Witch Hunt | CBR’s Interview

This is another truly amazing interview with Liz about “Witch Hunt” but I love that she talks about life through the movie.

It contains huge spoilers if you haven’t watched the movie yet. I love the question about the last scene and the story behind it.

Martha trying to create a normal life in her house despite the circumstances is one of the things that I noticed while I watched this for the first time. It makes this character an amazing mom as well. I think our kids have the right to live their childhood and parents need to work as much as they can to make sure that happens. In a world like “Witch Hunt” it’s even braver. Martha has the job to explain what is wrong in their world to two young male kids, but at the same time let them play and be light-hearted children.

I love what Liz said about Martha being motherly to all the girls that come to her house, how she wants to protect them, that she wants them close but she can’t and she keeps her distance. There is that scene when she puts them behind that door where she is so stressed and sorry and you feel she doesn’t want to, but she has to. What an amazing thought Liz has about Martha worrying about them even when they are gone. Beautiful. The way Liz goes so deep into the mind of a character, even for details that are not shown in the movie/show is something that has always fascinated me. I love doing the same with what I watch.

This part is so beautiful:

“That was such a joy to film! I think loving a child is definitely — you know when you try that thing when you first fall in love in life, right, where you’re like, “Well, I’m not going to let myself fall in love!” [laughs] And we all know how well that goes! It doesn’t! So I feel like Martha is trying to create distance, trying to make sure she’ll be okay, and then I think at some point in her life, Martha was just like, “You know what? I’m gonna love her with every fiber of my being, and if this all has to come to an end, then that’s what has to happen, and that’s okay.””

And I am simply in love with the hope she has in this:

“So, if anything, I’m just always drawn to that genre and the books because I love the women in them. You know, I think that just because they could make someone an alien, they could make her the boss, and it kind of got around our societal norms for a bit, until society started to catch up.”



Witch Hunt: Elizabeth Mitchell Finds Martha’s Quiet Strength

Witch Hunt star Elizabeth Mitchell explains why she considers it ‘an honor’ to play the role of Martha in Elle Callahan’s fantasy thriller film.

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Witch Hunt, now available in theaters and on digital.

Martha just wants to make her world a better place. In Witch Hunt, the loving mother of three recognizes just how draconian America’s witchcraft laws can be, so she puts herself — and her family — on the line to smuggle young witches across the Mexican border to safety. After two young witches named Fiona and Shae come through her home, though, Martha’s family may never be the same.

Speaking to CBR, Witch Hunt star Elizabeth Mitchell explained why she connected with Martha’s character right away. She praised Martha’s quiet strength and described it as “an honor” to play her. She broke down why Martha needs to keep some distance between herself and the witches she rescues, as well as how that factored into Martha’s last conversation with her daughter Claire. She also shared the surprising circumstances behind that emotional final scene, discussed the film’s challenging conclusion, offered some of her thoughts on sci-fi and fantasy in general and more.

CBR: It is so rare to see a project about women by women. How did that impact your experience on Witch Hunt?

Elizabeth Mitchell: Oh, I was so excited! I was so excited to work with a female director that I respect and admire, and I was so excited to work with Gideon [Adlon] and with Abby [Cowen]. I mean, just the whole thing felt so good to me, from before we started, from pre-production to when we were in the thick of it. I love working with women! [laughs] I grew up in a family surrounded by them, so it feels really comfortable to me.

As I was watching the film, I found myself drawing parallels between Witch Hunt‘s story and some current events we’ve lived through recently. What were some of your inspirations as you set out to develop this character with director Elle Callahan?

Well, I think that Martha was very clear to me from the beginning. I really loved her strength. I admired her from the second I read her, because there are a lot of people who do good and they say, “Look at me! Look what I’m doing! I’m so good!”, you know?

And then there’s Martha. She simply does the right thing and tries to make sure that no one ever knows about it! [laughs] I love the quiet grace of that. I love that idea of having to appear to be one thing, but being something else completely different on the inside. It just felt an honor, really, to play someone like her. I loved it.

Maybe it’s because I work for a site that focuses on comics, but the way you described her reminds me of Superman.

I thought so too! That’s how she was on the page as well. I just found her so interesting in her quiet way. She’s not overly demonstrative with anybody. You know, she quietly does what needs to be done, and I admire that.

Those are my favorite heroes, actually. So I just thought she was terrific, and I was so happy to think about getting to play her, and playing her felt remarkably fun to me. I knew what she wanted, and I knew what she had at stake and Elle and I found a path to her that made me so happy.

Which aspect of Martha’s character do you relate to the most, and why?

