JUNE 28, 2016
In Search Of Elizabeth Mitchell
Where does the Emmy-nominated star of Lost find herself right now?
BY REBECCA HARDIMAN
So, the actress Elizabeth Mitchell went to audition for a role in Meet The Parents years ago. “Robert De Niro and I were supposed to read together,” she tells me, already starting to laugh. “He walked into the room and I burst into tears.” Mitchell giggles, which she does frequently and with abandon. “You have to understand: I had never met a celebrity before. I had no idea. Who knew they were actually real! So there went that audition…to put it very lightly. But he was really nice about it, lovely, kind, you know. I was mortified and humiliated and for years I wouldn’t even talk about it! But, it’s given me a lot of compassion because now when I meet people and they have a strong reaction, I tend to have that feeling, like, ‘Oh hey, I get it, I really get it.’”
The Emmy-nominated star of ABC’s ratings behemoth Lost as well as other television hits including NBC’s Revolution (another of J.J. Abrams’ creations) comes across, immediately, as self-effacing, tough and wise, though that’s not how she describes herself. “I’m insanely nerdy and goofy,” she says. “I couldn’t be goofier. I’m going to reserve being cool for my 90s because if I try to go for cool now, it’s going to close a lot of doors for me!” Another infectious bout of laughter follows.
What strikes me most about Mitchell’s career is how closely her ethic resembles that of other respected, in-demand character actresses Laura Dern and Laura Linney—dependable, fully committed, authentic, all in. Mitchell is in it for the joy of losing herself in a meaty role, rather than the fame or glory. “I do love a great character,” she says. “I think it feels like flying to say not quite as much, and to just get to be in kind of the skin of what’s written by great people. I tend to gravitate toward things with fewer words and roles with incredibly complex, interesting women. I love trying to figure out what makes them tick. When someone’s been particularly unkind to me or someone else, or behaves in a way that I truly don’t understand, my first thought is ‘Wow, what made them do that?’ That’s where my curiosity always goes.”
Mitchell next stars in Dead Of Summer, a horror series on Freeform (formerly ABC Family), and the sci-fi action picture The Purge: Election Year, which is slated for a massive July 4th weekend release. “There’s a lot of stuff said in that movie that is being said in politics right now, and it’s flippin’ terrifying,” she says cryptically. “I’m excited about this movie. I love throwing myself into a new project. I learn my lines, I meet my crew, I make sure that we all can work together in a cohesive way, and then we go to work. But,” she adds, “the internal work is where the magic is, where the joy is.”
Having starred on one of TV’s most popular series ever, Mitchell’s used to the exposure that could accompany a blockbuster hit—and, true to form, she’s completely unfazed by any of it: “It kind of just is. Regardless of what happens, I’m going to be hanging out with my son and trying to figure out how to make a lunch that he’ll actually eat.”
Elizabeth Mitchell’s road to Hollywood has been more winding than straight-on: She studied at acting school and performed in plenty of regional theater, but the possibility of TV or film success and fame never really occurred to her. “I just wanted to act and so I just kept acting. And then the road led me to more acting in New York City and then across the country and then to Los Angeles. I didn’t have any of those ‘Mom, I’m going to be a star!’ moments; I just didn’t. So I don’t know when the actual moment was when I decided to be an actress, but it makes me laugh all the time. I’m always a little giddy about it. I don’t feel entitled. I just feel like, ‘Wow!’”
“I love throwing myself into a new project. I learn my lines, I meet my crew, I make sure that we all can work together in a cohesive way, and then we go to work. But the internal work is where the magic is, where the joy is.”
When I ask Mitchell how an actor can manage to stay so un-Hollywood in that industry’s famously shark-infested waters, she doesn’t hesitate: “By not living in Hollywood, that’s the first thing you do!” The actress and her ten-year-old son have a home in the Pacific Northwest, an area she adores and which she enthusiastically urges me to visit. “The minute August hits,” she tells me, “you should just hop on a plane to Washington State and take your kids and go for a weekend. Do an Airbnb somewhere. You won’t even believe how beautiful it is—amazing, breathtaking. The end of August, your kids will be walking around looking at the apples that are just about to ripen and picking blackberries off trees. It’s totally insane.”
Geography aside, Mitchell’s ability to lay low, work hard and keep it real comes pretty naturally. “I’m lucky because I’m an introvert,” she says. “If I gained my joy and my power from being around other people, then I’d probably be a bit in trouble in Hollywood because you tend to pick up whatever culture is around you. But I get my moral compass from books and my son and my parents and my community, which is a very kind and joyful, quiet community. I tend to gain my energy from long walks, reading books and from meditation, and, as a result, I kind of feel like I’m able to find a little place of happiness that doesn’t have a lot to do with what people feel around me, because that can be very tumultuous.”
After a pause, she adds, “There’s this quote that was at my acupuncturist’s office for a while—it was the idea that this is your one and only precious life, so don’t waste it. And I just friggin’ love that. I love the idea that you wake up and you say, ‘OK, today is precious.’ I don’t want to preach to anybody, but that’s my daily mantra.” And it shows.
Source: ellimanmedia |