Radha Mitchell Talks RED WIDOW, Her Character Marta, What Attracted Her to the Role, Balancing Realities and the Pace of a TV Schedule

     January 18, 2013


From executive producer/writer Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter and the Twilight Saga films) and based on the Dutch series Penoza, the upcoming ABC drama Red Widow (premiering on March 3rd), tells the story of Marta Walraven (Radha Mitchell), a stay-at-home mom who is devoted to her three children and her husband (Anson Mount).  But, as the layers peel back, her husband’s criminal dealings and the fact that her father is a Russian gangster will start to unravel secrets and force Marta to decide just how far she’s willing to go to protect her family.

While at the ABC portion of the TCA Press Tour, show star Radha Mitchell talked about what kind of a woman Marta is, how this is her dream character to play, what attracted her to the role, trying to balance two realities, why she relates to her character, what led her to television, and the shock of adjusting to the pace of a TV schedule.  Check out what she had to say after the jump. 

radha-mitchell-red-widowQuestion:  What kind of woman is Marta?

RADHA MITCHELL:  Well, Marta Walraven is pretty much my dream character to play.  I think Melissa [Rosenberg] wrote a woman who has a duality, which is very complex.  Basically, she’s a woman who is a housewife, who has been avoiding her criminal upbringing by living the life of a soccer mom.  She’s suddenly dragged into a world that she’s been trying to avoid, pretty much her whole life, when her husband is assassinated in relation to a drug incident.  In the process, she discovers things about herself and discovers talents that she didn’t know she had.  It becomes more and more compelled by the likes of Nicholae Schiller (Goran Visnjic), who is this evil, or maybe not so evil, drug lord in San Francisco. 

What attracted you to this role?

MITCHELL:  I was attracted to the role because Melissa has written somebody who’s very human and, at the same time, discovers aspects of herself that are more than she would expect, primarily because she finds the strength in herself, as a mother. 

Will Marta keep getting drawn, more and more, into this criminal world?  

MITCHELL:  At the moment, we don’t go that far in the first season.  There’s definitely room to evolve.  The balance, from what we’ve shot so far, is a woman living in two realities.  One is the crime reality, and the other is that she’s a mom and she’s dealing with all these mundane, maternal issues.  I was really drawn to the fact that she is a mom.  There’s something beautiful about that maternal energy, and to see that, not as the bad-cop character to a male lead, was quite interesting.  You don’t often see mothers in leading roles. 

Is there anything in your life that relates to your character, at all? 

MITCHELL:  Without going into it, I think everybody relates to their characters, in a very uncanny way.  It might not be a literal event that’s occurred in our lives, but there’s definitely an emotional intuition that’s aligned.  I would say that the real strength of the show is the actors.  I just feel like everybody on the show has this real emotional depth, and you can really see that in the performances of each of the characters.  The parts that I relate to are things I wouldn’t really want to share.  But, in terms of being thrown into a situation, even just coming to America when I did, initially, was a very exciting adventure and, at times, intimidating and scary.  I’m from Australia, and I came out when I was 23, or something.  I didn’t know anybody, and I was staying on my manager’s couch.  But, it was probably one of the most exciting junctures in my life because it was all about what could happen.

red-widow-castYou have a thriving movie career.  Were you looking for a series, when this came your way, or is something you were talked into?

MITCHELL:  At this point in my life, I feel like exciting characters are on television, right now.  And then, this opportunity to really explore a character within the complex aspects of what a story could be was very interesting to me.  But honestly, I’d always been very interested in Luc Besson’s character with La Femme Nikita.  This doesn’t directly relate, but she was this character under duress that discovers all these qualities in herself and all these strengths.  That was pretty much the character that I’d always thought was what I would want to explore.  And then, I read this pilot and I was like, “Wow, that’s the role I’ve always wanted to play.”  It came to me like that.  Obviously, I was very excited to work with Melissa, and also with Mark Pellington, who directed the pilot.  I think he was the perfect director for this because he’s very raw, emotionally, and very deep, personally, and yet he has an amazing aesthetic and a real sense for action.  All those qualities were what were needed for this, and he brought it really to life.  It was a very real, very satisfying collaboration, on the pilot.

What has the transition to series television been like for you, and do you plan on continuing to do films?

MITCHELL:  I’m over films.  No.  I have a few films that are getting released soon.  Honestly, it was a little bit of a shock, at first, because I had never worked at this pace.  I’ve normally had a little bit of time to marinate and sit with a script, and learn my lines.  Whereas with this, you get the script, and then you learn it and, the next thing you know, you’re shooting it two days later.  The pace of that was somewhat liberating and a little bit frightening, at first.  That was my initial shock.  But, there’s something really nice about having a group of people that you’re committed to, that you work with and that there’s a future in it.  Film is like a party, and then it’s over, whereas this hopefully feels like a family.

What finally clicked for you, when you came here?

MITCHELL:  It took me six months, and then I got a film called High Art.  At the time, I was staying on the director’s couch because they needed to cast the movie out of New York.  I sent a video out there and they cast me, and then I didn’t have anywhere to live.  But, it was all fun.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I was excited to see what would happen next. 

Red Widow premieres on ABC on March 3rd.