Although Ashley Judd is best known for her movie work (Kiss the Girls, De-Lovely, Dolphin Tale), she has done quite a bit of TV, including being nominated for an Emmy for her role as Norma Jean Dougherty in Norma Jean & Marilyn.
But ABC’s Missing marks the first time she has starred in a weekly series. In it she portrays Becca Winstone, a former CIA operative, whose husband Paul (Sean Bean), also a CIA agent, was murdered in front of their son Michael (Nick Eversman) 10 years before.
Now at 18-years-old, Becca realizes she must let Michael go, allowing him to study in Europe. But a few weeks into his trip, Michael disappears and Becca immediately believes it’s foul play, and flies to Rome to find him. The kidnappers soon realize they have picked a fight with the wrong woman, as Becca puts all her former training and skills into finding and rescuing her son.
Were you looking for a TV show when this came to you?
I was very fortunate in that they came looking for me, and that is something that I found very humbling and flattering.
Obviously, I am aware that this is a golden age in television, that incredible film producers are making special TV, that that once rather impermeable membrane between film actors and TV actors has completely vanished.
My agent called me with that special lilt in her voice, which all actors love to hear, ‘I think I found the one.’ And I flew to Los Angeles, and I had a meeting with the producers. They pitched me a sensational idea, a mother looking for her son.
It was going to film ten episodes, which worked well with the balance of my very abundant life, and each episode was event TV, set in a glorious European capital. What’s not to love?
You’ve done action sequences in some of your movies, but had you always wanted to play a full-on trained, operative-type character?
Did I want to play a trained operative for the CIA? Well, it seems to have gone rather well. So I can confide in you that, when I was able to say that line without laughing, I knew I’d be okay. [It was] kind of daunting. It’s no small thing to be a trained operative for the CIA. I didn’t take it lightly.
How did you get comfortable with all of the training and physicality?
I had a very sedentary life until I began filming Missing. I went to graduate school, and I wrote a book. I sat down for two-and-a-half years, and I didn’t get up until it was time to do this.
So I just got on my yoga mat with a few teachers I really like and who I trust, and fortunately I’ve got good muscle memory, and it came back. It was a way not only to be really in my body and flexible, but to make sure I stayed safe and didn’t get hurt.
Then it was just time to fight. And I love to fight, I find it easy and rewarding.
Do you like the travel aspect of the series?
It was both wonderful, because I love to travel, and it was very difficult, because I am, first and foremost, a homebody. It was about trying to make a home with [the cast and crew] who became my family of choice while very far away from rural middle Tennessee.
Becca makes it very clear that she will find her son at all cost. Are there lines she still won’t cross, though, in that search?
You ask a very salient question. We’ve incorporated an extraordinary actor, Sean Bean, into scenes when he is dead. One of the episodes addressed that question in a very nifty way.
In the flashback, you see my husband and me working as CIA operatives together, and we are faced with a really wrenching moral dilemma about what we will and will not do. That connects to the pickle in which I find myself contemporarily while looking for my son.
What will and will I not do to find him, and how have I potentially set aside my previous values and integrity in order to accomplish what seems to be a more precious goal, which is saving my child?
I don’t want to go into too much detail about what that exact thing is. However, it was probably, for me, the most rewarding episode to act, and it was something that took a lot of time and thought to pull off.
Greg (Poirier, the Creator of the series) mentioned in passing to me on set one day that he had this idea, but it was too dark. It might turn viewers off in our first season. But I couldn’t shake the idea.
A few days later, I went back and I said, ‘You know what? For me, it only works in Season 1 because what will I do to find my child?’ So we went back to ABC who, very much to their credit, had the courage to let us tackle it, and I believe it turned out to be absolutely fantastic.
How many of the action sequences do you do, and how much of it was a stunt double?
I do most of my own stunts. It’s interesting because some of the things that seem more complicated or tricky can be quite easy. When I am on the bridge in Paris and I am shot and I fall into the Seine, I did that.
Yet, when I first sense that there is someone who is about to harm me and I dive for the balustrade, I had trouble doing that for some reason. I kept knocking my knee, and then I said, ‘Suzanna, get in here and dive on the balustrade!’
Episode 1.02 “The Hard Drive” aires on Thursday March 22, 2012 with Episode 1.03 “Ice Queen” airing the following week on March 29, 2012.