In case you forgot that Renée Elise Goldsberry is a multitalented thespian who can literally do it all, you’re about to get a reminder. It’s a frigid morning in New York City, and Goldsberry has flown in from Paris for a few days to discuss her new Netflix project. An astounding series based on the 2002 novel by Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon is a massive tale set in a future dystopian world where humans transfer their consciousnesses or souls between sleeves (bodies), but only the rich and powerful can truly live forever.
A tale of betrayal, love, sex, and fear, Goldsberry stands at the center as warrior Quellcrist Falcone an Envoy or member of the military who was killed in the series prologue. (Once your consciousness is destroyed you cannot transfer sleeves.) And yet, Quellcrist remains a guiding light and a safe memory for Altered Carbon’s protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs (played by Joel Kinnaman) a former Envoy, and the last of his kind. Kovacs is awakened and resleeved after 250 years by billionaire Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to solve Bancroft’s murder. If the series sounds rich and complicated to you, that’s because it is, and even Goldsberry wasn’t sure what to make of it when she first received the script. “I did not know (the book) when this came across my desk,” she remembered. “I was put on a phone call with Laeta Kalogridis, who is the showrunner, and I wasn’t even looking for another job. I was kind of neck deep in Broadway doing Hamilton. I think, within three sentences she had me because she said, ‘My mission in life is to create worlds where the hero is a woman of color.’ I was like, ‘Where are we doing this?’”
Quellcrist is more than just a hero; she’s a warrior. Watching Goldsberry shed her Hamilton petticoats and vintage ’40 fashions from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for combat boots and guns was thrilling. “When you ask me about it, I start smiling because on paper that sounds really fun,” Goldsberry says laughing. “It’s always been my dream to be an action star. I can’t believe it took this long for somebody to ask me to do it.”
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