I’m a pretty gentle person. I had one producer call me “The Velvet Hammer” one time. I don’t believe in raising my voice; I don’t feel like I have to. I think there can be a real strength in doing the right thing and having your strength of conditions. I’ve also been granted the ability to do that, based on how I was born and who I am and all of those things, but I loved the chameleon that is her.

I found myself loving the underground, or the fear that is always running through her. That was something that really clued me into her. I think that when we are brave, and we’re just, “I’m fearless! I can do anything!”, I don’t think Martha feels that. I think that she has a tremendous amount of fear. I think she’s scared all the time, and she still does it.

That’s really what I came to, is that her need to do it is so overriding in her desire to make a better world for her daughter, for her sons, for everybody, that she will do anything she can and whatever in small way she can to make it work, even if it costs her everything to make things better. The people like that in our world, they’re my favorite kind of people. They’re my heroes.

Motherhood is such an important, core theme in this film. How has — or hasn’t — your work on this movie changed the way that you see motherhood?

Well, you know, that whole quote about your heart walking around outside your body is true, as a mother. The minute they’re born, your whole world and the way that you see things changes, because from now on, there is this creature, this little amazing creature, that suddenly means more to you than anything. It is your job to protect them! [laughs] You become far more fierce, and you worry more, and their every footstep and breath and keeping them alive. It is totally dependent on you.

I found that to be really profound in my own life. I see Martha with that fear all the time, but she’s also trying to create a life. The kids play, they have family time; they have a situation where they’re leading as normal life as possible. That is something that she has absolutely, completely created a situation where they can be in this incredible stress — or she can be, but her kids can still have a life and the strength of that boggles my mind.

As someone who was once a teenage girl, I felt that Martha’s relationship with Claire was so grounded and real. How did you approach that with Gideon Adlon?

Oh, that Claire! That Gideon! So, so, so in love with that girl. She’s amazing. I’m not sure what happened with Gideon and I, except I think we kind of just loved each other the minute we met. I can’t remember what! I think I just went and put my arms around her, but I can’t recall exactly. I know that we kind of spoke each other’s language from the moment that we met. I just think she’s so tremendous and so good that, from the minute we started working together, I just marveled at her, basically. We would be done as as Martha and Claire, and I would be like, “Oh, Gideon, yes! That was so nice!” [laughs]

I don’t know; I feel like we do speak a similar language. There was a real ease to our relationship as actors that helped drive the tension in our relationship as mother/daughter. I mean, it was very easy to be her mother. She makes a lot of sense to me. She’s such a unique person and actress and had a real handle on this character. When people come in with that much work done, with that amount of talent, and they’ve also done the work, then they’re just a joy to work with. I found her to be a joy. Half the time, I just got to respond to her wonderfulness.

Martha has this parade of young women coming through her house on their way to escape to Mexico, away from America’s strict witchcraft laws. How would you say she views them?

I think her heart breaks for them. One of the things Elle and I tried really hard to do is make it so that she wasn’t overly effusive with them. That was always my instinct, was to come and gather everybody up and make it okay. Martha can’t, because she has to — there has to be distance, right? She has to keep a little bit of distance between her and the girls for their safety and for hers.

I think that that’s hard for her. I think when she’s watching these girls, she just wants to mother them, to pad them from life, keep every single one of them, but she knows that she can’t. I think that’s where the struggle is with Martha. I think she is motherly. I think she wishes she could be more motherly, but she knows that she can’t. It’s a delicate, fine line, what she’s walking, and there’s a lot of restraints involved in that.

In order to keep her own children safe, she has to create a little bit of distance, but I definitely think what maybe you’re responding to and what I responded to was the fact that she wants to. She wants to hold them close. She wants to keep them safe. She wants to mother them, but the circumstances have rules, and she has to stick to those rules. I think it’s hard for her. I really do. I imagine that Martha probably dreams of every girl who has gone through her house and worries about each and every one of them.

Ultimately, Martha must say goodbye to Claire as well when Claire’s own powers emerge. Tell me a little about your experience filming that heartbreaking scene. What do you think was going through Martha’s head?

That was such a joy to film! I think loving a child is definitely — you know when you try that thing when you first fall in love in life, right, where you’re like, “Well, I’m not going to let myself fall in love!” [laughs] And we all know how well that goes! It doesn’t! So I feel like Martha is trying to create distance, trying to make sure she’ll be okay, and then I think at some point in her life, Martha was just like, “You know what? I’m gonna love her with every fiber of my being, and if this all has to come to an end, then that’s what has to happen, and that’s okay.”

