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The Killing: Season 1 - Mireille Enos interview

The Killing

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MIREILLE Enos talks about playing Sarah Linden on The Killing – which is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, September 26, 2011 – and some of the challenges it involves, as well as the joy of working with her partner and co-star Joel Kinnaman.

She also talks about some of her forthcoming projects, including playing Brad Pitt’s wife in World War Z and Josh Brolin’s wife in The Gangster Squad.

Q. I’ve just watched Episode 11, Missing, which is a key episode in finding out more about Sarah and her relationship with partner, Stephen…
Mireille Enos: That’s one of my favourites. We had an amazing time shooting that one and I think it was an important episode for the audience to be able to see a little behind the curtain of both of our characters.

Q. Was that one that when you first read the script you were looking forward to getting to?
Mireille Enos: Well, the scripts came out as we were shooting so we didn’t get to see what was going to happen until two weeks before we actually shot it. But then we got excited…

Q. So what’s it like playing a character like Sarah who you don’t necessarily know everything about as you’re playing her?
Mireille Enos: It’s an interesting puzzle. Veena [Sud, producer and writer] is very generous about sharing about what we need to know in terms of back story and any details that are really necessary for where the next few episodes are going. She tells us everything that we need to know. But then there’s a certain amount of allowing it to be mysterious and playing the story in the moment as it’s unfolded. That makes it exciting.

Q. I love the way the relationship between Sarah and Stephen (Joel Kinnaman) has been developed. He’s amazing too…
Mireille Enos: Isn’t he amazing? He’s one of the most talented and lovely guys I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

Q. I kind of got a Seven vibe about the relationship… he reminds me of a young Brad Pitt consistently trying to prove himself to his older, wiser partner – who says a lot quite often without saying anything…
Mireille Enos: Thanks, that’s a great homage. But that’s one of the things I love about Sarah… she does so much in silences. And it was exciting to try to have both things be true – to enable her to communicate a lot without saying much at times, but also enabling and ensuring that the audience sees what she wants them to see.

Q. Is that a particularly difficult challenge as an actress? And something you enjoy rising to?
Mireille Enos: It’s been figuring it out as I go and it has a lot to do with trusting the camera and trusting the director at any given moment. It’s also about knowing when something can be kept as a secret and deciding when the audience needs to know… just as much as it is keeping things a mystery for the people in Sarah’s world while at the same time letting the audience in.

Q. How does a tight shooting schedule affect that? I imagine the turnaround for each episode is very rapid and very intense…
Mireille Enos: We’re shooting an episode every seven days, so it’s very fast. But luckily we all really like each other and that’s helped us to develop a short-hand and throw ourselves in. We can then feel free to say if we’re confused about something, or to ask what we think about a scene or a piece of dialogue. When Joel and I have an emotionally heavy episode, we get together on our own to read through the scenes and brainstorm about where we are emotionally.

Q. Do you enjoy the challenge of working that fast? And is it something you’ve had to adapt to over time?
Mireille Enos: This is faster than I’ve ever worked before, so it’s been a whole new challenge. But it just helps to develop different skills. I spent 10 years doing theatre in New York when I first started out and figured out a way of doing that, and then this has been a new experience again – how to work on a lot of text really fast. But it’s an exciting puzzle to solve how to do that. And now I’m on a big movie [World War Z] and we’re doing a page a day [laughs]! So, that’s a different animal again. But it’s something that’s been consistently true about my career to this point – I keep getting opportunities to re-invent the way I work.

The Killing

Q. Had you been aware of the Danish version of The Killing and were you ever tempted to watch it?
Mireille Enos: I was not aware of the Danish version at first and I wasn’t tempted to go back and check it out because I had only heard amazing things about the performances in that version – and Sofie Grabol in particular – so I didn’t want to have her in my head.

Q. The season finale drew a passionate and mixed response when it aired in America over the decision not to reveal the identity of the killer. How did that make you feel?
Mireille Enos: I was thrilled by the controversy. I think it’s evidence of how invested the audience was in the story and I think the people who were the most upset will feel that the pay-off is the most worth it when they see what happens.

