Elizabeth Mitchell has played it all during her career as an actress. She’s been a doctor, a lover, a friend, and even a psychotic maniac. But now Elizabeth Mitchell is getting a chance to play a different role in real life—Mom. The warmhearted disposition that has made Mitchell’s many characters so lovable, transfers to motherhood with ease, even as she has to gently usher her young son out of the commandeered playroom being used for our interview. He politely obliges, a testament to the great job she’s doing in her new role, something audiences have come to expect from Mitchell. We sat down and got the scoop on growing up in Dallas, what it was like to work on Lost and even a little bit about her new project Answers to Nothing.
LIVE- First, I wanted to thank you for your time; it is very much appreciated. When you were born your family moved to Dallas which is where you grew up. What was it like growing up in Texas?
Elizabeth Mitchell- It was fascinating. It was very big compared to California where I was a small, small baby. I found the people to be very strong and true. I enjoyed it, it was a good childhood. There’s lot’s of space. It’s really funny because if you grow up there and you grow up driving there it’s different. Where I live now, in Washington, people say “Oh gosh, it’s 100 miles away?”, whereas when I was a kid 100 miles away was nothing.
LIVE- It seems that throughout your whole life, you’ve been going to school for acting. When did you first know you wanted to become an actress?
Mitchell- When I was really little I knew, and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could— so I did. I also kind of liked the act of studying for things; I find it to be very nice. I like to learn first of all and then to learn about something I’m passionate about has been a wonderful gift. Especially with every new breakthrough, which is always fairly painful. You never learn anything by joyous things. It’s always when you’re in acting class and you’re terrible or you are in front of the camera and everything is going wrong and all of the sudden you say “Oh, my God I figured it out!”. I like that whole part of it plus I’ve had so many amazing teachers. I’ve been very lucky.
LIVE- Your resume is a variable laundry list of hits including everything from Gia and House to E.R. and of course Lost. What was it like during some of your earlier work on projects like E.R?
Mitchell- E.R. was fascinating because by the time I got there I think they’d been on for some time. It was so quick, I think they called me and I started the next afternoon or something like that. It was a really unique and bizarre experience because I had auditioned for West Wing and I didn’t get the part, but they said “We’re gonna find something for you”. Of course you always hear that so I said “Thank you so much, I had a great time. It was real fun auditioning for you” —that whole thing and then two weeks later they called me with a part on E.R.. Plus I really wasn’t used to being around really famous people, so to me that was really something. It was fun to see how much people are kind of just actors, it doesn’t really matter how high up there they get. I got to work with Sally Fields and in that day I was such a huge admirer of hers that I would always come to work petrified.
LIVE- Of course, you are most well known for playing Dr. Juliet Burke on the hit series Lost. What do you think it was about that show that made it such a huge phenomenon?
Mitchell- I always go back to the writing because I thought the writing was extraordinary. Also I think they picked a tremendous group of actors. That first season was just exceptional and all those actors created things that still impress me. I go back and watch things and I’m amazed. When you go into a situation where the writing is that crystal and the writers are that passionate, they don’t want you to change a word, they’ve thought out every detail. They had such amazing archetypes for heroes. It’s exactly the kind of stuff I want to watch and it’s the kind of people that I want to root for—I think that‘s what it is. Also they managed to create an ensemble cast of heroes and that’s very rare.
LIVE- With all the twists and turns in Lost was it harder to prepare for your character than it was during some of your other work?
Mitchell- I don’t know why Juliet (Burke) was so easy for me, but she was. I know that doesn’t mean that I’m a sociopath, but I found her to be really remarkably easy to prepare for. For some reason she made a lot of sense and when there were twists and turns in the writing, it almost felt like I knew they were coming. Jack Bender would take me aside and say, “ I think it’s gonna go in this direction,” and I would say “Oh my gosh, I thought so!” There are times in your life where you are tuned to what it is you’re doing and that was one of those characters, so it didn’t feel tricky to me, but I know that it was in the careful watching of it because it definitely had a lot of twists and turns.
LIVE- You actually won an Emmy for your work on Lost. Tell us a little bit about this experience and what it means to you as an actress.
Mitchell- I have to tell you that was huge and completely unexpected. I wasn’t on very much that season and it was really basically two scenes, maybe three, so I didn’t even know nominations were coming up. When they called me to tell me I was nominated I was completely and totally thrown and I’ve now discovered that’s the best way to be. You don’t want to be the one staying up late at night thinking “Is it gonna be me?”. It was wonderful to be surprised and I was completely grateful about that. Damon (Lindelof) came with me to the Awards Ceremony and I was also really grateful for that. I admire him a lot.
LIVE- In addition you had a smaller, darker role in the movie Running Scared. What was it like to play such a different character with such a twisted personality?
Mitchell- That was before Lost and I think that was one of the reasons they wanted to cast me in Lost. I think they thought, “Ok here’s this woman and she looks so kind of benign and harmless, yet she’s playing this horrible person”. But I hated it. I have to be honest I thought they did a great job with all of that, but playing someone that dark and that evil stuck with me for a year and a half, it still makes me sick. People say, “that’s ridiculous— it’s a part” but you have to think about that stuff. I ended up playing her like an addict. I made her addicted to “something”, but I didn’t in my mind clarify what that was, because I would’ve just been sick the whole time. I really have a massive appreciation, fascination and incredible will to protect children so it was rather horrifying in my book.
LIVE- You have a new film coming out called Answers to Nothing. Tell us a little bit about the film and the character you play.
Mitchell- I really like this character. It’s one of the reasons I did it because she’s really beautifully written. I remember I came home after shooting it and told my husband that I kind of felt like crying because there was nothing really hard about it. All of it was fascinating. It’s a woman who is desperate to have kids and she’s putting up with a lot from her husband, an extraordinary amount, actually. It’s just her dealing with life. That’s my part of it, everybody’s doing there thing, but there’s kind of a desperate wanting on her part that I found really interesting to play. She’s also a lawyer defending a young woman who’s desperate to keep her brother in her custody and that was really fun as well. It was a great group of people and I had a great time.
LIVE- I want to thank you again for taking the time to speak with us. It’s greatly appreciated. Is there anything else exciting you want to share with everyone that may be coming up in the near or even distant future?
Mitchell- There isn’t. I’m just sitting here in my little house in Washington and doing a lot of nothing. I do a lot of kindergarten carpool. I told my son I’d take a year off and I’ve got three months left. I’ve pretty much taken the whole year to be with him.
Source: Live OCMagazine