Kornhaber: But the fact that they sent you back to this hotel twice, does that feel to you like confirmation that that it’s a real place—or just that he’s still insane?
Theroux: It begs the question of did he really die, or did he have some kind of fever dream. I think if I was sitting on the couch I’d say, yeah I think the second time that is the real thing, that is a real place. I don’t know the answers; I’d guess it’s purgatory.
Kornhaber: You pulled off seeming pretty pissed that you’d have to go through this again. Getting out of the bathtub and all of that—from an acting point of view, what’s it like to do that twice?
Theroux: Well the bathtub was like getting waterboarded because you’re lying on your back both times, and no matter how much plastic or wax you stuff up your nose, you feel like you’re drowning. It’s actually a very effective way to get into the scene because you feel like you’re drowning as soon as you tip your head back.
Obviously it builds up the expectation that he’s going to have to go through some sort of similar trial to what he went through in episode eight. So he could be there for days or months or years or even the rest of his life. That’s where Kevin was at emotionally. It was fun to play that. I think he grows into something else once he returns.
Kornhaber: What do you mean?
Theroux: I think his journey is, literally, to be home. I think in the first season he makes this absurd but desperate wish to have his family back, and the second season you could argue that the same thing happens but it does feel different in that he gets it in spades with everyone coming back to him, for better or worse. It’s sort of the “wherever you go, that’s where you are” thing.
Kornhaber: That final scene was surprising to me because it feels like a happy ending. And this is not a show where we’ve come to expect happy endings for things.
Theroux: I agree that’s how it’s supposed to feel. But I think it’s how we feel in life at times when we’ve gone through a trial and succeeded. It doesn’t mean that the trials have ended. Life is hard, life is easy, life gets hard again, life gets easy again, life gets hard sometimes four times in a row. But I thought it was a brilliant ending. It dramatically checks all the boxes; everyone swirls together in this crazy kind of way and Kevin, once again, has delivered his family to him. Whether he takes it again or not, who knows? There are still issues, obviously, with Nora, and his ex-wife. There’s a lot of explaining to do.
Kornhaber: I loved your scenes with John—Kevin Carroll—in this episode, especially when you tell him that you’re not dead by saying “nope.” How do you think about playing those scenes? You’ve always been working on two levels when you talk to him.
Theroux: Well that scene was, I think for me, about forgiveness, and I think for him, it was being forgiven. And also the admission that he doesn’t understand anything. He said, I think, “I don’t understand what’s going on.” That’s the first time he’s ever been on the back foot in any situation. He’s so forward-leaning throughout the season, so proactive about burning guys’ houses down. The only person who can absolve him or at least forgive him for shooting Kevin is Kevin. On first read I was like, “Wait, he just shot me in the chest and now I’m not even bringing it up?” I think “nope” is a great way of pushing the elephant out of the room. And then [Kevin] just says, “It went right through me,” or something like that.