Part of “Old Info And News”
ELIZABETH MITCHELL leaves her “ER” scrubs behind as she tackles a career in TV journalism in ABC’s new series, “The Beast.”
ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT: Your character is caught in a very unusual position in the first episode. It’s probably the first time a main character has been naked the whole first scene. Does that do anything particular to the scene? In other words, does she have a feeling of vulnerability or something that makes it more interesting to act the role?
ELIZABETH MITCHELL: I think KARIO SALEM (creator and star) has created such an incredibly interesting woman, a woman who seeks the truth, and that’s what drew me to the character. What I liked about that scene is that she is very free. I didn’t see it so much as vulnerable, just that she’s able to be with this man that she loves or she’s beginning to love and to be so open and so lovely with him. And therefore, when we see her in that really tight setting later, where she is interviewing for a job, we’ve seen her at her most natural, at her most essential, at her most basic. So that’s why I like that scene.
ET: Did anyone advise you against doing the role?
ELIZABETH: I come from a small town near Dallas so I guess the people in my neighborhood maybe. My family doesn’t care. They think it’s wonderful. They care about the work and they also care about the fact that when I was a child, I learned through television not to be prejudiced — I learned through television not to be racist and that’s what we should do. I think that’s part of our educational process.
ET: Can you talk about how you came to all of this?
ELIZABETH: I auditioned fairly strenuously for this. It’s a really incredible part. She basically was raised by her father who was a minister, and so she’s just fascinating and interested and free. I’ve never seen a character like her. She reminds me of an old-fashioned movie star-type character and I love it — KATHARINE HEPBURN.
ET: You were doing well in film, so, why a TV series?
ELIZABETH: I realized I could do both. That’s really it. It’s not financial or anything. It’s just the fact that I was offered ‘ER,’ and I wanted to work with these people. I thought it would be great. I didn’t know what the character would be. I just took the job. As far as this, I just wanted to work with Kario. He’s quite brilliant. And the work that he shows us is brilliant and he cares about what he’s doing. So, for me, to work with all these people who are so fascinating, KIM MOSES, IAN SANDER , MIMI LEDER and FRANK LANGELLA — can you imagine working with Frank? Isn’t he beautiful and isn’t he just so sexy in his own kind of strong way? I’m fascinated with him.
ET: What kind of emotional stuff do you go through with your character?
ELIZABETH: It was tough. I think Alice takes in everything. She doesn’t have the journalistic skill of being able to distance herself and, as a result, she falls into everything. But I think that’s an interesting character to follow because that’s what I always wanted to do. And all of sudden, she’s drawn into this man’s life and this man’s life or this woman’s life. I feel like that kind of character is unlimited in what trouble she can get into.
ET: With the death penalty aspect of the pilot, did you all explore your own feelings about it?
ELIZABETH: Yeah. We did. As a matter of fact, the character from the first pilot changed to this pilot. I’m very, very happy that we’re exploring it in the way that we are because I think that we’re showing it from all angles. The pilot doesn’t really come out for or against it, it just comes out “what a horrible thing to kill another human being, but what a horrific thing to kill in the first place.” I had a teacher once say, “Don’t ever give anyone the right to take your freedom away.” You have to think about that, too. That’s why I was so interested in the story line — it’s a huge argument.
ET: Are you opposed to the death penalty?
ELIZABETH: You know, I say that but then if someone touched one of my family members or the people that I loved, I can’t tell what I would do or want to have done. In the abstract sure, but in the abstract I’m pro-choice, too. I don’t think that we know how we feel until we are confronted with it. I think this is what this show does.
ET: Has your family seen the show?
ELIZABETH: No. But I’ve told them all about it in detail. My mom was the first person to watch “Gia” with me so I think she’ll be okay. When she first saw it she was like, “Oh, sweetie. Not quite the kind of acting I want you to do but that’s okay.” She’s great. They’re great. My folks.
ET: How would you describe the moral conflicts your character is going through?
ELIZABETH: I feel like she threw away her own morality. She’s against the death penalty big time and she goes in there and she decides that in order to further her case she’s going to help a man be killed. That’s the way she sees it. I mean, it is going to happen anyway. But instead of helping this man further his cause, because that’s what she’s supposed to be there for — she was supposed to be there to shed public light on the fact that this man was about to be killed and we need to stop this execution. Instead she realized there was a chance to show people how evil it is, and she did that instead and she let him touch her. My boyfriend saw it the other night and he said it was akin to a rape. He said it was horrifying to him. I didn’t feel that way when I did it but that was his feeling. I think she went against everything she believed in to show this story and to be the kind of journalist she thought she should be.
ET: You think she’ll find it difficult to hang on to her soul?
ELIZABETH: Yes. I think she probably will find it difficult. She’s got a pretty big soul, though.