Part of “Old Info And News”
April 25, 2007
The Webs of Mitchell
Truth and lies come easily to a member of the Others, so what are Juliet’s secrets?
We ask her alter ego, Elizabeth Mitchell
Back in 1960s, Gilligan’s Island was home sweet home for seven reluctant castaways, including the beautiful Mary-Ann and Ginger.
These days, that show’s much more dramatic big brother Lost also boats its fair share of island-bound lovelies, among them Juliet. She is one of the Others, a group of mysterious and not-so-friendly islanders who have made life increasingly difficult and dangerous for the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, especially Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Juliet, who is a fertility doctor by profession, has her own agenda when it comes to her role on the island.
She is a living, breathing conundrum, and a treat for actress Elizabeth Mitchell to play.
“I enjoy how complex Juliet is, and how calm she is,” says Mitchell. “If she was to do you harm I don’t think you would see it coming, because my character is not a flashy person. At the same time, I love her compassion as well as how she watches people and kind of intensely tries to figure them out from a non-ego standpoint and not involving her self-perspective. Juliet isn’t someone who walks around wondering, ‘What do these people think of me?’ Instead, she’s thinking about them, and I find that a really fascinating quality in a character. There are so many things I love about her I like the fact that we grow to have a bit of compassion for this woman, but they [the Lost writers] have done some crazy things with Juliet so you’re really not sure about her. They’ve managed to create a person who is a question, but that’s what Lost does best, isn’t it?” jokes the actress. “She’s so shades of grey, at least in my mind. Juliet certainly isn’t all bad and she’s certainly not all good, and the writers keep going with that juggling act, if you will. As this season continues to unravel we learn a little more about her as she gravitates more towards one side than the other.”
The Juliet character was introduced in the Season Three Lost opener “A tale of Two Cities”. At the end of last year, viewers saw Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) led into a trap and taken prisoner by the Others, and as the third season begins the trio is subjected to a series of psychological games orchestrated by Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), the leader of the Others.
“My first two days working on “A Tale of Two Cities” really sticks out in my mind,” notes Mitchell. “On day one I was with Michael Emerson and the rest of the actors who play the Others, and we filmed the scene where we all look up in the sky and watch as the plane breaks apart. I have to say that even then I was in awe of Michael and amazed by his intensity as an actor. I hadn’t seen him last reason on Lost because when his character come in, I was preoccupied having a baby. However, I eventually had the opportunity to watch some of those second season episode he did and was impressed by his performance. Then, of course, I finally got to meet Michael and discovered what a lovely person he is. After we shot the scene with the plane, we did the one with Juliet crying and dancing to music in an effort to cheer herself up,” continues the actress. “Once we finished that scene, I remember walking back to my trailer and drying my tears, because I’ve been crying, and then Matthew Fox arrived and the two of began our work together. I really enjoyed all the stuff we did where his character is behind the glass wall and Juliet is talking to him. it was like doing a stage play. To be honest, I didn’t expect those scenes to flow as well as they did and I was quite pleased with how they turned out. So that first episode was such fun for me to do, and it was tremendous gift as well. I received the script just a few days before we began filming and was immediately enticed by the material. The writing was incredible, and what a neat way to introduce my character. You get to feel for Juliet a little bit, at least I think so, because she’s alone and crying, but then suddenly you’re torn when all these other things start happening that involve her.”
It quickly becomes apparent that Ben has a very persona objective for bring our three heroes, specifically Jack, to the Others’ little community. He has a tumour on his spine and needs a skilled surgeon to remove it. Ben uses Kate and Sawyer as bargaining chips to force Jack to operate, but Juliet is trying to persuade him to let Ben die on the operating table.
“There’s no denying that my character is angry with Ben, but at the same time there’s a great deal of affection that was once there, or admiration, let’s say,” explains Mitchell.
“Juliet almost acts like he isn’t there, and most people don’t do that unless they’re really angry with someone. You tend to just ignore someone who you don’t like or at least not treat them with the same level of coldness that Juliet does with Ben.
Funny enough, there are the occasional humorous moments between the two characters. There’s a scene we shot for one of the episodes that wound up being cut out where Juliet says to Ben, ‘Just try to be sympathetic,’ and his responses is, ‘You mean I not sympathetic?’ I’m disappointed that go cut out because I feel like it really exemplifies their relationship. I mean, she just can’t believe that he can’t see himself for what he truly is. In Ben’s eyes, and he tells us this he considers himself to be a messiah, the good guy.”
How would Mitchell describe Juliet and Jack’s relationship?
“I’ve always felt, and still do, that he’s a surprise to her,” muses the actress. “I believe she has her own reasons for winning him over and for all the various things she has done with him. Honestly, I don’t think Juliet expected to like Jack, but she does, and where that goes who knows? It’s always neat when your characters gets thrown a curveball, and that’s definitely the case with Jack and Juliet.”
Lost producers and writer have a reputation for providing viewers with more questions as opposed to answers insofar as the show’s ongoing storyline However, in the Season Three episode “Not in Portland”, audiences were given a glimpse into Juliet’s background and how she came to be with the Others. For her, it was definitely a case of ‘Be careful what you wish for’.
“Juliet is brilliant but also kind of meek in her own way at the time that we find her, which is roughly tree-and-a-half years before the episode begins, “ says Mitchell. “We get to see who the important people are in her life, her sisters being one of them, as well as what my character is working on research-wise, and the fact that Juliet isn’t particularly good with men,” chuckles the actress. “We also see how she is wooed to the island. What’s most intriguing to me, though, is how powerless she is, because I don’t consider Juliet to be remotely powerless now. I see her as being quite formidable, so something earth-shattering must have happened to her on the island.”
Ultimately, Jack has no choice but to operate on Ben.
The procedure is a success, and at the end of “Not in Portland” Ben has apparently rewarded Juliet for her services by telling her she can go home. As is often true on Lost though, such promises are never that black and white, and her say on the island doesn’t appear to be over quite yet.
In fact, at the time of this interview (early February), Mitchell was just starting work on a new episode.
“In this story I’m acting opposite a member of the cast who I really haven’t had the chance to work with before, and there’s a lot of physical stuff involved,” she enthuses. “It’s a challenge in that the script is very well-written and we’re trying our best to live up to the material. So we still have more of Juliet’s story left to tell and I’m thrilled about that.”
An accomplished theatrical actress, Elizabeth Mitchell is equally at home on stage and in front of the camera. Her big screen work includes everything from Mrs Claus/Principal Carol Newman in the last two instalments of Walt Disney’s The Santa Clause trilogy to a Time traveller in Frequency. TV watchers are sure to remember the actress from her 14-episode stint as Dr Kim Legaspi on ER as well as the recurring role of Ariel Saxon in The Lyon’s Den. Mitchell has also guess starred on several popular series including House, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Boston Legal, palying the slightly oddball attorney Christine Pauley.
“I got so excited when I booked the Boston Legal job because I’d be working with the very talented James Spader [Alan Shore],” recalls the actress. “When it comes to my character of Christine, I thought of her as being so sane. I didn’t really think she came off as ‘crazy’ until I sat down and watched the actual episode[s]. Christine was trying so hard to get out of a situation and considered herself to be of sound mind, and then she got caught up in a whole other situation. She was definitely more intense than your average person and I just loved playing her.”