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July 22, 2014

Michelle Forbes on 'The Killing,' Dark Roles and Grieving

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Apr 1st 2011 2:00PM
Michelle Forbes, The KillingYou know when a U.S. network reworks a European series (in this case, one from Denmark), it's going to be dark and brooding. AMC's 'The Killing' is just that -- unsettling, gloomy and melancholy. Starring Michelle Forbes ('True Blood,' 'Battlestar Galactica,' 'Durham County') as a mother trying to deal with the mysterious disappearance of her daughter Rosie, this is anything but light fare.

Filmed in Vancouver posing as Seattle, 'The Killing' is a 13-episode murder-mystery series, but with such a stellar cast and stark vibe, it ends up offering up more than your standard whodunit. We caught up with Forbes and chatted about her attraction to dark roles, how she channels such raw emotion and if she's ever going to take a break from the intensity.

TV Squad: Always picking the happiest roles, aren't you?
Michelle Forbes: I don't know what I was thinking after 'Durham County'! I think these roles choose me more than I choose them. Thankfully I have beautiful roles like Maryann in 'True Blood,' where I can go in and have fun, get away from the heaviness for a moment.

The KillingGo in, have a sex orgy, then everything's fine.
[Laughs] Exactly.

How harrowing was this role for you?
On one level you go in and do your job, and then try to leave it behind you at work, but you know, I'd say I paid the same price as 'Durham County.' But this is two months longer.

Did you draw on your 'Durham County' character [Penelope] at all?
I didn't, no. The two characters couldn't be any more different. But I think the research I did on the loss of a child, although the circumstances here were different ... that grief was certainly something I had in my back pocket.

There's one scene in the second episode of 'The Killing' where you're crying on the kitchen floor. You're astoundingly real. How did you recuperate from that outpouring of emotion?
Like anything, you make that ultimate reality as real as possible. You dive into your imagination, and before you know it, you're emotionally accessible. It's an easy circumstance to work with because it's so heightened.

I feel like I aged just watching it!
[Laughs] You think you aged? I think I aged about 15 years doing this one.

How did you get involved in 'The Killing' in the first place?
I think I was looking for something antithetical to Maryann. I'm not often cast as working-class people, so that was something I'd been looking to do. For a while there, I was being cast as an authoritative person, so this was something I'd been looking for, perhaps subconsciously. I always want to do the opposite of something I've just played.

You need some happy roles.
Maybe the goofiest, worst sitcom might be the best option for me.

'Two and a Half Men' might be right up your alley. They could change the title.
[Laughs] I hear there's a slot open!



'The Killing' certainly has a very dark beauty to it. Would you agree?
Absolutely. I can't say enough about Peter Wunstorf and our camera crew. Our photography is the star of the show and it moves things along emotionally and narratively.

Is all that rain real?
No. It rains quite a bit in Vancouver, but, as powerful as production companies are, we still can't control the weather. [Laughs] Sometimes we'd be starting to film a scene, then I'd look up and see the rain on the window and I'd immediately start crying. There is a certain emotion that rain invokes, certainly in me. That's a very important part of this project. Knowing the original, which was filmed in Copenhagen, the moodiness of Copenhagen, this weather goes with it.

Did you watch the original 'The Killing' to prep for this series?
No – this is the second remake I've done (the first was 'In Treatment'). In this one, even though watching the original was given to us as an option, I didn't want to have my vision clouded by another actor's performance. I wanted to interpret the words as they came to me.

The KillingSo tell me more about your character, Mitch. How does she evolve as the series unfolds?
When we first meet Mitch, we find that she's not an unhappy woman at all, but a bit rough around the edges. You can tell there's a lot of love in her family, a very solid base. When this unspeakable event occurs, she's in shock for the first little bit, and then she slowly has to relearn and reevaluate the world around her, which she just doesn't understand anymore. No one grieves in the same way, and I don't think anyone is more surprised than Mitch at how she turns out from this process.


There's a subtle strength to the female characters on this show. Do you agree?
Definitely. I just think it's unfortunate that we had to go to Europe to find out the truth about women, to let them have strength, vulnerability and confusion. It's nice to have women be flawed in that 'real' way, and not in that contrived TV way. Too bad we had to go to Denmark to figure that out. [Laughs]

A lot of people are turned off by the 'depressing' factor of 'The Killing.' What would you say to those people to make them reconsider watching it?
It's a three-pronged story, and hopefully there's enough balance in that triptych to keep people interested on different levels. You have the whodunit of the detectives working the case, you have the political/mayoral campaign that's going on, and then you have the drama of the family.

What's next for you? Don't tell me something called 'Death' or 'Darkness.'
[Laughs] No. No more dead children. Honestly, after this, I think I need to go and take a bit of a holiday, get the grief out of my system. I just want to get back to my garden, to watch things grow and live. I want to remember that, despite all the sorrow in the world, there is beauty and life as well.


'The Killing' premieres with a two-hour episode on AMC on April 3 at 9PM ET.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisJ_AOL.

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