JUNE 27, 2007

Emmy Contender: Elizabeth Mitchell


For even the best poker player, sitting at a table with Elizabeth Mitchell wouldn’t be a smart move.

As the mysterious yet enchanting Juliet Burke on ABC’s “Lost,” Mitchell’s character shares similarities with the protagonist in the longstanding joke: “How do you know when a lawyer is lying? When his lips are moving.”

Mitchell’s character fibbed so much this season — trying to convince the plane-crash survivors that she’s trying to help them when she’s actually in cahoots with their tormenters, the “Others” — that at times only the actress could suss out the truth.

Mitchell may not know if a line or two of dialogue — or even an entire multiepisode setup — is just a ruse because the following scripts haven’t arrived yet. Yet, she’s developed a sixth sense in figuring out Juliet’s true intentions.

“I know when she’s lying, and she’s an excellent liar,” says Mitchell, laughing. “Juliet is so controlled and only allows people to see her in the way she wants to be seen. If she shows too much, she loses all her powers.”

Mitchell arrived on set in Hawaii after a series of auditions that went exceedingly well back on the mainland. The character’s deceptive nature wasn’t on the page, but Mitchell had a bead on Juliet’s secretive personality.

“The casting director came out and said, ‘This is how we want you to do it,’ but that’s what I was thinking anyway, which made me feel good,” Mitchell recalls. “The main note was not to make her harsh. Other actresses were being hardcore with her. It had always been my intention to walk softly. That’s what intrigued me about her power.”

Like co-star Michael Emerson, Mitchell has extensive theater training that she says helps her prepare for their scenes together, which are filled with plenty of nuance and expression.

“There’s lot of trust there, because we’ve both been doing it for so long,” she explains. “We have our language.”

But not in words. It’d be all lies anyway.

Favorite scene: “I really enjoyed the scene with seeing my sister on the video. I found it incredibly fulfilling because there was so much to play, so much in that one scene.”

Where you’d like to see your character go next season: “I feel like wherever the writers go will give me joy. They’ve done such a good job so far.”

TV guilty pleasure: ” ‘Battlestar Galactica’ … The first five episodes I was like, blah, blah, but now I’m captivated by it.”