On the SundanceTV drama series The Red Road, lines will be crossed when tragedy forces two men – a mesmerizing ex-con named Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) and an embattled local police officer named Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) – to face the secrets of their past. As these two men find themselves increasingly compromised by one another, the lives of both, and everyone around them, quickly unravel.
Before the series returns for its recently announced second season in 2015, you can read this exclusive interview with Collider, where actress Allie Gonino (who plays Harold and Jean Jensen’s eldest daughter, Rachel) talked about how she came to be a part of the show, having originally been told that she didn’t get the role, why she was close to quitting the business, how she most related to this character, exploring a Romeo and Juliet type of love story, the family dynamic, working with Jason Momoa, and how curious she is about the next chapter in her character’s life. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers, if you haven’t watched the series yet.
ALLIE GONINO: My agent sent me in for the audition, and I went in for a first read with the casting directors. Then, I got a callback and read with (director) James Gray. And then, it just went from there. I actually got a call saying that I didn’t get it, and then a weekend passed and they were like, “You know what? We changed our minds. We do want Allie.” And I was like, “Yes! That’s great news for me!”
When you were originally called and told you didn’t get the role, what went through your head?
GONINO: I just took it as a big sign. I’m superstitious like that. The Red Road, in Native American culture, means the right path in life. So, I took it to mean that I’m on the right path in life, and that I should just keep going. There was a lot of symbolism in it for me.
You’ve said that, before getting this role on The Red Road, you came close to quitting the business. How close did you actually get?
GONINO: I was pretty close. I was also in a dark period in my life. I remember cursing at the heavens, quite literally. I remember having screaming fits in my car. I was just at one of those crossroads where you don’t really know if what you’re doing is leading anywhere. I enjoy acting, but at that point, I was like, “I don’t know if I enjoy the business of it enough to be in it.” I have a lot of other passions, too. I do philanthropic work, and I didn’t know if that would be a better use of my time and energy. So, that’s where all that stemmed from.
GONINO: Well, that was definitely part of it. If I’m not portraying characters and telling stories that I actually really care about, or that I think will have an impact in furthering the consciousness of humanity, then I don’t know if I want to be doing it. I am always looking at the bigger picture, and I want to do work that enlightens people and educates people. That’s why I got excited about this show. It has the social and political commentary, as well. I’m a huge fan of Aaron Guzikowski’s writing. I think he’s extremely talented. I want to be doing work that feels real and is representative of how real people talk and live. There is some fantasy element to our show, for sure, but it’s done in a way that you think it could absolutely happen.
How did you find yourself relating to this character?
GONINO: I think the biggest similarity between me and Rachel is that, when I was 17, I went through a very similar situation with my mom. I was in a relationship that she didn’t approve of, and she forbid me to see the guy, but I kept seeing him. I got caught and it was a big, huge, bad thing. She basically gave me 90 days to get myself together, or she was gonna move me back to Texas. Luckily, I booked a job, soon after that. So, in that way, I could definitely relate to Rachel. It wasn’t so much that she was challenging, but the whole experience was challenging, in the beginning, because I felt that I had to do justice to this writing and this role. I was among all of these veteran actors who I admire so much, so I put a lot of pressure on myself, instead of just relaxing. That made it harder, in the beginning, but now I know Rachel. It also helps that I know what kind of character she is. I didn’t know, in the beginning, so it was more difficult.
Your character isn’t Native American, but she’s in the middle of both of these worlds, with her relationship with Junior. Did you do any research into what those two worlds would be like, and how it would affect two people trying to have a relationship?
GONINO: It’s the classic Romeo and Juliet story about two kids from opposite worlds, coming together. I didn’t necessarily look into what a white girl going into the Native culture would be like, but I used the Romeo and Juliet story to help inspire what I would be feeling, in regard to Junior and our relationship.
How was it to develop the dynamic between you and Kiowa Gordon? Did you get to spend time together before you started shooting?
