Dollhouse's Dichen Lachman shares a few new secrets

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

With her striking looks, Dichen Lachman seems perfectly suited to play a malleable agent in Joss Whedon's upcoming sci-fi series Dollhouse, and in an exclusive interview, she offered some insights into how the series will handle its central premise. (Possible spoilers ahead!)

In Dollhouse, a top-secret organization wipes the memories of its agents, called "actives," then implants them with new personalities to perform "missions" for paying clients before wiping their memories again when they are finished.

As Fox gears up to launch the series Feb. 13 at 9 p.m., Lachman said the show will explore the concept week to week: Two actives may share the same personality, for example, and the memory wipes might not always be perfect.

SCI FI Wire caught up with Lachman at My Bar in Hollywood last month as part of Fox's Television Critics Association winter press tour. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of that interview.

The pilot is obviously focused on Echo, played by Eliza Dushku. What will we learn about your character, Sierra, moving forward?

Lachman: Well, I will start to become more aware as well. Not as aware as Echo, but more aware. I get to do a bunch of fun stuff. It's Echo's journey right now, but at the same time, it's very ensemble. A lot of the other cast get to really sink their teeth into some really fantastic roles. As far as my character, because I'm less aware, you'll see me play a lot of different characters to start off with.

What are some of the missions you get to go on?

Lachman: Eliza and I were imprinted with the same personality, and we played, like, a safecracker. That was a challenge, just the logistics of playing the same character another person is. In so many ways, it's such a challenge, but it was wonderful, so that was that.

At the same time?

Lachman: Well, she goes in and comes out, and then I go in and come out. I get to play a scientist, a marine, a spy.

Does your unique look lend itself to a lot of different characters?

Lachman: I hope so. I think that's a good thing. I think it does, in a way, and because my parents are from two completely different cultures, I think I can understand. I've just experienced living in different countries and stuff like that, so as an actor, all that stuff helps create people. It makes me who I am and hopefully enriches the roles I take on. [Lachman was born in Nepal to a Tibetan mother and an Australian father and grew up in Australia.]

What is the base state Sierra goes to after each mission?

Lachman: Well, essentially, when I first read the breakdown, I hadn't read the script. It [said] "childlike and unremembering." It's a completely blank canvas, very innocent, devoid of nuance and not even the slightest bit of personality. They don't remember people they meet, they don't remember what happened three hours ago. They're just kind of like, "Oh," like maybe a baby, a 1-year-old. Although they can speak, it's very sort of basic, like, "Oh, I like this," or "That's nice." It's very minimal.

And you have to start over each time because your memory's wiped clean?

Lachman: Well, essentially that's the concept of the Dollhouse, and the storyline is me, Eliza predominantly to start with, ... and a couple of the other actives, we slowly start to not be completely blank canvases. So there are a few little things that happen where we're like, "Why are we here? What are we doing here? Oh, I know you, but I don't know you, and I don't know why I know you, but I feel like I do."