1 of 5 | Poppy Liu's "Dead Ringers" is now streaming. Photo courtesy of Prime Video
NEW YORK, April 30 (UPI) -- Hacks and iCarly actress Poppy Liu, who is also a real-life birthing assistant and reproductive rights activist, says she signed on to star in Dead Ringers, a thriller set in the world of women's healthcare, because it explores so many issues that are important to her.
"It's really all of my favorite things, all put together," Liu told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"I really care very much about reproductive justice and reproductive rights," she added. "Being a doula, doing activism around abortion and my own abortion story -- topic-wise for the show, it's things I really think about and talk about on a pretty regular basis."
It's rare to find those themes embedded in an entertaining story like this.
"To see those things as the foundation of this world that is genre-defying, captivating, sexy, dark, strange, so intelligently formed and written was very exciting and definitely like a dream," she said.
Succession and Lady Macbeth writer Alice Birch's contemporary reimagining of David Cronenberg's 1988 movie, Dead Ringers, is now streaming on Prime Video.
Liu thinks it was essential to have women like Birch and producer star Rachel Weisz shaping this story.
"Alice Birch dove so much into the experience of birthing and it feels really topical. It feels like it is of the 21st century," she said.
"[Dead Ringers] does border on body horror at times. It also portrays the medical world and the failures on people's bodies and the racial discrepancies in people experiencing birth -- that is just reality. I'm really glad that they didn't shy away from it all."
The six-part drama stars Weisz in the dual roles of Elliot and Beverly Mantle, brilliant twin obstetrician/gynecologists, who set up a private Manhattan birthing center/laboratory that constantly crosses the lines of professional ethics and is financed by opioid heiress Rebecca Parker (Jennifer Ehle) and her younger, idealistic fourth wife Susan, played by The Deuce alum Emily Meade.
Liu plays the shadowy figure of Greta who orbits Elliot and Beverly.
"She's so strange. She is just a freaky, little sweet artist," Liu said.
"She's very much in her own world. I like that she is very much an enigma for most of the show until the very end," the actress added. "Greta is one of the characters that wasn't in the original. She's one of the new characters they dreamed of and I really feel like she is a silent witness to this world -- she is both in it and outside of it."
One of Liu's favorite scenes is when Greta returns to her childhood home in Jackson Heights, Queens.
"It's the only time you're taken out of this hyper- hyper-elitist, classist, 'rich people talking to rich people,' cannibalistic world that the Mantle twins live in. You have this person who has been able to enter it and infiltrate it," Liu said.
"Because of the role she's in, as more of a service-oriented role, there is like a super-power that she harnesses where she's like, 'I'm invisible to these people and, therefore, I can do whatever I want and I'm going to take advantage of that.'"
Liu loved playing such an intriguing character who is a fixture at the Mantle apartment where she typically wears full makeup, perfectly styled hair and designer clothes.
"It's never really explained," the actress said. "She's dressed to the nines and she's washing the dishes. There is such a performance aspect of living amongst the hyper-rich. She's like: 'I'm related to that. I belong here, too. Haha.'"
There's definitely some "mother cosplay that Greta does" while interacting with Elliot and Beverly, according to Liu.
"The Mantle twins are people that live without consequences. But that's not true. There are consequences, they just don't have to clean up their own messes. Greta is one of the people that has to clean up their messes," the actress said.
"They can keep living these reckless, inconsequential, privileged lives because someone like Greta is picking up the broken pieces."
Greta is also slightly jealous of the sisters' relationship.
"As co-dependent and toxic as it is, there is also something really compelling about it," the actress said.
Liu loved the tone of the visually striking series, which features a lot of wickedly funny lines of dialogue despite its serious subject matter.
"Watching with an audience was the first time [I noticed], 'Oh, yeah, there's so much levity and humor and brightness and self-critiquing sarcasm, and inside jokes in this world itself,'" Liu said.
"You go to some pretty dark places. I think it is generous to let the audience have moments of emotional relief, as well. It gives you the stamina to endure the entire giant sandwich that is this world."