When the first episode of American Gods’ third season premiered on Starz, fans of the show who are unfamiliar with the book might have been a bit confused to find protagonists Shadow (Ricky Whittle) surfacing in a tiny town called Lakeside, Wisconsin. It’s a place so overwhelmingly pleasant that the viewer is left to wonder what else must be lurking beneath Lakeside’s placid surface. The residents of Lakeside are almost pathologically friendly—except for local reporter Marguerite Olsen (Lela Loren), herself a transplant to Lakeside, a no-nonsense loner with an instinct toward wariness and a massive chip on her shoulder.
As much as I enjoyed the character of Marguerite, I was relieved to learn that Loren’s affect is much more relaxed than that of her fictional counterpart. As warm and easygoing as Marguerite is frosty, Loren spends our conversation rattling off pandemic hobbies, books she’s read, and fun facts about her tight-knit California family (she recently moved from New York to L.A. to be closer to them). Read on for Loren’s thoughts on character accents, mom jeans, and makeup in the time of corona.
The Lakeside part of the season feels very Twin Peaks-y to me.
Yeah, it's like Hallmark meets Twin Peaks. There's a weird thing about it—it's too saccharine, it's kind of too cozy. What’s going to be interesting about the season is that shooting finished just as the borders were closing, and what American Gods does is they get the story in the can and then they go back and do a lot of reshoots. They weren’t able to do that this time. But Lakeside is its own sort of this bubble that's separate from the rest of the theme that's going on with American Gods, so by the end of the season, there’s a new direction.
Honestly, I would watch an entire spinoff series just set in the quaint but slightly uncanny world of Lakeside.
Thank you! Yeah, it was really fun. And what I feel really lucky about is it’s such a different a different feeling than the last two series I did. Altered Carbon was very stylized science fiction, and my character is very elegant and austere, and Power is very current and New York and sexy. In American Gods, Marguerite is just, like, plaid and mom jeans and wool. Her character was very pared down, so it was really fun from that standpoint. But I did get FOMO when they showed a sizzle reel halfway through the season, because Margaret's just a mortal and she doesn't know the world of the gods. I didn't read the scripts, because I didn't want all of the information—I didn’t want to know too much—but then I was like, “What? You get to take people’s heads off?!”
Do you feel like you adapt to the vibe of whatever show you’re working on? Does your style change?
Yeah, little hints. What mainly gets me are accents. So like with Angela Valdez in Power, she could code switch, so she had an accent that was more elevated, more academic, kind of like if you're giving a presentation, and then her accent at home with Jamie and her family was kind of Nuyorican. And now when I get angry or when I’m giving someone the business, all of a sudden that Nuyorican accent comes out, which is really funny ‘cause I grew up in Northern California. I do think my characters have taught me how to dress, so, yeah, I would say I was influenced there, because I was such a tomboy beach bum. No style literacy at all. It was definitely wearing those clothes on set, like, “Oh, okay, that’s what’s up.” It made me more fashion-conscious.
And now you’ve got Marguerite’s mom jeans.
Who doesn't love mom jeans? I mean, they are in right now, thank goodness.
You got back from shooting just before the borders closed, and then you moved from Brooklyn to L.A. in the middle of the pandemic. What was that like?
I went to California to quarantine with a friend for two weeks, right as New York was coming out of lockdown. And then I was supposed to come back, but my parents are in Northern California, so I took a bunch of tests and then rented a car and visited my parents. I had no intention of moving, but something about seeing my parents, and then a couple days after I was in Brooklyn—something clicked, like, “What am I doing here? I’m not working. My whole family is in California.” And within 24 hours I got an email from the old tenants of this home, saying that they needed to downsize, so that was my cue. So half of the year was just a lot of dislocation.
What did you do this year while you were staying in one place?
In terms of like hobbies and projects and I did, I was studying Italian through this app called Verbling. They have great teachers in Italy where you have a real online connection, and there’s a program where they give you schematics and grammar and things like that. So I was studying Italian, and I went through a huge cull/reorganization: getting rid of things, organizing drawers, all of that. I may or may not have sanded and re-stained all of my patio furniture in my backyard in Brooklyn, which I then left for the next tenant.
Hey, you’re paying it forward.
