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Television

Elizabeth Olsen and Mamoudou Athie navigate grief in ‘Sorry for Your Loss’

“Sorry for Your Loss” stars Elizabeth Olsen and Mamoudou Athie discuss lessons they’ve learned while tackling their show’s themes.

It’s hard to watch “Sorry for Your Loss” without taking in the comments.

The series stars Elizabeth Olsen as Leigh, a young widow navigating the emotional aftermath following the death of her husband, Matt, played by Mamoudou Athie. From playwright Kit Steinkellner, the show premiered last fall as part of Facebook’s push into original programming — via the site’s original content channel, Facebook Watch. Unsurprisingly, given the platform, the viewing experience includes the ability to see comments from other viewers. And while it mostly flew under the radar, the way the show explored grief and depression and addiction scored well with critics, and seemed to resonate with viewers if those page comments are any indication.

Comments like: “Thank you for giving us all hope that there is still a life to lead when you feel like it will never feel better” or “so glad there’s a show spreading awareness for these situations!”

Olsen and Athie recently stopped by the L.A. Times video studio and talked about how the show’s themes changed how they themselves approach navigating these discussions in everyday life.

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“I think everyone has someone in their life who suffers from depression in some form,” Athie said. “It definitely changed the way I interacted with some of my friends and family members — [I now do it] with a lot more generosity.”

Elizabeth Olsen and Mamoudou Athie say they want a second season that surprises and engages viewers. It’s “about moving on and making changes,” Olsen says.

Olsen, who’s also an executive producer of the show, added that it made her less reluctant when it comes to talking about death or those who have passed, referencing Joan Didion’s memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which was about grieving for her husband, the late Gregory Dunne.

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“I think that was the thing that really changed in my life: to engage in a conversation about someone who is gone,” Olsen said. “Through this research and understanding and reading — especially in ‘The Year of Magical Thinking,’ Joan Didion talks about the distance from the death becoming less specific. And she wanted the specificity. She didn’t want it to turn into this like hazy, dreamlike memory that’s all good. She wanted all the details. And that was the thing she was so fearful would disappear. So, people want to talk about it, I think. To know that was new for me.”

And after a season that captured the seemingly impossible task of moving on after a great loss, Olsen said viewers can expect some movement through the grief when the show returns.

“We were really inspired by Season 2s [of other shows] that change it up,” she said, noting that the show’s writers started work on the sophomore season about a month ago. “I hope we keep people surprised and engaged and interested ... We want to have more activity. We want it to be more driven this year. It’s done with the micro experience of the grief and now it’s about moving and making changes — big changes and bad changes and all those things.”

For the full conversation, check out the video below.

“Sorry for Your Loss” stars Elizabeth Olsen and Mamoudou Athie visit the Los Angeles Times studio to chat about their show on Facebook Watch.  

yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

Twitter: @villarrealy


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