Interview: Laura Innes And Evan Katz From ‘The Event’

We had the pleasure of chatting with actress Laura Innes (Sophia) and Executive Producer Evan Katz from The Event. They talked a bit with us about what we can expect with the November episodes as well as when the big event will occur. Check it out below.

Laura, can you talk about how you are able to identify with Sophia and the spot she’s in with Thomas? In some way, is she becoming more human because of Thomas’ recklessness?

Laura Innes: Gosh. Is she becoming more human? You know, I certainly identify – let me see. I wouldn’t say that she’s becoming more human, but I do think she’s being challenged in ways that are very complicated for her. I think the character of Sophia to me has been fascinating to play, because so much is unspoken and so much is unknown. And so for me as an actress, there’s a huge amount of imagining her back story, imagining her circumstances, and also keeping in mind the overall goal.

So I think she is a highly ethical person, but at the end of the day, she has a priority beyond her relationship with any one person, even Thomas, who she has this very intensely close relationship with. So certainly, he pushes the boundaries of her negotiation skills, her morality, her emotions, and it makes for a very rich acting experience.

And in Episode 7 coming up and then again in Episode 9, that relationship is explored very deeply. And, it’s been wonderful to play with Clifton Collins and to try to navigate those characters.

So I mean, I guess circling back to your original question, I guess in a way he has made her be more human in that he really forces her to examine her own motivations and forces her to examine the length to which she’s willing to go to protect her people.

And Evan, can you talk about Sophia’s moral compass and how we can expect it to evolve now that she’s caught between Thomas and the President?

Evan Katz: Her moral compass – well, I think there’s two things that are going to happen as this season progresses. One is you’re going to sort of learn who she really is, because you’ve really only seen her – mostly seen her in captivity playing sort of a Nelson Mandela like role to the President. But the next batch of episodes, I think you’re really going to see – you know, obviously she’s a leader for a reason. You’re going to see her steal. You’re going to see the difficult and sometimes shocking and ugly things a leader has to do. But, her moral compass – I think she’s essentially been a very honest character.

But you know, in the next couple of episodes you’re going to learn what her true relationship with Thomas is, what her real priorities are now that she’s out, and what the – a little bit more about the structure and challenges of her – challenges to her leadership.

One of the best – most interesting things about it is that the Mandela-type character is a woman and not a man. When did you make that switch in your mind?

Evan Katz: Well, I was not involved in the pilot. But, I believe that they were open to the idea of it being a woman, and once they knew Laura was interested, I think that sort of made the decision.

Laura, now that you’re back to NBC, I was wondering if you could reflect on first impressions of two roles. Just real briefly, what was your first impression of Carrie Weaver the first time you saw that role? And then, add a little more on what your impressions of Sophia were the first time you saw that on paper.

Laura Innes: Well, with Carrie – I mean, it was interesting because we shot four of those – four episodes of ER before any of them aired, and I just loved the character. I loved that she was so unadorned. I loved that she had no vanity. I loved that she didn’t care what people thought, but was completely smart and driven. And, I think it’s interesting to play characters that lack self-awareness in a way.

And so – and I loved that she was so expert at what she did. And, I do like characters that you wonder what really makes them tick.

So – and, I think I benefited from having that time where I played the character without any feedback from the audience, because I think I would’ve tried to soften her, because the reaction to her when the shows first stated airing was like people just – I mean, I was in a department store the day after the first show aired, and I overheard this woman saying, “Oh, I just want to slap her.”

I did too.

Laura Innes: Yes. I think if I’d known that, I probably would’ve made the less – the character a little less interesting, because it’s so hard not to be liked, you know.

So, I loved – I always loved that character, and I never quite understood why people hated her so much, but that’s okay. And a lot of people adored her, too, and they also wrote lots of wonderful things for her. So, I loved it. I loved that she was so different than anything that I saw.

And then, I guess I would say the same about Sophia. The character that I play was originally written for a man, and they changed the character into Sophia. And I love the fact that like Carrie, she is very secretive, that she is by necessity private. I really like the fact that she has this back story that only we know about. You know the writers and creators. And to some extent, only I know about because there is so much that is unknown and undecided you have to make it up.

And at first, that seemed frustrating; now it just seems kind of fun. Like, I’ve realized, “Oh. I can make up anything I want,” about why she is who she is and what her capabilities are. What her history is, you know, in this prison for 66 years. What her upbringing was like. What her relationship with these other people is. I mean, one of the fun parts about doing this kind of show and the place my character sits in the show is that you just can let your imagination run wild.

So – and, I do think both characters, even though they are – can come off in ways that aren’t particularly warm and fuzzy, both characters are very moral you know, in their own way.