So for that scene, we had to pull that scene up, because we had had some bat problems in the house. So that scene came; it had been later in the week. So Gideon and I didn’t have all of our words memorized, because it was in flux and because we weren’t going to be shooting that scene for a week, but Elle came to us and she was like, “No, I think we can do this, if we put a tarp over here.” There was a lot around it; a lot of kind of drama around it. I was like, “You know, Elle, let’s try and let’s just improv the whole thing with all the material that you want, with all the words in there that you want, and see what happens.” So that’s exactly what we did.

We knew the story that she wanted to tell, and Elle would say, “Just keep going.” So we would keep going. Then we would stop, and then Elle would rewrite and take some of the things that we did, plant it into the story, and then we did it all on the spot. It was incredibly collaborative. Then we would do it again, and then we would all get together, talk about what we liked, talk about what worked and then we would do it again! [laughs]

I think we probably did that five or seven times and then turned around and did the same thing on Gideon’s side. It was such a joyful way to work… We had to pull the scene up. We needed to have that incredibly important scene, but to be able to work in that kind of collaborative way and to do something that felt so emotionally fraught was a real joy because nobody was comfortable, but at the same time, we were all supporting each other and working together.

I will always treasure that. I will always treasure looking at after the scene, and we’ve kind of come to the tail end of our work, looking up and Elle having tears in her eyes, and she’s like, “Yeah, no, that’s it. That’s it.” We would get though that and [she’d say], “Cut! Let’s do that again!”, and her being so immersed in it with us felt like a dance that we were all doing together. It was a true collaboration.

Like Thelma and Louise, Witch Hunt ends on an ambiguous note. Why, in your opinion, was that the right way to conclude this film and this story?

Well, I think so much of this film allows you to draw your own conclusions. What do you think it correlates with? What does it remind you of? In your mind, what oppression does it echo? What happening in our world today, in your life today, does this reflect for you? I think the end does that as well. It gives you a chance to imagine what could be, what might have been and what could happen, and it doesn’t just hand it to you. I think the whole film does that. It gives you a chance with its silences, with its beauty, with its not filling in all the blanks. You get a chance to do that yourself. I think that’s something really rare in filmmaking right now.

What do you hope viewers take away from this project?

You know, I’m a mom. I’m gonna say I want people to take away from it whatever they need! [laughs] I mean, I think it’s a really wonderful escape, but I guess there is time to reflect on women’s power, on women’s power and women’s magic, even if we’re standing from an everyday perspective, and maybe — especially with young women — not having so much fear of that power. That would be something that I think would be interesting to take away.

You have a pretty strong genre background, with Witch Hunt being the latest addition. Considering your work in projects like Lost and The Expanse, what do you think it is about sci-fi and fantasy that has pushed it into the cultural zeitgeist for the past 20 or so years? What are stories like Witch Hunt able to do, that a straight drama couldn’t?

Well, science fiction and fantasy have always been my favorite, and it’s because I could actually see someone I might want to be reflected in the female characters, I think, because it was a fantastical situation, because it is a situation that is outside of people’s understanding, that they were allowed to write strong, impactful, amazing protagonists, and nobody complained about it, because it’s science fiction! [laughs] It’s fantasy! It’s make-believe!

But I do think the whole thing of acting is telling the truth in imaginary circumstances. I think, for me anyway, fantasy and sci-fi and a little bit of horror have let women be really strong and creative and the hero and the lead protagonist and have let women do that long before anyone else did and show that there was a market for it.

So, if anything, I’m just always drawn to that genre and the books because I love the women in them. You know, I think that just because they could make someone an alien, they could make her the boss, and it kind of got around our societal norms for a bit, until society started to catch up.

These days, it feels like just about everything is getting revived. Do you think Lost is the kind of show that could or should be revived, and can you see yourself becoming involved if it is?

I mean, I love revivals. Battlestar Galactica is still one of my all time favorite shows. I was amazed with what they did with that.

I know that Damon [Lindelof] has said that he would welcome another creative force taking over and see what they would do with it. I think I feel the same way. I think it would be really interesting to see a reimagining of Lost with different people, a different creator, different ideas, because I think — just like a show on Broadway or a play — there’s nothing wrong with taking something wonderful and trying something new.

So it certainly would be something that I would be fascinated in watching, to see someone recreate that. That being said, I felt like it had a perfect beginning, middle and end. I know that everybody doesn’t agree with that, but I really quite liked it.

Witch Hunt is now available in theaters, On Demand and digital.

Source: www.cbr.com