“I think despair and happiness are two ends of the same spectrum, and one can't exist without the other” woo speaks to Myha’la Herrold and Sam Blenkin of Black Mirror

The Black Mirror stars go deep on decompressing, dealing with anxiety, and making up songs

Hero image in post
photo: Black Mirror / Netflix
Hero image in post
photo: Black Mirror / Netflix

The Black Mirror stars go deep on decompressing, dealing with anxiety, and making up songs

By Rhys Thomas16 Jun 2023
9 mins read time
9 mins read time

Yup, that show that makes you want to hurl all of your electronic possessions off the edge of a cliff and then crawl up into a ball thinking about the idea that humans can live happy lives sometimes surely, like they did in cartoons, like they did in those little books you used to hold and read as a kid, right? Surely? The show that makes you want to unfurl from your newly formed human-armadillo ball just to grab for those books and cartoons that carried the innocence of life which you’ll then, promptly, curl up with in that human-armadillo ball on the edge of a cliff, for the rest of time, is back.

We’re talking about Black Mirror, obviously. Charlie Brooker’s show of doom and gloom and gloom and doom. Well, except for that one nice episode ('San Junipero', episode four of season three) remember that one? Anyway, yeah, it’s back! But this time, things are apparently a little different: “My main hope is that people come away having had several hours of this miserable existence on this stupid planet made a little easier.” Brooker says to Netflix, cheerfully.

With all that in mind, we decided to watch episode two, because it’s always a wise idea to go for the second cheapest wine on a menu if you want a good time, and, well this is the second episode. Set in a remote Scottish village, Davis and Pia (played by Sam and Myha’la respectively) are a couple who met in film school. They are there to film a documentary, but then Pia learns about a true crime story which still haunts the village, and decides they should make a documentary about that instead (and then various things happen, have a watch!) And then!! We spoke to the stars, Myha’la Herrold (from Industry and A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies!) and Sam Blenkin, of a load of things in the theatre world and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. Here’s the chat.

So, do either of you like true crime?

Myha’la: YES. Hahah, I do! I do!

Sam: Well… it’s just not something that I watch very much, to be honest. I’m not sure why, it’s not out of any aversion. But I am sat next to a real true crime freak so…

Why do you enjoy it, Myha’la?

This is the burning question right? Why do we as a people -except for Sam- enjoy watching other people's pain? I mean I really can't say... I think there's something about when they say to you this is real, in the beginning of it all. You can put yourself in their shoes. I personally just love the drama of it all.

What lessons do you think we can learn about our relationship with true crime from this episode?

Sam: I think it's the questions documentaries like that bring up, such as, who are the people behind these documentaries? I mean, Myha'la was talking earlier about... what's the name of the documentary series?

Myha’la: Tell Me Who I Am.

Sam: It's about these two brothers reuniting and that moment happening on camera and that being extraordinary but also something deeply personal. And we explore that in the episode, it's about a horrible truth in a community or a family, and what is the price that you pay for commercialising or selling that story? These aren't just stories, there are human lives behind them, and they go on after this, in whatever way.

How do you sort of prepare for playing such a distressed character, and how do you decompress when you finish?

Sam: This is quite a deep response, but I'm very good at rationalising and having everything sort of in my head ready and prepared. And I think because that's the sort of person I am, sometimes with these more intense roles, it's better for me to try to not bring all that baggage of preparation. To just come on and see what happens, take the risk. So that's what I did, especially with those last scenes towards the end. I try not to think about it too hard, I allow it to be more of a temporary and instinctual thing. There's a risk there because sometimes you might not perform as you want to, but yeah, I try not to over-prepare.

In terms of decompressing, we just ran around and made up a load of songs between takes. We were such a lovely group of people that it wasn't difficult to decompress because everyone was holding everyone else so supportively, it was great. The songs were on an equal level of mania and insanity to the one in the episode.

What was more stressful for you to film, Myha'la? Black Mirror or Industry?

