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In the Heart of the Village

Lorraine Toussaint understands the nature of caring.

Melissa Byers
  • NBC
  • NBC
  • NBC
  • NBC
  • NBC

Lorraine Toussaint is still in bed when we speak on a Friday afternoon.

She has been so busy lately with film and television that she needs a day to, as she puts it, "go in." She says, "I'm going to go in. I'm going to go into myself and recalibrate myself internally and then I'll be able to be back out, but I've got to bring that energy in."

Her character Patricia, in NBC's The Village, also must sometimes find time for self care, but more often, she is the heart and soul of the cast of characters living in a Greenwich Village apartment building. The character speaks to Toussaint. "Patricia feels like it's coming home to me.

"I've played a lot of large and in-charge people that are procedural and or in alternate universes, or in prison, or 500 years in the future, and rarely have I got the chance to sort of luxuriate in some of the simpler qualities that I am, and so Patricia is a good friend.

"She fights to be a good wife. She is probably a better wife than I am. She is maternal, which I am. She cooks, I do. She has a warm, cozy demeanor and a cozy home. There's something terrifically cozy about Patricia.

"She is a soft place to land, and it's nice for Lorraine to have a soft place to land too, in Patricia. So, at this moment in my life, I needed a soft place to land,so Patricia also serves as that for me, Lorraine."

That is not to say that Toussaint's character is "soft" in any negative way. In fact, she sees it as just the opposite. She says, "There is nothing stronger on the planet than femininity. Nothing. If you want to be a strong woman, indulge your feminine. it is where our healing is, it's where we renew, it's one of the reasons where we not only give life, but we know we have the capacity to renew life in that place.

"Gosh, if there is anything that I want to share with women, it is go deeper into the feminine. Don't fight the world the way men fight. Go deeper into the feminine if you really want to heal, if you want to be strong, if you want to build things, create things. That's the way to go, go after that direction ladies."

Toussaint's character in The Village follows that advice, as well. Toussaint says, "I love the writing in one of those early episodes. I think it was episode 2 or 3, where she really says, 'I can't carry your hurt and mine with this go round. I just don't have it in me.' She's says you got to carry your own pack. I can't carry your pack because I am about to get really sick.

"And that episode, is a very honest, hard conversation to have between those two people.

"But also, you know the other side of Patricia is the flawed part of care taking, care giving, which is, you know she can be a chronic care taker, and those people don't always know how to take care of themselves or how to receive care. It is so much easier to give care than to receive it, and I think being on the receiving end scares her. It scares her.

"It is not her wheel house, that's not her comfort zone, receiving help. And so, I always look for the flaws in characters, that's when [Leonard] Cohen says, 'the crack is where the light comes in.' So that's definitely one of the cracks that we will see the light coming in from Patricia. I love that. I love that."

The character of Patricia is really the center of the cast of characters in the building. The story follows several different storylines, but each one connects to Patricia.

The characters include a single mother of a pregnant teenager, a wounded vet who happens to be the teenager's father, an elderly man living with his grandson, an immigrant facing deportation and her boyfriend, a policeman, Patricia's husband, Ron, and all of them rely on Patricia for advice, solace, and wisdom.

Patricia seems to be the light around which the rest of the characters orbit. Toussaint says, "Orbiting, yeah. She really is the heart. She is the core of the heart beat in this building. She is, and I didn't deem her this, [creator] Mike Daniels deemed her this, the heart of the building.

"When I think of the other characters in the show, I do feel the way a mother does. You know, when you are sleeping in the bedroom you can kind of feel the children in the house in their rooms, and you can even do this in your sleep. You know when you can hear things that no one else hears.

"She is like me in my bedroom. When you're the mom, which Patricia is kind of the mom in the building, you can feel if the kids are okay, even if my daughter is sleeping in her room. It's like you reach out, you can feel the different people and know if all is well. You can kind of hear noises in the night that no one else hears. She is that girl for this building.

"She connected in some way, in a very organic, visceral way to the members of her family, which are the residents."

But, as much as she is enjoying her turn in Patricia's skin, Toussaint has plenty of other work to keep her busy. She is, in the words of a friend, having a "Lorraine-aissance." She is grateful for all of it. She says, "You know it's nice to be looking at 60 and be having a 'Lorraine-aissance.'

"I feel more available to work now than ever before, and I say available, I mean internally available, psychically, spiritually available. I feel like there is so much work in me bursting to get out. It's wonderful to have these really creative outlets to do it.

Into the Badlands [in which she is also appearing], you think that indulges such a geek part of me. Sci-fi, futuristic, apocalyptic, this strange witchy part of me, which there definitely is. I love indulging that witchy part of me. I'll be indulging that.

"There is Fast Color, which also indulges another aspect of the very intuitive of the whirly witchy part of me too. The part of Lorraine that really is invested in the invisible world as much as she is invested in the visible world. And so, that's terrifically interesting to me also.

"I just did a film called Sprinter, that really took me back to my Caribbean, Trinidadian roots, and it's very much an homage to my mother, who walked that walk. That is a lot of that film mirrored my mother's journey in her 20s, 30s, and 40s, so I'm seemingly indulging the infinite aspect of Lorraine, which is a gift to an artist. A gift as a woman and a woman of color.

"It's wonderful to have enough platform now where the kind of diversity that they used to talk about and the kind of courage in the work, in the writing, in the producing, we hoped for is really showing up right now."