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The Sunday Conversation: Mireille Enos

The star of AMC's 'The Killing' chats about motherhood, glamour and dark roles that go to happy actresses.

May 15, 2011|By Irene Lacher, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • "There is a certain liberation auditioning for a role that has no beauty requirements, Mireille Enos says.
"There is a certain liberation auditioning for a role that has no beauty… (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles…)

Mireille Enos, 35, is reportedly in talks to appear in her first big film role — costarring with Brad Pitt in Paramount's zombie thriller, "World War Z." Enos, who lives in Los Feliz with her husband, actor Alan Ruck, and their 7-month-old daughter, Vesper, declined to discuss the project, but she opened up about her starring role as Detective Sarah Linden in AMC's breakout drama "The Killing" and playing twins on HBO's Mormon polygamy drama, "Big Love," which recently ended its five-season run.

How do you pronounce your name?

It's Mee-ray. It's an old-fashioned southern French name.

And that's because your mom is French.

Exactly. My mother's best friend growing up in high school was Mireille. It's a derivation of "wonderful" or "marvel."

Let's start with "The Killing" and your character. One reviewer described her as a woman who's really like a man. What do you think about that?

I think it's silly. I think there are lots of women in the world who are like Sarah Linden. Maybe what that comment came out of was that there aren't a lot of women on television like Sarah. Even police officers and detectives, we put them in tight skirts and heels, and so to see a woman just in her comfortable clothes, nonglamorous, doing her job, it's easy to drop her into the box of being masculine.

How did you help shape the character?

I really just kept going back to the page. [Show runner Veena Sud] has created such a detailed, delicately constructed person I just kept putting my focus there and thinking about the qualities of anyone who's extremely good at what they do — being focused, not taking "no" for an answer, understanding when you're the smartest person in the room, not stopping until the job is done.

So do you know who the killer is?

No, nobody knows. It's locked away in Veena's mind.

How far into the season are you in filming?

Right at the very end.

So the actor playing the killer still doesn't know?

No, the killer doesn't know. I think it's great. In fact, I think it's going to be a sad day when we all find out who that is, because whoever did this, there's very little room for redemption. And I think we're all going to be a little heartbroken.

Does being a new mom affect the way you experience "The Killing," since the series deals with the murder's impact on the victim's family?

I'm sure it does. I've been asking myself the same question. People say to me, "Oh, being a mother must make you a better actor," and I think, well, I never sleep, I have very little time to think about anything except when I'm actually there. I wonder whether that makes me a better actor. I think it must on some level. It just gives such perspective, especially when telling the story of the death of a child. It just makes everything feel so much more valuable. And any moments of joy that I have, I'm so grateful for.

You seem to be attracted to dark material. What's that about?

[Laughs] I don't know, because I'm a pretty happy person in life. I'm positive and I smile a lot, and I'm kind of a banana, but serious work just seems to find me, so I'm not going to argue with it.

Is that also the choices you make, or are you not offered "Charlie's Angels" roles?

I haven't been offered a lot of comedy. In theater, I've done quite a bit of comedy or dramas that included a lot of funny stuff. But in my TV work, those aren't the roles that I've been offered.

Both your big television roles are far from glamorous. You don't look like you're even wearing makeup in either of them. Are you saying that's by default, not by design?

I know as an actor there is a certain liberation auditioning for a role that has no beauty requirements. When I don't think about that, I think it does free me up to tell the story as truthfully as possible. So those are the parts I get cast in. The other thing is in terms of beauty, I don't fall into any stereotypical Hollywood beauty, and so those aren't the parts I'm getting called in for, the super-glammy roles.

Let's talk about "Big Love." I understand you were raised as a Mormon. Are you practicing?

No. I had a very nice growing up in the context of the church, and I have no hard feelings toward the religion at all. But "Big Love" actually didn't feel connected to my upbringing in any way. That polygamous story line had nothing to do with the mainstream church. So in my research it felt more like other orthodox religions, whether it be Hasidism or Amish.

You've done very little film work. Mainly you've done television and theater. But in your theater projects you've worked with some of the biggest names in film.

Yes, Kathleen Turner and Annette Bening. I've worked with some wonderful film actors, Jane Alexander, some incredible film actors. Again and again, I just keep being impressed by what team players they are. When actors are the real deal, all that star whatever goes right out the window and you're there to tell a story.

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