The interview contains spoilers!
Elizabeth Mitchell Fights An Alien Invasion In ‘V
The actress talks about battling aliens, her time on LOST and her love for FIREFLY and STAR TREK
Elizabeth Mitchell has in a few short years become one of ABC’s flagship complex heroines. As Juliet Burke on LOST, she went from untrustworthy Other to self-sacrificing love of first Matthew Fox’s Jack, then Josh Holloway’s Sawyer, finally detonating a bomb at close range to save her friends. Now the L.A. born, Texas-raised actress is trying to save the world from an alien invasion as FBI Special Agent Erica Evans on ABC’s remake of V.
Like many viewers, Mitchell was familiar with the original Eighties edition of V. “I watched it as a kid. It stuck with me – I had such a wonderful time watching it as a teenager with my parents,” She says. “And I loved the escape of it. I mean, who doesn’t love to escape now and then?”
The original resistance heroes of V were portrayed by Marc Singer and Faye Grant. Does Mitchell feel like Evans is closer to one than the other?
“I think it’s a combination of the two,” she replies. “You have a highly emotional woman in a position of defense, in kind of a hero position, who’s also incredibly in love [maternally speaking] with her son, who’s going down this bad path. Plus, she’s a single mom, so she’s captivated by her son [Tyler, played by Logan Huffman], he’s her life.”
Is there anything different about playing a character who’s a mother as opposed to a character who’s childless? “Oh, yeah,” Mitchell replies. “I’ve said this quote before – it’s my favorite. They say that when you have a child, your heart walks around outside of your body. And I think you don’t really experience that until you have it. I feel that way with my [real-life] son. He walks around and I want him to be strong and vibrant and happy, but in my mind, I’m worst-case scenario mom. I’m like, I’d just love to gather him up and keep him close, and at sixteen [Tyler’s age on V], you just can’t.”
Given Evans’ anti-Visitor sentiments, may we guess that she won’t be too happy with Logan’s budding romance with Visitor Lisa, played by Laura Vandervoort, erstwhile Kara on SMALLVILLE? “I think that’s safe to say,” Mitchell laughs. “She’s beautiful, though.”
Playing an FBI agent appeals to Mitchell on a number of levels. “What I liked was the out and out fact that she was a hero to me. The people who do what she does are heroes to me, and I love how emotional she is. She doesn’t guard her emotions too much, and I like the idea of trying that on and seeing how it feels. I think it might be really interesting. Plus she’s tough and I love, love, love tough women.”
This is not to say that Mitchell purposely traded LOST for V.
“Oh, God, no!” she laughs. “No, I’d never been happier than when I was on LOST. No, I was asked to leave LOST. I would never have asked to leave, not in a million years. [Moving back to the mainland from Hawaii, where LOST is filmed] was pretty sudden, so it was hard to leave. I had to pack everything up. But I’m an actor, this is what I do, so I was fine – sad but fine.”
LOST message boards have run fiery and icy about Juliet ever since the character appeared. Mitchell says she’s read some posts. “I’ve read some gorgeous stuff,” she adds. “Of course, I’ll read eight gorgeous things and then one ‘I just hate her, I don’t care what other people think.’ And then I want to go, ‘Why do you hate her? [laughs] I like her.’ But [there isn’t as much board perusal] as you might think. I try not to let that in my life.”
Does Mitchell know whether she’ll be back on LOST in its final season – more to the point, is she allowed to say what she knows? “They have all of their storylines done,” Mitchell says of the LOST writers. “They know exactly what they want to do. They’ve told me, I just can’t say.”
If V generates the same sort of passionate fan base that LOST has, Mitchell is ready for it. “I love science-fiction fans,” she notes. “I’m kind of a geeky person, so I love the minutiae.” She adds that she’s also good at following the intricate plots on both series. “I’ve got one of those weird minds that holds onto all the pertinent details, especially where I’m concerned. Maybe I’m a narcissist, but anything that has to do with my character, I really keep close track of.”
