Once AMC debuted The Killing, the very first question in viewers’ minds may have been “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” But the second and third undoubtedly were, “Who is this Mireille Enos who plays Sarah Linden, and where has she been all our lives?” Turns out Mireille, 35 (it’s pronounced Mee-ray, the name of a childhood friend of her French mother), has been tripping the lights fantastic on the New York stage (even earning a Tony nod for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? alongside Kathleen Turner). She’s also been toiling away doing episodic guest work (most notably on HBO’s Big Love, where she recurred as tormented twin sisters Kathy and JoDean). Now, the next questions are, will she get an Emmy nomination for The Killing (which wraps its first season this Sunday) and what is she going to do with her newfound star power?
TVLINE | When all the great reviews came in for The Killing, did you have a sense of, “Wow, okay, my life has changed”?
We’re all just so grateful, because we felt that we were part of something really special. And then to have the response come back and confirm that that is true is really gratifying.
TVLINE | When you got the pilot, what was your reaction?
I thought it was one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that I’ve read in years in any medium — film or TV or literature. Veena [Sud, the series creator and executive producer] has a really incredible voice. It was so cinematic and clean and thoughtful. I really wanted it immediately. I wanted to be a part of it.
TVLINE | Since these days a role like Sarah would ordinarily be reserved for a big “name,” when you actually got the part, did you go, “Wait… they wanted me?”
I definitely did. AMC has a track record for finding actors who have been working actors but not names yet, and casting them. So kudos to AMC; I think they’re very brave. But I was surprised. I knew how much I responded to it. And I knew the energy in the room during my first couple of auditions and meeting with Veena. I knew there was something powerful [going on]….
TVLINE | It’s such a subtle performance. You don’t have a lot of big, showy moments. Is that more challenging for you than playing someone more explosive?
It’s challenging in different ways. The thing that I find challenging about Sarah, more than the fact that it’s a subtle performance, [is that] her joy is so contained. And I’m lucky to say I’m a happy person. I can be a real banana. I like laughter around me. And to rein all of that in for Sarah has been challenging sometimes.
TVLINE | A lot of what we know or feel about Sarah seems to come just through your body language and facial expressions.
I noticed right from the start that Veena was not putting very many words in Sarah’s mouth, and I thought that had to be for a reason. If you’re dealing with good writing, then all the clues you need are in the [script]. You just have to keep going back to it. So I thought, “If she’s not saying a lot, that must mean her mind is very active.” So [the trick was] just making sure I understood what she was thinking and feeling about every moment and then trusting that the camera would capture that.
TVLINE | We got little pieces of Sarah’s back story in each episode. How much did you know going in?
Veena sat down and talked with me before the pilot and gave me a lot of information about her back story. But some of it wasn’t totally nailed down yet. Some of the specifics of her storyline got mapped out in the writers room after we got picked up to series. So Veena would just sit down with me as things got clearer and let me know what I needed to know.
TVLINE | Did you know going in who killed Rosie?
No. No. Not at all.
TVLINE | Were you tearing through each script looking for clues?
Yes. Every time [one] would come out, people were scrambling to get their copy. Between shots, everyone had their scripts out, reading. Even the grips. The crew guys were running around, going, “Hey, did you get the new script?!” Which is really rare. And we’d all wink at each other and go, “We’re doing something right if the gaffers want to read the scripts!”
TVLINE | You’re done shooting. Can you say what your reaction was to learning who the killer was?
I can’t talk about it at all. [Laughs]
TVLINE | What have you heard so far about Season 2? Will there be a new case?
I haven’t heard anything one way or the other. I know Veena has several seasons mapped out in her mind, but she hasn’t let us know anything yet.
TVLINE | If you do wind up getting an Emmy nomination, which episode will you submit?
I think I’d probably submit the pilot. It’s really special [and] stands on its own. Once you get into the rest of the series, there’s a lot of moving the plot forward, which is obviously really important. But the pilot lets you look into these characters in an interesting way. There’s an episode later in the season which I would’ve been happy to submit, too, but it’s going to air past the deadline. The pilot is how I began this journey, so it seems nice for that to be the episode we submit.
TVLINE | Do you feel that because it’s such a non-showy performance, you’re going in as an underdog?
No, because all of the positive response that I’ve gotten has been about it being a quiet performance. So I just have to trust that that’s enough.
TVLINE | You were just cast as Brad Pitt’s wife in World War Z [a movie to be based on Max Brooks’ apocalyptic zombie tales]. Do you think that’s a direct result of The Killing?
Absolutely. Once I had become involved in auditioning for the movie, they requested seeing the pilot and the first episode and thought really highly of it. They weren’t familiar with it before I went in to audition, but just the fact that I was part of the show definitely opened some doors.
TVLINE | Have you met Brad yet?
I have. I got the chance to read with him. He’s a really lovely man.