- Covenant marks Waterston’s second blockbuster in the last six months, following a magical turn as Tina in Fantastic Beasts, but Daniels is a very different character to Beasts’ uptight ’30s wizard. “She’s the chief terraformist. So when they get to the planet, she’s in charge of making things grow there,” Waterston explains. “She’s a classic reluctant hero. I think if she were to be asked at the beginning of the film if she’s particularly courageous or brave, she wouldn’t know how to answer that question.” Instead, Daniels’ strengths are revealed to her over the course of the film. Waterston even pushed to ensure Daniels wasn’t a superhero out of the box. Instead, she uses her existing knowledge and abilities to her advantage. “We’ve got all these great big trucks and forklifts. A lot of what I try to do in the film is incorporate what she would actually know how to use. They were making me too good at holding the gun, and fighting the aliens. I tried to make the movements a little bit more pedestrian.” Following in the footsteps of a character as monumental as Ripley, meanwhile, was a task Waterston didn’t take lightly. “[Sigourney] gave such an incredible performance. It stands the test of time. It’s still so genuine and compelling and fascinating. And certainly, being a girl growing up in the ’80s, those kinds of roles were pretty exciting for young women to see.”(Total Film)
- SFX: Who is Daniels?
Catherine Waterston: She’s the chief terraformist on this colonising mission. Once we get there, we’re pioneers setting up a new world. So when they get to the planet, she’s in charge of making things grow there. There’s a massive section of the ship where all of the little plants grow in space greenhouses. So she’s in charge of all of that.
SFX: How did you prepare for the role?
Catherine Waterston: There’s two things that keep her from getting killed for most of the film, and they are courage and good fortune. She’s not a soldier. She’s not a martial artist. She’s a terraformist. So I kept trying to get the guys to teach me: how do I use this stick like an axe? How do I use the tools that I would use when we get to the planet to help grow things? They were making me too good, I thought, at holding the gun, and fighting the aliens. I tried to make the movements a little bit more pedestrian.
SFX: Do you feel much pressure following in the footsteps of sigourney Weaver?
Catherine Waterston: Only when journalists ask me that! I spend my whole day trying to not think about things like that and then you guys come in and are like, “What are you freaking out about?” [laughs] But truly, you can’t think about these things when you’re working, because the job, the task at hand, is important to me.
SFX: there’s a rumour that you play a character related to ripley...
Catherine Waterston: Yeah... I’m aware of the rumour. There’s this episode of Fawlty Towers where John Cleese tells Manuel he has to lie about something. “Whenever anyone asks you, you say, ‘I know nothing.’” So, that’s what plays on my mind whenever people ask me these spoiler questions.
- Rumours suggested that Daniels would be Ripley’s mother and, whatever
the truth, there are resemblances. Both are rational women transformed
by circumstance into gun-toting warriors. Both are shown at some point
in singlets, or clomping around in magnetic boots, and each has a
problematic relationship with a synthetic colleague. The only shortfall
comes in the area of the catchphrase, where Daniels’s multiple efforts
(including “I got you, you son-of-a-bitch” and “Let’s kill this
fucker!”) are no match for Ripley’s emphatic: “Get away from her, you
Most strikingly, the first note Waterston has to play in the new film is outright panic when technical problems wake her prematurely from hypersleep. The second is grief. “It’s like slamming on the brakes before anyone has the chance to buckle their seat belts. I didn’t know how I would play it or how I could get there, but that’s always the most appealing thing to me. The insecurity is exciting. Maybe I’m also curious about testing my ability.” She widens her eyes. “Seeing if it’s still there.”
Although Daniels is treading in Ripley’s footsteps, or, given that Covenant is set 20-odd years before Alien, forging the path that Ripley will follow, Waterston didn’t talk to Weaver about the part. But the two women have a distant connection. When Waterston was starting out as an actor, she got her first lead role in a play at The Flea, a New York theatre co-founded by Weaver’s husband, Jim Simpson. “Sigourney came to see it and said something like: ‘You were good.’ Nothing extraordinary. But when someone like her says that, you hang on to it for years. When I got this job, I thought immediately of that moment.”
Waterston is big on the idea of all actors as an extended clan, perhaps unsurprisingly for someone whose siblings are in the business, and whose father is Sam Waterston, the veteran from The Killing Fields, Crimes and Misdemeanors and the TV hit Law and Order. Her mother is the former model Lynn Louisa Woodruff. “Acting is a community where you come in and out of each other’s lives. I’m slightly envious of the golden age of Hollywood. It must have been frustrating to be owned by the studio, but it was also like being in a company, working with the same people, and that appeals to me.”
Working On Alien: Covenant, she was reunited with Carmen Ejogo (Fantastic Beasts) and Michael Fassbender, with whom she shared some fraught scenes in Steve Jobs, as well as her old chum Billy Crudup. At one point during our conversation, she leaps up and yanks open the door in response to voices outside. “Billy Crudup, will you shut the fuck up?” she hollers down the hallway. “I’m trying to focus!”
