The TV Addiction

January 15, 2008

Elizabeth Mitchell Spills LOST Secrets
By: Amrie Cunningham

Who is excited for the 4th Season Premiere of Lost? That’s me, raising my hands and flailing about with glee. In my quest to complete Season 1 through 3 before January 31 (that’s a story for another day), my love for the show has been completely renewed. Also helping to get me pumped about the new Thursday night time slot? A remarkably sincere and charming woman by the name of Elizabeth Mitchell (LOST’s own Juliet) who recently spent a good chunk of her afternoon chatting with me about what to expect and why she loves her character! A big thank you to all of the readers who contributed questions!

Lost is one of my favorite shows. It’s been one of my favorite shows, so I’m excited to talk with you about it.
Oh, I love it too! I’m always really happy to talk about it.

You’re no stranger to being a star on one of TV’s most talked about shows, specifically your arc on ER. How is Lost different?
I think the main difference is that the character was so complete in how much we got to see, how much they wrote for her, there was a beginning, a middle, and an end. There was just a huge arc where we got to see so many facets of this very complicated person [with Legaspi on ER]. And I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to do that yet. And I also think that LOST is kind of huge in a way that I’ve never worked on a show that’s quite like this. I’ve never worked on a show that has this kind of following. ER was also huge, but a different kind of huge. Not better, not different. And I think with LOST, you have people who follow it pretty religiously and know every detail about it. I think they were so smart, the way they brought the character in. We have all the protagonists, we have everybody that we love and then to bring in someone that was a threat to them, that was an antagonist, always going to be someone that we were unsure of was a really good move. It gave them something to explore the other characters, and explore this character, and every single time that they added something to the character, I was always impressed with the way they did it. And the Ben role, as well. They did great things with the two of those roles. And I’ve really loved what Michael’s done, actually.

One of the biggest things we’ve heard from readers is an outcry for the fact that you and Michael were robbed of the multiple nominations you so definitely deserve. I can’t imagine why you aren’t being celebrated as much as you have.
Thank you very much. I’ve had the best time, as far as people on the street, or people talking about the character. It’s the strangest thing, but very gratifying to get that kind of feedback. When you do theatre, you go back stage, and people will talk about it, whether or not they liked it, and they definitely let you know, haha, and a lot of times you’ll do television, which I’ve been doing forever, or film, and you never really hear, but with LOST, I hear it all the time. At first, I heard when I was hated, hahaha, and then as the character, they started to make her more and more and more and more and more kind of interesting, I would hear this “hey, I actually really liked that, I thought that was really cool” or someone walking down the street saying “you terrify me and I work with really scary people”, but all of that has been really fun. It’s been really great to play a character that people are interested in. And that is something that I really experience first hand. I have played characters that I’ve heard about, but not on this daily basis. I can’t explain it other than to say that it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

Why do you think fans embraced your character so openly and the character that Michael plays so openly, when other characters (ahem, Nikki and Paulo…) don’t fare as well?
I really do think it was a setup for the other characters. I think that what happened is that we really fell in love with our survivors. We didn’t want to see more survivors. We wanted to see someone come in who was posing a threat or being something different. I just think we didn’t want to see other people, who weren’t going to be the people that we love, unless they were with the people we love, and I think that’s why they were so smart when they did the Ben and the Juliet characters, that they kind of dropped them in as these great antagonists, we were really worried about Ben and Juliet. And there’s a little bit of, not a thrill, but a sense of unease that goes through us when we see these two people interacting with the people that we actually really love. I think it was a particularly good setup for me. I was very surprised with how it turned out. You wouldn’t think that these characters would be remotely likeable, but the way they’ve written them, they’ve written in that.

I agree completely! When people ask me who my favorite characters are, never would I have thought to say Juliet and Ben in the beginning, but now hands down, I say Juliet and Ben every time.
They’re so interesting, I mean, they really are, and they keep writing them so interesting, they’re just really interesting people. And they keep that going. They keep going into what makes us identify with them, and we can’t believe we’re identifying with them, and then we’re feeling like we’ve really been cheated, and we can’t believe we like her. The minute anyone started to like Juliet, they turned it right around and were like “oh you were dumb to like her”. I love that, I thought that was great.

I love when a twist comes up like that, you’re right back where you started, and she has to redeem herself for me!
Absolutely, it’s like “She’s just bad news. Well, no she’s not.” I love all that, she’s really fun. I think it was fun for them. They had a very clear idea for what they wanted when they brought Juliet in and I think it was really fun for them that they got to continue to write for her in a way that they wanted to.

