Outsiders’ Phyllis Somerville on the impact her character has made

ladyrayoutsiders thumb
(Photo: Outsiders WGN America)

Last week’s Outsiders left us with our hearts broken by the death of Lady Ray at the hands of her son, Big Foster. She has been a woman of the mountain, followed all the rules of her people, and believed in the prophecies told over and over again. Her character was a tough woman who wasn’t afraid of giant men or even death. With her death, the clan are left with a change of power now by her treacherous son. Who knows what is going to happen on the mountain or even off the mountain? Will war with the coal people happen now?

We got to chat with Phyllis Somerville, the woman who fantastically portrayed Lady Ray, on her thoughts on her character, her character’s death, and what the future holds for Big Foster. Somerville, a veteran in acting, loved playing the spirited Lady Ray. She tells Nerd Reactor, “I loved her from the beginning. Just auditioning for her, I thought this was a good one. I liked her strength, but I also liked her softness. I like to watch her smile and her anger and watch her listen. I like to watch her trying to figure stuff out. She didn’t always figure things out right, but her mind was going old. She knew when she couldn’t read who to get. She got him [Asa] to do it. Half the battle of course is the writing. It was written very well. My job was to do it as best as I could.”

That she did. Lady Ray was a fan favorite of the show for her tough stance yet soft and gentle mother-like ways of protecting her kin. It took a lot of character development to portray a woman who became queen (bren’in) of the mountain. Somerville took a lot of her character from her grandmother, Mamie. There was a bit of emotion behind Somerville as she told us about her, “Mamie was such a spirit and wonderful woman who ran the house. Any old fashion way. Grandpa would come in and she’s come and take his boots off and had whatever he wanted ready for him. She really ran the house. It’s not a direct relationship, but I used that wonderful face of hers and the fact that she was so strong and had such a hard life.” Somerville adds, “It was important that I could count on her somehow. She wasn’t that kind of powerhouse, but she very quietly was. And, cooked the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted… and the secret is lard.”

Somerville’s character, Lady Ray, survived Big Foster’s first attack, but ultimately succumbed to her son’s final blow in the bathtub. She tells us she thought it was a pretty good death scene and one that would probably have an impact on the people of the mountain. “She certainly would like to have an impact on Big Foster, but that didn’t turn out very well, did it? Unless the impact is ‘I want to kill you,'” Somerville laughs. She tells us that many of her friends asked why didn’t Lady Ray fight back, but she tells us, “What I was playing, what I think was written, was when she sees Big Foster, she knows what’s about to go down. So there is an acceptance and I personally find that a more interesting choice than watching someone flailing and fighting. She has her eyes open the whole time watching. They are looking at each other. There is something so vulnerable and frail – 105 lb lady in the deep bathtub looking down on her. I found it very moving and a little scary.”

As for Big Foster becoming the new bren’in, Somerville has a lot to say about the new king. She sums it up from the earlier scene when Lady Ray and Big Foster are looking at the tomatoes, she tells her son to stay away from her, but she isn’t going to report him because she loved him. “Lady Ray loved her son,” Somerville explains. “She’s obviously highly disapproving of what he’s become, but being the gentleman in waiting has to be a little rugged too, like a prince. Will he ever be king? When is the old broad going to kick the bucket?”

Although Big Foster has become king, Somerville has a lot of faith in G’win. The last scene between G’win and Lady Ray was Lady Ray telling G’win she would be a good bren’in. “She tells her who is the strongest, who is the best qualified – you know it’s you. Accept it. You know it’s you,” Somerville says. Although, Somerville herself is personally a fan of Lil Foster, “There is more strength coming out of Lil Foster. I find him very appealing, so that could be a fan’s wish. I really like Lil Foster. Maybe there is leadership potential there.”

With the people of the mountain believing in spirits and prophercies, would there be a chance of seeing Somerville return as the ghost of Lady Ray haunting Big Foster? Somerville refused to tell us anything, “She certainly has a strong spirit. Other people decide on that.” She adds, “You have to talk to the grown-ups [writers] on that one.”

We followed up with if she believed in karma affecting Big Foster? She tells us, “One would think so. You never know whether there always has to be a change. Who knows what the change would be whether it’s in him? Or a change in somebody else. I don’t know. I really don’t know what it’ll ultimately be.”

Outsiders airs on Tuesdays 9/8c on WGN America.

Facebook Comments

About author

Laura Sirikul
Laura Sirikul 1849 posts

Trekkie. Jedi. Whovian. Sherlockian. Hobbit. Sanrio. Comics. I am Spartacus. Warrior Princess. Superhero. Nerd. Follow me @lsirikul