Alan Tudyk, of FIREFLY/SERENITY fame, plays FBI Agent Dale Maddox, who Mitchell’s character discovers in the pilot is really a reptilian Visitor. “I love him!” Mitchell exclaims of Tudyk. “I really love him. I told him that when I met him. He came in the dressing room and I go, ‘Hey, I love you!’ He’s like [nonplused], ‘Okay …’ [laughs].He’s so quick, he’s so clever. We improvved [improvised] a lot of our stuff in our scenes. Like the whole thing about the car – ‘Can I drive?’ ‘No.’ We played into the improv – it’s so nice that we work so well together. I think he’s so funny and articulate and good that to me, sharing screen time with him is such a pleasure, I just watched him. It was effortless for me.”
On camera, Mitchell’s Evans is a little less fond of Tudyk’s Maddox, puncturing and peeling off his skin to reveal the scales underneath. How was this accomplished? “Alan did do most of that,” Mitchell explains, “but then there was a fantastic prosthetic that they put in his place, and that was [what was used for] the swipe. I mean, all that was just the two of us, just going at each other. They did a life cast of his face and then they had an entire thing completely underneath that, so it was pretty awesome.”
As a fan of both Tudyk and sci-fi in general, it’s not surprising that Mitchell is also enthusiastic about FIREFLY, so is naturally excited about working with Morena Baccarin, another FIREFLY veteran, who stars on V as alien leader Anna. “I was a huge FIREFLY fan,” Mitchell reports, “which I told Morena when we met. I said, ‘Hi, I love you on FIREFLY!’ She was very gracious.” When asked, Mitchell relates that Baccarin was likewise appreciative of her colleague’s LOST work. “She’s been very complimentary. She’s a lovely lady.”
Mitchell is also a “huge STAR TREK fan,” she notes. “Go put that out there. When we were talking about my coming back to LOST, I was like, ‘Well, you know, I do like STAR TREK a lot,’” she laughs, referring to the fact that LOST executive producer J.J. Abrams is currently making the new STAR TREK films.
On V, Mitchell hasn’t had scenes with anybody in a full alien body suit yet, but she’s looking forward to it. “Not ‘full lizard,’” she qualifies. “They seem to be pretty hot, though. I want to see Morena as a lizard. What does she look like under all that gorgeous skin? I think she’d have to be a pretty lizard – I mean, look at her. Good Lord.”
V has its fair share of green-screen effects, though so far, Mitchell says most of her scenes have primarily involved other actors. “I get real people. When I don’t get real people, I get really freaky effects that still make me jump, so … We do have [hovering spaceship effects], but for some reason, I like that, because I have a great imagination, so it’s fine for me.”
As far as whether there is really other intelligent life in the universe, Mitchell says she’s a believer. “Remember when they took the Hubble Telescope and [aimed] it toward the darkest part of space and they found more stars and galaxies and worlds than they ever dreamed possible? How can there not be something out there?”
The political allegory of the new V caught Mitchell’s attention gradually. “I didn’t really feel like there was so much, because I felt like we were dealing with a situation where anything’s possible, because it’s sci-fi,” says Mitchell. “But I do love the idea of it echoing our culture, echoing where we are. And I found that to be kind of amazing. I think that they wrote it before Obama came in and we all became so hopeful [in real life], so to me, it kind of speaks toward where we were before, and I think what you’re dealing with now is a different scenario. You’re dealing with when someone comes in and it’s not hopeful and it’s the worst possible thing that could happen and I think that’s fascinating.”
V was originally scheduled to debut in 2010. Mitchell is pleased that it has premiered this year. “I was really happy,” she says. “I think it was exciting to me in a lot of ways. When I read the second episode, I got even more excited, because I thought it went to the next level.”
Has Mitchell ever contemplated doing comedy? “Yes. I think I love to laugh so much, I think my laugh’s really annoying to people, so maybe not,” she adds. “I’ve thought about it a lot. It seems to be this is where people want me right now, so this is where I am, but yeah, I think about it all the time.”
As far as both V and LOST, Mitchell relates, “I think that the main thing that I always try to say is, I’m insanely grateful. I’m grateful and I’m loyal and I will continue to be, so it’s all good.”