On a show with far more rain drops than tears, it's Michelle Forbes who provides the heavy heart that forms a large part of this hit AMC murder mystery's core.
Forbes plays Mitch Larsen, the grieving mother of Rosie Larsen in the breakout first season of "The Killing." Set in Seattle -- though filmed in Vancouver -- the show tackles the mysterious killing of the straight A high school student and the collateral damage done to a wide array of people left in its wake. With stoic Sarah Linden (Mirielle Enos) and troubled Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) playing the unlikely pair of detectives charged with solving the case, Forbes' mourning Mitch delivers the viewer a glimpse into the world of pain few can possibly imagine.
With the series' first season winding down, Forbes spoke with The Huffington Post about the show, her character, and those pesky "Twin Peaks" comparisons.
The Huffington Post: I don't think there's been one scene not in the rain.
I think that I was probably the most fortunate cast member in the sense that I'm inside a lot, so I didn't have to really experience the rain towers -- I mean, it rains a lot in Vancouver but they also had rain towers out to get that torrential downpour that 'The Killing' loves so much. I was very fortunate, I was the lucky one who was inside for most of the series.
The costume and makeup people must be driven crazy by that.
Oh, I felt so sad for them. I think they spend more time with blow dryers, drying actors off, than not.
What attracted you to such a heavy role?
I think it's always... as an actor, what I'm always looking for is something that will inform me about the human condition, and I think to explore the world of grief, that was an interesting thing for me. And I think with the character of Mitch, this woman who is fairly formidable, initially, and fairly tough, to see this woman just stopped in her tracks and to see her life implode and to see what that does to her particular psychology, that is what drew me to her and sort of haunted me about her.
How do you get there? How do you put yourself in those shoes?
It's not fun. It's not fun, I will admit to that. But it's the circumstances. You just apply yourself to the conditions and circumstances that you're given. And it's a fairly heightened circumstance. I mean, we've all experienced loss on some level, and we know how that's gutting, but to then take that up a notch, and say it's your first born and to know that she was stolen from you in such a brutal and despicable fashion, and that as a mother, the one thing that you're supposed to do is protect your children and she was not able to protect her child in that moment, it's a devastating thing and something people don't recover from.
You moved to New York at the age of 16 to act -- do you ever think oh man, I put my family through stress and didn't realize it?
It was only through an interview that I did when somebody brought it up, I thought, oh my god, what I must have put my mother through. You're not thinking in those terms when you're 16 or 17, you're just hungry for the world and you're hungry for new experiences and you're shouting over your shoulder, 'I'm fine, I'm fine! What are you so worried about? Stop worrying!' But yes, I look back now and I think, my mother must have been half out of her mind, with her child running through the streets of New York.
I wasn't a crazy child. I was a fairly serious kid and I wasn't up to hijinks, but even in that sense, it's not so much about the character of a child that's out there, it's about the world. It's about knowing that it doesn't matter if you're a good kid or a delinquent, you're still prey for how tragic the world can be at times.
When you'd go home from filming, was it hard to shake the character and the grief?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I am no method actor, I do not normally take things home with me, but it did have a way of staying with me. It's such a deeply sorrowful circumstance. I did another series, a Canadian series called "Durham County" where I was also experiencing the loss of a child. And that also -- as much as you try to leave it in your trailer and walk out and live your life, it has a way of staying with you and not unlike a low grade toothache or low grade headache, and I feel guilty saying that to some degree, because there's always a sense of obligation in the roles that you play and you want to tell the truth for these parents. And I was always incredibly aware that even though it stayed with me, I was always able to leave it behind while the parents were truly going through this, there's no respite, no escape. And I was always aware of that and it still chokes me up -- I was able to leave it behind to some degree, and these parents are not.
Do you research? Was there background you did?
I had done background for another project that I did and I had that in my back pocket so I was fairly well versed in the world of grief and loss. And again, it was just a heightened circumstance that this girl happened to be murdered and it wasn't just a loss through illness, which also people never recover from. Again, to have somebody brutally murdered, it's something you can't even wrap your head around.
What do you think of your character Mitch? She was pushing a little bit for revenge at one point -- do you think she's a strong character? Would you react somewhat similarly?
I think in that moment, my feeling was that it was an existential plea, it wasn't a conscious plea. I don't think she was -- in her right mind, I don't think she would ever actually call for revenge, that would make her far too nefarious a person. She's just a mother who is driven mad by the loss of her child. And it was more of an existential plea. We're talking about somebody whose daughter was murdered nine days ago, and with a little bit more healing, she'd have that plea. But it was never a calling for vengeance in that sense. And I think that what was interesting in that scenario is that you had two people who were confused in their grief, and communication can become confused as well. I think that's a very interesting scenario.
