Dichen Lachman was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, to a Tibetan mother and Australian father. Until the age of seven, she lived in Kathmandu with her parents and extended family. Following that, she moved to Adelaide, Australia, with her parents. After dropping out of university, Dichen took up acting and then moved to Sydney to pursue her career. Her first major role was in Aquamarine, followed by a 14-month stint on the Australian series Neighbours, for which she moved to Melbourne. She is most notably for her roles in Dollhouse, Animal Kingdom, The 100, Altered Carbon and more.
1. When did you know you wanted to become an actress and how did you get started?
I came into acting quite late actually. I was probably 19 years old and leading up to that point I wanted to become a painter, but it seemed like such a challenging thing to do and then it turns out I picked something even more challenging. I was 19 and I loved movies, my parents and I spent weekends watching movie after movie growing up as a kid, but it never felt like something I could get involved with as I was so removed from the industry. I was living in South Australia, Adelaide at the time and I called the film commission there, I very naively asked the receptionist about how I can get involved with acting. She was very nice as she gave me a bunch of resources so I started a class. At the time, I was fighting with being diverse because there were not a lot of people like me doing this. Two months later, I was so engaged and in awe, with the craft of acting, I decided to move to Sydney, Australia. I took a class there, got an agent and slowly but surely got my first acting gig. I wasn’t a child actor and I wasn’t born into the business but I just had this passion and I had to pursue it.
2. How did you react when you got the part of Reileen in Altered Carbon?
It was interesting because when I was offered the part of Rei, I had forgotten about it, I had taped it months before. I didn’t know anything about it, I was in the dark. I thought „Who is this girl? Is she important to the story?” but I had faith that things happen for a reason. I sat down eventually with one of the executive producers and he told me the storyline and I got very excited. I got the script and that made me even more excited because Rei is such a pivotal character in the show, the only reason that the storyline is taking place is because of her intervention. It has not been common in my career where I’ve been portraying a character with such influence over the story. Even if Rei comes up in the show halfway through it, she is the one who orchestrates everything from the beginning.
3. Did you prepare for the role of Rei in any way?
Fortunately, because of the way it was filmed (as she appears in the middle of the show), I had a lot of time to prepare physically. Rei is such a demanding role so I had to do a lot of fight training. I also polished up on my Greek mythology, because you see a lot of Greek mythological themes weaved into the script, so I wanted to dive into that. I also just took some time to imagine what a world where people don’t die would look like. Is killing a body as bad in a world where you can be resleeved? Your relationship to love and life becomes very skewed and different I think. It was a lot of psychological work as well because Rei is a dark character, but I had to believe that she didn’t think that what she was doing was bad. Rei had to believe that is was a person’s right to choose if they wanted to live forever or not, and not have any limitations imposed on them. I couldn’t portray her as the antagonist and that’s a difficult thing to do because she does some horrific things on the show.
4. What do you admire most about her?
Her strength and her vulnerability. Her unwavering belief that no one should choose whether you can live forever or not if you have the means to do so. In a way, she has come from violence and yes, in our world, she is a terrible person but how would our world feel if the rules were different and if we had broken all those barriers? You have to imagine that maybe things would change in our relationships. I admire her strength and her ability to survive everything that has happened in her life, she is very industrious and independent.
5. What would your dream role be?
There are so many people and so many options for this but in a way, every role that I do is part of my dream coming true. I get to access different parts of myself and, as an actor, that’s very exciting to imagine yourself being this other person. Because I’ve been doing this for so long, I feel like I am living that dream role through every character I have portrayed. Rei was such an incredible opportunity, not just because of the complexity also to be at the center of the story as I mentioned… If I can keep doing more roles like that, that is the ultimate dream come true.
6. Who are some of your role models?
I love this question because the people who inspire me, are not always well known. They are the people who are on the show who aren’t famous but so beautiful in their craft, subtle work and their commitment to the character is so deep. Even on Altered Carbon, Matt Biedel who plays a gangster and a Mexican grandmother. He inspired me a lot. Cliff Chamberlain who plays Ava Elliot, his work is so beautiful. There are so many more people who are inspiring as Cliff and Biedel are some of the many.
7. What is one advice you would give to aspiring actors?
I think it’s very important to try to find stories that you want to tell, that are unique to you. Start telling them. It is very difficult but there are so many new opportunities and so much content being released. There are movies like Tangerine that were shot on the phone. I was so inspired by the people who did that movie because they just went for it and told their story. So work on your craft, audition, work on your other skills and collaborate with people, just build a community around you that inspires you.
8. What are some causes that you believe in?
My family and I have been sponsoring a couple of families from India and Nepal. We’ve just been helping these families who don’t have the financial means to survive and send their kids off to school. I’m also currently looking for an organization in Los Angeles to help homeless people because it’s so unbelievable how many people live on the streets and have no access to what they need. It’s a very domestic issue but it’s a big problem and I want to try to help as many of them to rehabilitate and get back on their feet.
9. Who would you love to work with on a movie or a Tv show?
There are so many great artists and we discover so many new talented people every day. Sometimes you wonder where have they been? It’s inspiring to see them work their way up. I just did “Animal Kingdom” and I found out Denis Leary was going to be on the show as my boyfriend and I was so excited. I have been a fan of him ever since I was young. I also adore Jimmy Simpson. He is someone who I really admire as an actor and I would love to work with him.
10. Do you have something to say to your supporters?
I have so much gratitude to the advocates of my work. People who say that they appreciate my characters, even if they are the antagonist. It means so much to me because I put much effort into trying to find that vulnerability. Sometimes the characters I play can be seen simplistically, as the „bad guy”. It means a lot to me that people can see the details in my work and appreciate my portrayal. They are so much more than just fans because they support me, they lift me up and make me grow. Some of them have become like my family, some of them came to my wedding. When you meet people like this, it’s just the best thing.
11. What do you have in mind for the future?
I would love for the future to have more roles like in Altered Carbon where the character drives the story forward and I would also like to listen to my own advice and develop things and write. I’ve done it in the past and it’s so challenging. But yes, ultimately I want to be telling the stories I’m passionate about and write the roles I want to play. They are goals.