Elizabeth Olsen plays grieving widow in new Facebook series

Alicia Rancilio
Associated Press
Elizabeth Olsen stars in the Facebook Watch series "Sorry For Your Loss," where she plays a young woman named Leigh who is dealing with the sudden loss of her husband.

New York – Elizabeth Olsen is not a user of social media, has never been married, and has never experienced profound loss, but the actress has spent her 2018 surrounded by grief as a young widow in the new Facebook Watch series “Sorry For Your Loss.”

The 10-episode, half-hour drama premiered earlier this month on the social media’s new on-demand platform.

“It’s just a journey into how we handle grief and sometimes it’s not in the prettiest of ways, and what it brings out in people,” said Olsen.

Viewers see her character, Leigh, not only contend with a new reality and future that she never imagined, but deal with the pressure to move on from her loved ones. There’s a poignant scene where Leigh’s sister Jules (played by Kelly Marie Tran) asks her to return to the house she’s been avoiding for months – that she shared with her husband – and pick up some of her own clothes so she can stop borrowing hers. On the surface it seems like an easy ask, but beneath the surface it’s so much more.

“It’s a readjustment to how you walk through life and we’re just watching this woman adjust to how she is going to move forward because the only thing she can do is move forward,” Olsen said. “There’s no going back.”

Olsen, who is an executive producer of the series, has been involved in the project from the beginning, from its pitch to filming, and also sat in on post-production editing sessions. It’s been a welcome challenge for the actress, best known for playing the Scarlet Witch in Marvel movies.

She calls it “the No. 1 learning experience I have had.”

She says Facebook Watch felt like an appropriate home for show because the social media site is where people go to share important details.

“What I know about Facebook is that it’s a place where people find out about births and they find out about deaths and they find out about where the services will be,” she said. “It’s a community for those big experiences in people’s lives and those big moments.”

As far as tackling grief, Olsen has absorbed as much information as she could find on the topic and she wanted to portray it as realistically as possible.

“It’s constant if you’re looking for it,” she said. She studied author Joan Didion, whose 2005 book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” chronicles how she lost her husband and daughter in a short amount of time.

Olsen says she’s learned that memory is its own hurdle in the grieving process, and the series uses flashbacks to help viewers understand Leigh’s relationship with her late husband, Matt (played by Mamoudou Athie).

“When the memory starts to become foggy, (people) really feel like they didn’t just physically lose a person, now they’re losing them in their thoughts and that’s the most painful experience,” said Olsen.

And she says there’s something to be said about portraying a character who’s confronted by loss at a young age.

“She is a young woman who has lost a husband and it’s different than being a little bit older and wiser and having already experienced and trained yourself how to best go through pain and trauma,” Olsen said. “I don’t think she’s had anything this difficult in her entire life, so the person that she is, is not thoughtful right now, and that’s what was fun about it as well. It’s just kind of having some erratic behavior at times.”

Olsen is already thinking about more episodes.

“I do think about like what could we do with season two and how we could even play with our concept of memory and how we use flashbacks, and how to use it for other characters. I’d be interested in like shifting perspective a bit more and getting more creative with that, since you can’t really tell this story again.”