In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, actress Sylvia Hoeks talks about her role as Queen Kane in Apple TV+’s apocalyptic fantasy drama, See. Created by Steven Knight, See explores a dystopian future where the entire human race has lost its sight.
Far in a dystopian future, the human race has lost the sense of sight, and society has had to find new ways to interact, build, hunt, and to survive. All of that is challenged when a set of twins is born with sight.
The See actress plays Queen Kane, the ruler of the Payan tribe, who lives in one of the only places that still has electricity. In a world where sight is considered a forbidden heresy, she tasks her tribe with finding the children who are rumored to have this mythic ability.
With the first season of See now available from Apple TV+, Hoeks discusses playing a queen, creating the psychical presence of the part, and how the role has changed her. Join us as we head on over to the actor’s studio to discuss the craft of creating character.
Villain Media: First off, I want to say how much I loved your performance as Queen Kane! I loved that moment in the pilot where she’s snapping her fingers at her servant. She’s such a boss!
Sylvia Hoeks: [Laughs] Yeah!
VM: What interested you about the playing Queen Kane?
SH: I think everything about her really interested me. One of the reasons I wanted to become an actress was to make the invisible more visible; to make the misunderstood more understood. Playing the bad guy was kind of a challenge I wanted to take on. I think no human has only light. Everybody has dark. For an audience to recognize that in a character, of a villain, you have to bring the light and dark, it’s a job and a responsibility.
Queen Kane has a lot of that. She’s very powerful and dominant, arrogant but also funny. In her own way, she’s vulnerable. She was hurt; her father died. Her mother left her. She’s very much alone. I could identify with her and her pain.
VM: I loved how you brought a physical presence to the role. Queen Kane has her head shaved and just a strand of hair behind her. Was that in the script? Or is that how you envisioned the character? It’s such a pitch-perfect look.
SH: No, that’s how I envisioned it. I really wanted to shave my head for the character. When I read the first script, when I read her story, I felt her pain and the dominance; the way she comes across and the way she looks. With her shaved head, it’s forceful, strong, but it’s also meant to be very vulnerable. That’s why I wanted her to have that. In the back of her head, behind her hair, there’s actually a prayer that she could touch. That was the more religious aspect of that.
VM: I loved the little details in your performance. When someone hands you a string, you’re reading through the knots. Tell me how language aided your performance.
SH: Yeah, that very interesting! And a whole new journey to learn. For all the actors on the show, it was something that was touched on in that kind of world; your way of communication, your way of reading. You snap your fingers to get a person to come closer to you. The tribe uses smell, sound, and all these things to create such a new world. For us, it was a journey, something we had never experienced before. We’re grateful to be imbedded into that world. That was amazing!
VM: Queen Kane gives these powerful speeches to keep her people in line. What were your influences or inspirations behind these scenes?
SH: [Laughs] I think as a leader, she really believes in what she’s saying. She truly believes that light wants to destroy the world, like she says. For people who have had sight, they’ve abused earth. They abused nature. They took their own future away. I think that’s part of the story we’re experiencing now. With all the natural disasters we have now, trying to get rid of plastic bottles, we’re trying to be mindful of our kids and their future on earth.
That’s a big part of the story. She really believes in that. A lot of it comes from what she believes in. She doesn’t want to be an evil person. She knows that the way she gains power, the way to remain in power, is by being dominant; by making people afraid of her.
I looked at world leaders that use fear as a way to lead the world. There’s a lot from today’s world you can learn from. It’s a worrisome thing.
VM: How did See change you as an artist?
SH: I, as an artist, learned a lot by the way of her voice. I learned a lot from using my voice in a different way. I learned a lot from her physicality, the way she moves, the way she uses her body. She uses it against people. In that sense, it was a physical role. I used my voice and my body to transform.
VM: What are you working on now?
SH: I just finished a movie called Plan A. It’s a very interesting movie. It’s with August Diehl. He’s in the new Terrence Malick film, A Hidden Life. It was actually shot in Germany. He and I play people that try to get revenge on the Germans after the second World War. It’s based on true events. After the second World War, a group of Jewish people tried to get revenge on the Germans by poisoning the water system. It’s actually a true story that they tried to do that. It’s a very interesting story. I didn’t know they tried to do that when I started the film. That was a whole world that opened up to me as well. It actually truly happened.
See is available to watch Apple TV+ here.
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]