Yorick may be the last human alive with a Y chromosome, but he’s certainly not the only one suffering from existential anxiety.
In episode 6 of Y: The Last ManHero (Olivia Thirlby) continued to gain momentum over the guilt she feels for accidentally killing her lover-turned boss. Given her alcoholic tendencies and strained relationships with her family (to whom she is now estranged, thanks to the event), Hero’s purpose and place in this newfound danger zone of a world remained a major question mark, even after she and Sam were taken in by Roxanne, a former homicide detective who runs a safe haven for women. But Roxanne’s tough looks and (maybe?) sinister surgery made Hero uncomfortable, despite the potential opportunity it afforded her to erase her sins and make a fresh start.
But who will become Hero and whether she will stay in the compound remains to be seen. For Thirlby, the dystopian world’s moral grays and heavy emotional toll raise the stakes on Hero in important ways that will continue to illuminate her path wherever that may lead. “Hero character is deeply fleshed out,” the actress tells TVLine. “Her journey, her nuances, her whole story is alive and dynamic in a way that comes from the source material.”
Below, Thirlby breaks Hero’s messy relationships, challenging upbringing, and her character’s mixed feelings toward Roxanne’s strange gang of outcasts.
TVLINE | Hero’s relationships are complicated to say the least. Though they have yet to reunite, how would you describe her relationship with her brother Yorick?
OLIVIA THIRLBY | Hero and Yorick have a close sibling bond. They are two of a kind, and the only two of their kind. While that breeds a tremendous amount of interdependence and connectedness, I think it also [creates] hostility, frustration, irritation…they definitely have a love-hate relationship. Its basis is love, but its expression is hate.
TVLINE | Hero and Yorick both seem lost in their own way. Does that stem from growing up in the shadow of their politically famous mother?
Their mother [Diane Lane’s Jennifer Brown] takes up a lot of space, and in the story of the Brown family, they are all side characters and Jennifer is the main protagonist. Hero and Yorick should never make mistakes. They should never get in trouble. They cannot go to their parents if they do something bad. They have to get to each other, and that’s something that really binds them together. They are the ones who always turn their backs on each other no matter what. The irony, of course, is that they both make a lot of mistakes, and on paper neither of them are the people their parents want them to be, so they’re really attached to that. That’s a hard life to walk around, feeling like a disappointment.
TVLINE | Moving on with Hero and Sam, we saw them close their lips under disturbing circumstances. Was it just a snapshot, or is there something deeper in between?
It is much deeper than a friendship. It is a very deep, but frozen river that they skate on. That undercurrent of deep love and desire for true partnership is ever present, but rarely acknowledged or acted upon. I think the intensity of the circumstances they are in, the stakes and losses, the confusion and the general insecurity affect the breaking down of that normally held boundary. Elliot Fletcher [who plays Sam] and I spent a lot of time developing the intricacies and backstory of their friendship. They drink a lot together and spend a lot of time together, so a drunken make-out session definitely happens more than once.
TVLINE | In the last two episodes, Hero and Sam are taken care of by Roxanne and her crew, but Hero has a hard time settling in. What is Hero’s first impression of Roxanne and the potentially dangerous situation?
Hero has an extremely raised eyebrow towards Roxanne. She’s a little put off by her rhetoric, and Hero isn’t a follower, so she’s all put off by how into it everyone seems. By the very nature of who Hero is, if she’s in a situation where everyone is really in some kind of transformational self-awareness movement, she’s going to be completely disgusted by it. It’s like she smells something bad. [Laughs]
TVLINE | After Hero Roxanne admits to her act of manslaughter, Roxanne tells her she can be who she wants to be now. But does Hero really believe that?
Even though she knows what all these women believe in is fake, Hero is starting to see this as an opportunity for her to distance herself from the thing she lives with every day, which is this truly crushing secret – a secret about something she has done, and her guilt and belief about what that means to her and who she is. I think that moment with Roxanne is more about Hero heading into a reality where she can separate herself from this thing she can’t really live under. It’s kind of an easy way out, and because it’s easy, it’s extremely attractive. So I’m not sure if that moment was born so much of a deep trust for who Roxanne is, so much as Hero seeing an opportunity and not having the resources to do anything but seize it.
TVLINE | One of the other women says to Hero, “We get the feeling you don’t like yourself that much,” and she immediately shuts it down. Is that a fair assessment of where she is?
Yeah, I think that comment comes close to home. Self-esteem is the central fulcrum on which Hero’s sense of identity revolves, and before the event happens, it’s quite low. [After] the events of the first episode, she doesn’t want to believe she’s bad. She wants above all to be a good person and a loving person and a sensitive person and a person of service. But it’s almost as if there’s too much evidence to the contrary. She has a lifetime of evidence to the contrary.