Yeah, I did a lot of gardening, too. I think maybe I picked up hobbies that I already had but hadn’t had time to actually get into. I really like painting, so that showed up as painting furniture. I repainted all this furniture with furniture paint. Probably one of the funnier moments was—my brother's a chef, and cooking is a big part of our family, but I wasn't in the habit of cooking for myself beforehand. And then I started cooking for myself and bringing extras, leaving them with next-door neighbors. What was new was getting into making cocktails, which I hadn’t ever done before. Ina garden had this great recipe for a Cosmo—
I remember that—the one she had in that massive glass?
Yeah! Didn't it just look like the most refreshing thing? I made that. And the funny thing that came out of that was I had the Cosmo, and then I had a dance party with myself, but then I started cleaning and I couldn’t stop. I washed the floors, and then I had a tiny bit of bleach—I don’t know if you remember, but you couldn’t get bleach at the beginning of the pandemic.
No, I remember! I have this three-pack of bleach crystals that I panic-bought in the early days, and now I have to figure out where I’m going to keep these bleach crystals.
Right, so I was like, “Oh my god, I have some! I’m gonna sanitize everything!” So then I sanitized everything, but then I was like, “Okay, I’ve got to wash it all to get the bleach smell out now.” This is two cocktails in at this point. And then when I was putting that stuff away, I found this special polyurethane floor protectant treatment that you can only do when everything is really clean, and it was like, “Well, now or never,” so then I did that. And then I went and waxed and oiled every single piece of wood furniture that I had. When I woke up in the morning, it was the strange juxtaposition of, like, definitely having a hangover, but having the most sparkling-clean house ever.
This was in the house you moved out of, right? I hope the new tenants appreciate it.
Oh, yeah. I was really sad to leave it. My apartment had a backyard that was like a mud pit when I initially moved in, and I made it into this really gorgeous garden. I also had a fire pit, so I used to have people over for socially distanced hanging out and roasting marshmallows. I took lots of walks—one of the really beautiful things about Brooklyn is what a community it is, so I go on these long, sprawling walks all over Brooklyn, and I would see how things connected in ways that I didn't know. I did a lot of reading, which was nice. I love to read, but a lot of times when I'm working and reading scripts, I just get really fatigued by it.
What have you been reading?
Right now, I'm reading Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. She is an indigenous Latina from Denver, and she writes stories that are just searing and gorgeous and so different, and yet you recognize them immediately. Her writing is fucking bananas. What else? One of my favorite novels is 100 Years of Solitude, so I read Love in the Time of Cholera because I thought, you know, why not read it in the time of corona? And it was really great.
How have you been settling into L.A.?
For one, my brain explodes every morning because it’s warm outside. It’s like, I don’t know what to do with that! The fact that I could walk out of here in this little cotton shirt and shorts is totally different. I think that my California style is much less polished, much more easygoing, and maybe softer. A little more playful. There was a while last year where I was seriously bumming it out, living in this idea of sort of suspended animation, like, When life starts up again… And then something clicked in my head, like, No, this is our life. So now I get up in the morning and I actually get dressed.
Do you have a morning routine you’re getting back into?
I do, but I never thought of it as my morning routine. It’s rather short. I get up and I make coffee and I listen to this morning playlist of light instrumental music, and then I enjoy my coffee. I would like to start more of a routine of exercising in the morning, but somehow I can never get my act together to go exercise until later. I’m trying to move it, because afterwards you have to shower, and if it’s later then you just don’t want to.
So then you get in the shower. What’s your skincare routine?
All of my skincare is to help my dry skin get more moisture. I really love Ogee’s face wash, and they have this serum that's really lovely that I put under everything. And then I put a vitamin C serum, and then a moisturizer, and that’s my skincare routine. I really love the Dr. Dennis Gross line as well.
What do you usually do makeup-wise?
I really love Stila’s cream blush, and Ogee also has this really nice sculpting cream blush that’s dewy and natural. They discontinued it, but Lancome used to have this really nice water-based concealer that I just finished my last tube of. I was hoarding it. I really love the Anastasia brow pencil. I feel like if I have a little bit of concealer and good fluffy brows, I'm good to go.
That’s all you need, really. That’s a look.
Yeah. These days it's been really nice to kind of rock it without makeup. It’s been nice to get to know my face without all the claptrap on it. I do really feel like one of the things that makes being a woman so much fun is this idea of self-decoration and the artfulness in it, and makeup definitely is a place to play and be artful and decorate yourself. In that sense, I really love it. When it becomes kind of mandated, that’s when I balk, or when it comes from a place of covering up insecurities. That’s where I push back. But sometimes I also look at it as putting on armor. You’re putting on war paint to deal with the world.