I know with 24 that whenever you guys started the season, you had a certain number of episodes mapped out, but not the entire season. And, I was wondering what your modus operandi is with The Event?

Evan Katz: It’s similar in that we have a larger roadmap. We know where we want to end. We have a couple of benchmarks that we want to hit along the way. But you know, we are – excuse me. It’s early in the morning. We are – to a certain extent, as we do episodes, we make sure we leave room for us to discover the story on its own and evolve what we discover about the stories and what – about the actors.

And you know I can tell you for instance, that in Laura’s case, her strengths and her ability to have an edge in sort of an unpredictable way kind of has dictated where we’ve gone with her character, where I don’t think that was originally part of the plan of the series.

Having worked so many years as you did on 24 – I mean, certain elements are obviously the same. You’re ending every episode with sort of you know, you’ve got to see what happens next, and kind of that. And I was wondering from your point of view how you can sort of describe how this show is different from that. Obviously, it’s got elements of Lost and other things that 24 didn’t, but I want to hear just from you how those things are different.

Evan Katz: Well, it’s different in a couple of ways. One, obviously it’s got a genre element, which is you know refreshing and neat, and you know the sky’s the limit on what we can come up with. It has got a more disparate story lines, at least right now. They will start to come together about midway through the season. But in 24, you know, in 99 times out of 100, the story lines were all kind of closely and immediately understandably related.

I would say the other difference is 24 was always more of a star vehicle for Kiefer, and this is a true ensemble. And you know – and the other thing is we don’t have a character in here with the evolved skill set that Jack Bauer had. These are very much about – much more about characters in transformation, and there is an innocence to some of the story lines, particularly Jason Ritter’s, that – and a romance to it that we couldn’t do there. And, it’s refreshing to be able to fish in that pond.

Laura, why is Sophia opposed to Thomas’ methods, and what does she – and how does she sort of see her – I guess her people furthering their agenda?

Laura Innes: Well, I mean I think she’s completely opposed to his methods, because they’re basically – you know, he’s a terrorist and he wants to you know, harm and abuse innocent people. And, I think that ultimately she – her first choice would be diplomatic, peaceful resolution to a conflict. Now if that’s not possible, then she’s willing to take the next step, but I think that she will do almost anything to avoid you know, harming – especially harming people who are innocent.

And you know, Thomas has a very particular character, which is sort of the antithesis of her. He’s – you know, he’s a rogue. He’s a loose cannon. Whatever you want to call it. And as the episodes go on, you begin to learn more about their relationship and it’s pretty – I mean for me, it was very interesting. It’s very layered. It’s very – it’s full of contradiction, and Clifton Collins does a great job in the part.

And, he’s sort of a damaged character in a way that even though the scenario is this sort of you know, overwrought — you know, how can I put it — outsized situation, it’s a pretty relatable relationship in certain ways – and unfortunately. And, it’s been great to play, but I think absolutely she at least would see herself as antithetical to Thomas and his ways of dealing with conflict and trying to get what he wants.

And, her – what she wants has remained the same you know. And, we find out more about that specifically in these episodes that come up, Episode 7 and Episode 9 and 10.

We sort of ended the last episode of The Event in quite a suspenseful place for Sophia. Can you preview what’s going to happen for her next episode when we saw her disappear down a little hole? So…

Laura Innes: A little rabbit hole. Yes, let me see. Well, the plot thickens – as they say. Episode 7 was I think the first episode where I feel like she’s got to kind of bust out a little bit, and Evan and the gang kind of gave her a great scene with the character of Thomas, and you start to see her really express her real feelings. So, that was fun to do. It’s fun for her to be out. It’s fun for me to be able to wear different outfits. That’s always nice.

And then in Episode 9, that just was a fantastic episode for me to – that they wrote for me and that I tried to navigate, because it is very intense and it’s very sort of shocking what she does and what she feels she’s forced to do.

And so, it just – it’s been an incredibly rich character to create, and challenging because so much of it is unknown and so much of it is created through imagined circumstances. And also, I think as an actress you feel like, “Okay. I have to figure out a way to make this huge like unimaginable situation real for me and grounded.” And so you know, I was saying to one of the other writers that at first that felt frustrating, because I don’t know so much and we all don’t know so much about what’s going to happen and what our back stories are.

But then, it felt very liberating to really try to imagine, “Okay. What could put someone in this spot and make them do the things that they do?” So, it’s been really a fantastic experience to play this part.

A lot of fans have speculated that perhaps the extraterrestrials are perhaps time travelers, more evolved humans from the future. Can you comment on that theory?

