On the AMC crime drama The Killing (premiering April 3), actress Mireille Enos (Big Love) plays Sarah Linden, a single mom and homicide detective with the Seattle Police Department, who is ready to walk away, marry her fiancé and move her life to Sonoma, Calif. But, when local teenager Rosie Larsen is found murdered, her determination to solve the crime and catch the killer becomes a compulsion, no matter the cost to herself and her family.
In this exclusive interview with Collider, show star Mireille Enos talked about what drew her to The Killing, taking on such a complex leading role, juggling new motherhood with a drama series, the excitement of getting the new scripts each week and learning what secrets are revealed, and her decision not to watch the original Danish series, Forbrydelsen, so as not to compare the two. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: How did this show come about for you? Did you audition for it?
MIREILLE ENOS: Yeah, I auditioned for it. The casting directors for this had cast me in Big Love, so they knew me. When they got the script, they brought me in. I auditioned for (executive producer) Veena [Sud] and Patty Jenkins, who directed the pilot, twice. It went well, but it was the lead of a big show, so they needed to see everyone. They saw people in New York and London and L.A., so there was a big gap where I thought, “Well, maybe that went away.” I was doing other auditions. There was nothing I liked nearly as much. They were stumped and had gotten to a stalemate and they thought, “Let’s bring Mireille back in, one more time.” And then, they offered me the part.
Had you been actively looking to do another series?
ENOS: I knew my storyline at Big Love was petering off, so I thought it would be great to find something. But, I also was pregnant, so I was fine with the possibility that I was going to take some time off. And then, when this script came, it was so gorgeous and exciting that I really hoped it would happen. I wouldn’t have taken just anything, just to have work, because I was expecting. But, this was really a chance of a lifetime.
Did the work you did on Big Love really help prepare you to take on the lead role on a series?
ENOS: Oh, sure. Yeah, definitely. Getting to be part of an ensemble like that, with such wonderful actors and great writing, it all helped build to this.
What can you say about The Killing and how it is different from other crime shows?
ENOS: Crime shows are really popular, in general, but usually, at the end of every episode, you have to let go of the people that you’ve invested in and then, the next week, get somebody else. With this show, you have an entire season with this one case. You get to know the people so intimately that it’s more like reading a novel, rather than a short story. These people become your friends and companions.
Did you watch any of the original series, Forbrydelsen, at all?
ENOS: No. From everything I’ve heard, the actress that plays Sarah (Sofie Gråbøl), in the original, is so wonderful. I didn’t want to be comparing myself with her.
Was part of the appeal of this the fact that this show is equally about the characters and their lives as it is the crime itself?
ENOS: Yeah, you can explore a lot more. Every one of the storylines is multi-faceted, so there are so many directions that it can go. It makes each episode so interesting.
Who is Sarah Linden to you? What kind of woman is she?
ENOS: We’re all really complex, as people, and she is many different things. She’s a mother. Sometimes she’s a bad mother, and sometimes she’s a good mother. She’s a professional who’s incredibly good at her job. She’s trying to be a partner. She’s a fiancée. Sometimes she’s more or less successful at that. She’s deeply private. But, she’s also a really normal girl, too. That’s what makes it so fun to play. She’s a lot of different things, and she’s struggling to figure out which one of her facets is going to define her, in this new stage of her life. It’s really hard to let go of the cop part of her because she’s so good at it, but there’s a limit to how fulfilling it can be. It doesn’t allow her to be a good mother and a good partner, so she has to make a decision.
Do you feel like you get to know these characters better, with each episode only being a day of the story?
ENOS: Absolutely. You get to move so slow. You don’t have to make any leaps. It’s like, “Okay, I show up today and it’s just the next day I’m playing Sarah.” I get to learn about her, a day at a time, just like I’m living, a day at a time.
How much did they tell you about her, when you were cast, and how much have you learned along the way?
ENOS: Everything in the future, I learn as I get the scripts. (Executive producer) Veena [Sud] and I sat down, during the pilot, and talked about Sarah’s past and the things that are going to be revealed and character things that are important while building her. So, I knew some about her past, but everything else, I learn basically at the same time the audience does.