Crudup sidles into view. “What you doing for dinner tonight,” he purrs. “You want to join us? Me and Danny McBride? You should be so lucky!” What larks. Of course, it’s entirely possible that she could have put on a more vivid display of her need to cultivate actorly intimacy than bounding out of the room to accost a colleague. Possible, yes, but not likely.
She first saw Crudup when she was 15 in a Broadway production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, which she now credits with confirming in her mind her acting ambitions. “It was the thing that clicked me over to that next level of curiosity.” Clicked? “You know when you’re going up at the start of the rollercoaster and it’s going click-click-click towards the summit? I’d had the initial idea of wanting to act but I didn’t know how I could do it.” (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/may/11/alien-covenants-katherine-waterston-we-live-in-hypersexualised-yet-totally-prudish-times)
- DenOfGeek: The night before, Waterston had asked anyone in the audience with a hip flask of tequila to come forward and share it with her, to quell the frightfulness of seeing Ridley Scott’s latest blood-soaked space horror for the first time. In the interests of keeping things light and pre-coffee friendly, that’s where I opted to start...
DenOfGeek: Did you have any luck finding some tequila at the premiere yesterday?
Katherine Waterston: I really thought that there were gonna be some proud alcoholics in the audience that would raise their hand when I asked that. I was really disappointed. But I found some vodka.
DenOfGeek: Oh, okay. Did it help?
Katherine Waterston: Um, yeah, it probably did a little. Ridley gave it to me. He turned to me as the lights went down and went, "Vodka?" It was great.
DenOfGeek: Are you not normally a watcher of scary films, then?
Katherine Waterston:No, yeah, I can’t tolerate them. I’m a real chicken.
DenOfGeek: How was it, seeing the film for the fist time?
Katherine Waterston:Um... I think when there’s, um, CGI elements to a film, you can never really know what to expect, because they’re just, they’re visuals that you weren’t exposed to on set, do you know what I mean?
Katherine Waterston: And so I’ve, weirdly, one thing that I found totally mind-blowing was just the opening credits. Just when the title came up, before the credits: space, and a little ship flying through it, you know? Um, it’s nice to have moments of, err, relief from having to look at your own face. So I was really into all of that, all of the shots of spaceships flying around. Yeah.
DenOfGeek: When you’re acting against a Xenomorph, or any other form of the alien, what do you actually have to look at?
Katherine Waterston: Oh well, I was really just speaking of the spaceship scenes, because, actually, anything that... any scene that you see me in...
DenOfGeek: Is practical stuff.
Katherine Waterston: As practical as possible, yeah. Really, the only green screens I saw were sort of, like... one day, my favourite stunt... you can barely even see it in the movie, but, I kind of go swinging off the side of this ship, and for a moment, the ship is so low that I’m running on the ground, and then I get scooped back up. Do you remember?
DenOfGeek: Of course! It’s a very cool moment.
Katherine Waterston: That was my favourite stunt to shoot, because they just pulled me up really really high, and zipped me down, and I ran a few steps, and I zipped back up, and it somehow felt sort of like a Buster Keaton moment or something. It was just so silly to me, when we were shooting it, um, and really fun.
And that was the only day, really the only moment, where I was alone, surrounded by green screen. And I didn’t need to do anything, just run, so it was still, in a sense, a practical experience, you know? I had the floor beneath me, and so, I didn’t really have to, you know, fake it.
Katherine Waterston:Whenever possible, Ridley gave us stuff to work with. And it’s so much better that way.
DenOfGeek: I would guess on Fantastic Beasts that is was a bit more green screen-y?
Katherine Waterston:No, same.
DenOfGeek: Oh, that’s cool!
Katherine Waterston: Yeah, I think it might be, maybe, a bit of a thing of the past. Like, the earlier days of CGI stuff, where they were forcing actors to do everything, you know, looking out into a green abyss. But, um, I think they realised the more stuff you can give them, the better. It’s just something about the way your eye engages. I don’t know. It’s hard to see something that’s not in front of you.
DenOfGeek: You kind of have to do the whole gamut of emotions here, as well. Was it kind of exhausting to keep up the fear and the dread and the various other things you have to go through?
Katherine Waterston: Yeah, I was wondering if it was going to be difficult to keep, kind of, the anxiety level up all day. Um, I think it may have been, with another director. But because Ridley moves so quickly, the pace on set was really energised all the time, and so, that definitely helped. You know, we weren’t waiting around for the next set up for hours and then, kind of, have to conjure that anxiety again and again. It’s always the stopping and starting that can kind of make that stuff difficult to maintain.
But there’s a great kind of scrappy focus on the set, with Ridley, because, in that way, he sort of managed to maintain the spirit of a young filmmaker. Even though, obviously, the sets give him a way – the budget’s big – but the feeling is kind of like he’s still got that kind of urgency and impatience and excitement of a young filmmaker. That definitely helped, I think, for all of us in maintaining a kind of constant level of, you know, nervousness and anxiety or whatever.
And, in terms of the emotional stuff, I don’t know... I mean, I think it was Billy [Crudup, who plays a high-ranking crewmember named Oram] who said, "You know, we’re actors, we do feelings." It’s like, that’s what we do, so it doesn’t feel so bizarre to do that all day.