A lot of shows that have the mystery at the end, the writers keep things close to the vest. How far in advance did you know what the outcome would be?
Everything was kept secret from me; nobody told me anything. I just got the scripts and I just relief on my guts and my instinct from script to script. Other than that, I was told 100% nothing.
Does that make it difficult or easier?
It made it extraordinarily difficult, and it was terrifying in a lot of ways, but I have no control over the writing and I just have to accept things as they came to me.
It's a very different character from your character on "True Blood." Did you take anything from "True Blood," were you able to apply anything from there, or are they just completely two different sides of your mind?
Oh, two completely different sides. I think that's the great glory we have as actors, is what we get to tap into those different sides of us that might not be realized. I think the wonderful thing about playing Maryann is that I got to tap into a fearless side. I mean, she was completely fearless, completely unattached to all of the things that confound us as mortals. And it's terrifying to tap into that initially, but then so much fun. And on this one, you're tapping into a different part of your psyche and a different part of the collective unconscious for that matter. That's what we get to do as actors, we get to explore these places that we wouldn't otherwise get to explore, and I'm forever grateful for that.
Do you watch the shows like "Battlestar" and "24" after you leave them?
It depends. I'm sort of 50/50. There are some shows that I've never seen, some things that I've done that I've never seen and there are other shows, like "True Blood," like "In Treatment," which I watched religiously and became a fan of, but it really all depends.
You didn't watch when you were on it?
No, I didn't watch that season of "24." I haven't seen "The Killing" for that matter.
It depends. It really depends. I think, if we're talking about 'The Killing,' the grief was so painful to walk through, I'm in no rush to relive it. There will come a time five years from now where I'll think oh, I'll look at that box set.
Are you your own worst critic?
I'm actually pretty good. When I do watch shows, or projects that I've been a part of, I'm pretty good at watching them objectively. And that's mostly because I want to see how it came out overall, what the overall story was and how it came together visually, what my mates were doing. On 'True Blood,' I just had such a great experience on that show and i just loved everyone so much and I was so interested, we weren't in each other's story lines so I wanted to see the other story lines, I wanted to see how they turned out. It was such a fun show to watch. I think I'm pretty good at watching things objectively. I'm more interested in what the director of photography has done.
Is the interest in the show a surprise to you?
No. I don't know. I think it's interesting and it's fantastic. But I think once you start working for shows on networks like HBO and AMC, it's pretty much guaranteed they're going to have some sort of shelf life. So I'm not that surprised. Does that sound awful?
Can you feel a real difference working on network and cable?
Sure, there is a lot more creative freedom. That's also due to the financial confinements and paradigms involved in the whole landscape of television. The networks, they have to deal with advertisers and have to appeal to a wide audience, so I understand their limitations. Obviously, as an actor, you want to work somewhere that perhaps has, when you're telling a 13-episode story rather than a 22-episode story, there just seems to be more room for specifics and character developments and you're not really restricted by financial developments.
Anything on the second season?
I know nothing. I have no idea, I'm always so stymied when I'm asked that question.
Would you be up for one?
It depends. It depends on what the story is and where everything is going.
A lot of people compare it to "Twin Peaks," with the murder mystery in the Northwest. What do you think of those?
You know, it's really interesting -- I mentioned earlier, I did have a show in Canada, "Durham County," which was also compared to "Twin Peaks" and it was also compared to "The Killing" in the NY Times because it was more of a character study than a police procedural and very beautiful to look at and very broody, and that was also compared to "Twin Peaks." And I never understood the comparison, and on this one, I tended to sort of pooh-pooh that initially, but I am understanding how deeply similar it was. In fact, somebody sent me a scene where Laura Palmer's parents discover their child's death and it's shockingly similar. so there are a few similarities, but I don't know how 'Twin Peaks' goes by way of Denmark 20 years later and comes back to AMC, I'm still trying to understand, but I think the similarities are fairly intense.
I was a massive fan of Twin Peaks. Massive. I dont know how any of us grew up in this age of television and weren't astounded, and saying that, I'm still shocked that that was on network television. I was just watching it 6 months ago and there's this little scene with Kyle MacLachlan is with somebody, in this little room having dialogue, and this marching band just goes walking past, and I just thought, "How did -- this is so David Lynch, it's so insane, and it's so insane that it was on network television 20 years ago." I can't imagine it getting through today, I don't know how it happened, but I'm so glad it did. And it changed television.
But two decades had passed and I didn't see it. I think it was when I saw the one sheet for the show and it was 'Who Killed Rosie Larsen?" and it was so similar to "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" And so yes, initially I missed it, but now I see the similarities are intense.
"Twin Peaks" fell off after they solved that mystery -- hopefully that doesn't happen here.
No, hopefully the show lives and the two detectives go off to solve other crimes.
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