A conversation with Christiane Seidel (the mysterious Martha) from Godless

I was able to ask Christiane Seidel, who plays the mysterious Martha, a free-spirited artist on the run from an abusive husband, questions about her role on Godless.  Here’s what she had to say.

How did you get involved with Godless?
A good old audition. Ellen Lewis, casting director extraordinaire, cast Godless. She was also the casting director for Boardwalk Empire and has called me in for parts since then. The audition was on tape and there wasn’t a callback. So I was pretty shocked when I received the call that Scott would like to have me on board. Scott and I had long phone conversation about how he sees Martha and assured me that nothing would be gratuitous. He kept his word and so much more. We couldn’t have asked for a better director and captain of this ship.

What do you like best about your character and how is your character different from you?  Did you add any of your own personality the character? 
I love how Martha is so free-spirited and just does her own thing. She follows her heart and instinct like no one else. Especially in this time period! I wish I could care less about how other people feel and think about me. But every role is inadvertently influenced by the actor’s personality just by playing it and there’s probably no way around it. My stubbornness is a personal trait that I didn’t have to dig deep for for Martha. She goes for what she wants no matter what.
How was this character different from others you’ve played in the past? 
I’d say the biggest difference from any other character I’ve played before is the confidence and freedom that Martha has in herself and her body. She feels no shame. In a way, her embodiment gave me power to be free. It was absolutely thrilling.
What was the hardest thing about working on this production? The most interesting? 
Lol. Easy question. Two days after arriving on location in Santa Fe I discovered that I was pregnant. Shortly after that, I learned that I was pregnant with twins! It was so early in the production that I didn’t get to know anyone yet. I was too scared to say a word because I was worried that Scott or the producers wouldn’t let me do the physical stuff like running down stairs or riding a horse – and Scott told me after that had he known, he definitely would never allow it. Regardless, I was extremely nauseous and tired. If I couldn’t eat enough it would get worse – and I get hangry. And I became that weird cast member who wouldn’t go on beautiful hikes (Santa Fe is at 7000 feet), bask in rooftop whirlpools or have a drink. I became paranoid of anyone discovering my pregnancy. But on my last day, I finally spilled the beans to everyone. By that time we, the ladies of La Belle, grew so close that it felt more like a betrayal not telling them.
One of the most interesting thing about the working on this production was working with movie horses. It was the most fascinating and beautiful thing to see the stunt guys and wranglers work with them. Getting them to lay down, to fall, pretend they’re wild. And they came all the way from Hollywood!
Is it harder filming a period piece than a show set in modern times? 
Not at all. I love period pieces so much. The incredible sets and costumes transport you into time. It makes it easy to suspend reality and live in that world.
 Did you do your own stunts? If so, what was the hardest stunt you had to do? 
Yes! So much fun! I had the best set days I’ve ever had on Godless. The hardest, and most fun, was the sequence after Martha gets shot and runs down the stairs blazing her guns two-fisted. It was an intricate choreography of gunslinging – trying not to drop the guns or shoot myself in the face. Hitting the right steps. Ducking at the right time with gunfire explosions surrounding me. And shooting at the right time while not looking terrified. Honestly, it was the entire Dashnaw family, who are all expert stunt people who taught me everything, alongside the gun trainers. They all made sure I didn’t look like a fool. And the special effects crew, also the best in the business, made sure everything exploded at the right time and that it was safe. It all came together in that scene and I did not want to disappoint them. I really hope to work with all of them again. It’s addictive.
What do you hope people take away from this series? 
That women are as strong, if not stronger than men. And that women must have each other’s backs to succeed.
What did you think about the fact that the women saved themselves in the end? Do you think TV shows/ movies like this are especially important given the times we’re living in? 
As a woman I am so grateful to Scott for writing this gorgeous story. Especially, in this genre where women are usually depicted as arm-candy or helpless victims. It is absolutely important that tv and film do show three dimensional diverse women in all facets. Powerful, vulnerable, weak, strong, good and bad. Scott wrote Godless over a decade ago as a film and it’s amazing how the timing of the show culminated with the world we currently live in. It’s amazing how current many themes in the show set in the 19th century are.
 Tell me one thing about yourself that would surprise people. 
I guess the fact that I was pregnant with twins while shooting every single scene of Godless…