From the Others to the Visitors: Elizabeth Mitchell talks about battling the otherworldly on her new ABC series, 'V'
What she’s describing could be the island home of the Dharma Initiative on Mitchell’s last series, “Lost,” but it’s actually her memory of watching the 1980s sci-fi miniseries “V.” “I just remember how freaky it was and how much I was rooting for the people to win,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell, whose character Juliet was seemingly killed off on “Lost” at the end of last season, is about to embark on a new adventure, as the star of ABC’s “V” remake, which launches Nov. 3 with four episodes before returning after the Olympics with nine additional installments.
Mitchell likes the idea of offering viewers a chance to sample the series and see if they want to follow these characters -- but acknowledged the risk. “It didn’t work very successfully for us on ‘Lost’ in Season 3,” she said. “I think though that this was a decision that had to be made. I definitely agree, knowing the things that I do, that the show will be better for it.”
In “V,” reimagined by “The 4400” creator Scott Peters, Mitchell plays FBI agent Erica Evans, who finds herself caught up in a war between the human race and the seemingly benevolent alien race the Visitors, who arrive on Earth with promises of universal healthcare and an end to disease. As this weren’t enough to deal with, she’s also the single mother of a rebellious teenage son who is drawn to the Visitors.
“We find her in a pretty determined and unhappy mental state,” said Mitchell.
“But she’s still being a mother. I was [thinking about] female archetypes last night and I realized that the two I relate to the most are the hero and the mother. So you’re basically talking about Hera and Athena. You’ve got your warrior goddess and then you’ve got this person who is just incredibly defensive of her child.… I never really had any thoughts of doing anyone harm until I had a child.”
Those following the project’s development will remember that Mitchell joined “V” amid some secrecy; despite being cast as the series’ female lead, media reports listed her as a guest star for the pilot.
“Well, I don’t think that anyone was particularly fooled,” she said, laughing. “But it was a good way of doing it so that ‘Lost’ could keep their secrets. And, honestly, it wasn’t hard because I didn’t talk to anybody.… I didn’t have to make up any half-truths or kind of do anything except for when I went on ‘Jimmy Kimmel’ and I had to be, like, uhhh … I was really happy when [‘Lost’ showrunners] Carlton [Cuse] and Damon [Lindelof] released information about Juliet, so I was free to talk about it.”
Though she’s not done with “Lost” quite yet (she’ll make appearances on the ABC drama series, which returns in early 2010), Mitchell is relishing the opportunity to play someone different than the morally abstract Juliet Burke, whose motivations were at times very unclear.
“Her motives were always shady!” said Mitchell, laughing. “I always said that Juliet was lethal, but what I realized was that she was lethal because she didn’t have any moral [compass], she didn’t have anything that would keep her from doing really bad things because of who she is, because of where she’s been, and because of what has been done to her.”
That’s not the case with Erica Evans, said Mitchell. “She is a hero in her own way. I’ve enjoyed this because the characters I am the most drawn to are on the sidelines. You’re not quite sure which way they are leaning… With [Erica], I feel like it’s pretty clear-cut. She’s out there, trying to save the world, which she was trying to do before the aliens showed up. That’s what she did every morning. She would go to work and go through the worst of things in order to keep everybody safe.”
Still, Erica isn’t alone in her battle against the Visitors, and help comes from an unlikely source, Catholic priest Father Jack (Joel Gretsch). Those worried about a “Thorn Birds”-esque dalliance between the two have nothing to fear.
“The two of them will have moments, but the joy of it is that it can’t happen because he’s a priest. In this case, there’s a very substantial – as in God – barrier between the two,” she said with a laugh. “I feel like it provides more tension and more obstacles, a really, really big obstacle that’s pretty much insurmountable between them, but I don’t think it any way negates the sexual tension … which I always find so enticing on television. Once two people kiss, I’m never as captivated.”
“They are very unlikely allies,” said Mitchell of the duo. “When the rest of [the resistance] gets together, it’s even more unlikely, so it should be fun. It’s going to be me and a bunch of men. Oh, my gosh, it’s always me and a bunch of men, I just realized that. It’s always me and a bunch of guys. No wonder Evangeline [Lilly] and I are so close because that’s always what happens to us.”
So what can viewers expect to see coming up for Erica over the first four episodes then? Mitchell was coy about revealing details but did allude to one hell of a shocking twist. “There’s a lot more action for [Erica],” said Mitchell. “She makes this fairly massive discovery in Episode 3; the technology in it is just really, really cool. And there is one thing that happens in the last episode … I wish I could say what is it but there’s this one thing that the Vs can do that just blows [Erica’s] mind. After it happens, it’s just, like, WHAT?”
-- Jace Lacob
Photo credit: (above) Warner Bros.Television Entertainment; ABC