Q. Will Season two provide answers? And will there also be a new case?
Mireille Enos: It will continue the Rosie Larsen case and that will be resolved mid-season… and then there will also be a new case.

Q. Do you think fans will be able to discover some clues by revisiting it when the Blu-ray and DVD of the first season is released on Monday, September 26?
Mireille Enos: Oh yeah, we’ve got an extended version of the season finale Orpheus Descending, which will reveal a bit more and has optional commentary. There’s also an autopsy of The Killing for fans to enjoy.

Q. How much of a luxury is it to be able to inhabit a character for as long as you do with a television series such as this?
Mireille Enos: It’s an incredible luxury when it’s someone as complex as Sarah is and when the writing is so good. I feel very lucky to be able to get to spend years with her…

Q. And does that make it harder to say goodbye? I know you were also a big part of Big Love
Mireille Enos: Well, I’ve been lucky in that there’s always been something exciting around the corner, so it’s been OK to say goodbye. That said, I was really sad when Kathy was killed in Big Love… heartbroken. They didn’t call me to tell me beforehand… I got the script, read it and started pacing around my apartment. But otherwise, it’s usually felt like it was fine to walk away and that I’d spent enough time with those people.

Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) in The Killing

Q. When it came to researching the detective element of Sarah I gather you were pregnant when shooting the pilot but you had a police veteran on the set whose brain you could pick? Did he tell you anything in particular that stayed with you about being a detective or dealing with victims and crime scenes?
Mireille Enos: Yes that’s right. He’s our on-set photographer. He had been a homicide detective for 20 years and photography was his hobby, so when he retired from the force he became a film photographer and he was very happy to let me pick his brain. And mostly he talked about the pacing of the life of a homicide detective. Most television shows sensationalise it all but he said there’s often a lot of really boring sitting around time and they officers deal with these cases very unemotionally. It’s a job to them and we never see that on TV. With The Killing we were definitely trying to capture more of that, which is why you have those moments where they’re eating at their desk and they don’t have a lead. So, that became a really key element to how Sarah deals with her job. Although, Sarah is not actually that good at remaining emotionally separated from her case [laughs].

Q. How much time did you get to bond with Liam James, the actor who plays your son? You have a very natural on-screen relationship…
Mireille Enos: Thank you. We didn’t actually have hardly any time together beforehand. In fact, the first scene we shot in the pilot was the one at the school where I think he is smoking and tell him off. We hadn’t met before that at all and I think it was really a testament to how great an actor he is that I was able to be really mad at him and not feel the need to treat him as a kid. I could be mean to him and he could be super mean back to me and it felt as though he was my equal.

Q. Talk about the rain… is it always that wet or is some of the gloom manufactured?
Mireille Enos: [Laughs] It is raining a lot and then they have to augment it because often it’s too fine for the cameras, so they set up these big rain towers and then dump buckets of cold water on us.

Q. So it’s a pretty uncomfortable shoot at times?
Mireille Enos: [Laughs] It is uncomfortable!

Q. Thank God for the woolly jumpers!
Mireille Enos: Thank God for the woolly jumpers, yes! Hurrah for the woolly jumpers [laughs].

Det Sarah Linden in The Killing

Q. Does it feel like the success of The Killing has opened more doors for you as an actress and helped make the leap into bigger projects and films?
Mireille Enos: Yeah, absolutely. I haven’t had that much of a chance to really show what I could do before, so you have to grasp those opportunities. But now that I’ve being trusted with a lead role in a series it’s afforded me that chance and it has really opened up this whole big other world of film.

Q. How are you enjoying making that step up?
Mireille Enos: It’s not as different as you’d think. My career has taken so many different paths to this point that I’ve come to realise that we’re all the same, everywhere I’ve been. We’re all just creatures trying to tell stories as good as we can, so whether that’s in a tiny theatre or as part of the biggest multi-million dollar film, we’re all still just trying to tell a good story at the end of the day.

