The Librarians is possibly one of the most under-rated shows on television. With an array of characters that defy traditional stereotypes, everything about The Librarians appeals to me. My husband and I have watched it since the very first episode. Providing adventure with very little death and little to no gore, The Librarians is the perfect show for sensitive kids to watch with their parents who are terribly exhausted from the onslaught of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad cartoons.
In 2015, before my introduction to the GeekMom world, one of the highlights of my NYCC was sitting in The Librarians panel and later getting my free The Librarians t-shirt (which yes, I totally wore while on the telephone with Ms. Booth). Being presented with the opportunity to interview Ms. Booth about my favorite Librarian, Cassandra, and getting to watch an advanced screening of an episode is quite definitely one of the highlights of the last few months.
Quirky Cassandra Cillian, the magic-proponent mathematician and scientist Librarian, is one of the most joyous characters I’ve ever watched. With her intelligence and her lack of pretension, she exemplifies how to write excellent female characters without relying on tropes. In this week’s episode, Cassandra faces one of her biggest storylines to date. With this in mind, be advised that the interview below contains spoilers from this week’s episode of The Librarians. Tons of spoilers. ALL the spoilers. (To get caught up on this season or to catch this episode if you missed it, tune in here at TNT for streaming video.)
This week’s episode of The Librarians deals with the ever-present brain-grape. Cassandra’s doctor tells her the tumor has grown so much that she is finally at the stage where she is terminal-terminal. Since the age of 15, Cassandra has been aware of her too short life span. However, finally faced with eminent mortality, she embarks on one last adventure and embraces life with great the great gusto to which we viewers have become accustomed. This episode of The Librarians, therefore, focuses on some Big Themes such as the importance of love, the life decisions that make us who we are, and mortality versus immortality.
GeekMom: As an actress how do you prepare for those huge themes and integrate them so seamlessly?
Booth: Well, yeah, it was a lot to deal with. Especially on a show like The Librarians that is so fun and light and family friendly and to deal with these bigger subjects and to keep the show as it is and still light and funny and adventurous was a challenge. We talked about it a lot going into it. We knew it was coming. Dean and I had a long conversation before the season even started, before they even started writing, about how it was really important for both of us to deal with the “Brain Grape” as it’s being known. We felt that it was always there, but we weren’t really dealing with it head on, and it was coming time that we were going to have to. I had a lot of chats with my beautiful writer Kate Warrick and she and Nicole wrote an amazing script. It was a struggle for all of us to fit all of this in one episode. I think we settled on these ideas of mortality and immortality. I remember a conversation with Kate where she said “But I have to do this whole thing with vampires!” And I said, “But it’s perfect! Vampires are immortal and Cassandra is dying!” She got all excited, “Ohmigod I’m going to do this whole thing!” She knocked it out in two seconds for me. It as so beautiful and we were crying at lunch and it was so amazing. This whole idea that Cassandra is processing through the stages of grief was really helpful and a really great way for us to hit a lot of notes in rapid succession but still have a focus and still know what was driving her forward. I think that’s something that people who are sick can relate to because I think you do go through a grieving process when you get a diagnosis like a terminal diagnosis. You start to grieve for yourself. You do start to go through anger and bargaining and sadness and depressions. These are things that are familiar for stepping stones. Being able to track Cassandra through those was really a good map for me. The script was a beautiful map. Kate and Nicole did an incredible job with it.
GeekMom: I thought it was really interesting and one of the follow up questions is – like a lot of people when they get that diagnosis, Cassandra doesn’t want to tell anyone and she doesn’t want to trust science. One of the themes that’s been running for the last season and a half is the tension between the science and the magic and where they overlap. Cassandra is given the opportunity to become immortal and she chooses not to. Then she falls back on science. How do you think this is changing her character’s approach?
Booth: Cassandra has always been very pro-magic. We see a big reason why in this episode, and that is that there’s no hope for her. When you’re told there’s nothing you can do, we’ve tried every option, this is it, you’re going to die, you just cling to hope. You cling to magic. This show is where this character has magical ability, and magic is a realistic option. In this world she’s really clinging to magic because it seems to be the only option for her. So we see why she believes so deeply in it, and really wants to believe in the goodness of it and wants to believe in the way we can use it. I think we see that and then we see her eventually turn it down. Science is what saves her in the end which is also a very Cassandra thing to have happen because she is the scientist. She’s a mathematist and a scientist. She’s the person who believes in those things too. SO we get to see her sort of reconcile those. I think because of the outcome and the way things plays out with her gift in the end, not losing it and nothing her greatest fear realized, there is going to still be a belief. NOw that this is all clear, she’s really ready for the bigger battle. Her problems have really always taken a backseat for her and now they’re gone and now she’s able to see more clearly.
GeekMom: She’s even more powerful. A lot of times you see Cassandra, and she’s the physically weakest Librarian in a lot of ways. She comes across as very physically weak but strong emotionally. She has the potential now to be one of the most powerful people, one of the most powerful Librarians. Where do you think that’s going to be able to take you as a narrative shift?
Booth: A lot of the stuff that Baird has been dealing with this season has been preparing the librarians for the future versions that she saw at the end of the first season. That version of Cassandra has always been… in a lot of series you don’t get a beginning and an end so you don’t get to see a character develop. We were sort of shown the end version of where are characters are likely to end up. Cassandra was a fairly powerful magician at that point, like a sorceress almost with dragons and living in this bizarre world. There’s always that vision in my head when we’re looking to the future of Cassandra and how she wants to, how she’s going to, end up. Her views on magic have really tracked beautifully in that way where she does believe and she’s empowered. Even though her visions aren’t necessarily magic per se, it’s all a part of who she is. She’s magical. I love this show because I never know what’s going to happen next. To me, the greatest joy of the show is that magic is limitless. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Cassandra doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s so wonderful to just be able to go to work and work on a show that has limitless possibilities.
