EXCLUSIVE: Talking ‘Dietland’ with Erin Darke

AMC is tackling the battle of the sexes in its new comedic drama Dietland. Based on a novel of the same name by Sarai Walker, Dietland explores a number of issues women face in their day-to-day lives through the point of view of its main character, Plum Kettle.

From magazine ghost-writer to a full-on feminist warrior, Plum goes on a journey of self-discovery as she wrestles with how far she’s willing to go to expose the disparity found between how men and women are treated. 

We had the chance to sit down with Erin Darke who takes the first few episodes of Dietland by storm as the now-infamous Leeta. She is Plum’s first ally and the audience soon learns that there’s a lot more to Leeta than meets the eye.

Dietland is a show that doesn’t pull punches in the slightest when dealing with some pretty big issues. How do you feel getting to be part of such an intense show? 

I honestly find it exciting. One of the things that first attracted me to the show was it’s… for lack of a better term, balls. It was bold, brave, weird, funny and unlike anything I’d ever read before. I think many of the issues the show raises are ones we should be thinking and talking about and I love that Dietland jumps right in and doesn’t hold back. I also love that it manages to do that, while still being entertaining and sometimes even fun.  

Leeta seems like a character that is perpetually defying expectations. She went from “seems harmless” to “face of a movement” pretty rapidly. First, the audience thought she was being creepy toward Plum, only to find out she might actually have good intentions. What has it been like playing that line on screen? 

I have been gifted with an incredibly fun character to play and the truth is that the writers get most of the credit here, starting with Sarai and her book. It’s the first time I’ve done an adaptation like this and it was like I got handed a beautiful blueprint. I know who Leeta is and why she does what she does, but she’s still quite a bit of a mystery to the audience and it is really fun to play with those expectations about her. 

The “battle of the sexes” that Dietland portrays seems very poignant given everything that’s happening, particularly in Hollywood with the #MeToo movement. What are some of your thoughts on the issues the show tackles and what has been your experience with the reality it is based on, as a woman in the acting industry? 

Oh man, I could write an essay about the answers to this question, but I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts. The truth is that AMC ordered the show before the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, because it has been relevant for a long time. It seems particularly poignant because we are talking more openly about this stuff now and I’m so happy we’re having these conversations and hopefully taking steps forward.

I have personally been lucky to (mostly) avoid sexual harassment in the acting industry, but until that’s the norm and not “lucky” we’ve still got a long way to go.

The part of the show that really hit home with me personally was the pressure we put on women to look a certain way. It is hard to maintain self-confidence sometimes in a business that often values a very specific definition of “beauty” over all else and come to terms with the fact that most people will never fit into that subjective category.

But this show has made me think a lot about trying to be kinder to myself about my body and appreciate the opportunities that being different can sometimes bring. I don’t think there are enough of those opportunities yet across the board, but I hope, as an industry, that we’re moving toward a place where there will be.

Was there anything in particular that drew you to the role of Leeta? 

I fell pretty immediately in love with Leeta. When I read the first couple of scripts and then the book, I was so drawn to the juxtaposition you mentioned earlier of what we initially think of her and then who she ends up being.

I actually think that most everything Leeta does is motivated by empathy and care for others, even if it’s not always the right thing to do. Playing someone who maybe makes the wrong choices for the right reasons is fun and challenging in the best possible ways. 

One of the things I appreciate about Dietland is the cast; there’s so much talent in any given scene, you included. How was it on set? Any good stories? 

You are very kind. I am just happy to hold my own and not embarrass myself with this cast. You are correct, they are amazing! We were blessed with an incredibly talented group of people who all happened to also be a pleasure to work with. Everyone on set was so excited to be there and to be a part of this show and you can’t ask for better than that on a set. I wish I had any fun gossip-y stories for you, but it was mostly just people working hard and loving on each other! 

You were recently in The Marvelous Ms. Maisel as well – do you have any other projects coming up you’d like to share? Anything we should keep an eye out for? 

I get to come back for a little bit of the second season of Maisel, which I’m thrilled about because I love the show as a viewer. I am also in a super fun indie film called Summer ’03 with Joey King, Paul Scheer and Andrea Savage which comes out in theaters in September. In the meantime, I will be crossing my fingers for a second season of Dietland!

Finally, a question I like to ask: what are you currently watching? What shows are on the top of your list to keep up with?

I have been finding the news of the world really hard to handle sometimes, so I have been watching a lot of comedies to make myself feel better. Some of my favorites are Blackish, The Good Place, Rick & Morty and, for a mix of news and humor, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. 

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Dietland on AMC Mondays at 9/8c. Thank you to Erin Darke for chatting with us about this dynamic new show!