Rebecca Ferguson has no interest in playing the hero. That’s what makes ‘Silo’ so exciting

In a black-and-white portrait, Rebecca Ferguson pulls her jacket up around her head.
“Her vulnerability was the most important moments for me,” Rebecca Ferguson says of playing the outwardly tough Juliette in “Silo.”
(Shayan Asgharnia / For The Times)

Rebecca Ferguson sits across from me before her photo shoot with The Envelope. Her sandy blond hair is loosely tied back and she’s wearing an oversize comfy flannel shirt with dark trousers. Between us, two laptops — a virtual setting — but the accomplished actor makes it feel as though you are in the room with her. The same can be said for Juliette Nichols, the emotionally conflicted character she portrays in the gripping Apple TV+ dystopian drama “Silo,” where civilization has migrated to a massive underground bunker.

“Her vulnerability was the most important moments for me because the strengths of the character are uninteresting — they are already shaped,” she says. “What I found interesting is why she is uncomfortable with people, why is she scared when people are too close.”

Ferguson, who also serves as an executive producer of “Silo,” found her answer in Juliette’s heartbreaking childhood. At 13, she loses her mother and younger brother before running away from her father (Iain Glen) to the down deep of the bunker to apprentice in the mechanical department. “I studied a lot of grief and trauma because she loses her mom at an early age. When we understand this character, she is very lonely,” says the Swedish native. “Her trauma, it’s nearly claustrophobic and weighs you down, which I tried to embody in her when people get too close. It’s like this injection of fear.”


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Juliette’s discomfort around others is put in the spotlight when she’s plucked by the powers that be to fill the role of sheriff following the death of the former top officer (David Oyelowo). She accepts, on the condition that she can fix the failing generator down below before something catastrophic occurs. The sequence that unfolds in the third episode, directed by Morten Tyldum, is a master class in edge-of-your-seat drama that culminates in a character-defining moment — one that sees Juliette standing alone in thought after the successful repair. “There is so much layered in that moment. All these juxtapositions of ‘I need to fix this, but if I fix this, it means I will also have to leave my people, and if I hadn’t fixed it everyone could have died.’ And all the trauma she’s gone through, it’s all compartmentalized into a moment of now what?”

Sheriff Juliette steps in wanting to find the truth behind the death of her boyfriend, George Wilkins, an unsanctioned anthropologist of ancient artifacts — such as a Pez dispenser. “The contrast was so important to find,” Ferguson says of the series showing them in happy times in flashbacks. “For me, it was important to find the quirks and the fear. She is worried about him going on his extravagant journeys because she’s afraid to lose him. There’s this child in her, a vulnerability; her hair is different, her clothes are different, there’s a softness. The dynamics are so real — we practiced them a lot. Those scenes are the moments that defibrillate another feeling where you can slow your heart rate and you can fall in love with two people.”

Rebecca Ferguson leans against a wall looking to the side for a portrait.
“For me, it was important to find the quirks and the fear,” Rebecca Ferguson says of her “Silo” character.
(Shayan Asgharnia / For The Times)

As Juliette investigates George’s death, labeled a suicide though she suspects otherwise, she begins to uncover bigger mysteries within the silo and its leadership. “What I love about this show is that the audience is figuring it out with the character,” Ferguson says. “There are secrets and astronomical complexities in this world, but you’re getting to unravel them one-on-one with a character who is trying to solve one murder that leads into bigger questions and bigger lies. That’s what’s so exciting.”

When the pressure of the new uniform begins to mount, Juliette contemplates returning home to the depths of mechanical. But longtime friend Walker (Harriet Walter) persuades her otherwise, saying, “Love had you doing the right thing and now anger is making you give up.” Ferguson remembers first reading the scene and thinking it was too sentimental. “Something can read differently on the page, but then we sat down and someone said this is one of the most pivotal, most important moments for Juliette’s journey. It’s the change in realizing this is not a story just for her selfish needs. This is a moment where it’s about the bigger picture. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s really a beautiful and powerful moment for her.”

When asked if she thought of Juliette as a savior, Ferguson demurs, saying, “I don’t think I was supposed to look at her that way. It would have made her a hero in her journey and that’s not interesting. She doesn’t start off as a hero. She’s powerful and a bit of a badass, but she has vulnerabilities, grief and fear. That’s what’s interesting. Juliette is constantly faced with hinders, and every time she solves something, another hinder, it’s like building a bridge and it falls and you have to build another one and another one. She doesn’t give up.”