Under the Dome has been a massive hit for CBS this summer, with its Stephen King-inspired storyline having millions of viewers asking just what they would do if they found themselves in a town suddenly, inexplicably, cut off from society. And Jolene Purdy couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. As Dodee Weaver, the resident tech geek at Chester’s Mill’s lone remaining operational radio station, she helps make sure the residents have a link to each other and the outside world.
“Oh my gosh, it’s so exciting,” Purdy says. “This is the first time I’ve let myself get this excited in awhile.”
Spoken like a true working character actress, one who made a memorable debut as the bullied Cherita Chen in the 2001 cult classic Donnie Darko and has since essentially gone from short-lived series (Do Not Disturb) to short-lived series (Gigantic). But now, finally, she’s part of a bona fide smash.
So while her character may be isolated from the rest of the world, Purdy is experiencing an all-new level of exposure, and one she’s noticing in arenas like social media.
“I’m so not into Twitter, but Colin [Ford] and Mackenzie [Lintz] on the show, they’re teaching me how to do Twitter,” she says. “The day that the show dropped I doubled Twitter followers. It’s insane! And every time we are live tweeting as a cast I notice more and more Twitter followers, so now it’s a game. It’s really cool to get to talk to people and hear what they have to say. It’s nice, I really like it.”
It’s to the point that when Dodee, who until last week’s episode had remained largely at the station with fellow DJ Phil Bushey (Nicholas Strong), was absent for an entire episode, people noticed.
“It was really nice having people miss me,” says Purdy from — where else? — the Wilmington, N.C., set that has been her home the past several months. “I missed being in that episode, too, but there’s just so many characters and so many interesting story plots. But she comes back and she’s got some interesting things happening. … I’ve been trying not to give anything away.”
Yes, Under the Dome is nothing if not a secretive show. What is the dome? Who built it? What does it mean? Could there be others? Purdy says even she does not know all the answers, because she thought finding it all out as her character does would make for a more honest performance.
It’s also why she stopped reading the novel, although there is no guarantee that the origin of the dome on the page will be anything like what the showrunners come up with. They’ve taken not much more than a few principle characters and the overall premise from Stephen King’s 1,000-page-plus novel and drastically altered just about everything else. That includes Dodee’s character who — SPOILER ALERT!!! — dies very early on, a victim of Junior Rennie’s demented bloodlust.
“I was reading [the novel] on the flight over here, because I figure I’m going to be a good actress and do my homework, and I found out she dies and I was like, ‘Uh, wait a second. I’m not sure I want to do this anymore,’” she laughs. “So I didn’t continue reading. I also didn’t want to fall in love with something from Stephen King’s mind and then have it flipped on me. I didn’t want to have to go through that mourning process.”
“I love creating characters, but at the same time I love getting direction because these writers and producers, they know exactly what they want and the direction they’re going,” she says. “I gave her a certain life, they tweaked it, I changed it. It was this collaborative process to really get her to be funny but not over the top, and grounded and a little bit sarcastic but sweet and brilliantly smart and she doesn’t understand people but she understands computers and technology because technology makes sense. There were all these layers that we put in. I cut bangs for Dodee. I don’t usually have bangs, and I think that added a little bit of spunk to her.”
Under the Dome airs Mondays at 10pm on CBS.
Photo: © 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Credit: Michael Tackett