Myha'la: Industry! Just because I'm talking about a bunch of stuff I don't understand. In Black Mirror I can be like: “This is emotional, I know what I might feel if I were in this situation, as horrible as that sounds.” Industry was stressful because it's hard, I guess. But Black Mirror was sad, it was a sad one to shoot, but a good one and worth it.

What wellness rituals do you have in place during a job that's intense?

Myha'la: You love a cold shower!

Sam: I do love a cold shower! I have a cold shower every morning on the job. Also scrambled eggs. I consider scrambled eggs a wellness practice. They’re meditation, making and eating them. I also play music, having my guitar around helps because then I'm not staring at my phone all day. A big part of our job, being a professional, is being able to wait, and not going crazy while waiting. It helps to have a little bit of a distraction.

Myha’la: I try to maintain the routine things that I would have in my everyday life as much as possible. Like skincare, which is really important to me, and body care. Even if I've had a really long day, I always commit myself to that 10, 15 minutes to wash my face properly and clean my teeth properly. I'm also a bed snob. I have silk pillowcases that I travel with everywhere I go because I have skin like a baby's bottom. Tea as well, I love a good cup of tea in the morning so I make sure I have the kind of tea that I like so I can maintain as much normalcy from outside the job while I'm working. So I don't feel like I've completely let go of my life and the things that I love and need while I'm working. I commit myself to that to stay sane.

What tea are you travelling around the world with?

Myha'la: I have a ceremonial grade matcha set, the bowl, the bamboo whisk, the ceremonial grade matcha itself. I drink it with oat milk, and sometimes I add a bit of local honey if I'm travelling to a new place for the allergy benefits. I also love earl grey. I switch between them.

The dungeon song sort of forewarns something that happens later in the episode, how do you both feel about the idea of taking signs from the universe?

Myha'la: Ohhh yes, take them! I believe you should take them! I firmly believe in intuition. It doesn't necessarily have to be crunchy granola or spiritual. But intuition is super strong. Like when you get butterflies, or you get nervous about something, or whatever. Like, listen to your body – your body tries to tell you things all the time.

What are your hopes for the future between humanity and tech?

Sam: Oh, I think there are extraordinary positives. We were having this conversation about AI and the fact that I feel quite torn. It's unbelievably exciting and it's going to be able to open up so much knowledge that we wouldn't have had before, but I’m scared for the moment when you're not able to recognise what's been made by human beings and what hasn't. I think the implication of using AI is still a creative act at the moment, which is exciting and doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. It's just at the moment we are miles behind the pace of technology when it comes to legislation, and in order for it to be a bright future, we need to control it.

Myha'la: But what if it controls us?!

Sam: Well, then I don't know. I don't know!

Well this leads onto my last question, Black Mirror often shows the worst case scenarios that can happen, how do you manage your own worries about the world?

Myha'la: I'll get corny on this one. If I'm feeling some sort of doom gloom despair, I go back to the things that I love. I go back to the love that I have for things, people, whatever. Simple everyday joys for example, my tea, my skincare routine. I go to gratitude, like being grateful that I've woken up another day in this life, being grateful for the things that I've gotten to do for the things I've gotten to share and the people that I've got to share them with. I feel infinitely lucky for all of those things. And I do this because I think despair and happiness are two ends of the same spectrum, and one can't exist without the other. Because both always exist, I guess it's a choice of which you choose to focus on. I think the good always outweighs the bad if you're a glass half full kind of gal, which I choose to be.

Sam: I hope this isn't too much, but I'm thinking of Sophocles. The idea that we know much less than we think. Mystery is really important to me, that helps me deal with not being able to understand the world. I take comfort, in a strange way, from the senselessness of the universe and the senselessness of our existence. Also, I believe we make beauty in the world. It isn't inherently there, we have to perceive beauty. It doesn't mean that you can't be critical and you can't be aware of what's happening, because at times we should be afraid, scared, worried. But the aim for me is searching for beauty in the world. And the ultimate aim is to see the beauty in everything. There's beauty in pain, loss and even grief.

Black Mirror Season Six is available to stream on Netflix now