What’s coming up for Juliet in the fourth season?
A little bit more of the same with a new set of circumstances. Based on the end, we know that someone is coming to rescue everyone and that has to be dealt with. There’s more that happens in her relationships. There’s more that happens where we see, as it always is on LOST, a little more of who she is, and a little bit less of who she is. She skirts the line pretty nicely. She has been with the survivors for, well, I mean in LOST terminology, a little bit of time now. She’s a little bit more rougher, and I’m kind of enjoying that. There’s not a tremendous amount of makeup that goes in to that, there’s a lot of dirt.

I was wondering, do you have like six of the same dirty outfits that you have to wear?
I really do, I think I have four. They wash them, and they dirty them again, which I think is hilarious, too. So you think you’d be with these people, we might smell terrible, but no, everybody is all clean, it’s just movie dirt, but they do a wonderful job of keeping us really really pretty filthy.

Do you have a flashforward or flashback that we will be seeing?
I do have one, yes!

Everybody thought that your two flashbacks from last year were some of the best of the season.
I really enjoyed mine last year. I really did think that they were some of my favorite work that I’ve ever done. I had such a good time.

Do you get a lot of direction when it comes to the motivation for your character or did you have to make a lot of it up on your own?
I did make up a lot of it on my own. And then there’s some of it that I got some great help with. Jack Bender is one of our great directors and he and I had worked together before and we worked pretty closely. And Steven Williams, the same thing. He directed the first flashback that I did, and Jack directed the second. We worked very closely in walking that line and making sure we didn’t go too far one way or the other, and I had very strong feelings about what I wanted and they were very clear about some things that I didn’t know, and it was a really nice collaboration. I think that the three of us had a really great time creating this character. And of course the writers, I mean that’s not to say that you don’t get everything on the paper because of lot of it is there.

I was reading the ABC site, just to get a little info on your bio. The character bio that they have up for Juliet made me laugh for about an hour. It says “Before crash – lived in the others community, fought with Ben about something, possibly their relationship” and then it says “on the island, helped break down Jack’s resistance.”

[laughter induced chat-break]

Did they give you more information than that when you were given this role?
[Elizabeth still laughing] Yes they gave me a bit more. If they don’t give you facts, they give you something emotionally equal. I knew that there was a reason that I had to help my sister. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. They do give you a lot. You’ll call, and be like, ok guys, I have to have something, and they’ll tell you. I think they want to, because they have to keep all these secrets. I’m pretty good at keeping the secrets, so it’s kind of fun to hear, and then it’s also not, because I like the Christmas morning feeling, I like to be surprised.

In a normal season, when there’s no season, and there’s not shooting, how far ahead do you shoot?
Thinking about last year, we were a couple ahead, like two or three. This year, to have already done eight, and no one’s seen them is very strange. We can’t really talk about anything, because we haven’t had the first reveal about what’s going on which will happen on January 31!

I’m very excited…
I’m very excited!

At my house we have Thursday night viewing parties, so we’re all excited that Lost is moved to Thursday because now we have a reason to all be together to watch it!
Oh I love that! I’m glad it’s going to be Thursday too; it’s a really nice night. It’ll be a nice place for it to be, you have to have something comforting to watch.

Something you remember….
We’re in dire straights, under terrible circumstances.

What do you and Juliet have in common?
Probably, she has a stillness that I sometimes have. A way of being able to just sit and watch people, but she’s much better at it than I am. I think that I definitely want to put people at ease, whereas Juliet feels not remotely that compulsion at all, unless she can get something from it. I don’t know…I have very very strong ties to my family. I love them; I would do anything for them. I am captivated by them. That is kind of a driving force for Juliet so that certainly wasn’t hard to latch onto. Everything with her sister, I saw it on the page, and found it devastating just to read it. And I was like, I’m going to be a mess when we shoot this. That thing with the TV screen, and she thinks she’s dead, honestly, I read that, and was bawling my eyes out. I was like, this is crazy to do this to somebody. I mean, this is Ben, he did it, it’s crazy. I think that’s something, I love my family so much, and I think Juliet is that way condensed into one person, her sister.

Where do you think Juliet stands in regards to her alliance with Ben versus her alliance to Jack?
Sometimes I think it’s who is going to end up being stronger. I think her feelings for Jack are a surprise for her. I don’t know that she’s necessarily as controlled on that as she is about everything else. Her anger for Ben, her unbelievable rage for Ben kind of comes out every once in a while, but otherwise it just boils away under the surface. But if he were able to get her to her sister, do you know what I mean? Who knows, I don’t know, it’s kind of who holds the cards. I think there is stuff that is as yet unexplored with Jack. I think there’s a tenuous yet somewhat strong weird trust between the two of them, so we’ll have to see if that works out or not. I mean there’s obviously an attraction but I think there might also be a trust. It’s interesting. I really enjoy the two characters. The way they’ve written the two characters, there’s so much there. There’s so much chemistry. Just the way that they wrote them, they made them such equals. They made them free for combat and great for lovers.

