Alison Pill previews THE FAMILY’s must-watch episode!
ABC’s THE FAMILY started out with a simple log-line: the Warren family is rocked to the core when their long-presumed dead son Adam returns. What’s transpired over the last 9 weeks is a mystery that features twist after twist, the least of which being that the boy who returned wasn’t Adam at all. Add to that, it was revealed that middle child Willa (Alison Pill) not only knew but planned the whole thing with the imposter.
To preview the next explosive episode of the show, I spoke with Alison Pill about what to expect, why people are relating to this messed up family, and working with the incomparable Joan Allen.
I have to say – THE FAMILY -when I first heard about the show, what drew me in was this great cast, and then I wanted to find out what the show was about and even then, I couldn’t be prepared for what the show was with all of the twists and turns!
How much of that was a part of the draw for you, how much did you know what Willa would be up to?
I trusted Jenna. In the first meeting before signing onto the pilot, she gave me a sense of how complicated Willa was, and then once we got picked up, she told me the plan for the season and I just kept gasping [laughs] during our meeting. I knew about the Ben and Adam story, from the beginning, which is such an exciting thing to act. It’s one of the great gifts of TV – you have this time for character development. The first few episodes, Willa seems like one simple thing. This sort of hateable, control freak, like, what is her deal? It’s really fun to know that these revelations are coming that make her this much more understandable, sympathetic character. To play that over the course of this many months is such a pleasure.
You nailed it – she becomes a sympathetic character when you realize that she’s dealing with so much more than you think she is, and it almost changes the show!
RIght [laughs]!! And so is everybody! That’s the sort of glory of the show. Every week, you find out, like in this episode that’s airing [tonight], looking at what Danny’s teenage life was like and getting to see the direct aftermath of the disappearance was. Once everybody else gets over it, gets over your family tragedy. Of everybody else kind of saying “okay, you’ve had your time. Everybody else has moved on, and we’re done.” You can still have our pity and sympathy, but everybody else is done. And just what do you do with that as a family when you haven’t at all moved on. I think it’s so, these scars from that time period, and getting to see them in these flashbacks just adds so many layers that are really interesting to play in the present day stuff.
It’s crazy how the flashbacks really do inform the show. Do you find that you have to play Willa as two separate things – one girl in the past and this controlled and controlling woman in the future? Is there a process to define the two?
To me, it’s a really clear line because in most ways, emotionally, Willa is still thirteen. She has this facade of this high-powered, controlling campaign manager, politico person, but she’s really still so much of a kid. And so that thru-line for me, never really changes, which makes it really easy to follow everything. As complicated as her relationship with her mother is, at heart, it’s the same as it was when she was 13. Like, I’ve got this mom, let me order the Thai food, you know? We can manage this!
You mention the relationship with her mother – you and Joan together, that scene immediately after she realizes what Willa did. The scenes, the rage you can feel in them, but that they’re still mother and daughter. What is it like working opposite Joan Allen, playing some of those scenes?
It’s incredible! That’s the greatest fun in the show for me, doing those scenes. I love Joan Allen. [laughs] Joan Allen is really good at acting. She’s awfully good at it. It’s amazing to channel that mother/daughter stuff. I’m also so grateful to Jenna for writing these amazing, complicated, real women who are not altogether likable, and they’re power hungry. And they’re manipulative, but they’re also real people. You can love your family more than anything in the world and hate them more than anything in the world [laughs] at the same time. That’s a fascinating thing.
Everyone can relate to that!
No, exactly!! They’re a little more messed up than your family, probably? [laughs] But still, at heart, there’s the reality of you know the resentment of this codependent woman trying to separate from her mother at the same time not being unable to do so. And her mother being like “I never asked you for this,” but then also, well, you didn’t but you also stayed in bed for a year [laughs]. There’s just this history to play. The great thing about working with Joan, you know, after we shot that big scene where she finds out about Ben, we’re able to sort of stay where we need to during the shooting of it, and I’m so grateful for the fact that then we get to give each other a hug and move on haha, and not have to sit in it because she’s one of the nicest, smartest people in the whole world [laughs]. I’m so grateful to have her as a scene partner because it’s so fun, and gets so dark, and sometimes really emotional, but she’s also the person to run to if you’re having a bad day, ha ha.
You touched a little bit about what’s coming for Sunday’s episode, but what can you tease about why this episode in particular is one to watch?
It’s so hard on this show, because I’m like, every episode is kind of “the episode to watch” [laughs]. I love this episode. Because I’m not like “ah, watch this one. You could totally miss this one. No big! [laughs out loud].” But this one, especially. There’s a revelation about Adam and Ben in the bunker. There’s also a bunch of stuff like Clements is alive. We found that out at the end of the last episode. Clements is with Doug and Jane. And so there’s a lot there. Nina’s closing in on Doug finally; Hank has figured out who the kidnapper is. He’s solved the case. Those are big things! [laughs]
You’re going through story at such a pace that you can’t miss a minute because so much is being shown!
I also, it was funny. I got the DVD to pre-watch Sunday’s episode, and I told my husband because it was kind of late, I’m just going to watch it, I might fast forward, you know, just in case I can’t remember what the episode is, whatever. And I said that, really meaning it, and then I obviously didn’t. I watched every minute of it because it’s so good [laughs]. Because I love the show, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, no, what??”
I was talking to a friend about the show and the email she sent me was basically that – “oh my god, no, what?” about every twist!
Yeah! I mean, we keep the story going, but everything is so complicated. Doug is a character in a way that you just never see, I feel. You either have these weird serial killer dramas where it’s like, from his point of view, which is weird, but to have this be this character with a girlfriend, and this job, and walking among us. And he’s the villain, but also, you’re like “that guy, I wouldn’t know!” And it’s so much scarier that way. In spite of these, it’s like, he’s evil, but at the same time, is he? All of those questions!
THE FAMILY airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on ABC. For more, check out ABC.com!