finish up Andie and have a wonderful character arc for her. That I would love to do.