Lost star Elizabeth Mitchell finds herself at home on the set of her newest project, V.
Though Elizabeth Mitchell has made notable appearances on television in the past — her sexy stint on ER and playing the famous titular character in The Linda McCartney Story, among them — she has become best known for her turns as creepy, calculating doctor Juliet Burke on J.J. Abrams’s megahit Lost and, most recently, as alien- fighting FBI Agent Erica Evans on the hit ABC reboot of V. The characters are so different — one is a duplicitous survivalist, the other a brave, noble freedom fighter — that one wonders how Mitchell was able to film both shows simultaneously without developing a split personality.
“The only thing to be careful of is not to slip into one [character] or the other in either place. That’s the only difficulty I’ve found. We did an interrogation scene on V where I slipped right into Juliet because my character was lying,” she says. “It was really funny and really fun, but then at the end of it we had to redo it.”
While the perky, friendly Mitchell seems quite far off from her villainous role of Juliet, she does share something in common with her character: island living. Specifically, Mitchell resides on Bainbridge Island, Washington, a small community near Seattle. But while the area’s quiet remoteness was part of what attracted Mitchell and her family, it’s a far cry from the desolate Lost habitat.
“I love how clean the air is, I love the water and how the water meets the land,” says the Dallas native. “My husband and I flew over Seattle one time on the way to Montana, and we wanted to go there. We were looking for a place that I could easily get to L.A. for work and a place that would be easy to fly in and out of. And we were looking for a very safe and remote place to raise our little boy. That’s what we found.”
Another great thing about Bainbridge Island is its proximity to Vancouver, where V is filmed. The five-foot-nine-inch actress says she’s enjoying the chance to show off her more physical side as a butt-kicking heroine on the show. It’s been a dream of Mitchell’s to tackle such a character since Alien and Terminator first hit the silver screen. And while the sci-fi genre of film has long been ripe with strong female protagonists, the same wasn’t always true in television.
“I just read this wonderful college dissertation about how [Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator] Joss Whedon changed the face of television by making female action figures on television profitable,” says Mitchell, who also points to Abrams’s Alias as another prime example. “In science-fiction literature, female characters are always strong and always pretty fascinating.”
She should know. Growing up, Mitchell was an avid reader of science fiction. She enjoyed looking beyond what she knew and had been taught to consider other possibilities. She loved being drawn into detailed fantasy worlds in another place and time. (Not surprisingly, she was thrilled to get the chance to attend Comic-Con in San Diego this past summer as part of her promotional duties for V.)
“As a kid growing up in Texas, I just wanted to be [in those worlds],” recalls Mitchell, who adds that Dune author Frank Herbert was her favorite. “When I put down Dune, I think I read it seven more times. Madeleine L’Engle did the same thing. There’s just something about people who create something and take these amazing, strong characters and then put them into these extraordinary situations.”
Even while Mitchell was undergoing classical dramatic training in London, studying Shakespeare and Chekov, she had a “childlike longing” to do an action-adventure project. In that sense, V has been a dream come true.
“To be an adversary or a sly character on Lost was super fun and something that I didn’t know,” Mitchell says. “But it wasn’t my childhood dream. [V] fulfills that 13-year-old girl going, ‘I want to be able to do that!’”
Source: American Way