Are you excited to get the scripts each week then?
ENOS: Oh, my goodness, yes. It’s so exciting!
In this show, it seems that everybody has secrets. Do you feel that those secrets will surprise viewers?
ENOS: I think some of them will come out of left field and be very surprising reveals, and I think some of them will be things that the audience will intuitively know. There’s something so satisfying, as an audience member, about learning that what you were thinking is true.
Are there questions that get answered every week, and then new questions that arise? Do things get carried over multiple episodes?
ENOS: Yeah, there are things that definitely carry for several episodes. There are new leads that get followed, and then end up dying. There are new things that happen. Relationships between people get revealed that suddenly make something that seemed innocent, not innocent at all. It’s a mystery.
Were you told up front how that mystery would be resolved, at the end of the series?
ENOS: No, we don’t know. It’s really fun.
How have these actors been to work with?
ENOS: It’s an amazing ensemble of the best actors. We all make each other better, and that extends to all of the writers and directors that are coming in. Every piece of the puzzle is so carefully chosen that it just elevates the whole thing. It’s really a joy to show up to work.
How has it been to develop the relationships between Sarah and the two men in her life – her partner at work and her partner at home?
ENOS: They are really different guys, and they’re both awesome actors. What’s written are these really complicated relationships. Holder and Sarah don’t like each other very much, at the beginning, although they do have mutual respect. And, Rick is Sarah’s fiancé. They’re really complex relationships.
This show is so visual and atmospheric. Has the location of Vancouver really helped add to that?
ENOS: Well, sure. The backdrop does most of the work for you, and then we have the most awesome D.P., Peter Wunstorf. He is so brilliant, the way that he lights. Every image is like a painting. I don’t have to actually think about that at all. Everybody else is doing that part for me.
Is it more difficult to work with this kind of subject matter and be able to just leave that at work before you go home to your family? Does it tend to live with you more?
ENOS: It’s been fine because when you shoot, you’re breaking it all up in pieces and you’ve got the crew around you and there’s so much life on the set that it’s pretty easy, so far, anyway. Even with the hard scenes, you just go in, and then you get to step out. Two hours later, you’re shooting something where you’re acting like a dork. It helps to not have it go in as much, in your normal life.
Will viewers get to see some lighter moments with these characters?
ENOS: Yeah, totally. Otherwise, it would just be unwatchable. I mean, really. There’s all kinds of different stuff. It definitely stays heavy, but there are glimmers.
Are there going to be any flashbacks to see who these people were before they all got to this point?
ENOS: I don’t know. Not so far, but I have no idea. Maybe. They have big histories.
What have been the biggest challenges in developing a character like this?
ENOS: Right now, because I have an infant daughter, the biggest challenge is doing both of those things, at the same time, and doing a good job of both of those things. Because so much of my time, when I’m not on the set, is given to my daughter, the process gets condensed, which has actually been really interesting, as an actor. I’ve learned that I can actually get the same thing done, in less time. You just have to show up and crack yourself open. You can’t spend a lot of time deciding what’s going to happen. You just show up and be alive. So far, I’m really liking working that way. And then, I have to trust that (executive producer) Veena [Sud] and the directors will let me know if there’s something that I’m missing, and then we’ll fix it.
Is it fun to work on a television series where you’re constantly working with different directors and having to keep adapting your style?
ENOS: It is really interesting. We, as human beings, are different people, depending on who we’re with. It’s easy, with a character, to get narrow and to go back to the same familiar ways of being. When you have a different director, they’re going to have a different perspective and they’re going to pull different sides of that character out. It ends up helping you to have a more flushed out performance.
Does it create any pressure to know all of the success that AMC has been having with their original programming, and this being their first crime drama? Does that also give you more confidence, in knowing that’s behind the show?
ENOS: Yeah. To step into a world where people have such creative insight and they’re doing such a good job, it just gives you that much more confidence in what you’re doing.
Do you worry about the attention span of viewers, with a series that’s structured like this?
ENOS: I’m not worried, no. Every script I get is so compelling that I’m not worried.
THE KILLING premieres on AMC on April 3rd