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Tamara Smart and Siena Agudong play the very close, very complicated teen sisters Jade and Billie in Netflix's new "Resident Evil" series. Despite the believable nature of their relationship, the pair tell POPSUGAR that they faced some major hurdles when it came to portraying siblings. In fact, they actually didn't meet until the day before filming.
"We didn't do a screen test. We literally met the day before we were just put on set," Smart says. "We met at the pool, and we just talked for hours." Turning to Agudong, she asks, "Do you remember anything we were talking about? Because I don't remember anything, really."
"I don't, but I remember leaving and I was like, 'Oh, I know a lot now,'" Agudong says with a laugh. "No one really knows how to start that conversation. You sit down, and you're like, 'Oh, this is going to be my sister for the next few months.'"
"What do you say? Like, 'Hi?'" Smart says.
In reality, Smart and Agudong are "very different," the latter says. "And we come from completely different cultures, but I think we bring those differences in our characters." Agudong is Hawaiian and grew up in Wailua, while Smart is English and grew up in London. "You can see that balance and the clash at the same time, but that play off of each other. And the banter, I think, a lot of it was real," Agudong explains.
It might have helped that both actors have sisters themselves. "We're both the youngest," Agudong explains. "So playing twins was interesting because we both have moments in the show where we act or take on the role of the older sister or the younger sibling."
Their characters, Jade and Billie, are the teen daughters of Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick). "Resident Evil" fans will already be familiar with that name, but if you're not, he's the franchise villain who works for the ominous Umbrella Corporation. His daughters are brand-new characters created for the show. In episode one, they move to the Umbrella-run New Raccoon City in South Africa - which neither is happy about.
In real life, the duo was more excited about South Africa and built on their budding friendship as they explored the country together. "Our relationship definitely developed over those few months, which I think you can absolutely see on screen," Agudong says. They stayed at a safari and fell asleep during the early morning tour. Another night, when they were hanging out on the street after having dinner, they had an animal encounter.
"[There] was this big thing that was coming toward us. I thought it was a big dog," Agudong says. "It starts coming closer and closer, I'd say about maybe five feet, 10 feet. And we turn around and it's a baboon in the little courtyard."
"Siena goes, 'Don't run,'" Smart remembers. "And so I stood behind Siena, and I just started walking really slowly away." "I also just think we got along just really quickly as well, which was really lucky," Smart adds.
Both Smart and Agudong couldn't praise their onscreen dad, Reddick, enough - not just for the work he does in the series but also for what he taught them about acting. "Just seeing him play such a tough, layered character, but also try to be a caring dad was really interesting," Agudong says. Smart says his performance was almost like watching two people, one a kind and caring father and the other a ruthless and brutal scientist.
She says on set Reddick was "very paternal" and showed them a lot about how an actor should work. "He's also someone who will speak out if something doesn't feel right. . . . He knows his character so well, he knows that he wouldn't say something. Or that he wouldn't act that way," Agudong explains. "I feel like if you asked him, he would know certain things that Albert Wesker wouldn't eat. Honestly, he goes that far in depth."
As young actors, they don't always feel like it's OK for them to give notes about characterization, but Reddick empowered them to feel like their voices mattered. Agudong adds, "Watching a seasoned actor still take the time to jot down notes and still take the time to get into character and really dive into every scene like it was the last take was so inspiring." Smart says of Reddick's dedication to his characters, "It's almost like Albert Wesker is a whole other person that he knows [in real life]."
"Everyone literally put their blood, sweat and tears into it."
Both of the girls go on very emotional journeys over the course of the series; Agudong says that emotional depth is what drew her to the role. "It scared me a lot as an actor," she admits. Agudong says she often went to set nervous about portraying some of Billie's big emotional moments, especially her anxiety. "It taught me to just let go," she says.
Smart says one of the nice things about playing a brand-new character was that she could add pieces of herself to Jade. "There's one tragic moment I think for Jade, which was a couple of hard days because we filmed it in about three days," she says. "It was just three straight days of just crying, which was really draining. It was so rewarding though, to watch it back."
"Everyone literally put their blood, sweat, and tears into it," Agudong says of the series. "Everyone put their authentic performance in. And what you see, besides all the gore and whatever, that's real."
"Resident Evil" is streaming now on Netflix.