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Lily Rabe Answers All Your Questions About The Undoing Finale: Did Sylvia Sleep With Jonathan?

Leading into the sixth & final episode of The Undoing, fans speculated that Lily Rabe’s Sylvia was involved in Elena’s murder. In an exclusive interview, she answers all your burning questions.

By Jonathan Borge Dec 02, 2020 7:15 PMTags
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Warning: major spoilers for The Undoing ahead. 

Sylvia didn't do it.

You'd certainly know that if you've already watched the sixth and final episode of HBO's psychological thriller The Undoing. After weeks of fan chatter about the whodunnit, the limited series neatly wrapped a bow on the end. Yes, following all that bloodshed, muck and courtroom back-and-forth, Elena's (Matilda De Angelis) murderer was ultimately Hugh Grant's Jonathan Fraser, the sociopathic oncologist who proved to repeatedly lie to his wife Grace (Nicole Kidman) as well as his son Henry (Noah Jupe), his father-in-law (Donald Sutherland) and himself.

Leading into the finale, viewers suspected just about every character could have been guilty. Weren't both the detective (Edgar Ramirez) and Elena's husband (Ismael Cruz Córdova) highly suspicious? And wasn't it strange that Grace kept looking off into the distance, failing to remember key details about the night of the murder while frequently going on strange, late-night walks across New York City?

Well, our guess—wrong as it was—was on Sylvia, Grace's best friend and a high-powered lawyer played by Lily Rabe. Speaking to E! News in October, Rabe described her character as "the gatekeeper of everyone's secrets," a quote that led us to believe she definitely was up to no good. But as we learned, she, Grace, and the prosecutor (Sofie Gråbøl) worked together to drag Jonathan through the mud. It was one of the series' twistiest of twists—and we're still left with plenty of unanswered questions. Like, why did Sylvia choose to represent Jonathan after he was fired from the hospital? And did she and her best friend's husband have an affair?

For all of those answers and more, E! turned to the source: Rabe herself. Below, the actress opened up about the significance of Sylvia and Grace's relationship and what really went down with Jonathan.

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E! News: What was it like to see so many theories about Sylvia come to life?

Lily Rabe: It was so thrilling because I think it really spoke to the show and the world that [writer and creator] David E. Kelley and [director] Susanne Bier created, where no one can be trusted and everything needs to be questioned and we're so good at concealing secrets from one another and also from ourselves. It also spoke to the kind of audience the show had and how immersed they were. 

But I loved reading the theories and there are so many more I've heard doing press that I hadn't heard about. What I love most is that they're solid theories. They're not flimsy or pie in the sky. They're legitimate possibilities and I loved that part of the experience.

David Giesbrecht/HBO

E!: Sylvia offered so much levity and brought some laughs to an otherwise rather serious show, yet viewers grew highly suspicious of her. What was the sneakiest thing you think she did?

LR: When Jonathan comes to her and she makes the decision not to share it with Grace. I completely understand why she did it, especially being the person that she is. It was privileged information and in the moment it happened she does believe it's something that is behind them. She evaluates it and her assessment is, "This is my professional obligation, this privileged information is confidential." And also, "This isn't useful for Grace to know." 

She has to do the very difficult thing of telling Grace that she has been withholding this information, that she's been essentially lying to her, I think her expectation is, "This might be the end of our friendship but at this point this is information I no longer can keep from her." But then what actually happens is that the friendship gets deeper and stronger and that's often what happens when we go through difficult things, another person ends it or it gets better. 

E!: Let's talk about the finale itself. Explain the significance of the scene in which Sylvia and Grace talk a stroll through Central Park alone. It was easy to miss but so important.

LR: On that walk I learn about—there's a reason we don't see it all—but she told me about, the conversation that's happened with Jonathan's mother. For Grace there are so many moments of doubt and so many things that continue to evolve, but that phone call with the mother is massive. And I find out about it and then she knows I have history with the prosecutor. And so they link arms and share this information with a bit of a plan for when Grace is going to go on the stand. It's a conversation that happens where a lot still remains unspoken. I don't believe that when we go into the courtroom that day I know for sure what's going to happen. But it's the beginning of laying out that path and putting those pieces in place for that moment to be possible. 

Niko Tavernise/HBO

E!: When you read the script, did you have an inkling as to who did it?

LR: You know, as she says, "It's always the f--king husband!" And of course she's talking about a different husband at that point, but I think in Sylvia's book husbands are guilty until proven innocent—just as a rule. 

When he comes to her and she finds out, she's not thinking, "Oh, and I bet he's also killed someone." But I do think then as the penny starts to drop she's like, "Oh, I do know there's a lie." I think it's a real heartbreak for her too. There's a moment in the courtroom early on where I am reporting back to Grace over the phone about how it's going, and there was a look that happened between Sylvia and Jonathan that was heartbreaking because it was saying both, "Listen, I'm watching you and I know that you lied." 

But it's also, "Please let this not be true, please let this not be true. I have loved you too." And I don't mean romantically. Theorists who think we slept together, we didn't. But, "I've loved you because you're extended family and please, please don't be one of the horrible ones." And then he's the worst of the worst. 

E!: Everyone wanted to know whether Sylvia and Jonathan slept together. Viewers felt so passionately about that. 

LR: I understand why. Also, female friendship is so complicated and clearly a lot of people have their eye on their best friend, maybe it's from personal experience of being betrayed. But I want to honor the fact that the truth of their relationship is the flip of that coin, which is the beautiful part of female friendship, when there is no one who will look out for you or be by your side more. And that is ultimately what this is.

Niko Tavernise/HBO

E!: Grace's coats got so much attention. But Sylvia also wears this stunning, dreamy cream-colored Max Mara coat. Tell us about her fashion and the differences in their style.

LR: Grace's fashion is iconic and specific and outside of the world of the rest of these women. Even the colors, it makes me think of dark fairy tales. While not like Grace's, Sylvia's was different from the rest of these women too and very specific. That Max Mara coat was our entry point and I do get like five to 10 texts about that coat everyday. It was the first thing we chose. We didn't even have time to do a fitting. I basically ran to set on my first day, met Signe [Sejlund], the costume designer, and we had a rack of camel and beige and cream and white gorgeous coats. We both saw that one, our eyes landed on it, and that was the one. I also think I took the sunglasses that she was wearing, I was like, "Those are so chic!" ‘Cause she's incredibly chic. We were flying at that moment but it all worked out. It set the specific tone of Sylvia's wardrobe. 

The Undoing is now streaming on HBO Max.  

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