GeekMom: Coming on to Jenkins and asking him out. I didn’t see that coming at all. The bisexual nature of Cassandra. How does it feel to be able to portray this character who doesn’t fall into those gender roles and is willing to fall in love or be romantic with people with whom she has an intellectual connection.
Booth: That’s a good question. I’m going to take that in two parts. I love working with John Larroquette. Working with John Larroquette is like the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. He is one of my comedy heroes and being able to go to work with him every day is so incredible, and he’s so brilliant. We’ve talked a lot about Cassandra and Jenkins’ relationship that grew mostly out of my undying love of John Larroquette. I sort of jokingly, when anyone would say, “which character do you want a relationship with? Who do you think Cassandra would want?” And I always say Jenkins because I want to work with John. So we started thinking about how we could make this work and how this could play out. Then this idea came up of mortality versus immortality. This idea that when you’re faced with your death and you know you’re going to die within days/hours/weeks, wouldn’t you want to be with a person who was going to live forever? That sense of mortality versus immortality. Just clinging to that, clinging to any hope, that he could bring to her. It’s more than a father figure, more than a lover, just this idea that he has everything and she has nothing.
GeekMom: That was my favorite line, “You have all of this life and you don’t do anything with it. Do you know what I would give for that?”
Booth: It’s a great line. It really is so much of what that relationship is and why she throws herself at him, because it’s a last ditch effort. She wants to live. If there’s any opportunity for that she sees it standing in front of her everyday. It’s this guy who has all the life, and she has none. I think that’s where that sort of came out of – that he had what she wanted. The other aspect of Cassandra and her romantic relations have been amazing to play. It’s been great for me to play because I love playing characters that have no boundaries and who aren’t tied down by normal social stereotypes. That’s what Cassandra is, she has no normal. She’s just an odd duck. She’s just living’ her life. It’s a great character to play. What’s even greater to me is fans acceptance of that. People love that about her. She isn’t gay. She isn’t straight. She’s not a lesbian. SHe’s not at the most feminine. She’s not the most masculine. She just is “her.” She’s just living her life, loving so much of it. You see it in her enormous love of Santa Claus or a clock or sometimes it’s this person or sometimes it’s that person. When Cassandra loves something, it’s with a fervent passion and so much energy. We’re taught socially to be afraid of showing our feelings and showing our love in case we get hurt. Cassandra’s willingness to throw herself out there and not be afraid of getting hurt is inspirational to me.
GeekMom: I was just really impressed by how well you did both of those relationships. It was just very normal. Cassandra just loves who she loves and is interested who she’s interested. She makes these intellectual connections with people that go beyond that physical lust that we see in television usually. How do you prepare, as an actress to play a role where you’re actually facing down your own death? how do you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally?
Booth: It’s not easy. Those are not easy days. I was so lucky that I had an incredible director on set for this. Working with Noah Wylie as an actor is incredible. Working with him as a director is a gift. He knows what it feels like as an actor to be doing that. I have someone there who’s testing me and giving me faith and encouraging me and pushing me and making me want to be better. He just held my hand and pushed me off a cliff all at the same time. It’s an incredible gift to work with a director like that on an episode like this. The writers too. I give them all the credit in the world for giving me a roadmap, letting me express my opinions about how I felt about death and how I felt about love and how I felt about fear.
GeekMom: What kind of input did you give them when they asked?
Booth: It was really character based. I had these feelings about why Cassandra loved Jenkins so much. I had this feeling about how she felt about her own death about why she goes off the rails happy as opposed to telling all her friends and curling up in a ball. She comes back from her diagnosis and she’s super happy. I had these ideas about wanting her to wear the brightest outfits that she’s ever worn, which for Cassandra is a feat. I wanted her to be the opposite of death in those scenes. Stuff like that and conversations about thinking about how that would feel. To me, the moment on the gurney became less about me and more about “oh my God, I’ve done this to these people too now.” Having been that person sitting in that waiting room, knowing how that feels and how that must feel to the person on the best, there’s so many levels. I’ve obviously never been in her situation, but I’ve been on the other side of that hospital room and I know how that feels. To just have those moments, it’s a lot of work but it’s fun work. I love being able to do it with this character because I love her so much.
GeekMom: Do you think Cassandra is going to be overwhelmed at any point now that she has so much going on in her head. I keep thinking that Cassandra reminds me of Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and –
Booth: Yeah… YEAH.
GeekMom: Who gets more powerful and more powerful as she comes into her own. Simultaneously there’s going to be so much sensory input now for her that the tumor is gone. The tumor was holding her back as opposed to helping her. She sort of defined herself by the tumor giving her power and now it’s really about her having power. How is that going to impact her as a character?
Booth: I think we see it a little bit at the end because there is this overwhelming fear that it’s a lot. I think we also see in that last scene a real groundedness that we haven’t seen before. All that fear for herself is gone now. The worst thing that could possibly happen on so many levels has happened to her. I think there’s a real groundedness that she’s ready for the fight. We’ve been talking about this ultimate battle between good and evil all season that’s coming up in these last two episodes. I think she’s ready for it now because her personal fear is gone, now she knows what she has to do. She has to get on board and fight for humanity.
GeekMom: I’m looking forward to seeing her become even more confident. Throughout the episode the character keeps saying, “I won’t be me.” She doesn’t want to have the surgery because “I won’t be me” anymore. She defined herself by the brain grape and felt that’s where she gets her power. It turns out that the power was in her. I’m looking forward to seeing how she becomes so much more powerful.