Exclusive: AMC’s THE KILLING Michelle Forbes Interview

The Killing Michelle Forbes

Michelle Forbes has had more than her share of fan favorite roles. From Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Ensign Ro and Battlestar Galactica‘s Admiral Cain to Homicide‘s Dr. Julianna Cox and In Treatment‘s Kate Weston, she has stolen scene after scene, and that’s not even getting into her delicious turn as the maenad Maryann on True Blood.

Michelle is back on television April 3 in AMC’s THE KILLING, playing a mother confronted with unimaginable loss. It’s a vastly different role from Maryann, but one that looks like another classic.

Daemon’s TV talked to Michelle about what we can expect from The Killing, how difficult it is to portray such profound grief, and why she’s drawn to the darker dramas.

You’ve had a lot of terrific roles and from what I’ve seen in ‘The Killing,’ Mitch is another great one. –

Michelle Forbes: Yeah, absolutely.

AMC has been billing as though they’ve turned the crime genre on it’s head and they actually kind of have.

Michelle Forbes: Right. Well, the Danish show that it’s adapted from did extraordinarily well in Denmark and it’s having a really good run on the BBC right now. So whatever magic they worked hopefully our translation and our adaptation will do the same.

This show shines a light on the grieving mother–seomthing many crime shows only touch on. How is it playing that level of grief and horror?

Michelle Forbes: Well, I have to say that there is I’m discovering a tiny bit of masochism in what we do because it’s an odd thing to willingly and voluntarily step into those shoes and experience that pain on a daily level. I’ve done it before. I did it for three months with ‘Durham County,’ but this one, it’s more difficult because it’s five months and you don’t realize how an extra few months of living in that grief is quite taxing, psychologically and emotionally and even physically. You do a film and you’re shooting for three months or so, but for some reason those are the roles that we want to play. You think of Emma Thompson doing ‘Wit’ and stepping into a dying woman’s shoes for all that time. It’s an odd thing that we do for a living.

How would you describe Mitch?

Michelle Forbes: Mitch is someone who is, she’s really had to fight for every ounce of happiness in her life and worked very hard to create and maintain the family that she loves more than herself and would sacrifice everything for. When this happens, when this event happens and there’s this earthquake basically in their life I think that no one is more surprised than Mitch at how she responds to her child being stolen from her in such a brutal and despicable way.

So she changes quite a bit throughout the season and we watch her grappling with not only the loss of her child, but the fragmenting of her family and even unconsciously trying to re-identify herself. She’s someone that she doesn’t understand at all, her actions. She doesn’t understand her actions at all. She’s in shock for the first little bit of the series. So, yes, it’s definitely been a progression of her trying to understand, reevaluate, reassess and relearn the world around her after this event that is so horrible and damaging.

In the pilot episode, we get a glimpse of Stan and Mitch’s life–they’re happy and having fun before everything happens. That must really raise the stakes as we go forward–

Michelle Forbes: Absolutely. I mean, to know that this is an every family that is struggling economically. Certainly they have their crosses to bear. They have their flaws, but they’re a very happy family and they have managed to find enormous moments of happiness and love together. It’s not to say that they’re not passionate and don’t have their passionate fights and haven’t had them throughout their lifetime, but to see that happiness sort of sucked out of their lives, to see that happiness stolen from them and to know that they’ll never be the same again, this is where the word tragedy comes in.

There seem to be some questions raised about Mitch’s relationship with Rosie. How much will that be explored?

Michelle Forbes: I think the relationships between everyone is not always what you think it is in the way that sometimes it takes a random, sort of monumental event to shake things up in everyone’s life and you start to discover things not only about the people around you, but about yourself as well.

I love that there are different stories intersecting. How much will Mitch’s story overlap with the whole political race going on?

Michelle Forbes: All of that intertwines and interweaves on different levels. I think we’ll see more of that towards the end of the season. But they do, all of the stories do start bopping off of each other and serving each other.

