It’s always dicey when a podcast gets a television adaptation. We meet, fall in love with, and learn to hate these characters solely through their voices, so when the audio side of these visual adaptations miss the mark, it’s immediately noticeable. But there’s one actress who’s nailed one of the most memorable, chilling, and oddly endearing aspects of Bravo’s newest series: Julia Garner is crushing it as Dirty John‘s Terra Newell.
Based on an investigative journalism podcast of the same name, Dirty John tells the story of a rich, older woman who thinks she’s found the love of her life. However the caring nurse she falls in love with turns out to be a far cry from his online dating profile. In the middle of this tale of deceit, rushed romance, and spoiled children stands Debra Newell’s (Connie Britton) youngest daughter, Terra.
Throughout the podcast Terra becomes the unexpected balancing center of this saga. The sweetest and most introverted Newell is the investigation’s check, the soft-spoken canary in the coal mine whose trepidation and lack of warmth toward the titular John (Eric Bana) alerts host Christopher Goffard as well as the listener that things may actually be as bad as Debra’s children think. Terra’s interviews become much more than just another voice. Over the course of the podcast all of these suspicions become absorbed into the real-life Terra’s quiet yet high-pitched lilt, which is tinged with upspeak and long pauses every other sentence. Her interviews are the barely-heard but ever-important voice of reason in this drama.
And Julia Garner captures this complicated combination perfectly. From the way she paces her vowels to the vaguely insecure uptick that accompanies almost every conversation with her mother, Garner’s vocal impression of Terra immediately cuts to the heart this podcast’s interpretation of her. Yes, she has some of the same hyper-specific California vocal patterns that nod to her wealth and position in life. One conversation between Terra and her sister Veronica (Juno Temple) in “Approachable Dreams” is filled with so much upspeak and vocal fry it feels like battle of the Valley girls. But there’s always just enough trepidation and kindness infused in every line read that Garner perfectly communicates exactly who this young woman is. She may be from the same arguably spoiled breed, but she has a good heart. And because of that her hatred of John speaks volumes.
What’s extra impressive is how much Garner’s vocal performance differs from her other deeply memorable television role, Ruth in Netflix’s Ozark. As a testament to the setting of Jason Bateman’s crime drama, Ruth speaks with a recognizable Southern drawl. But even through those difficult vocal patterns, Garner is still able to inject Ruth’s lines with a constant stream of fire. It’s a choice that’s always perfectly in line with her character. Ruth is a young woman who doesn’t play around and takes pride in being the smartest person in a room. You can feel her power, pride, and arrogance every time she spits out the name “Marty.”
Though it’s rarely treated with the same weight, how a character sounds is just as important as what they say, how they move, and what they do. It’s a small detail, one that transforms a performance from a caricature into a fully fleshed person. Thanks to Dirty John and its vocal chord-straining take on the youngest Newell daughter, the ever-excellent Julia Garner is proving to be a master of that distinction.
New episodes of Dirty John premiere on Bravo Sundays at 10/9c.
Source : https://decider.com/2018/11/26/dirty-john-julia-garner-terra/