DenOfGeek: I saw a video where you were saying that one of your previous directors was sending you taunting emails, about running?
Katherine Waterston: One of my previous directors, yeah, was reminding me of other actresses who run really well. And asking if I’d been doing any running in this film. Saying things like, "Don’t screw it up!" He was like, "Daisy Ridley runs really well, how’s your run going?" [Laughs] So it did kind of make me paranoid!
DenOfGeek: Was that Paul Thomas Anderson? That would be my guess.
Katherine Waterston:Yeah. Mhmm. It was Paul.
DenOfGeek: I would guess working with him [which Waterston did on Inherent Vice] and working with Ridley Scott is a very different experience?
Katherine Waterston: Oh yeah, well they definitely have a lot of differences, for sure. Every director is different, but I think... they both seem to be doing the job they should be doing, you know? They both really seem to be energised by what they’re doing and they both seem to be very passionate about it. It’s strange, you know, you don’t always get that feeling on set. But it’s a great... it sets a good tone on set. I guess whatever the director’s energy is is kind of contagious on set, because, um, you know, it’s a hierarchy and we’re all kind of looking to the director for guidance.
DenOfGeek: You filmed this on the opposite side of the world, in Australia and New Zealand. Did that distance from your normal life help get into the crew’s mind set at all?
Katherine WaterstonYeah, Iceland and New Zealand are the two places that I’ve ever visited that don’t quite feel like they are on planet Earth. Do you know what I mean?
Katherine Waterston:Striking, extraordinary landscapes. And we began shooting in, um, New Zealand and that really set the tone. All the landscapes and the waterfalls there, and everything. I think, for the whole cast, it placed us in the environment. And I think we were sort of able to use that for the rest of the shoot.
DenOfGeek: And, finally, is it true that you wanted an Ezra Miller Fantastic Beasts haircut for this?
Katherine Waterston: Not exactly. I loved his haircut, and he didn’t, at first. He was a bit traumatised with his hair. But I thought it made him look like Ian Curtis, who I adore, and I told him and that kind of made him feel better. Um, and near the end of the shoot they were making wigs for all of us in case we had to do pickups later.
I had just been cast in this, and I asked the hair and makeup department if I could try on his wig. And that’s kind of what got me thinking, um, of lopping it all off. But it’s also like a Joan of Arc thing, and I like the idea of doing something that was just a bit odd-looking, and maybe just mildly futuristic. Um, just a potential future trend. The micro bowl cut, or something. [Laughs] I don’t know!
DenOfGeek: Katherine Waterston, thank you very much! (http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/movies/katherine-waterston/49247/katherine-waterston-interview-alien-covenant)
We’re here to talk about the role you’re going to know her for next – Ridley Scott’s latest kickass lead, Daniels, in ‘Alien: Covenant’. ‘She’s a scientist,’ says Waterston. ‘It’s only when she’s tested that she discovers what she is capable of.’
Were you nervous following in Sigourney Weaver’s footsteps in the ‘Alien’ franchise?’‘No. You have to force yourself to not engage with your destructive self-loathing! I was in a black cab in London when my agent called and told me I’d got the part. I always feel like someone’s got the wrong number or there’s been a mistake.’(https://www.timeout.com/london/film/katherine-waterston-i-scare-very-easily-alien-traumatised-me-for-life)
Alien Covenant: Katherine Waterston plays Daniels
a) Waterston gets the role
Katherine Waterston was in a black cab in london when her agent called her and told her that she got the part. She felt as if someone had got the wrong number or there had been a mistake
b) Chief terraformist
The character Daniels the chief terraformist. When they get to the planet, they are pioneers setting up a new world.
Once they get to the planet, she's in charge of making things grow there.
There's a massive section of the Covenant ship where all the little plants grown in space greenhouses, and she would be in charge of that.
c) Reluctant Hero
There are two things that keep her from getting killed for most of the film, and they are courage and good fortune.’
Daniels's not a soldier, she's not a martial artist but she is a terraformist.
She kept trying to get the men to teach her such things such as how to use a stick like an axe, how to use tools that she would use when they get to the planet to help grow things
She is a classic reluctant hero.
Perhaps if she were asked at the beginning of the film if she was particularly courageous or brave, she wouldn't know how to answer that question but it's only when she's tested thagt she discovers what she is capable of..
Aboard the Covenant, they have great big trucks and forklifts.
A lot of what Waterston does in the film is incorporate what Daniels would know how to use.
In the film, felt that they were making her too good at holding the guns and fighting the aliens, and so she tried to make the movements a little bit more pedestrian.
d) Mother of Ripley rumour
She was also aware of the rumour that her character was the mother of Ripley, but she thought about the episode of Fawlty Towers where John Cleese's character tells Manuel that he has to lie about something. "Whenever anyone asks you, you say, ‘I know nothing.’” and this is what would go through her mind when asked by Journalists about the rumour.
e) Praise from Sigourney
Sigourney came to see the movie, and said some like "You were good" to Waterston. Whatever she said was nothing extraordinary but indeed it would be something that Waterston would likely hold onto for years, and when she got the job , she thought immediately of that moment
So, that’s what plays on my mind whenever people ask me these spoiler questions.