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V: Season 1 - Elizabeth Mitchell and Scott Wolf interview

Elizabeth Mitchell in V

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ELIZABETH Mitchell and Scott Wolf talk exclusively to IndieLondon about the first series of sci-fi drama [and remake] V and why they think it stands the test of time as well as being ripe for an update.

They both also reflect on their careers to date, including some of their past successes such as Lost and Party of Five.

Q. Were you fans of the original series?
Elizabeth Mitchell: I really enjoyed it. I remember watching it when I was 14.

Q. But of course a lot has happened in America since then [1983], making it ripe to revisit and re-imagine its themes…
Elizabeth Mitchell: I think that was part of what makes it so relevant. Like I said, I really liked the original and I wouldn’t have had any desire to remake it word for word. So, I’m very happy with the direction they took it in.

Q. Alien invasion themed movies and television are nothing new, of course, but what do you think makes them so enduring and appealing?
Scott Wolf: I think it’s because most people think it’s possible. I really feel that there a handful of themes that are repeated, which we wouldn’t keep revisiting unless people’s curiosity is as strong as it is. So, the more possible it is for people, the more engaging the subsequent experience.

Q. And that’s born out by the fact that the show enjoyed the best numbers for any new show in its debut season (2009/10)…
Scott Wolf: That was something we heard recently and we’re really proud of.

Q. And it’s helped get the show renewed for a second season…
Elizabeth Mitchell: We do have a second season and that’s really exciting for us. In fact, we also heard that the ratings started to go up during the latter part of the first season, which was something we didn’t expect to happen [laughs] – but only because it doesn’t usually happen. I like to think that’s because of the strong word of mouth that’s being generated. People are telling their friends this is a good show and are encouraging them to start watching, so we’re all very happy about that.

Q. So, what was the appeal of Erica in particular for you as a character?
Elizabeth Mitchell: Well, I was attracted to the ideas at first. And I also admired the fact that it had a very strong female protagonist and an equally strong female antagonist – so there were two strong female leads among a very strong ensemble cast. That was appealing. You always hear talk about how there are no good roles for women, and hardly any roles for women over 35 or 40, and yet here I was being able to play an action hero. The second thing was she is also a a mother and somewhat of a warrior. She has a tough side and a sensitive side and that was fun to play with.

Q. And Scott, what did you like about Chad?
Scott Wolf: I suppose the ambiguity of him. I liked the fact that he exists in this type of grey area – and any character that people aren’t quite sure about is fun to play. I’ve never actually played a character who I, even as actor, wasn’t sure about even to this moment, so that was a new challenge for me. I mean, even at the end of this first year, we still don’t who Chad will be in the end.

Q. And did it give you a newfound respect for journalism as a profession?
Scott Wolf: Absolutely… I studied it a little bit in school anyway and have always been fascinated by it. I regularly consume a tonne of programmes, mostly cable news stuff, but especially during the US elections… I was a cable news junkie. I was watching 24 hours a day. So, I loved doing the stand-ups and news reports from the newsroom as part of the show. Hopefully, one of the most interesting parts of the show for his character is seeing how he factors in the intended war that’s brewing. So, I’m hoping I get the chance to explore more of that professional side of him as the show progresses.

Scott Wolf in V

Q. You mentioned US politics but were you surprised at the Obama allegory a lot of people have drawn from it?
Scott Wolf: [Laughs] There was a moment, I don’t know if you saw it, where a reporter in the White House press room got up and asked the press secretary for the US if she had been watching V. That’s an unbelievable blurring of lines [laughs again]… I think she said she has a six-year-old and mostly watched Spongebob Squarepants, but the guy went on to inform her about the speculation surrounding V that the alien visitors are actually an allegory of your administration…

Elizabeth Mitchell: That’s great [laughs]… we made it to the White House, yay!

Scott Wolf: But my answer to that question has always been to anyone watching the show and deciphering what it means, I’m not going to tell anyone they’re wrong. What I can say is that the writers were not intending to directly comment on their feelings about the Obama administration!

Elizabeth Mitchell: But all of that stuff is good and it didn’t surprise me, personally, at all because I think that a lot of the fun of a show like V is that it’s open to interpretation. If anything, I was more surprised that more people didn’t pick up on the religious themes.

Q. But there does seem to be a resurgence in intelligent science fiction, whether that be on the small screen with Battlestar Galactica or on the big screen with films like District 9 and Moon
Elizabeth Mitchell: Absolutely and I loved Battlestar Galactica. I’ve always been a fan of the genre and it certainly is wonderful to me now that people know what I’m talking about!

Scott Wolf: District 9 was such a great movie… I loved that. I haven’t seen Moon, but I hear that Sam Rockwell’s performance is astonishing. I do intend to see it. But what’s great about shows like V and science fiction in general at the moment is that it feels relevant and it feels thought-provoking in a smart way. It’s a more sophisticated genre.