GONINO: We met a week before we started filming. Portraying a love story, I just approach the same. I try to just establish a good rapport with whoever I’m working with and try to be really easygoing about it. I try to be professional and not make too big of a deal about any of the romantic scenes. You’ve gotta ask all of the questions before kissing scenes like, “Can I kiss you here?,” or “Don’t use tongue.” Any professional knows to ask those questions or set boundaries before you just wing it.
Were you happy about the fact that Rachel wouldn’t allow herself to be mistreated and had enough self-worth to end things with Junior when she didn’t like how she was being treated?
GONINO: Absolutely! That was a complete surprise to me. At the beginning of shooting, I didn’t know what kind of character Rachel was. I didn’t know if she’d go down the rabbit’s hole and become a completely out of control alcoholic, like her mother. That’s where I saw her going. So, it was a really nice surprise when I saw that she was actually a really strong character that had a boundary. It shows that she knows who she is a little bit. I think she is finding out who she is through her relationships. So, it was a nice surprise to play those choices.
The sister bond between Rachel and Kate seems really tight, even though they don’t communicate much. How was that relationship to explore?
GONINO: I think Kate and Rachel have had to rely on each other, growing up with an alcoholic mother. I do think it’s interesting. They have a really sweet relationship, but I wonder if that will change, at all, later. I think it makes more sense to me now that I know what happens. But they have to rely on each other, so that’s probably why they have a solid relationship.
This family has some very intense moments together, but also seems to really love each other, even if they don’t know how to express it in the right way. What was it like to have Martin Henderson and Julianne Nicholson playing your parents?
GONINO: As actors, they’re both professional and really easy to work with. Julianne just had some really intense scenes, pretty much the whole time we were shooting. It is great to work with her. I was really excited to get to do some scenes with her. The Rachel-Harold relationship has always been a little fuzzy to me. He’s been the authority figure, so I don’t really think they have a cuddly relationship, like Kate and he do. And Rachel had to be the strong motherly figure in Kate’s life, for a little while. In the beginning, Rachel just wants to totally rebel against authority. It throws her off a little bit when Jean finally starts to step in, as an authoritative figure. It’s interesting. It’s cool because the relationships change so much, from the beginning to the end of the season.
Did you enjoy getting to work with Jason Momoa, especially with as intense as those scenes are?
GONINO: It was funny because the minute the director called, “Cut!,” we’d be joking around and having fun and goofing off, and then we’d have to play these really serious scenes where Rachel was terrified of Kopus. It was fun working with Jason. He’s a goofball. When I first met him, I thought he was going to be one of those actors who doesn’t talk to anybody, and is really serious and into his work, but he’s not. He’s really friendly.
Because things are left so wide open at the end of the season, it seems as though the characters could really go anywhere in future seasons. Have you given any thought about what you’d like to learn about your character, if you get a second season?
GONINO: I don’t know. I like leaving it up to the writers to surprise me. It will be interesting to see how Rachel handles the next chapter of her life, and if she gets back with Junior, or if she decides that that relationship is done and she moves on. I’m definitely excited to see where she’s going, but there’s nothing that I really want to see her do, in particular.
Having been through the waiting game before, does it ever get any easier, or is it always nerve-wracking, waiting to see if you get to continue playing a character that you get attached to?
GONINO: The only reason that I want to know is so that I know how to plan my life. But I’m learning quickly, in this business, that you can’t plan anything, which is the exciting part of it. I know I’ll be okay, either way, and I know I’ll be making music, either way. That is a nice cushion. While I’m waiting to see what’s gonna happen, I can focus my attention for auditioning for movies or making music. I don’t know where I would be without music. Even if I wasn’t a musician, I think music is God. In a lot of ways, it’s my saving grave. It’s been my religion since I was a little kid. I see a lot of people put all of their eggs in one basket, and what do you do if that doesn’t work out? Most people are multi-talented and good at a lot of things, so I just think it’s smart, especially in this day and age where the competition is so fierce, in every avenue, to have a bunch of things you’re doing.
The Red Road can be viewed on SundanceTV or through Amazon Instant Video.