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Dichen Lachman brings Sierra to life in 'Dollhouse'

October 23, 2009 |  9:34 am

Dichenlachman Dichen Lachman's Sierra might not be the No. 1 active in "Dollhouse," but she's on par with Eliza Dushku's Echo as a favorite. We get to see her tragic back story in tonight's "Belonging" episode (don't all of the dolls have tragic backstories?), along with a rave-inducing performance by Lachman that lets her stretch her acting chops.

How was Comic-Con?

It was wonderful. It was great to see so much support for the show and to meet people face-to-face and hear about what they love about the show. It was really overwhelming, but in a good way.

Now with a season under your belt, and the rocky off-season in the past, where would like to see Sierra go?

[With "Belonging," the next episode,] that was just such a dream come true and was such a challenge. I've never had to do things like that before. It was more than I could've asked for as an actor to have so many different things to achieve in one episode. But I'd like to see her get even stronger and even more empowered.

The Victor/Sierra relationship is at the cute stage, but if they remain as childlike as they are, how much further can it go? The last image in the episode is pretty telling, though.

I think it can go a lot further. Victor and Sierra aren't as aware as Echo, but they're becoming more aware, and I think they'll be able to experience the depth of that relationship in the Dollhouse. Time will tell exactly where they want to take it, but I think it's one of the most innocent and hopeful relationships in the Dollhouse.

[TINY SPOILERS AHEAD!]

Priya and Dichen -- how much alike are they?

DH_belonging-party_0036 They're alike in many ways. I am and Priya is very free-spirited and artistic, and in that way, very similar. As far as their other traits, when Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] wrote "Belonging" where Sierra was Priya, they had said before to me, "Listen, we want Priya to be as much like you as you can possibly make her" -- which is a challenge because I'm actually quite uncomfortable being myself on camera. I'm very awkward, and I'd much rather pretend to be someone else. I find that much more comfortable. I don't know what that says about my personality, but I did try to make her as similar to me as I possibly could. She's sort of more bohemian and I think I'm more ambitious and goal-oriented.

Has there been or will there be a specific assignment for Sierra that you would've liked to explore further?

I would like to kick some serious [butt] like Eliza gets to do!  To do lots of stunts and fast-moving action stuff. Only because you don't really get to do that sort of stuff very often and in a show where you can be anybody, it seems to be the perfect place to explore that. ... I suppose a spy or a covert operation, spy-type of thing, even though I kind of got to do that last season.

What would you do if you were able to access and use the dollhouse technology?

I've been thinking about this recently. ... I've come up with a few different ones. Recently I've been listening to classical music and sadly I don't play an instrument. I would love to be able to program myself to pick up any instrument and to be able to play it very, very well, and to be able to read music and dance as well. I'm very uncoordinated and I'd love to be able to bust a really great move.

So what happens when and if Joss has an episode where you're a ballerina or a classically trained pianist or a violinst?

Then I would learn. It would be much easier to have Topher just program me. But that's what I love about acting -- that it requires these sorts of things. You have to get out and learn it. If you want to do what you love, you have to go out there and force yourself to do it. ... I'd just ask Joss for a fair amount of warning, and then not sleep until I had it down!

Using the school analogy you gave when we first spoke, you said that "acting was like school lunch" -- what have you learned since being on the show?

One is learning from the other people that I work with because they're remarkable at what they do and have been doing it longer than I have. I love to just watch them, and even if I wasn't there, just from watching the show I learn so much. ... And also we get scripts sometimes the night before we're shooting and it'll say that you're doing a mid-Atlantic accent and it's very film noir from 40 years ago or something -- and you've got literally hours to work on an accent and build the character by finding their movements and little nuances in the person in such a short time. That is a wonderful challenge and it's really kept me on my toes.

Tahmoh Penikett said the writers are now writing for the actors as well as the characters, and I guess this is what led to the back story of Sierra.

Yeah, I guess they're influenced by our personalities. If they see an influence they try to incorporate it into the character. I think that just happens in television the longer you work together.

So, you're a painter?

I do paint, and I wanted to actually be a painter. Sometimes I'll whip out paints. It's tough to find the motivation, but it's also a solitary, lonely occupation. What I like about acting is that it is such a collaborative thing.

Cool. So they pulled that from you?

I think it was just by chance. The actual work was done by Brooke Reidt. She's a wonderful artist and I hope that she gets a little credit.

Anything else you can tell us about your character or "Dollhouse" in general?

Nothing specifically about the character, but with the show, they're taking the technology into dangerous directions. People these days love their gadgets, and [with the Dollhouse technology] the possibilities can be endless and frightening.

-- Jevon Phillips

Photos, from top: Dichen Lachman; Eliza Dushku as Echo and Lachman as Sierra in tonight's "Belonging" episode of "Dollhouse." Credit: Fox.

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