Laura Dern Gets 'Enlightened'

Award winning actress Laura Dern discusses her new show 'Enlightened,' her passion for activism, and "righteous anger."

All photos courtesy HBO

You might recognize her as Dr. Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park, but actress Laura Dern has done so much more. From critically lauded work in the films of David Lynch to bit parts in comedies like Little Fockers, she has created a body of work that is hard to define. Now she's returning to television (where some of her best work has been done - she won a Golden Globe in the made-for-TV political drama Recount) in the new HBO drama (or is it a comedy?) Enlightened.

See that picture up there? Yup, that's the very first thing you see in the very first episode of the show: Amy Jellicoe, power player corporate executive extraordinaire, sitting in the restroom having a nervous breakdown. Seconds later she's storming out into her office and giving both barrels to the fellow executive she believes screwed her over. Actually, both barrels is inaccurate: she gives him the equivalent of a nuclear explosion. Unsurprisingly, she's fired. 

But after a spiritual retreat in Hawaii helps her to pick up the pieces, she returns to her old life with a new, more 'enlightened' outlook, and attempts to put her life back together. Of course, it's not that easy. 

Beliefnet had a chance to sit down with Dern and discuss the show, her activism, and what exactly "righteous anger" looks like. 


BELIEFNET: Do you think Amy’s conversion experience that she has, is authentic?

LAURA: 100%, 100% for her it’s completely authentic, yes. 

BELIEFNET: In the first few episodes, she has a lot of baggage, however. So perhaps maybe the question is, can Amy get to a place where she’s satisfied simply with belief or will she only be satisfied by results? Initially, she kind of reverts to old Amy when she doesn’t get the results she thinks her newfound belief will get her. 

LAURA: Exactly.

BELIEFNET: Then is it possible for her to become satisfied simply with believing? 

LAURA: Well beautiful question. I mean I’d like to ask myself that. I love that question. And I think her brokenness or her damage as some might call it definitely – it doesn’t get in her way from believing. It gets in her way from being able to hold a consistently conscious experience. And I think that’s something that many of us can find relatable, whether our outbursts or our broken moments are far less severe than Amy to be in a consistent connection to self consciousness, God, whatever, someone’s experience of it is its really hard in this world to stay consistent with the experience. There is much to be angry about. There is much to feel grief about. And so the journey towards self is just that and for Amy the hope is that she can allow what takes like five seconds and experience that a sea turtle could be a five minute experience. Or to be an experience that even when her ex-husband is on cocaine or her mother is shutting down from her, she can still be inside herself and have an experience of self love instead of having other people’s experience sort of throw her out of herself. So I think that the more those times get elongated in Amy the better off she is. And I think the more Amy learns that to be conscious for Amy might be about incorporating her feelings instead of being ashamed of them. Like clearly she’s someone who has rage, a lot of rage. 

BELIEFNET: (laughing) Clearly. 

LAURA: And what we see – how we see her handle it is disastrous but there are people who have utilized anger in profound ways. I mean even on a spiritual path because I know the website speaks to that certainly you know we know the story of Jesus and the temple. We know the story of the Civil Rights Movement. We know the story of what it is to allow rightful anger to create consciousness in others. And so I think its like Amy can start to utilize her feelings and honor them but do something different with them she, you know it might be really interesting for her and the world. She's definitely not there right now.
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