AMC's exquisite noir mystery series The Killing is notable for many reasons—not least Michelle Forbes' hyperrealistic portrait of a grieving mother—but the leading light of the show is luminous leading lady Mireille Enos. The Big Love alum plays a murder cop named Sarah Linden whose brittle brillance and determination are the police department's most indispensible tools in solving the tragic murder of Rosie Larsen. We caught up with the ethereal-looking Enos to find out why Linden is "a little bit alien," how her new partner is working out and what only she knows about homicide that's going to finally crack the case...
Q&A with The Killing Star Mireille Enos
Why is your character's personality the way it is? What makes her a good detective?
Some of that is going to be revealed—that's a bit of a spoiler, so I cannot reveal too much detail but I think that Sarah has always been a wildly private person, and she's a little bit alien. She just has a hard time relating to people, so finding this cop world, where she can just be excellent at what she does, was a real godssend to her. I think she swings between being the smartest person in the room and having a lot of pride about that, pride that's not necessarily positive, and then also feeling like, 'Yeah, I don't know how to communicate with [anyone].' She really swings between these polar opposites.
How does the relationship between your character Det. Linden and her partner Det. Steven Holder (Joel Kinnaman) develop over the 13 episodes?
They go through lots of ups and downs, but they definitely learn to respect each others' methods. I think there is an awareness that they think they can both learn from each other, and that's half the battle. Being aware that somebody has something that could help you grow if you would just let them in is a big step for both of them.
Tell me about Linden's relationship with Rosie's mother, Mitch, who is played Michelle Forbes. The two characters are very, very different, but they are both mothers.
It is a delicate relationship. I think when Sarah is on the job, she doesn't think of herself as a mother. Percentage-wise, most kidnappings and murders of children are done by somebody that the child knows, family members, close friends, so nobody is innocent when you're walking into a crime scene, these archetypal roles, they don't actually mean anything until at some point it is clearly proven that those people are innocent—only then can that shift. I think later in the season, the fact that these two women are mothers will start carrying weight, but early on, not so much.
From what we've seen so far, Sarah doesn't show a lot of emotion—she doesn't blink. When does that façade start to crack?
I think it's more than a façade, I think it's a survival mechanism. She witnesses these horrors so much. I think Sarah is capable of feeling way too much, so she has built a very complicated thick set of protective devices to allow herself to be able to get up in the morning to do her job.
What do you think is Sarah's biggest strength is as a detective?
Her power of observation. She is able to see things that others gloss over. Sometimes it's a clue in a room or sometimes it's just a sense as to whether someone is telling the truth or not. I think she just has a really amazing instinct of observation.
Is there anything we are supposed to learn from this show? There are so many beautiful tableaux and so many emotions, but does the show really want us to observe?
A lot of cop shows, because they have the restraints of having a new case every episode, the victims often become these kind of nameless, faceless plot points, and as an audience we don't feel anything for those people. From the very beginning Veena said if we want to tell the story of the death of a child, we have to do that with reverence. We have to do it in a way where people actually think about what the ripple effects of a horrible event like this is happening. We want to show that Rosie isn't just another idea that has been snatched off the earth but that she is a living, breathing person. So hopefully audiences will feel a lot and will think about the people around them. We never know what anyone is going through in life, we sit next to strangers or even friends and don't know what they're actually going through and hopefully this will make the audience think about the gravitas of the events in this world.
You have this translucent kind of face and almost an angelic look—why did they choose someone with your look for a hardbitten homicide detective?
I think executive producer Veena Sud wanted somebody who didn't look like the idea of what a woman cop is. And I am fairly happy and optimistic as a person in real life, so if you put me in that role of Sarah, who has a hard time relating, who has rough edges, it creates an interesting concept. My natural joy and warmth is going to be somewhere under there, and I think it just makes it a more complicated way of telling the story.
The Killing airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC. Are you loving it as much as we do? Who do you think did it?