Countdown to ‘Dollhouse’: Dichen Lachman, the doll


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Dichen Lachman is one of the more exotic actives, or dolls, that hang around the illegal government installation on Joss Whedon’s ‘Dollhouse.’ We got to speak with the Australian-Tibetan actress about where she’s from and who the mysterious Sierra really is. Imagine an Australian accent with the answers!

So, Dichen Lachman. Where did your name come from?
Well, It’s supposed to be ‘De-chen.’ It’s the original Tibetan name that means ‘big and prosperous,’ but my dad spelt it wrong. He spelt it ‘Di-chen,’ which apparently means ‘big sin.’ But I don’t know about that. I try and be a good girl.


OK, now we want your entire life’s story! Kidding. But you’ve lived a pretty international life. Where have you lived that you liked the most?
That I’ve liked the most? It’s hard to say. Every city obviously has a good and a bad side, although Kathmandu was obviously an incredible experience living in a Third World country, and I guess I have very dear memories of that because I lived in such close proximity to my family. I shared a room with my parents until I was 7, and I lived with my uncles and aunts and my cousins and my grandfather ... so the house was always full of people. I loved that about Kathmandu. When I went to move to Australia, it was just me and my two parents for a long time until some of my family came over to live and study there.

But favorite place? I really like L.A.! It’s such a wonderful city with so many things. It’s geographically diverse with the water and the mountains and the desert so close together.

OK. You were on the show ‘Ready Steady Cook’ in the U.K. Do you cook?
I do! I do actually. When all the tools are there, I love cooking. Going back to what I was saying before about growing up around a lot of people, I love being around a group and eating ... so I do enjoy cooking. I’m not always good, but I try to be.

Do you think that your ‘Dollhouse’ character, Sierra, could cook?
She probably has a few little things under her belt but definitely not when she’s in the doll state. She’d probably end up burning her fingers and setting her hair on fire. I don’t think she’d be good at doing anything in the kitchen in the doll state because we are like children with no apparent skills because we’re blank canvases. So I think that Sierra, as a doll, should stay out of the kitchen. Although if Topher, Fran Kranz’s character, had anything to do with it, I’m sure she could be made to create a meal worthy of a real Michelin Star.

Everything seems mysterious about her. Can you give us a quick summary of who she is or who you interpret Sierra to be?
For a long time, you know, shooting the episodes, I had no idea who she was, which is probably, as an actor, helpful when doing this type of role. For the most part, I’m not supposed know anything about myself because she’s less aware even than Echo. So for a long time, she’s kind of pondering like ‘Maybe I’m from here or maybe I’m from there,’ and they still haven’t really revealed what my past has been. But there’s an episode called ‘Need’ coming up where we sort of start exploring where we are from, and a few hints are given to the audience as to how she ended up in the Dollhouse. But I think she’s a strong young woman who got caught up with the wrong crowd, and that’s sort of how she ended up in the Dollhouse. If that’s not giving too much away.

No, it’s fine. But without getting too spoilery, has it surprised you where you get to go with Sierra?
It has. She’s done things that I never thought would come up. It’s sort of an actor’s dream to have a role like this because you are playing a different character every week. And the real truth of that character too. You’re not just pretending to be these other people, you are these people. ... It’s one of the hardest things but one of the most fun. It’s been incredible.

Is your apartment, or home, as nice as the Dollhouse set?
I think the answer to that would definitely be no! ... In my experience sets can be very crowded and people can get cranky, but because there’s just so much room here, that never happens.

If you were a doll, or active, what mission would you most like to be programmed to go on?
Oh, right. Save the world! Like Wall-E! Probably something like that. ... I love that little guy. He’s adorable. Maybe not to be a garbage person.

So you were a fan of Joss’ before you were cast. What were you a fan of, and what has he done to sort of shape the show in your mind?
Well, I loved ‘Buffy.’ ... I love the fact that the women in his writing are so strong. It’s becoming less and less rare, but in the past, you watch movies and TV shows and you’re watching the woman running from the killer and you’re like ‘Take off your high heels! Don’t go in that room!’ And he doesn’t write women like that. He writes strong women, smart women. ... That’s something I’ve become more aware of working with him.

What do you like to do for fun?
I like to act. I guess letting what you love be what you do is key. I’ve worked very hard for that to be the case, probably because I’m very lazy and I only want to do things that are fun and I run away from anything that feels like work. ... Acting for me is like lunch at school ... you’re just in a playground where you get to pretend and play. I don’t know about everyone else, but I really loved lunch and recess because it was an opportunity to get carried away with your imagination.

-- Jevon Phillips

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