Dollhouse's Harry Lennix wants you to know the answers

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST
Dollhouse's Boyd (Harry Lennix, from left) and Topher (Fran Kranz) prepare Echo (Eliza Dushku) for her next engagement.

Harry Lennix, who plays operative handler Boyd Langdon on Fox's upcoming sci-fi series Dollhouse, told SCI FI Wire that his character is the one with the moral qualms, the one who asks the key question: Why?

The series centers on the title operation, a top-secret group that wipes the personalities of its operatives, then implants them with new ones to execute missions for paying clients, only to be wiped blank anew when a mission is completed. The show was created by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

"I love this character in the context of this show," Lennix (The Matrix Reloaded) said in an interview in Hollywood earlier this month. "He's really not so much the conscience of it. He's not really so much the kind of spiritual base, but he's the guy that asks the question 'Why? Why are we doing this, and what are the consequences of what we're doing?' So whenever that happens, I think that that in itself becomes the kind of dramatic core of the show. Why? The person that asks the questions is the one that I think has the responsibility of providing those answers."

With a first-season order of 13 episodes, Dollhouse allows Langdon just to begin to find some answers. "Without giving away too much, I would say that my immediate why—why does the Dollhouse exist, why do people hire out other people to do certain tasks they can't do themselves, or whatever?—is because they have a deeper need. Something exists outside of what we're taught is right and wrong. Something exists that's bigger than that. Some things transcend right and wrong. We have basic urges and basic needs that sometimes go beyond the simple black or white of an issue."

In each episode, Langdon monitors Echo (Eliza Dushku) and her progress in various missions. Lennix's favorite part is when Langdon and Echo return to the Dollhouse. "My favorite pieces really are when I get to connect with Eliza's character and Fran Kranz's character, Topher," Lennix said. "We get to talk about what's going on, like on a more human level, a level that doesn't have to do with the assignment. Like, what exactly are we doing in this Dollhouse, and why are we doing it? What are the ramifications of what we're doing? Those are my favorite moments: when you ask a very simple question."

With a new action-packed mission each week, Langdon finds quick moments to insert a moral compass into the proceedings. "I don't think it has to be a lot," he said. "I also enjoy fighting and doing the stunts that I get to do, but I think one well-placed question can take five seconds, but it resonates. It will carry on to the next week."

Plenty of questions remain for Langdon to ask over several years of a series. For one, how can his relationship with Echo progress if she is wiped blank after each mission? Lennix revealed that Echo is programmed to trust her handler, but even that raises more questions.

"These are the questions that only time will reveal," Lennix said. "I cannot reveal that, because I don't actually have all the answers myself. How does it work when you switch personalities from week to week, but they tell you every time you see this one person, you trust that person? What does that person's brain do to make all of that make sense? I don't know. It's a very good question." Dollhouse premieres Feb. 13 and will air Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.