Elizabeth Mitchell Says “Once” in Never Enough – Full Interview with Resident Magazine

Elizabeth Mitchell Says “Once” in Never Enough – Full Interview with Resident Magazine

At a time in our history when the nation is calling for self-reflection and action, one thing most of us can agree on is the need for something to watch, something new to go along with the binge-worthy shows of the past; those stories and characters that helped many of us quite literally survive the pandemic.   As we emerge from the shadows of COVID-19 and learn to reconnect with the world, we find we are starved for new content and excited to glimpse into the new stories and complex relationships created by the actors we love to love, the characters we love to hate, and the shows that have woven themselves into the very fabric of our daily lives, evening entertainment, and the DNA of our circles of family and friends.

While there are statistics, dark web conspiracies, and claims that network television is "dead", the truth is yet to be seen.  Some still believe the future is streaming programs and the original projects that come to life on Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, and HBO Max.   One thing is for certain, we are hungry for content and good stories. We are hungry for a way to escape the mundane and enter a place that allows us to transcend our daily lives and see the world through the eyes of characters who are either nothing like us or alarmingly similar.

Equally intriguing are some of the familiar faces that have never gone away but regularly reemerge to offer us characters with depth, nuance, and charisma in an infusion of drama and chaos. These are the actors that have the tenacity and acting chops to remain relevant and exciting in Hollywood, a town that tends to create stars that burn bright and, equally as common, burn out fast and furious.  The latter is certainly not the case with Elizabeth Mitchell.  As an Emmy-nominee for her starring role on ABC's phenomenon LOST, Elizabeth Mitchell's ascent is anything but off-course.  Her role as Juliet proved to be considerably intriguing to viewers throughout the series, as well as an opportunity for fans to place where they have seen her before.  She re-teamed with creator J.J. Abrams in another power-house role of "Rachel" on his drama vehicle, NBC's REVOLUTION, and then transitioned into the role of Snow Queen on ABC's ONCE UPON A TIME, followed by Netflix's international drama, CROSSING LINES with Donald Sutherland.  She reunited with her Snow Queen character's creator on Freeform's sci-fi mystery series DEAD OF SUMMER, enjoyed a memorable arc on SyFy's THE EXPANSE, and assumed the lead role in Universal's blockbuster THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR opposite Frank Grillo.  

Photography: David Christopher Lee
Photography: David Christopher Lee

In addition to her role as the lead protagonist on Seasons 2 & 3 of the Netflix original series, OUTER BANKS, she's joined the cast of yet another Netflix series, FIRST KILL, from producer Emma Roberts (June 10th Series Premiere), has been recurring on FBI: INTERNATIONAL, and reprises her role as Mrs. Clause to Tim Allen in Disney+'s THE SANTA CLAUSE limited series which picks up where the last two film installments left off.

Whether portraying Santa's better half or time-traveling alongside the likes of Dennis Quaid in New Line's FREQUENCY, Mitchell has lent her ability to an impressive and diverse range of roles.  Most notably as a girlfriend of Angelina Jolie in her portrayal of supermodel GIA in the Golden Globe-winning HBO telefilm.  She also starred opposite Dane Cook in the indie drama  ANSWERS TO NOTHING and reunited with her SANTA CLAUSE co-star Ann-Margret in QUEEN BEES which also stars Ellen Burstyn and James Caan among others.  Additionally, she stars in and produced the SXSW indie feature, WITCH HUNT.

Other credits include Neil LaBute's NURSE BETTY opposite Renee Zellweger, a 14-episode arc as Dr. Kim Legaspi on John Wells' ER, Wayne Kramer's RUNNING SCARED with Paul Walker, NBC's critically acclaimed LYON'S DEN with Rob Lowe, and in the BBC series MAN AND BOY opposite Ioan Gruffudd.  Further solidifying her course on the fast-track was her role opposite Barry Pepper as Teresa Earnhardt in the ESPN original telefilm 3: THE DALE EARNHARDT STORY, and ABC's V drama; based upon the popular '80s alien invasion mini-series, which was the highest rated debut of a series since LOST. 

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Dallas, Mitchell transitioned from a performing arts high school to a BFA degree in Acting.  She further honed her craft at the renowned Dallas Theatre Company.  Her stage credits include productions of "As You Like It," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and "Chicago."  She currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Seattle.