What was it that first drew you to ‘The Killing’?

Michelle Forbes: When the script first came to me, for whatever reason I just really responded to Mitch. I put the script down and I just kept thinking about her and I just felt that for whatever reason that not only did I want to explore this kind of grief in a woman who is an every woman, who is a working class mother, but I felt that perhaps I had something to bring to it. I just felt oddly drawn to it. It’s a strange thing.

That’s usually how I decide on what jobs to do next and it’s something that sticks with you when you put the script down and you can’t stop thinking about that person and your mind is turning and you’re sort of longing to experience what they’re experiencing. That’s what drew me to it.

Outside of Mitch, which character in ‘The Killing’ do you find most interesting?

Michelle Forbes: They’re all pretty interesting. There’s actually a character played by Brendan Sexton III who plays this character, Balco, who works for our family and I do find his character really, really fascinating. He shows up more towards the middle of the season, but I find his character really fascinating.

The characters are all interesting because they feel real, and the other reason that I was drawn to ‘The Killing’ was because I wanted to play something completely antithetical to Maryann because I got a lot of offers that were sort of over the top and fantastical. So I really wanted to do the opposite of that. When they want you to go right you go left.

Mitch really is very different from Maryann, just as ‘The Killing’ is a totally different type of show.

Michelle Forbes: Completely, and I miss how much fun ‘True Blood’ was, but I was really looking for something completely the opposite.

I had a friend who thought Maryann was too dark and disturbing, but to I thought that she was a great, fun character, who had no concept of darkness, really.

Michelle Forbes: No. That was the great thing. When I say antithetical I mean really antithetical because her notion of death and violence, she’s liberated from all the fears that we have about it and all the avoidance that we have about it. She just thrust herself into it and tried to thrust everybody else into it and she found it very liberating and freeing. There was a great sense of walking through life like that as I was playing that role. A lot of my fears dissipated in life and it was great fun, and then I wanted to dance all the time, too.

When you were playing Maryann you were also playing Penelope on ‘Durham County’. How deep did you have to dig for that one?

Michelle Forbes: Oh, that was a tough one, but that was such a project filled with love because as well as going through the grief of another loss of a child her psychology and her emotional life was also fractured on top of it. And Laurie Finstad, our writer, her writing is just so complicated and so deeply psychological that it was a complete and utter immersion and the schedule was really tough. But it’s one of those jobs that I will carry in my heart forever. I still miss Penelope, as crazy as she was. I still miss crazy Pen because I just loved her heartbreak so much.

She was an incredible character –

Michelle Forbes: Yeah. She did such despicable things, but it came from such a place of heartbreak that I could only love her and not judge her.

You do seem drawn to the darker side of drama. Is that what you prefer or is that where the more complex roles are?

Michelle Forbes: I think it’s where the more complex roles are. I think that I am drawn to it for that reason. I think I need to start doing some comedy soon though. I don’t know that I can take it too much longer, but in the midst of heavy dramas like ‘In Treatment’ and ‘Durham County’ and ‘Battlestar’, say, and ‘The Killing’ you do get these gems like ‘True Blood’ where I get to run around like a kid and be a monster and wear a bull head and go to orgies. It’s like, ‘Oh, life is good.’

What’s next for you?

Michelle Forbes: We have three more weeks of shooting on ‘The Killing,’ I think, and then I’m going to need to take a little break. Decompress and get away from all this grief.

Once you’ve had a chance to recharge, are there any shows you would love to guest star on?

Michelle Forbes: Well, ‘The Borgias’ isn’t on yet, but it looks like a wonderful show. I like ‘Bored to Death’ a lot. It’s so off-beat and funny and different than other shows on right now.

The Killing has a special two-hour premiere on AMC Sunday, April 3 at 9pm eastern/8 central before settling into its normal Sunday 10pm eastern/9 central time slot on April 10.

You can read all our The Killing coverage here.

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