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Melanie Lynskey – The Tattooist of Auschwitz

From an adaptation standpoint, it’s quite a unique choice to insert the author herself in the story . . .

I think it really allowed the writers to play with a lot of ideas around memory and storytelling — and work with the sort of thing that really did happen, where Lale began to tell Heather a “version” of his story, and as time went on, he began to be more and more honest with her. Because I think there were things that he held a lot of shame about, that were really, really difficult for him to deal with — and they got close enough that he was able to tell her the whole truth of everything that he went through . . . All of that stuff is really interesting — being visited by your past, the people who come into the room and are ghosts, who sit there and talk to him. I liked that way of talking about memory, and how we tell our stories.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz on Showcase. Pictured: (left to right) Harvey Keitel as Lali Sokolov and Melanie Lynskey as Heather Morris.

To what extent were you able to sit with Heather and just absorb her essence?

It was an interesting one, because Heather today is such a different person. She really found herself through becoming an author. She said that, at the time when she wrote the book, she could never have dreamed of standing on a stage in front of people and talking about herself — and now she lives for it. It was a real process of coming out of her shell. She had a lot of self-doubt . . . It was tricky, because I didn’t have footage of her then, so there’s a certain amount of me making that up. She’s such a larger-than-life personality, and that’s just not how she’s written in the series.

Did she talk to you about what Lale ultimately meant to her?

He became such a huge part of her life — and they remained in touch until the day he died. They were so, so, so close. I think getting it right and getting the story made for the screen was such a huge deal for her — because it was something that she promised Lale would happen.

So many of your scenes are just sitting in a room with the legendary Harvey Keitel. What was that like?

I’ve been such a fan of his forever. He’s been around my whole entire life, doing movies that have been such a big part of my filmgoing life. I’m looking back over his filmography going, “Oh my gosh, he worked with Jane Campion before she was really Jane Campion. He worked with Quentin Tarantino on his first movie.” There are choices that he’s made in his career that have really been amazing. It was definitely a bit nerve-racking, but what an opportunity.

Are you the sort of actor who can watch her own performances?

I hate it. I cannot. I’ve seen parts of this — mostly Jonah [Hauer-King] and Anna [Próchniak]’s parts [in the flashbacks] . . . With something like The Last of Us, it was fun because I just had my two episodes. It’s like, “Well, I know this part of the story,” but then I got to watch the show and be completely surprised.

Does getting to use your own, natural New Zealand voice in a show make it easier or harder to get into character?

It’s easier when I have to do an accent, because my own accent is such a hybrid at this point — it’s all over the place. I pronounce my R’s like an American does, because I got sick of saying, “Can I have a glass of wadduh?” and having people not know what I was asking for! So, I can’t really use my own accent. And then I worry that I’m exaggerating a New Zealand accent — like, “Does this sound crazy?”

The Tattooist of Auschwitz airs Sunday, May 19, on Showcase


The New Zealand-born actress has, slowly and steadily, grown into one of showbiz’s brightest stars. Since her breakout turn opposite Kate Winslet in 1994 true-crime drama Heavenly Creatures, Lynskey has co-starred in massive Hollywood flicks like Ever After and Up in the Air. On TV, she memorably recurred as Rose (Charlie Sheen’s stalker) in hit sitcom Two and a Half Men — and now leads the cast of buzzy survival thriller Yellowjackets.


In this adaptation of Heather Morris’s fact-based novel, Lynskey plays Morris herself — an aspiring writer who, in the early 2000s, meets with Holocaust survivor Lale Sokolov (Harvey Keitel) to record his memories of falling in love while imprisoned at Auschwitz years ago.

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