To stay afloat and avoid disappointment, Adam Scott said he doesn’t anticipate big nominations. It’s a healthier state of mind, he said, and he’s become accustomed to not hearing his name called.
“I didn’t think I was going to be nominated,” he said. “I was just trying to focus on everyone else and take a walk and put it out of my head.”
After learning he received an Emmy nomination for best actor in the Apple TV+ drama “Severance,” Scott said it was an honor to be named next to actors like Brian Cox, nominated for “Succession,” and Jason Bateman, nominated for “Ozark. “
“Severance,” which is also nominated for best drama, presents an eerie picture of workplace culture in which employees of an enigmatic, vaguely sinister corporation named Lumon Industries undergo a surgical procedure that saves their work memories from their personal memories, in an effort to keep company secrets confidential. Scott plays Mark Scout, who after losing his wife, Gemma (played by Dichen Lachman), in a car accident, substitutes monotonous shifts pocketing numbers into digital boxes at Lumon for proper healing.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Scott discussed the show’s cliffhanger ending and how he used a personal loss to build his character. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Where were you when you first heard of the nomination?
I was in the middle of walking the dogs when I got the phone call and was surprised and just couldn’t be more flattered and honored. It was really a unique feeling, to say the least.
Why do you think the show was so successful?
It’s a good question because when we were making it, we, if not daily, very often would stop and look at each other and just be like, “This is really [expletive] weird. Is anyone going to connect with it?” We didn’t know, and then we would just kind of shrug our shoulders and put our heads down and keep going.
What were the most challenging scenes for you to film?
I was going through a grieving process, because my mom had died before I went out to New York. I walked into that apartment and realized I wasn’t done grieving at all, because my family kind of cushioned me from this at home. And that’s what love is for in a lot of ways, is to help you through a process like that, and we were locked down in Los Angeles so I was able to kind of make it through. But then I got to New York six months later, closed the door and I was by myself and I realized immediately I was not done absorbing this loss. The show was right there, and so I processed my grief through the show.
What does “Severance” hope to teach about how to cope with grief?
For outtie Mark, that’s what the season was about: grief, and how is he going to handle it? And is he going to handle it? Or is he going to continue pushing it away? And I was asking myself the same question. So, I decided to deal with it, but deal with it along with Mark.
There’s a scene where I’m on the side of the road where my wife had a car accident in the show, and we just happened to shoot that scene on the one-year anniversary of my mom passing away. It was just a sheer coincidence. But I was kind of carrying it around with me all day and trying not to kind of zero in on it. It really, again, helped me with my grieving process.
What does the show aim to tell viewers about how to manage what happens at work and what happens at home, particularly amid a pandemic when many people have had to work remotely?
Work is something that you do to achieve one thing or another. A job is a place where you go, if you can define it like that, and I think people started re-evaluating their relationship with those things. I think we all found out that home and your life, and your life at work, they all started to blend into sort of one thing.
How did the cast and the director Ben Stiller compose the last moments of the season finale?
The moment where I call Mrs. Selvig “Ms. Cobel” accidentally — while we were shooting, I remember saying to Patricia [Arquette] and Ben, “OK if we have them, if they care at this point in the final episode, if we’ve laid the bread crumbs properly, this moment is going to be so fun and so huge.”
But that’s a delicate process, getting to the point where that actually has impact. It’s not easy to put it all together so that actually happens. It could just as easily be a shrug if you’re not invested in the characters or the story or whatever. So, hearing that people threw things at their television or got up and walked out of the room or just screamed at the end of Episode 9 is delightful. We really had no idea if anyone would care.