On the ABC drama series Resurrection, now in its second season, the people of Arcadia, Missouri have been forever changed, after the sudden reappearance of their deceased loved ones. The daughter of the local Sheriff (Matt Craven) and the niece of Henry (Kurtwood Smith) and Lucille Langston (Frances Fisher), whose son Jacob (Landon Gimenez) died over 30 years ago, Dr. Maggie Langston (Devin Kelley) has teamed up with Agent Bellamy (Omar Epps) to get to the bottom of this mysterious phenomenon.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Devin Kelley talked about how she came to be a part of Resurrection, her initial doubts about the series, why she’s thankful not to have all of the answers yet, having the best of all genres in one package, the most surprising story twist, where Maggie is at with things this season, when Maggie might learn about what’s going on with Bellamy, her grandmother’s secrets, Maggie’s personal journey, getting to explore all sides of the character, and how she might react if one of her own loved ones suddenly reappeared. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: How did you originally come to this show? Were you just auditioning for shows for pilot season?
DEVIN KELLEY: Yeah, it was just pilot season and I was reading a bunch of scripts. My manager came across this one, and she called me and said, “It’s the best one I’ve read this year, hands down. It’s fantastic!” And then, she told me the premise, and I was like, “That doesn’t really sound up my alley. It sounds absurd!” When I heard that it was about a small town with people returning exactly the way they were when they died, I thought it was going to be very sci-fi, and that’s not really my cup of tea. And then, I sat down to read it and within the first few pages, I was hooked because it’s about people and it’s about these characters, and it’s not about the actual phenomenon. That’s the umbrella that hangs over all of us, but at the core of it is the family drama. That’s what roped me in. And I was lucky enough to get the part. I auditioned a couple of times. I met with the writer and director, and we had the same take on Maggie. And then, a week later, I was on a plane to Atlanta to shoot the show.
Having that initial reaction to it, are you surprised that we still don’t even really know where these people have been or why they’ve come back?
KELLEY: Yeah. I can’t actually say that I’m surprised, but I’m thankful that that’s the way that it worked out. Especially going into Season 2, it would have been very easy to turn this into an Under the Dome thing, where the government comes in and it’s not a government state and everyone is being watched. That’s also something that I’m not interested in. I’m so thankful that the writers have kept the show, at its core, about humans and emotional relationships, and how we deal with very basic human things, like loss and grief and death and hope, in the face of a very unreal situation.
Over the course of the first season, every time you thought you knew what this show was, it would take another turn. Did you feel that same way, reading the script, each week?
KELLEY: It’s so funny you say that because Matt Craven and I just had this conversation at work about how just when you think you know what these people are going to do, or you know what’s going to happen next, or you know what you want, the exact opposite happens. So, if I start to have ideas for how the storylines are going to go, I’m trying to train myself to think of the opposite because that’s actually what’s probably going to happen. I’m just trying to mind-fuck the whole thing. So, I’m reading Episode 207 right now. With every script, I’m just like, “I have no idea where it could go from here. I just have no idea. Where could it go? What could they do? This is crazy!” And then, the next script comes out for the next week and it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe they took it there!” So, I am surprised and shocked and excited with a whole bag full of emotions, every week when I get a script. It’s so fun to be on a show where we’re all on our toes, all the time. We’re constantly texting each other and calling each other while we’re reading and go, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe you do that! Holy cow! This is crazy!” Sometimes it’s a bit more procedural. Sometimes it’s a bit more emotional. We get the best of all genres, in one little package.
KELLEY: When we got the finale, the first draft didn’t say that Bellamy was a Returned. So, I read the whole script and I just thought, “Oh, they’re going to come take away Jacob. Good cliffhanger.” And then, they sent rewrites of the script and I was breezing through them when I saw that Bellamy is a Returned, and I think I screamed. My jaw was on the ground. I called Omar [Epps], and he was like, “Oh, my god!” We were screaming on the phone. I did not see that coming. That one just slapped me in the face.
How tricky is it to clue the audience in on a big secret that the other characters aren’t even aware of yet?
KELLEY: It’s a tricky thing because you don’t want the audience thinking, the whole time, that they’re smarter than the characters. You don’t want them to judge a character and think, “You’re an idiot! Why didn’t you know that? Figure it out!” I think they handled it in a really smart way that sets us up and sets Omar up, for the rest of the season.
This show was the sleeper hit of last season. No one really knew what to expect from it, but people seemed to really get sucked in. When did you realize that people were getting drawn in, in that way?