In a sit-down and let's get to know one another, I had the pleasure of taking some time to get to know Elizabeth, and, in this post-pandemic world, the irony that it took place via ZOOM was not lost on either of us.

Joshua Estrin: You have such a varied body of work, and I can't wait to get to know more about the woman behind so many unique characters.

JE: While it's not usually appropriate or in good taste to ask a woman's age, Margot, in "First Kill" is 500 years old.  Aside, from some of the obvious challenges of being a vampire, does immortality or being a nearly immortal appeal to you?

Elizabeth Mitchell: I don't think I can answer that question without looking at it in a few different ways.  There are layers to living that long and as for immortality, it would involve unimaginable loneliness.  Losing so many people who meant so much to me, watching them die, and being powerless over it.  Having said that, I am slightly more than fascinated by the idea of living a long, healthy, and extended life.  Being able to observe the human condition, the shifts, and changes in perception.  A life filled with time to build so many interesting and fulfilling relationships.

Photography: David Christopher Lee
Photography: David Christopher Lee

JE: What do you think Margot would say about 2022, and what advice would she give to women? To men?

EM: Oh wow, you want me to answer that with everything that is happening right now? [She laughs].  Margot feels everything very deeply so I would imagine watching everything of late unfold would probably be very painful and disheartening.  She also puts on an excellent game face so what she feels and what she says would be quite different.  If asked, I would venture her answer would be a deep sigh and simply, "Humans…"

JE: Is it fair to describe Margot as more than a bit of a fashion diva?  Do you share this love of clothing and fashion with her?

EM: I never seem to be able to answer your questions directly and I promise it is not intentional [she laughs].  I think Margot and I both appreciate beautiful clothing, but I dress to please myself and I feel Margot dresses strategically to impress others.  Her power, rank, status, and ability to control the situation comes out of a deep desire to provide for and protect her family, and to do so she needs to dress the part.

JE: While Margot is one hell of a strong and powerful woman, let's talk about the Snow Queen from ABC's, "Once Upon a Time, who portrays strength and vulnerability as well.

JE: That was certainly not your average fairytale.   How do you reinvent a character that is nothing short of iconic without antagonizing all her fans?

EM: I always focus on the "why".  So, I asked myself the questions, "Why would Ingrid do that, why did she choose one path over another?"  Asking why as an actor is a start and end point for me.  It allows me to create a relatable character who, in this case, just happens to find herself in some extraordinary circumstances.

JE: That show took the stories we loved and turned them upside-down and inside out, yet people loved it. Why?

EM: That is an easy one.  The writing, I don't know what more I can say.

JE: If you could have played any other character in the show who would it have been?

EM: Oh, wow! That is another complex question to answer. I loved Regina; we all did! She was so multi-faceted and displayed so much growth. I can't imagine creating her any other way or anyone but Lana Parilla bringing her to life. The writing and the acting were breathtaking. So, while Regina is intriguing, I honestly believe I was made to play Ingrid.  I fell in love with her and her story immediately, making me staunchly team Ingrid.

JE: I would be remiss if we did not talk about LOST.  I feel it was the first show of its kind that was genuinely a binge-worthy series.  Why do think it captured the attention of the country and the world?

EM: Not to sound like a broken record but, again, the writing was remarkable.  The optics were great too.  A group of super attractive people stranded in what appeared to be paradise. It was the setup for that perfect storm that everyone enjoyed watching and the cast, crew, and creative team worked so well together.

JE: What was it like coming into a show like Lost in its third season?

EM: It was not what most people expected.  I had just had my son, so I was not just tired I was exhausted, and I think any mom or dad, any caretaker out there knows the kind of tired I am talking about.  I was not thinking about what it all meant, I was a huge fan of the show, and I don't often watch my work so I guess I was a little sad I would not be the same kind of LOST fan anymore.  Once I became a part of the cast, I honestly had no idea what viewers thought of my character, Juliette.  I was working/filming and parenting on an island, and it wasn't until I returned home that I realized I had fans and I had done myself and the show proud.

