V’s Elizabeth Mitchell – Team Leader
In Lost, Elizabeth Mitchell’s character of Dr. Juliet Burke was unknowingly drawn into and then became part of a mysterious group called “The Others.” Juliet subsequently switched sides and ended up fighting for her life, while at the same time falling in love. Nowadays, in the hit Sci-Fi series V, the actress’ TV alter ego, FBI Agent Erica Evans, is fighting to save herself along with all of humanity from an alien race that professes to be benevolent but whose queen, Anna, has far more malevolent plans in mind. Spearheading such a battle has been a fun and exciting challenge for Mitchell.
“It’s such a basic thing, but I was really attracted to the notion of a female protagonist kind of leading the way for humankind’s survival. That sounds like an awfully big ego thing to say,” notes the actress with a chuckle,” but I really did like that idea. So that’s what initially drew me to the series, because in the beginning the Erica character was just a sketch of a woman, but I felt it showed tremendous potential as far as where she could go and how that might be very interesting for me to play.
“Again, I was intrigued by the idea of exactly what a leader is and how it is that we lead. I mean, I lead in a very different way in my life than Erica leads in hers. Of course, things have changed since I first began playing her, and my character has been given all kinds of complicated, wonderful and juicy layers, which has made me very happy. The journey has been terrific insofar as the show’s writers and my character as well as me as an actress growing together.
“The fun of playing a hero is that no one becomes a hero overnight. As human beings we grow into who we are, and in some ways Erica isn’t growing in the best of ways,” jokes Mitchell, “but she’s definitely becoming more powerful, more certain and more sure of herself. Erica is developing a number of the qualities that make a great leader, but at the same time she’s going down some fairly dark paths. We’ll have to wait and see where that takes her.”
In V’s pilot episode, Earth braces for the worst when alien ships take up position over 29 of the world’s major cities, but the alien “Visitors” claim to mean no harm. Their leader, Anna (Morena Baccarin), wants to trade all manner of advanced technology, including miraculous medical cures, for a small percentage of the Earth’s resources.
Not surprisingly, most of humankind quickly becomes enamored of these extraterrestrial do-gooders. However, some humans, among them FBI Agent Erica Evans, are not won over so easily. She is far from pleased when her son Tyler (Logan Huffman) is recruited by Anna’s daughter Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) to become a member of the V Peace Ambassador Program. Meanwhile, Erica infiltrates a terrorist group, where she learns of the Visitors’ true form and real purpose for coming to Earth. She joins The Fifth Column, an anti-V group determined to stop Anna from carrying out her plans. Erica’s teammates include mercenary Kyle Hobbs (Charles Mesure), a priest, Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) and even one of the aliens themselves, Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), who, disguised as a human, has lived for years on Earth. While the ranks are testosterone-heavy, Mitchell has fit right in as one of the gang.
“I just love working with all the guys,” she enthuses. “They are the most respectful, smart, strong, brave, fascinating and incredibly generous men that you could ever hope for. It’s been somewhat of a matriarchal society as far as having my character of Erica around, and they’ve been quite kind about it. There haven’t been any instances of, ‘Really, she gets to say that?’ That never happens on this show, and that’s because of who they all are, so I’m very grateful to all of them.
“I have to say, too, that I’ve enjoyed watching Erica’s relationships with all the other characters bloom. I love working with Charlie. He’s a fantastic actor and we’ve had a really good time right from the beginning. We both thought it would be interesting if our two characters were drawn to each other, so we kind of worked on that accordingly. It’s the same with Joel’s character of Father Jack. His relationship with Erica has been interesting to watch as well because she continues to alienate and hurt him as well as push him away, but then they come back together. That push and pull between them makes it feel more like a real relationship to me.
“Of course, I always enjoy working with my [TV] son Logan, just because I find him to be such a raw and instinctual young actor. There’s a real joy there for me, And Morris, too, is amazing. There’s the scene I did with him in [the episode] Siege, where Erica kneels down on the floor and tells Ryan that she’s going to give him up. I swear, you look into Morris’ eyes on-camera and he’s so steady and right in the moment. For such a gentle man he can be quite intimidating when he’s in-character, so I always love doing scenes with him. I know I’ve just spoken about half the cast, but they’re all truly special in their own way.”
In the climax of the aforementioned Siege, the leader of the Fifth Column, Eli Cohen (Oded Fehr), is killed in an explosion during a stand-off between The Fifth Column and the authorities. Prior to this tragic turn of events, and assuming the worst case scenario, he tells Erica that the time has come for her to lead the global resistance force. What was Mitchell’s reaction when she found out that her character would be taking over the reins of The Fifth Column?
“Do you remember Erica’s line, ‘You want me to lead?’ I asked them [the producers/writers] to add that because my character never actually expressed her total and utter surprise,” says the actress. “Here’s someone [Eli] who’s her enemy, saying this to Erica. As we were going through the scene [as originally written] we felt something was missing, like along the lines of, ‘Sorry, what did you just say?’ Now, though, that Erica has all that power, we’ll have to see how she uses it, and how much power is it that she really has.”
Of all the V episodes she has worked on so far, does the actress have a favorite or even a scene in one that stands out for her acting-wise, “I actually have a couple,” reveals Mitchell. “Charlie and I worked so hard on trying to make sense of why our two characters would all of a sudden throw themselves at each other, so I was really thrilled with the scene right before Kyle and Erica make out. I enjoyed how vulnerable Charlie was in it, and that we got a glimpse inside his wonderful character.
“There’s also a scene in the season finale [Mother’s Day] between me and Joel that I really like as well. It was incredibly hard and emotional to do, which is probably why I like it so much.”
Although season two of V ends tomorrow night (Tuesday, March 15th on ABC), hopefully the war between humans and Visitors is not over yet. What are Mitchell’s hopes not only for Erica but also the show as a whole in the potential third season? “With any character I play, I always hope that she is driven as well as motivated and I believe in what I’m saying and doing,” she says. “I hope for a little romance, too, because I think it kind of makes us who we are, you know?
“So I always wish for the same things – honor in the word, in the deed and in the trajectory. I also want everyone to work at their fullest, best and happiest potential, including the entire cast and crew. After all, we’re all ‘playing,’ and I like when things are entertaining for everyone and we’re so excited that we can’t wait to get to work.”