Dichen Lachman says she was cast in Jurassic World Dominion based on a photograph. “When I met [director Colin Trevorrow], he said that initially [casting director Nina Gold] showed him photos of a very limited number of girls,” she tells Consequence via Zoom. “He was looking for someone who could be from anywhere, and he wanted Soyona to be, you know, ambiguous and have that mystery about her. And he told me, ‘I pointed to your photo and I was like, that’s her, that’s the character.'”
Lachman, whose previous projects include Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Animal Kingdom, Altered Carbon, and Dollhouse, is aware that her ethnic background (Tibetan and Australian) plays a big role in what roles she does and doesn’t get.
“This is in a funny way what this business is like,” she says. “You have a writer or a director and they’ve got this essence in their mind and when they see it, they’re just like, ‘That’s the person.’ And so it’s actually really reassuring as an actor because, you know, it’s not personal. The person who’s putting the tapestry together, they just have something in their mind and it’s either you or it’s not, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”
In Dominion, the film and TV actress plays Soyona Santos, a shady character involved in the illegal dinosaur black market, who Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) encounter in Malta. According to Lachman, Trevorrow “wanted an international feel to this character, because of where she fits into the story, and I do have that look where I can be from anywhere, you know?” But, she adds, “I always thought that that would be what would make this career probably the hardest for me.”
She did get some striking words of support early in her career, from a producer from her first job in the United States on, as she describes it, “another dinosaur movie called Aztec Rex — a real, um gem.” Lachman played an Aztec princess in the Sci-Fi Channel film (“There was a T-Rex on our island to whom we sacrificed lambs and sometimes people too, I think we called him the Thunder God or something”) and the producer became a father figure to her.
“He was always so kind to me and gave me advice and still calls me every year on my birthday. And he was like, ‘You know, Dichen, your look will make it difficult for you, and make you not right for a lot of stuff.’ But then he said, ‘But when it works, there’ll be no one else.’ And I’ve always remembered that,” she says.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating, because you as an actor want to be right for everything, but in terms of the world and how people are pattern recognition machines… In a very simplistic way, I do have an international look,” she explains. “So sometimes, when you are telling a real story from the real world, you want to be true to that environment, to be true to that time or that particular story, and putting someone like me in there wouldn’t make any sense, or it might make the audience confused or something.”
Lachman continues, “But having that international look — dare I say, an exotic look — has actually led to me having a really interesting career, and I’ve been able to play in so many different worlds in these fantastical or futuristic places. And since that’s what I’m a fan of, I love being in it, too.”
While all of Lachman’s Jurassic World Dominion scenes were set in Malta, Lachman didn’t get to make the trip, instead shooting her scenes in the England-based “bubble” created to safely allow production on the film during the pre-vaccine days of the pandemic. This means that while she hasn’t yet seen Judd Apatow’s Netflix comedy The Bubble, she does have some thoughts about it.
Below, Lachman reveals what she said to Apatow about The Bubble at a recent event, while also revealing the backstory she created for her Dominion character and what it was like joining the cast of Apple TV+’s breakout Emmys hit Severance. She also digs into the impact Dollhouse, the 2009-2010 Joss Whedon drama, has had on her career — specifically, how it changed everything for her.