All of those Kate and Jack fans are up in arms about the whole Jack and Juliet thing!
There is a lot of love with Jack and Kate and the way he cares for her and the way that she kind of looks up to him. It’s gorgeous. I love watching them together. At that’s why I think it was so interesting to bring in Juliet to create a completely different circumstance. You don’t get the feeling that Juliet looks up to Jack and you don’t get the feeling that he really takes care of her, but when he does, it’s kind of a surprise to her. I think both are incredibly valid, both are interesting, and I think they were wise to try something different, a true difference, a true problem, which I think is nice.

Right, they didn’t throw in an old boyfriend to ruin a budding love story, they had a new character that made Jack think.
I think it was a really interesting choice. I think they made a female version of Jack, though obviously, she’s not necessarily our hero, although we don’t know.

Is there anyone else that you haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with that you’d like to?
Know what I really enjoyed? I had one tiny little moment with Hurley (Jorge Garcia) on the beach. He is so much fun. His timing is so good. He is such a pleasure to work with because he’s right there. I always thought Juliet and Sayid would be interesting together. I really loved working with Yunjin, I thought that brought out a wonderful side to Juliet. I loved working with Evangeline because she was almost like an irritated big sister, and I thought that was really fun, to kind of see what that particular relationship was like. Even the way the two of them move. You have wonderful Kate, who is scrappy, and so tough and strong and so scared but righteously certain, and I love that about her. And then you have Juliet kind of strolling next to her, very calm, very still, very not putting up much, putting forth anything. I liked watching the two of them together. I thought it was a fun mix for that episode.

Why should fans start watching now in Season 4?
I think now is a good time because the writers know exactly, not that they didn’t before, but with the end date, which very rarely happens, if ever, in television that you get to have a beginning a middle and an end, they are so ready and so set to take everybody on a ride, and I think that ride starts on the 31st. That’s how we felt watching it, that’s how we felt reading it. There was more talk this year than there was last year with the “oh yeahs”. It’s hurtling forward. It’s a rollercoaster. It might be a good time to join up, haha. People are like “oh it’s so complicated’ but it’s actually not so complicated in the simplest way of watching it. It can get more complicated if you choose. It’s basically these people trying to survive.

What actors or actresses do you look up to?
Emma Thompson. I just think she’s wonderful. Any of your funny ladies who also do beautiful work. I’m always pretty captivated by them. Who is not in love with Meryl Streep? Sophie’s Choice is one of my favorite movies. I find her stillness is really captivating. I really love, did you ever see Juliet Stevenson did a movie called Truly Madly Deeply?
I haven’t seen it!
You know what, you’ll love it, you should go out and rent it! Bring a tissue box.

I love something that makes me cry, so I probably will love it!
It’s so lovely, and she’s with Alan Rickman. And I just, that performance is one of my favorites. It’s simple, it’s a simple small tiny little movie. It’s so freaking honest, and so not glossy or beautiful or any of the things that we fall into. It’s more just kind of this sweet, raw simple performance and I love it, I thought she was great.

What TV do you watch if you get downtime?
I watch 24 when it’s on. I love BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

Oh I love that show!
Love that show, didn’t at first, and then got completely hooked.

Exactly how I was.
Yeah! That’s pretty much it. I kind of sneak around and will watch a few things here and there. I watch GREY’S ANATOMY here and there. Sandra Oh especially. I think she’s just phenomenal. She’s done some things that just blow me away. I find her to be very brave and very interesting to watch as an actor. I have a two year old, so there’s not a lot, but there are things I get captivated by.

Anything coming up besides LOST?
No, there’s really not. I probably should have done something the last hiatus, but I was so thrilled to spend time with my 2 year old. Now with the writers’ strike, my hands are kind of tied. Probably nothing, not to say that I’m not always looking for stuff that I’m into. I read like crazy, so I think I’ve always been along the lines that some day I will probably do my own thing. It’s something for me to look forward to. It’s nice to be 37. I think there’s so much out there.

The whole attitude of Hollywood has changed in the past couple of years. A few years ago, it was all about 20s and 20-somethings, and now, people in their thirties are striving and having the time of their lives.
Yes, I think that we as women have kind of spoken. We don’t want this stuff. We’ll watch it, because who doesn’t enjoy youth, and that crazy vitality and hormonal rush that is being a young person, but there’s also a tremendous majority of people who are over the age of 30 and 40 who love their entertainment and who want to be entertained with people like them. I think that’s the way things should be. It’s nice to keep it a little more balanced.

Could there be a lovelier person on the planet? She’s so not the ruthless woman she plays on TV! Make sure you set your recorders/DVRs/PVRs/TiVos now for January 31 on ABC. I think we’re in for a fabulous season!
Liz | CJ | Lost | ER | Emmy | Michael Emerson | Evangeline Lilly | Yunjin Kim | Jorge Garcia | Naveen Andrews