As CBS' "Under the Dome" continues to dominate the ratings, viewers are being drawn ever deeper into the mysteries of Chester's Mill and its beleaguered characters -- and there are few more beleaguered than Carolyn (Aisha Hinds) and Alice (Samantha Mathis), a married, interracial lesbian couple with a rebellious teenage daughter.
As we saw in last week's episode, small-town Chester's Mill isn't the most forward-thinking or inclusive vacation spot, which was why Carolyn and Alice had little interest in stopping there on the way to take daughter Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) to a reform camp for wayward teens -- at least until that pesky dome dropped and trapped them all.
The Huffington Post sat down with both Aisha Hinds and Samantha Mathis during the filming of tonight's episode, "Outbreak," to learn more about the challenges awaiting this displaced family.
There is a character named Carolyn in the book, but she's very different from your version of the character. What do we need to know about this Carolyn?
Yeah ... Carolyn is, as far as it relates to the book, Carolyn is a name in the book. [Laughs.] My character is a composite of characters from the book, but they really created this character specifically for the series. She is an entertainment attorney by trade; they’re from the Los Angeles area; she’s married to Samantha’s character, Alice; and they have a daughter, Norrie. They are those parents who have tried to give everything that they could and provide a whole environment for their daughter to be the best that she can be, and obviously they are achievers -- one being a psychiatrist, the other being an attorney. They obviously have a certain mindset ... sometimes, probably to the detriment of allowing their daughter just to have her own evolution as a person. And so, an incident occurs in Los Angeles that leads them to bring her to this camp that is going to hopefully fix the situation and "fix" their daughter. And so they ... find themselves caught up in a situation that they absolutely had no plans to be a part of -- that was not on Carolyn’s calendar of things to do. She’s a workaholic.
So they are now in this situation, and I think when you have any kind of crisis, it unearths the character that is really within that person. So whatever mask she was wearing, whatever crutches she had, whatever she devised for herself ... the real her is bound to come out in these circumstances, and the real relationships between her and her wife, and her and her daughter are going to be tested and exposed under these circumstances.
So I think that is just a great addition to the story, in terms of bringing it to series television, because that is something that is the fabric of America. There’s so many things that people do on a daily basis that they do as a way of defining who they are. But really, what defines who you are is when circumstances push you to the edge. When you’re at that edge, who are you and why have you decided to be who you are and why do you do the things that you do? I think it’s a great character to open that discussion with. And that's on top of the obvious that here you have two lesbians in the middle of a small town.
Which is great, because that kind of point of view was missing from the book, so it seems like a natural perspective to add in.
Exactly. [With] Stephen King ... on the surface, there’s all the gore, but subtextually there’s always some sort of social commentary. So I think that [the book] is an obvious piece of social commentary and dialog that is relevant to the times right now, especially with all of the conversations about people having the right to marry ... And so not only are we a lesbian couple, but we’re an interracial couple, and we have a teenage daughter that looks like neither one of us. And she’s got her own issues and problems, but at the end of the day, we’re still a family like anyone else, and I think when it really hits the fan and we’re under this dome, none of those distinctions become important. Now, we’re all just human. We’re all on the same playing field. It doesn’t matter -- we’re all trying to survive and by any means necessary and everyone has to help everyone. So there’s no time for prejudice. There’s no time for ostracizing. There’s no time for all of that.
What do you think you would do if a dome dropped down and trapped you where you live? Would you be a stock-up-and-take-shelter type, or a first responder?
I definitely think that I would be a part of the first responders and help, and I think that it comes from just being in the real world. I’m a New Yorker. I was there during 9/11 and I saw how, not only New York City stopped for a moment, we all took an inhale and exhale at the same time -- the world united at that time and it changed my life. I think millions of people were forever changed. And there have been different things that have happened even after that, even with Hurricane Sandy ... you see how it unifies a community and it changes you and the fabric of who you are as a human being. So I think that has now become part of my reflex, so part of my reflex would want to help.
From talking to Aisha and Mackenzie, it sounds like having this family trapped under the dome will force them all to confront some things that need addressing, almost like couples therapy -- is that a fair assessment?
I would say that there are definitely some undercurrents of tension between Carolyn and Alice. In the beginning of the show, I think they had different perspectives on what the best path is for Norrie, and while Alice may be pro-therapy as a psychiatrist, taking Norrie away from the family unit isn’t necessarily her first choice. But Carolyn is very strong -- I would say [she's] maybe more of the alpha in the family and I’m a little bit more of the softie, but also the nurturer. So we had different perspectives on it, and you can see that there’s some tension between the two. Alice also is diabetic. [She has] Type 1 diabetes and you see Carolyn constantly making sure that I’m taking care of myself, and that could be construed as wonderfully caring or slightly condescending, depending on your perspective. [Laughs.]
They love each other, but they’re a married couple and they’re having some tensions. Throw them into these extraordinary circumstances and where we go from there will be really interesting. I love that about Stephen King. He is such a smart writer and this is the third time I’ve worked on one of his [shows], and I just love that ... he really does create flawed, human people, but he throws them into extraordinary circumstances and then you get to see if they’re going to sink or swim. You get to see their humanity. They get to see their own humanity, and oftentimes, see things about themselves that they really don’t like.
How do you think you would react if a dome fell and trapped you?