JE: Why don't we take a moment to mention how fierce and fiery you are, Elizabeth? You have two shows presently on Netflix, not a small accomplishment.   What can we expect from Carla and OUTERBANKS this season?

EM: Well, I don't want to spoil any of the excitement as this is going to be one amazing season, but Carla will be serving up a great deal of "entitled white woman".   She is such a complex character and sometimes I feel as if she realizes she is trapped in a life that even she does not fully want to be a part of.  Imagine how exhausting it is to be that inflexible and elitist.  I know it may be hard for viewers to feel any compassion for her, but I do. She is trapped by her existence and circumstances and, while that does not justify her actions, it certainly does explain many of them.

JE: Taking a bit of a departure from Carla, let's talk about Mrs. Clause.  Is Santa a good husband?

EM: He most certainly is! Tim [Allen] captures that even after more than a decade away from the North Pole.

JE: I gather that being on set with Tim is, dare we say, "fun"?

EM: Oh Absolutely! The entire cast is amazing and yes, Tim is hysterical. He made the entire process a joy for us all and on a few occasions, we were given the opportunity to improv a few scenes and when you tell Tim Allen there are no rules, the energy and creativity is infectious. It was so nice to be back and yes being the wife of Santa is certainly something special.

JE: You have worked extensively with J.J. Abrams, a truly beautiful mind.  What is it like to sit and chat with that level of genius?

EM: I had a few occasions to spend some down time with him, not a lot as he is constantly creating. Each time we did have a conversation I always marveled at his curiosity, humility, and freedom of thought. Yes, he is a genuine person and has a beautiful mind.

JE: So many of your opportunities occurred because of working with actors or directors you had worked with before. Hollywood has a reputation for burning bridges. How have you stayed so grounded?

EM: I wish I could offer a formula for success on that one, but it is a work in progress.  I do think it helps that I don't live in Los Angeles.  That offers me perspective.  I also think that the fact that I love the process of creating a character is also grounding.  Building a relationship with my characters allows me to better understand them and myself.  This idea of relationships also plays out off camera. I try to respect everyone, and I invest in and nurture the important relationships in my life.  I have so many things to be grateful for and so many people I appreciate.  Gratitude, respect, and appreciation are key and, while I might not have a formula, those are important building blocks to staying balanced and grounded.

JE: I know we have gone a bit over time, but do you have time for a few random questions?

EM: I love random questions and I most definitely have time!

JE: If you were a flavor of ice cream what flavor would you be?

EM: I feel like I would be a complex vanilla.  I know that might not make sense to anyone as vanilla is not the most complex flavor.  I guess what I mean is I have layers to my personality. Just like vanilla, it is not the one-dimensional flavor that many portray it to be. I am not a one-dimensional person.

JE: What are three songs on your playlist right now?

EM: My playlist is constantly changing, but I love a good cover song.  Right now, a few of my favorites are, "Can't Help Falling in Love with You", [the Haley Reinhart version], "Fly Me to the Moon", and anything by Nina Simone.

JE: What is your biggest pet peeve?

EM: I try not to stand in judgment of anyone. After all, we are all just trying to live our lives, but I can't tolerate anyone who is intentionally unkind. I call it 'puppy kicking'. When people attack those who can't defend themselves, those who are smaller or perhaps without the resources to fight back, it is like kicking a puppy.  It is never justifiable or acceptable and is one of the few things that do get me all fired up.

JE: What do you think is the greatest misconception people have about you?

EM: This might play into the prior question.  I think some people perceive my kindness as a weakness.  I don't think I am the only one who has experienced this, but my desire to show kindness comes from a desire to live in the truth, and for some people that truth is threatening.  The truth is not bad, it is simply the truth and when we show kindness, we are not being weak we are simply being human.

The world is changing at an unprecedented pace, and as some would argue, at the expense of human contact and intentional conversations and connections.  While not wholly untrue, there is still any number of opportunities to connect, reconnect, share, debate, collaborate, and even belly-laugh at the absurdity of it all.  Elizabeth Mitchell is a refreshing reminder that good people still exist, that kindness is not a weakness, and that Hollywood is still a place of dreams, dreamers, and thankfully, good people; good people with an unapologetic love of life and a desire to create characters with depth, intrigue, and most delicious of all, flaws.

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