Q. You mention the surprise at the lack of the backlash about the religious aspects, but have you had any feedback about the 9/11 element? Or do you feel that it’s such a part of the psyche at the moment that people don’t mind so much now?
Elizabeth Mitchell: I do think it’s a part of the psyche. I wouldn’t want to be part of anything that draws on those terrible events for purely entertainment purposes, but the issues it raises are very relevant. The paranoia is absolutely there and I don’t mind being part of a show that brings that feeling out there for people to discuss. We don’t know who the person is next to us, or who the people we love are in some instances. Those feelings do exist…

Scott Wolf: So, to be a part of those discussions or be engaged with those feelings, which are latent in so many people, is a good thing to be a part of.

Elizabeth Mitchell: We also take something that’s essentially a fantasy [alien invasion] and give it an emotional side.

Q. And yet there is a lot of fun to be had too, not least in the nods to the original…
Elizabeth Mitchell: Definitely… did you like the way she looked longingly at the hamster? We had a lot of fun with that.

Scott Wolf: That was important for us, too, because we never wanted to overshadow the fun. I think it strikes a good balance… it’s a show that deals with serious themes but also doesn’t want to take itself too seriously.

Elizabeth Mitchell: That was another reason why it appealed to me… I really thought it would be fun to do. We have some really talented actors playing some really strong roles and having fun with them. In fact, I can’t wait for you to get to the last three episodes… I’m so excited for you to get there because it just keeps getting better. Creatively, it has moved in a really great direction. It took a while to figure out who we all really were as characters, but the writing is really strong now as it approches its second season.

Q. Talking of fun Elizabeth, I gather your scenes with Alan Tudyk were fun to film… and that you jumped at the “reveal” moment where you peel back his skin to reveal the lizard-like skin and his eye?
Elizabeth Mitchell: [Laughs] It was very hard to hit him time after time – but he never said “ow” once! Alan was terrific to work with. But that was a really freaky scene. Originally, they were just going to show the skin. But our visual effects guy had done this really amazing eye and we were all lobbying for them to show it. We kept saying: “Let’s just do one where we really see it [the eye].”

Q. And it made you jump every take? You had your Jaws moment?
Elizabeth Mitchell: [Laughs] Yeah. It did make me jump every time because they made it move like it was real. They actually built that thing and it got me each take because it was so real and kept moving.

V: The Complete First Season

Q. And Scott, I imagine that your scenes with Morena Baccarin [Anna] are fun to film. She has such a look and presence about her… she’s mesmerising in that she channels something other-worldly…
Scott Wolf: She’s really tapped into that. But from the very first encounter between the two of them, we could sense that something excitng was happening. Often when you get the script you can see something is possible but you never know what it will actually feel like. But there was something really great happening between us from the start. She tapped into some really extraordinary with her performance: she’s enigmatic, magnetic and very, very unsettling and unnerving at the same time. It certainly makes my job easy!

Q. So, what are you favourite examples of science-fiction, whether in cinema or on TV?
Elizabeth Mitchell: Well, I loved the re-imaginging of Battlestar Galactica. That was really fantastic.

Scott Wolf: Obviously, Star Wars

Elizabeth Mitchell: I watched Star Wars again recently and it really held up. My son was completely blown away by it. I also enjoyed Star Trek.

Scott Wolf: I also like things that might not necessarily fall squarely into science fiction, like Land of the Lost and The six Million Dollar Man. I thought those were all great.

Q. Finally, you’ve both been part of some amazing TV shows – Scott with Party of Five and Everwood. Do you still look back fondly on those? And Elizabeth, what was it like to be part of the Lost phenomenon? Was the final episode as emotional to film as it was to watch?
Scott Wolf: Thank you… and yeah I do look back very fondly on things like Party Of Five. When lightning stikes you as an actor, you know how lucky you are. But it’s happened more than once for both of us, and we’ve got nothing but great memories of those experiences. It’s also nice to watch how the careers of your former cast members have taken off and developed. It’s really like a family…

Elizabeth Mitchell: Absolutely, they become like family. You can’t spend that much time with people and not become close to them, so there’sa very special bond and, yes, it is emotional. But it’s exciting too.

Q. Were you personally satisfied with the way Lost ended?
Elizabeth Mitchell: I feel like they almost did the only thing they could… leave lots of questions unanswered and tie up everything that had to do with the heart. But I really liked that. The bravest thing to do was to leave some things open to interpretation rather than attempting to tie everything up neatly… But I feel it worked for them and it’s been exciting hearing the reactions ever since. It was an amazing experience to be a part of and, yes, that last episode was emotional for everyone.

V: The Complete First Season is released on DVD on Monday, November 8, 2010.