When Christoph Waltz signs on to a project, that’s when you know to sign on too. That was the case for Brittany O’Grady— best known for her role as Paula in the first season of The White Lotus— when her agents told her about a new role for a show that takes place at an app-based gaming company.
“I'm not really technologically advanced, to be honest. I was like, ‘Am I going to be able to portray someone that works at a video gaming company,’” O’Grady tells Los Angeles Confidential. “But then he was talking about who is going to be a part of it. And Christoph Waltz, obviously, is just such an incredible actor and I've always wanted to work with somebody of that caliber. And I knew that Nat Wolff was also being considered as well, and that was just something that was really cool. I love working with people who I can grow and learn from and then people my age who are willing to do the same.”
Premiering on Prime Video on Feb. 24, comedy-thriller The Consultant sees the office of Compware thrown upside down when a new consultant, Regus Patoff (Waltz), is hired to improve the company. His demands challenge everything creative liaison (a.k.a. assistant to the boss) Elaine and colleague/coder Craig (Wolff) thought they knew about Compware and what they will do to succeed.
“I really gravitated to the character Elaine,” O’Grady adds. “She's just driven and strong. And I was just excited to also play an adult and not a sassy college student or sassy teenager and also be in a show that reflects the workspace that I think a lot of my friends are in.”
Read more from our conversation with O’Grady below.
The Consultant is based on the book by Bentley Little. Did you read it before filming or did you want to be sure you could create your own version of Elaine?
It's funny, I didn't know that it was actually based off of a book until we started the pilot. So maybe that's just me not doing my research enough, but I did want to create my own version of Elaine.
It's funny because my dad started reading the book and he was telling me the comparisons… Maybe now that I'm away from it at the moment, I'll be able to kind of look back at the season, but I think it was good that I probably just didn't put my mind in that version of it.
You've previously said that your job as an actor is to find justification in what your character does. Was that hard to do with Elaine?
I just felt really invested in everything that Elaine’s trying to do and justifying it and feeling weirdly sympathetic toward Patoff. I’m like, “What is going on?” So that was something that grew as we started filming deeper into the series— really living in the face of what Elaine was feeling consistently. This constant feeling of trying to be calm, when on the inside she's just panicking and consistently trying to find a solution, which was also fun to do.
It’s clear from the beginning Elaine is a hard worker, but Regus Patoff’s arrival marks a shift in her. Do you think Elaine herself is surprised by how ambitious she actually is?
I think there's moments where she's surprised. I think there's specific moments where it's like, “Oh my God, how did it get this bad? How did it get this bad and how did I get to this point where I made a decision?” And I think it's a seed that's always been inside her, and I think Patoff waters that. It was just always there lying dormant until the consultant came around, which is really fascinating because I think that all the other characters have the same and you figure out what seeds they have and what decides to grow in such a hostile environment.
In the later episodes, Elaine’s wardrobe seems to evolve. Was that intentional?
Our costume designer, Hannah Jacobs, was so awesome. I think she really helped me develop Elaine. And as the season goes on, she actually starts wearing V-necks to show more vulnerability to Patoff, so that was intentional. And her epic suit at the end was an Armani men's suit that they actually altered to fit me in and I think that it is reflective of Elaine becoming maybe even a miniature Patoff.
You mentioned your excitement to play an adult character instead of a teenager. How was playing Elaine creatively fulfilling for you?
She's so subtle. I love the idea of creating these subtle moments where you could hopefully you guys as an audience [see] it was a different way of expressing certain emotions in such a weird environment. I feel like The Consultant is grounded in this realism, but then it's also got these extreme situations. And I think there's an evolution to Elaine. I think she evolved, and it was a mystery when I got the role, I was like, “I don't know how much she's gonna move toward certain influences that Patoff gives.” It was just really cool to do these little subtle moments throughout the show to show her slowly going towards maybe a less ethical way of being in the office.
I hope that audiences enjoy it and they find it funny. I think the writing is really clever and really funny and in ways super relatable. I hope that they're able to relate to certain aspects of this show. One thing I'm really excited about for me, my dad is in his 60s, and I think it'll be interesting for him to watch a difference in generations and how we approach work-life. Like everybody's going in with their Philz Coffee and their kombucha and playing ping pong and foosball. And then you have the consultant here in a suit and doing things the old-fashioned way, on the outside at least. So I think that's another fun element that I would like for audiences to connect with, and then also maybe reflect on what's going on in the workspace and maybe how capitalism drives [us] and how far does our society and our work ethic and our work environment drive us to do things that we don't want to do or work in really bad environments.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Corey Nickols/Getty Images