I’d like to believe that I would participate in the community and be a part of people pulling together and being really smart about our resources and helping one another -- in our particular circumstance, being a family unit ... If something was to happen to part of my family, I don’t know what I’d do. My character's Type 1 diabetes is going to become an issue. The ethics around having access to insulin in a hospital and knowing there won’t be much of it raises some interesting questions. I would like to believe I would do the right thing ... If I had a child and my child was in jeopardy, I don’t know what I’d do.
What's the mother-daughter dynamic between Alice and Norrie like?
Well, Alice was the one who actually gave birth to Norrie. And I don’t know that that necessarily means that she has a tighter relationship, but she has a different relationship with her daughter. I think that she is more of the nurturer in this relationship and she has a softer approach in terms of wanting to understand what’s going on with Norrie. Obviously, Norrie is acting out in some ways that could potentially be really dangerous to her. But Alice doesn’t necessarily agree with Carolyn on how we’re going about rectifying that.
What can you reveal about what's coming up for your characters?
In this next episode, it’ll be really interesting because my character, having been a psychiatrist, she has a year of medical training and she’s going to be running the clinic. Something occurs where lots of people are getting sick. So I’ll get the opportunity to actually act with a lot of people I haven’t worked with yet ... We’re entering into an episode where my character has a lot more to do. There is something that’s going to come up in terms of my own physical health in this episode that is going to be bring up an ethical issue between us as a couple, that’s going to add to the tension and the friction in our relationship. And so far, from what happens in this episode, I can say that Alice continues to stay on a real, true ethical path. That may not end up being the smartest choice for her.
"Under the Dome" airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.
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"Big Jim doesn't see himself as a bad guy. He thinks he's doing right, he thinks he is the chosen leader of the town. He does save the town a number of times. Certain people, if they keep the trains running, see themselves as the right person for the job even though the way they go about doing that isn't necessarily all that kosher. There's a side of him that's as dark as ever. He has moments where he'll go to the dark side like that, which is really the fun part about playing him. I would really like the audience to go, 'Big Jim's a sweet guy, he's not really a bad guy,' then all of a sudden, in a heartbeat, the reptilian part comes out."
"The dome is a device, it's a fish bowl, and you put a bunch of fish in a fish bowl and bang on it and you see how they react. You'll see some fish eat other fish, you'll have other fish fight the fish that are eating the other fish, but that's kind of what this is, an experiment. But, also, we're dealing with the added element of what is this thing, where did it come from, is it man-made, is it other-worldly? What are the limitations of this world in which we now find outselves?"
"How do I play a character who is so determined not to examine her own life and her own choices and how far will I go in pursuit of a story to avoid that? The more my own life starts to fall apart in the show, the more obsessed I have to be with the dome and everything that's happening in Chester's Mill. We flirt with every possible outcome that thing could be. We examine it in many, many, many ways and it's still standing at the end of the day, so draw your own conclusions as to what that is, why that is, how that is, but as far as where we are in episode 10 right now, we're still perplexed and finding out some interesting stuff."
"There are two sides to Junior, the public persona that his dad wants him to be, the town jock and bully jerk, and there's the broken child that is inside Junior that he probably is more connected to because of past history with family and losing his mother at a young age. He finds this thing in Angie that fills this gap that's missing in his heart. He gets obsessed and wants to keep that quality. He wants to keep that love as much as he can so he does what he does."
"It's not like we have a clear trajectory of where we're going. We just get to play it episode by episode, which is awesome. It's so much more fun that way because we're living it as the characters are. In a show like this, we can go at any moment. I'm not dead yet..."
"I felt he was kind of simple, but because of his lack of parents (who are on the outside) and his sister isn't around, he has to grow up a little bit. He has to figure things out. So Joe does a lot of growing up in the first episodes. He goes on his instincts. Joe loves this. The dome may be a scary thing but it's also the most exciting thing that's ever happened in Chester's Mill. It's something to talk about, to think about; what is this thing and how can he figure it out? What does he have to do?"
"With Linda, what you see is what you get. As to why I stayed in town and why I became a cop, why I'm such a tough girl and I don't have parents, there's a story to be had there. But for the most part, what you see is what you get. It's very vulnerable, when you have somebody that doesn't have a clear past or history, it's like, Where are you gonna go? Who are you, really? Is the dome going to change you?"
"It's interesting where [the writers are] going; we make our speculations and we're totally wrong and blown away. There are some skills you have in life and in a crisis situation, they're heightened. [Dodee] gets a line to the outside world. Technology makes sense to her, people don't. Stepping out of the radio station and getting to interact with everyone, it's different. Because she doesn't necessarily trust anyone. She's keeping everything that she's finding pretty close to her and not really trusting everyone. She has some unique skill sets that she doesn't want everyone to know that she has."
"A lot of times, network TV isn't notable for bravery because what happens is you have a lot of executives who feel like the concept is a Christmas turkey. This is the most beautiful Christmas turkey I have ever seen. Let's sit down and have dinner. And when dinner is over, we're going to turkey sandwiches, and then the next day we're going to have turkey meatloaf and the day after that we're going to have turkey tetrazzini, turkey soup until there's nothing left but the bones. There's a tendency to run things until they're threadbare. I have no idea how far they're going to go or what they're going to do with it. But the one thing I've said to all the writers and to the people, the executives who are involved with this is, let's be thinking ahead all the time about how we're going to button this up. Because what guys like me do is, I run the story. And there's always more surprise. There can always be another story. And if you like 'Under the Dome' well then maybe there'll be something else that will come along. Who knows?"