On the new NBC mystery thriller The Event, Blair Underwood and Lisa Vidal play the newly elected U.S. President and his First Lady. When President Elias Martinez is handed a file that will change the course of his presidency from that moment on, events are set in motion that will affect the lives of everyone, including that of his wife and young son.
Although the pilot didn’t reveal the actual event that the series is seemingly named after, presumably viewers will learn about that over time, as all of the characters appear to have secrets of their own. During a recent interview, co-stars Blair Underwood and Lisa Vidal talked about playing such powerful characters, being on such a secretive show and working together again, after their last time 14 years ago. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Blair, how is it to be playing the President?
BLAIR UNDERWOOD: I am having the time of my life. I’m trying to just keep it apolitical and neutral. He’s a fictional President, but you can’t help but pull from our current President or past Presidents. What I loved, when I first sat down with our executive producer Jeffrey Reiner, was that from day one, we talked about seeing this President as this man, this human being and this character who happens to be the President. We access him from a very familiar and familial place. The first time you see this President, he’s with his beautiful wife and his 8-year-old son.
What kind of a President is this man?
UNDERWOOD: Elias Martinez is a newly elected President. He’s very optimistic, idealistic and politically savvy, otherwise he wouldn’t necessarily be in that job. It’s interesting. This is a President who embodies all of that sense of wanting to believe and have faith in the good and the noble causes. He’s very smart to learn from the mistakes of the past. You learn from the past. This President is someone who knows there are detainees and he wants to release them because it’s not the American way. It’s not the humane thing to do. But, he also knows and is informed, very eloquently, that there are consequences to that.
Is he a good man?
UNDERWOOD: He’s a good President and I feel he’s a good man, and he wants to do the right thing.
Lisa, what kind of First Lady is your character?
LISA VIDAL: I’m very, very excited about how I’m going to portray my First Lady. She’s very strong, she’s intelligent, she is very protective of her family and husband, and she’s been quite integral in him getting to the White House. She’s a little bit of Michelle [Obama], a little bit of Hillary [Clinton], a little bit of Jackie [Kennedy] and a little bit of me. She absolutely brings some hot Latin flavor. The idea of playing the first Latina in the White House is exciting. I feel honored. I have plans.
Does she have some secrets?
VIDAL: I think she has secrets. I don’t know exactly what they are just yet, but I know that they’re big. It’s interesting because all of us are so excited about the unknown that it’s fun to play a character where you really don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s like life. You don’t know what’s around the corner. You just go with the flow.
What did you think when you first read this script?
UNDERWOOD: I met with the producers first and talked with them. I remember thinking, “If the script is nearly as good as they’re making it sound, I’m in.” I read it that night and, when Laura [Innes] says, “I haven’t told you everything,” I was a lock. I was there.
Had you been looking to do a TV series?
UNDERWOOD: No, not at all. I have a production company and we’re focused on a documentary that we’re doing right now, and I was in editing. It’s on the history of African American entertainers, from slavery to the present. It’s being financed by a company called ATI. It’s financed, so we’re going to make it and then we’ll sell it. So, I was completely focused on that, and I hadn’t read any other script this year. And then, my agent called and said, “They’re inquiring about you for this role.”
How was the character written, at that point?
UNDERWOOD: It was written as a JFK-esque, Latin President. That’s all it said. So, I read it and wanted to do it and said, “Do you still want to keep this President Latin?,” and they were adamant about that. It was very important. That’s where the Afro-Cuban came from.
Do you speak Spanish, and will you be speaking any on the show?
UNDERWOOD: I do speak Spanish. We speak a little bit on the show. This President only speaks to his son and sometimes to his wife in Spanish. I only speak it if my family is around.
How much do you know about your characters, or are you completely in the dark?
UNDERWOOD: I know quite a bit. I can’t talk about it though.
VIDAL: They gave each one of us some details of what we needed to know.
UNDERWOOD: The night before filming the pilot, they gave each of us a dossier. It was delivered to the house. What was interesting about that was that some of the backstory we had discussed and some of it was new to me. On the top of the page, it said, “Confidential: Do not share with anybody else, including other actors.”
Lisa, what kind of style does this woman have?
VIDAL: I love the wardrobe that they have for me because it’s not stuffy. It’s very elegant, and yet it has a little bit of that sassy edge to it. They’ve had some Valentino and some Dolce & Gabbana that was very nice. The wardrobe has some classiness to it, but it’s not stuffy or boring.
Blair, how has it been to work with Lisa Vidal as your First Lady?
UNDERWOOD: She’s amazing. We did a show together 14 years ago, where we were cops and we were partners on the beat. It was called High Incident, for Dreamworks. So, 14 years ago, we were running the streets. Now, we’re running the country. That’s a step up.
Lisa, what do you enjoy about working with Blair Underwood?
VIDAL: He’s a wonderful man. I feel so lucky. We worked together 14 years ago. He’s one of my best buddies, and I love him dearly.
How is it to balance work and motherhood, since you have three kids?
VIDAL: It’s a juggling act. I have a lot of help, though. I have a nanny, my sisters help me and I have my husband. It takes a village. It really does. It’s different when you’re the mommy and you’re also out there with a career. You’ve got to take your working cap off and put your mommy cap on and get into that world. But, it’s great. I love my kids so much. They teach me something every day. It always brings richness to my work, and even more in life. I feel lucky to be able to do both.
Does working with an ensemble give you some more time off?
VIDAL: Yeah. I love being part of an ensemble cast because I have a family. It’s really hard, when you have a heavy workload, because it just really pulls you out of your life. It’s nice to have some balance. I get to work and enjoy that part of me, but then I have time to have a life and be with my kids. My kids have always been very involved with coming to sets. I’ve always had them with me. I travel with them, if I’m doing a project outside of L.A. I wasn’t able to be away from them for very long, so it all worked out.