True Blood's Michelle Forbes on Killer New Role: 'I Don't Know What I Was Thinking'

Since she’s played everything from good and evil twins (on Guiding Light) to a sci-fi admiral (on Battlestar Galactica), you’d be forgiven if you thought that by now, you’d seen Michelle Forbes do it all. But danged if she isn’t wowing us anew in her latest role, that of Mitch, the grieving mother on AMC’s dark, addictive and brilliant The Killing (Sunday, 9/8c). How does she do it? And, more to the point, why? TVLine chatted up the actress to find out.

TVLINE | Given the raw emotions that The Killing calls for, did you have any second thoughts about signing on?
I was dealing with a lot of grief on Durham County as well, and that was a three-month run. I was quite exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically by the end of that. And I don’t know what I was thinking when I took this on. I guess I didn’t think it through, that it was going to be an extra two months of it. And, because of the format of the series, where each episode is one consecutive day, I didn’t have the luxury of there being a time lapse where perhaps some healing has taken place, or we’ve moved on a tiny bit. It is 13 straight days of grief. [By now] it’s been five months of it. It’s been exhausting. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Does that sadness spill over into your personal life?
It does at times. I’d like to think I’m an actor who leaves things at work. [Yet] it can’t help but [creep in]. I do my best to get away from it, go out and have dinner and have a good time. I find myself watching a lot of farcical British comedy during my off hours to escape. As I said to someone earlier, when we first started shooting, I was reading this book about the Sudan, and I thought, “Am I out of my mind? How much suffering can I take?!” [Laughs] So I put that book  down. I was like, “I’ll get back to that after we finish filming.” [Laughs] I find myself walking a lot in Vancouver in Stanley Park and respecting nature and trying to remember the living and not the dead.

TVLINE | Speaking of the dead, in taking on this role, was there an element of trying to get away from the late, lamented Mary Ann on True Blood and do something totally different?
I’m always looking to [do something different]. When they want you to go right, go left. I had so many offers after True Blood for things that were someone in the same vein, but nowhere near Alan Ball’s vision. Or something that was over-the-top and fantastical. And I’ve always wanted to play the regular, working-class mom, and I’ve never really had the chance to do that. So as I was reading through the scripts when this came across, and I said yes. I wanted something as antithetical to Mary Ann as I could find.

TVLINE | Well, mission accomplished. Let’s talk about the mystery of The Killing a bit. How much did you know about the outcome going in?
I was absolutely told 100 percent nothing when we started. I just went script-to-script. There was very little discussion in the beginning for me. I basically just let my gut and instinct drive me, and tried to interpret the words to the best of my abilities.

TVLINE | Didn’t it drive you crazy not knowing whodunit? I’d have been flipping through scripts for answers!
In a strange way, with this [show], I really didn’t want to know any more than [my character] would know. I wasn’t interested in what was happening with the political storyline as an actor because Mitch wouldn’t know any of that, so at the table reads, I tried to make myself go a bit deaf.

TVLINE | Since each season of The Killing will present a new mystery, does that mean there’s no season 2 for you?
None of us are really sure. We haven’t been told. We’ve just been told that everything is up in the air. It could be open-ended, it could be concluded at the end of the season. No one has any idea.

TVLINE | Wait, so you’re telling me we might not even find out who the killer is this season?!
That’s what it says in the press, so that’s what we know.

TVLINE | Yikes. In any case, somewhere in there, I assume you’re going to want to lighten up and do a comedy?
Yes! Yes! Yes! [Laughs] After Durham County and this… and even In Treatment… that was no barrel of monkeys, either. That was pretty intense. But the joy was, in the midst of all of that, there was the beautiful and insane and fun as can be True Blood, where I just had the time of my life. So I’m hoping for something along those lines, where perhaps there’s a bit more dancing and high heals and being mad and crazy and orgies! [Laughs]

TVLINE | Maybe Alan Ball will bring you back for a vision?
Oh, you know what? I would carry a spear in the back of one of the scenes in that show. I love them all so much. I had the time of my life on that show. I would take a bullet for Alan Ball. I do unfortunately think that Mary Ann’s story was told and was told in full, and [since then they] have gone on to so many rich, wonderful stories… I don’t think there’s any hope of [my popping back up]. I might have to twist Alan’s arm, though, to throw me in the back of some scene for two minutes, just to go hang out with him again.

The Killing premieres Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.