KELLEY: It was really nuts because we filmed the first season in Atlanta, for a couple months leading up to the premiere. By the time it premiered, we had already been wrapped for a couple of months. And so, the whole time we were filming it, I was like, “I think this is really good. I just hope that people watch it.” There are so many great things out there, and if a certain amount of people don’t watch it, then it just goes away really fast and everyone moves on. I was so scared that that would happen, and that it just wouldn’t get the shot that I felt like it deserved. This show strikes a vein. If people want to explore this kind of emotional, psychological, sci-fi thing, then we have it. It’s just a matter of whether people are interested in that, at this point in time. So, we had a premiere party and it was great, but we were all so nervous. We were trying to have fun, but not really talking. And I woke up the next morning with a text on my phone from Samaire [Armstrong] that told me the numbers, and I was like, “Shut up!” I screamed at my phone. I had hoped, but I didn’t want to put myself up for disappointment. I had humble hopes that we would do well, and then it would grow a bit more with word of mouth. But, we had a really big premiere. People showed up to watch it. It was really exciting.
In Season 1, everyone was in shock from the return of their loved ones, and they were trying to figure out what was going on and how to deal with it. Now that your character has had some time to adjust, where is she at with everything, this season?
KELLEY: For the majority of Season 1, Maggie was really buttoned up. She was just focused on taking care of people and on taking care of the issue at hand and trying to figure it out. She wasn’t actively seeking answers. When we start Season 2, it’s a week later. Bellamy has been missing and life has resumed to normal, or as normal as it can be with people having returned from the dead, living amongst us, in our town. Life is back to what it was, before this whole thing happened. That lasts for about an episode, and then things start to go downhill, in a way that I never thought would happen. It ends up with the buttoned-up, put-together Maggie that we know unraveling, slowly but surely. We’re filming Episode 206 right now, and it is not pretty. She is in a bad way. That’s all I can really hint at, right now.
Clearly, Season 2 is starting off with more unanswered questions, including where Bellamy has been and what’s happened to him, and Margaret Langston being back and what secrets she might have. Even though the audience does get some answers about Bellamy, by the end of the season premiere, how long will it take Maggie to figure out what’s going on?
KELLEY: That’s an excellent question, and one that I’ve been anxiously awaiting the answer to. It’s such an interesting and delicate balance for the writers. They have to give answers, so that people stay engaged and don’t give up. It’s a give-and-take relationship, where they have to give some answers and explain why certain things are happening to give context, but then by giving those answers, they always end up creating more questions. It’s a very tricky thing that they do, in that writers’ room. But in Season 2, there are definitely little truth bombs dropped, along the way, that I think the audience will be satisfied by. The questions that Margaret Langston raises when she comes back are really deep and dark. I can’t wait to see how they flesh out. I don’t know yet, but I’m anxiously awaiting that.
What’s it like to have Michelle Fairly there, this season?
KELLEY: I wish I could say that she’s an evil diva and that she’s absolutely the worst, but she’s the best. She’s just the sweetest woman. She’s so chill and so cool. She fits into our cast so well. It was just seamless, like she’s been here, all along. It’s so weird, she looks like my mom, in real life. Sometimes I look at her and think, “Holy buckets! It’s like we’re actually family.” So, to have that tie there makes acting in scenes with her just so much deeper. She’s so present and really just embraces the dark side of this woman that she’s playing. She’s so manipulative, but there are just so many colors that she’s added to it that she’s not just playing this stock villain. She’s so nuanced. I think people are going to flip out when they see what she does.
There’s obviously an attraction between Bellamy and Maggie, which must be awkward with him staying at her place now. Is their working relationship ultimately more important than risking that for romance?
KELLEY: I’m so glad you phrased it like that. Most people are just like, “When are they gonna hook up?” I’m so glad that you said their working relationship is the most important. I think Bellamy says in the premiere, “People were coming back from the dead. There wasn’t a lot of time for chit chat.” Maggie doesn’t even know the extent of what Bellamy is dealing with, but they’re both dealing with something deeply personal, whether they share that with the other person or not. I think they both feel responsible for this town and this community. They’re at the forefront of this issue, so they feel like it’s on them to really get to the bottom of what’s going on and try to help as many people as possible. There just isn’t the time. It would be so selfish and impulsive to eek in a romantic situation, and I’m so glad that ABC and the writers haven’t veered that way. There are suggestions of it, and I think that’s the nature of the beast when there’s a man and a woman on screen together. Either they’re interested in each other or they’re not interested in each other, and people want it to be defined. But I like that it’s defined by work, with little sprinklings of flirtation. Ultimately, they respect each other as professionals. They are incredibly focused on what they’re dealing with, so their personal issues are not of importance right now. They’re dealing with everyone else.
