When all was said and done, Michelle Fairley deems it an “absolute pleasure” to have been a part of Fox’s 24: Live Another Day revival — up to and including the most recent and rollicking hour, in which Terrorist Mom Margot Al-Harazi died at the hand of the estimable Jack Bauer.
Fairley spoke with TVLine about stepping in as a last-minute recast, “blowing up” POTUS and playing dead. Plus: TV’s erstwhile Catelyn Stark shares her take on Game of Thrones‘ season-ending surprise of omission.
TVLINE | Judy Davis abruptly exited the role of Margot just as production started. Who knew who, to call in a favor and pull you in in a pinch?
You know, I just have fantastic agents. Honestly, I have no idea how that happened, but thankfully they got on the case and got talking to [executive producers] Jon [Cassar] and Kiefer [Sutherland].
TVLINE | What did you want, and what did you not want, from the role of a terrorist?
You don’t want to play just a crazy killer, a mad woman. Some people may see her like that, but the fact is she’s intelligent, she’s powerful, she’s completely committed…. This is her life’s work and there is no limit to what she is prepared to sacrifice to obtain her goal.
TVLINE | Were you satisfied with her motivation for the terror threat?
Oh, absolutely. When I got chatting with the writers, they were so open and fantastic… And the fact that it’s a woman and a mother, and that her children are involved, makes the character even more complex. She’s able to involve her children — some call it indoctrination — and then at the same time she’s able to pull down a “lead curtain” within her body to stop [from being too maternal], because ultimately she sees them as people, not children, who are doing a job.
TVLINE | At the moment you filmed the scene where Margot herself launches the missile at President Heller, did you know a twist would be coming? Or did you think you’d blown him to bits?
That’s what’s so interesting — when I got that script, I was like, “Oh my God!” But then you go back and reread it again and again and start to think, “I know what’s going to happen… Chloe got in there!” But Margot doesn’t know anything about Chloe, or that Jack Bauer was involved, so she takes President Heller at his word.
TVLINE | Which of your death scenes was more intense to shoot — 24 or Game of Thrones?
Oh my gosh…. I think any death scene is intense, whether it’s on stage or on film — and I’ve had quite a few of them! [Laughs] It’s all about how you face the death. Are you afraid of it? Do you embrace it? Do you want it? Emotionally, I would say Game of Thrones [was more intense]. But on 24, it’s complete disappointment for the woman because she couldn’t achieve what she wanted to! I empathized with her because of that.
TVLINE | Would you have liked to see Margot at least smack Jack good before she met her maker? Maybe get in a punch?
I would have loved for her to have had a big fight with him across the room, but she ain’t that sort of woman, unfortunately. [Laughs] But the writers did a nice job with it, the suddenness of it. When you come up against Jack Bauer, you know exactly what’s going to happen.
TVLINE | Once Margot’s body hit the sidewalk, was that actually you laying there or simply a stunt double?
No, that was me!
TVLINE | Really? From that high-up camera angle it could have been anybody. I’m surprised that put you through that.
Oh, no, no, no…. We watched this brilliant, young 24-year-old woman dressed up as me jump out of that window, her hands cuffed behind her back as well– and once they get that shot from different angles, they go, “OK, get in the shot.” [Laughs] And I come in and lie on the ground.
Game of Thrones Warning: The final two questions contain a major spoiler from the novels.
TVLINE | Last week there was quite a hullabaloo, when Lady Stoneheart didn’t surface at the end of the Game of Thrones season finale. Had you known they weren’t bringing on that character from the books, at least not yet?
I don’t do any social media or anything like that, so [the fan reaction] was all news to me. I’m sorry that they were disappointed, because it was a fantastic 10 episodes to watch. But yeah, I knew [there’d be no Lady Stoneheart]…. They’re wonderful books, but you can’t put everything in the TV series.
TVLINE | Is playing Catelyn Stark’s zombified alter ego something you’d be open to if they ever change their minds, even if it’s just a “button” toward the end of the TV series?
[Laughs] I… I don’t know…. I mean, I loved that job, I adored it and I made some great friends. I loved it. I don’t know.