Laura Innes: I will – well certainly, we’re more evolved. I would say – no, I’m kidding. You know, I don’t know any of that. I know – I don’t know if that’s true. I know what I imagine in my mind, but that has nothing to do with what – where the show’s headed. And, I just love that people are interested in talking about it and speculating, and we’ve heard every possible scenario about who we are and where we came from. So, it will be discovered by all of us as we go on.

Evan Katz: Obviously, there’s is a surprise – a big surprise coming about who they really are. But, I don’t think anyone’s really hit on it yet, exactly anyway.

Now, can you give me when the event actually happens?

Evan Katz: Well, every – you know, the show’s designed so that every season ends with a big event, so I can say that there’s a tremendously big event at the end of Season 1.

Evan, can you tell me you know – well, how does having 22 episodes as opposed to 13 effect your game plan?

Evan Katz: Well, I was able to put a new roof on my house.

The – basically, the game plan has always been 22 episodes. I guess the challenge would’ve been what would’ve happened if we didn’t get 22 episodes. You sort have to go into something this hoping for success, so it doesn’t really. It just sort of means we’re going according to plan.

Laura, you know what the event is. You’ve said that before. As the series progresses, what are your feelings about where this series is headed as we get closer to that event?

Laura Innes: Well, I know what the event was when I was – I don’t even know if that’s different, frankly. And I mean, I’m certain that things are different, because when Evan came on and when the show became a reality, I – my suspicion is that things shifted and moved, and the timetable shifted in terms of when these things happen. And, we sort of moved from this idea that there was one event that everyone had to wait five years to find out what it is to you know, every season ending with something that impacts – that is an event and then impacts the future of the show and it breaks off in different ways.

So you know, I think what – the information that I have certainly informs what I do, but I’m not sure how much of that will change.

Evan, I was really intrigued sort of by the structure of the last episode where you had sort of – kind of big flashback elements with Agent Lee that was a little different than the previous flashbacks. I’m curious if you found something in there that you might continue going forward or was that kind of a special case?

Evan Katz: I think that you will see more flashbacks that are sort of like that in that they tell a character story in a relatively linear fashion. I think we – we’re not sort of dedicated to one set of flashbacks per episode.

You know, I think that multiple point – you know, flashbacks in more than one story line I think was frustrating. So, you’ll see this coming week Blake Sterling gets the same treatment that Simon Lee got this past – or last – the last original airing. So you know, we’re going to use them really to enhance character and we are going to use them when they’re – you know, we’re going to use them when they can enhance character, but we’re not religiously slaving to a certain number of flashbacks in every episode in multiple storylines.

Lauram, After playing Carrie for so many years on ER, were you ever worried that you would by type-cast? Obviously not now – not because we’re seeing The Event – we believe your character and you’re a totally different character, but was it ever a worry that you would be type-cast?

Laura Innes: Well you know, I think actors – you know, you worry about being cast, and not really about being type-cast. I think being cast period is the word. So, I don’t know. I – you know, people say that to me, and I’m sure I am type-cast. I mean, I’m sure there are a lot of people who see Carrie when they look at me. But, I don’t – I think it’s a high class problem. And, I also feel like good actors — and you know, I hope people feel like I’m a good actor — can transform and make you forget other characters.

But I will say that’s part of the reason that I kind of didn’t – waited a bit before doing another series, was that I was offered a lot of characters that were really – like, they wanted me to do Carrie you know, in a police uniform or something. And this part is so different. Even though there’s similar territory, it feels like a real departure from that character. So, yes – I wouldn’t say no.

I know you directed a couple of episodes of ER; are you planning to do the same with The Event?

Laura Innes: You know, I directed a lot of ERs and I directed a lot of West Wings, and when I left ER, I was primarily directing. And you know, I don’t know. I mean, it will sort of be something that we talk about down the line whether they think that’s a good idea. You know – I mean I think I’d like to do it, but I will say you want to make sure you have a good experience and that – because it’s your day job. You know, you don’t want to go in there and not have a fantastic experience, because you’re be coming back to work there.

So we’ll see. I mean, I think it’s – it’s in the – I don’t know. I – we’re – it’s in conversation, I’ll put it that way.

Evan, can you talk a bit about Scott Patterson’s character. When we can see more of him and if you can tease a little bit about what we can expect from Michael Buchanan?

Evan Katz: You will see more of Scott Patterson in two weeks, and then you will start to see a lot more of Scott Patterson after that. But to tell you any more would be to ruin things.

Paula Malcomson, how big a role is she going to be playing in coming episodes? It was such a delight to see here last – in the last episode.

Evan Katz: Yes. She’s wonderful. She comes back in this next episode, and we’re – you know, we’re – you know, there are a bunch of actors who are quite wonderful who come in and weave in and out of the show based on you know, the story lines we’re exploring. And you know, I think she’ll be back, but you know nothing specific is planned right now.


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