Apart from her relationships with the other characters, what can you say about Maggie’s personal journey in Season 2?
KELLEY: Season 2 really opens up a lot of doors for Maggie. One specific event happens, a couple of episodes in, that fundamentally changes how she looks at the world and how she had been functioning. Her entire life, she grew up without a mother, so she has functioned in a very specific way, always taking care of her father, always being in control, always trying to be this perfect child. She’s quite a control freak. But, one person can only keep it together for so long before you just crack and it all comes flooding out. There is a point where Maggie just stops dealing with everyone else and has to sit with herself, whatever that means, and reflect on how she can function, going forward. People returning has changed everything she thought about her family and about herself. Her world gets turned upside down. It’s been so great to play that fall. I’m glad that she started at a point where she was really buttoned-up, crisp, clean and professional. From that, she’s tumbled all the way down to rock bottom.
KELLEY: It’s a really interesting dynamic because they stand on such opposite sides of the fence, as far as the Returned go. But at the end of the day, they’re family. He raised her, so she is her father’s daughter. There is a lot of stubbornness there. There is a lot of pride. But an event occurs that brings them together, and they put aside their personal issues and start to try to rebuild the bridge between them. I think that’s the big theme this season, between Bellamy and Fred, Fred and Maggie, and some of the other characters. They’ve established relationships, and the bridge gets broken and crumbled by something, and they have to work to rebuild it, and then it gets broken again. It’s like life. It’s just never clean. It’s messy. It’s always a give-and-take. Sometimes it’s really great, and sometimes relationships are really gross. It just depends on the day.
What have you enjoyed most about getting to explore this character over a longer period of time, on a TV show?
KELLEY: The best part is that I get to play all sides of it. It’s not like I’m just in the lab coat and I’m just dealing with patients and I always speak in a certain way. I get to deal with every character on the show, so I get to be the best friend with Elaine (Samaire Armstrong), I get to be the professional with Bellamy, and I get to be a daughter to Fred. It allows me to create a full, well-rounded character that’s very well-informed, based on all sides of her. I feel like I know how her brain works, and what she thinks, what she focuses on, and what she cares about. That’s such a fun, free place to be, and it makes the work so much better. That’s just the luxury of time and having the space to breathe. All of these little things marinate, and then with every episode, new little surprises come up that inform who she is. It’s the writers and me working together on it. They’ll throw something in a script and I’ll think, “Oh, my gosh, I never would have thought of that! That’s fantastic!” I really love almond butter in real life, so they had me eating an almond butter sandwich while I was talking to someone. Little details get thrown in there, as you see more of Maggie’s life, and it’s just so fun to play with.
Because you don’t have all of the answers for what’s going on, do you or any of your castmates try to come up with ideas for the reason why all of these people have come back, or have you thought about how you might react, if someone from your own life just showed back up, one day?
KELLEY: Omar Epps has a new theory, every week. He’ll come to work and be like, “All right, this is what I think it is.” He’ll throw out this whole long, drawn-out analysis, and then the next week, he’ll be like, “No, that was totally wrong. Here’s what it is.” Now, it’s just comedy to me. We don’t know. The writers say they know. I don’t know if they do, but I know they have a grand plan. But, I really like not knowing and taking the pieces from each script, in the moment, and dealing with what we know, at that time. Of course, Maggie has a scientific brain, so it’s always firing in a very specific, logical way. It’s nice to play someone who functions in a very different way than I do. I could come up with weird stuff that science and medicine would frown upon, but Maggie approaches it in such a different way.
It’s super interesting because we get on set together, as a cast, and the show opens up something in people. It opens up conversations that aren’t really normal and every day in society. It’s brought us together, as a group of people, because we’re dealing with things that are so emotional and it sets the stage to talk about a grandparent or a parent or a wife that was lost. It’s hard not to think about how you’d be affected by this situation, if it happened in real life, because we’re living it at work, every day. Some days, it’s deep. All of my grandparents have passed away, so when I look at Michelle playing Margaret, and I’m doing these scenes with this woman who is playing my grandmother, of course I think about what it would be like, if my real grandmother walked through the door. That’s a great place to go in the imagination because it makes it seem that much more authentic and rooted from a real place. Everyone has thought, “What if I had one more minute or one more day with someone who has passed on?”
Resurrection airs on Sunday nights on ABC.