Awards Daily’s Megan McLachlan chats with Hanna‘s Mireille Enos about reteaming with her Killing counterpart Joel Kinnaman and what makes Marissa tick: ‘She feels most herself when she is by herself in pursuit of something.’
Marissa loves the thrill of the chase, and so does Mireille Enos.
Hanna on Amazon follows the journey of a young girl raised in the forest, as she evades the relentless pursuit of CIA agent Marissa Wiegler, played by Enos.
I had the opportunity to speak with Enos about the quiet intensity of her character, Marissa’s evolution as a woman, and what it was like to work with Joel Kinnaman again.
Awards Daily: Between The Catch, The Killing, and now Hanna, you’ve made a career out of chasing people. What about these kinds of roles are you drawn to?
Mireille Enos: That’s so interesting! I hadn’t thought about that similarity. I think work is always the easiest when the character that you’re grappling with has a clear purpose and mission, that there is something that they’re going after—whether it’s like a physical person or something emotional. Maybe that’s what has drawn me to these different parts, that that pursuit is so clearly drawn. Anything in motion is easier to motivate. There’s a sense of motion in the scripts. Especially Sarah [from The Killing] and then now Marissa, there’s also a lot of complicated emotional stuff going on underneath that, but all of that is happening as almost secondary to what their obvious drive is. It’s an interesting counterpoint.
AD: Let’s talk about Marissa. What kind of preparation did you do for the role?
ME: There’s the physical part of it. She’s obviously a trained CIA agent, and I study martial arts, so that’s just part of my normal life. I’ve also played other roles where I was very facile with weapons, so I’ve done quite a bit of weapons training and all of that just in my life. There was some brushing up to do, but mostly it was just drawing on the skills that I already have from my past work. Otherwise I did a lot of watching of interviews of CIA agents either current or people who no longer working for the agency, just talking about that organization, for better or worse. Also, reading books and learning about what our tells are and how we give ourselves away, so that I could obviously try to not do that! The rest of it is just in the writing. I think David Farr’s writing is so rich, and at the same time very spare in the actual words that he gives you, but then also the subtext and the inner life of the characters is really rich. So that’s like gold when you get writing like that.
AD: You have such a quiet intensity when playing her. How do you tackle a character like Marissa?
ME: Mostly you just start with what’s on the page and then you bring aspects of yourself. Most of the time when I respond to a role, as I’m reading it, I can actually hear it. I immediately can hear my own voice in it or a version of my own voice in it. Then there are other scripts that I read that I’m like, ‘I don’t hear anything!’ and then those are the parts you say ‘No, thank you’ to. So initially I start with that. What I am hearing while I’m reading and then obviously the director and the writer—they have their own ideas—and then you have your partners that you’re working with and you just kind of respond to that. What I think is the most visceral thing that helps guide me about Marissa is that she is a lone wolf. Even in her attempts to have relationships, you have this semblance of normalcy, there is a quiet loneliness and deep, private quality that is what’s most true about her, and it’s why her relationship fails. It’s why ultimately at the end of the series in those last two episodes, she is by herself running through the woods. She’s not actually a team player. She feels most herself when she is by herself in pursuit of something.
AD: I was even thinking about a small scene when Marissa is with her boyfriend and his kid and she even seems like slightly disconnected from them.
ME: I think a tool she has in her arsenal is a kind of warmth she uses to manipulate people and I think she tries to use that in her relationships to even convince herself she’s capable of being relaxed and happy, but the life that she’s led up to this point really doesn’t allow for that.
AD: We don’t get a ton of backstory about Marissa. But she appears to be the only American in this story largely set in and around Europe. Do you have a specific backstory/history in mind for her? How did she end up where she is?
ME: None of it’s scripted. I created a backstory for myself, which had military training and a curiosity about the CIA. She’s intelligent. She has an arsenal of skills that led her in that direction. I think she’s very drawn to power in that military man’s world. She’s determined to not be less than anyone, which is what got her to that position in the flashbacks of leading UTRAX. I think in her past she was a lot more of an adrenaline junkie and this visceral, animal being. And then between the flashbacks and the current day, she had this traumatic event with the shutting down of UTRAX, she got her hand slapped, and she got dropped into Paris behind a desk. I think any woman’s evolution from late-twenties to mid-forties is interesting and I think hers was fairly profound, that she was forced to get quieter, she was forced to grow up in a way where she learned how to pick up a silk blouse, how to use these other aspects of herself, her cunning, her quiet—she grew into a woman. Paris guided that. You think about the energy of Paris verses the energy of Berlin. There’s a toughness to Berlin, a rock star edge to it that Paris doesn’t have—it’s much more sophisticated and delicate. And now she’s going back to that, and that’s where we find her in her forties and she’s embraced that and how that can serve her. My hunch is—I mean I don’t know that this is true, I haven’t read all of Season 2—what I’d like to see is the marriage of those two energies. That you see this real gut-instinct animal side of her coming back out, but married with the wisdom she’s gained as a woman in her forties.
AD: There’s an amazing action sequence in episode 3 titled “City.” How long did that take to do?
ME: That was a very complicated sequence. We shot it over the better part of a week with all the different pieces of it. We were shooting that in Budapest in this beautiful courtyard in the center of the city and the hotel was actually an abandoned building, so we took it over and dressed it into a hotel. There was an actual car park under that park where we were able to shoot. That whole sequence took like a week to do.
AD: It’s so swift and rapid. It’s really well done! You’ve found such a great niche of chasing people and being a CIA agent. You seem like you really do it.
ME: It’s funny because I love the delicate, intimate, emotional stuff, that’s really fun to play, but I love a big action sequence. It’s such a fun day of shooting. Everybody’s around on set. You start the day with a plan, but it never goes according to plan, so everybody’s just there on set all day waiting and there’s this energy because at any moment you could be pulled into something. ‘Here I go! Give me my gun!’
AD: Hanna reconnects you with your Killing counterpart Joel Kinnaman. What was it like reteaming with him?
ME: I had imagined [the role of] Erik being in his mid-forties and when the truth is Joel was about to turn 40. But when I started working with him, he was in his early-thirties, so in my mind he was stuck as an early-thirties guy. I had actually reached out to him because he’s European and he’s so good at knowing every good actor and I’m actually terrible at that, so I had written to him to please help send me names of really wonderful mid-forties actors. And then [the producers] actually came back to me and they said they wanted to run something by me because they were actually considering asking Joel to do it but they wanted to make sure I was okay with that. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness! He’s my favorite human on the planet!’ So it was great—actually I was sad that we had so little screen time together.
AD: Even though when you do have screen time together, it’s electric.
ME: Thank you. We had so much fun working together.
AD: What’s next for you two after Hanna? You two have seemed to found a great niche.
ME: We would love to just keep finding things to do together, you know every decade or so! It would be so fun. Careers are long and to have this history together, to look back and be like, ‘This was us in our thirties, and this was us in our forties. . .’ As long as we can keep finding things that are really different, with a totally different dynamic, I think it would be awesome.
Hanna is now streaming on Amazon Prime.