Q. How is making World War Z with Marc Forster?
Mireille Enos: Marc Forster is fantastic director. The easy way to describe this film would be a zombie action movie but because Marc Forster is directing it, it’s so much more. It’s an analogy for survival on this planet under all kinds of different circumstances and the way we take care of each other or fail each other. I play the wife and mother of the central family of the story and we’re trying to survive and keep our daughters safe.

Q. How was working with Brad Pitt?
Mireille Enos: Well, he’s my husband in this so we get to share a lot of scenes together and he’s a really wonderful guy… really generous and collaborative.

Q. Do you look to him to see how he deals with his celebrity as you prepare to become more widely recognised from higher profile roles?
Mireille Enos: I think he deals with all of it very gracefully. It’s so nice to see how well he balances this huge career with his incredibly beautiful family and the humanitarian work that they do. I don’t actually know how they keep up with everything they have going on, or so involved, but they do it so well and they’re clearly so happy.

Q. How are you balancing that work-home aspect of your career being a new mother?
Mireille Enos: It can be tricky. While we were doing the TV show she was there but this has been a little trickier because it’s a big action movie set and that’s not always a very nice place to be for someone so young.

The Killing

Q. So, can that be hard, spending time away from your daughter, especially given the international nature of some jobs?
Mireille Enos: Yeah, there are days when it’s very tricky and there are others when it’s the most natural thing in the world. But she’s very adaptable. Interestingly enough, packing is funny once you have a baby. It’s like triple the amount of stuff that you have to bring with you. They should provide training for that [laughs]!

Q. Have you started Gangster Squad yet?
Mireille Enos: Not yet, I’ll start that in late September. I play the wife of Josh Brolin’s character and it has an incredible cast of men. It’s based on the true story of gangster Mickey Cohen [played by Sean Penn] and takes place in LA after World War II. And it follows the group of cops who go after him.

Q. Did you have to audition for World War Z and Gangster Squad or were you offered the roles?
Mireille Enos: I did audition for both. The World War Z audition came to me before Marc had seen any of The Killing. So he wasn’t aware of me. We were filming in Vancouver and I put myself on tape, so he asked if I’d come to LA to meet him. And then after we met, he sat down and watched The Killing and I got signed on. For Gangster Squad I went in and read for the director but he’d already seen The Killing and was aware of World War Z.

Q. Do you like the audition process? Or is it still daunting?
Mireille Enos: I don’t actually mind auditioning that much because I think it’s exciting. You do as much prep as you can but then you walk in and see what happens in the moment and that ‘x factor’ of not knowing is really interesting. But especially now that people are more aware of my work, it’s always a friendly room. So, I don’t mind… not that I would mind being offered something either!

Q. Have you had chance to work with Ruben Fleischer yet? And are you looking forward to doing a period piece with him like Gangster Squad?
Mireille Enos: Reuben seems like such a lovely guy. I only spent 20 minutes at the audition with him and we’ve had a couple of phone conversations but he seems really, really great. And it’ll be fun to do something with some style, to step back into the ‘40s. I’m going to be very pregnant in the movie so that’ll be fun to see how they make that happen. It’ll also be nice to play a warmer character because Sarah [on The Killing] is so closed emotionally and this woman, Connie O’Mara, is very warm. So, it’ll be nice to spend some time doing that.

Q. What’s your favourite memory of shooting the first season of The Killing?
Mireille Enos: [Pauses to think] Well, one of the days that we shot the episode we’ve talked about, Missing, and the scene in the diner… it ended up being trimmed down a bit but that was a seven minute continuous scene and that was a very, very exciting day of shooting – just to sit there with Joel and have a seven minute conversation over and over. We looked at each other at the end of doing it and said: “That was the most awesome day of shooting we’ve ever had!” And I knew we were making friends for life on that day. It was the perfect balance of theatre and film.

Q. When do you start shooting the second season?
Mireille Enos: In November…

The Killing Season 1 is released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 26, 2011 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.