When Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings, The Thin Red Line) took up the role of Allison Carr in Homeland’s fifth season, she was to embody one of the most dynamic and powerful female roles on television. Otto’s arc as the double agent and genius manipulator felt like what would traditionally be “a man’s role,” she says, adding, “I couldn’t help but really like her because it was just fun to be a woman who was kind of continually using her intelligence and her wits to get herself out of situations.” Carr’s death also served as a key dramatic turn in the season finale. Otto’s critically-acclaimed performance on the show has certainly got her noticed, as she’s now set to appear as the female lead on 24: Legacy. Otto is Rebecca Ingram, former head of the Counter Terrorist Unit. “I love this world,” Otto says. “I just find it really fascinating, and as a woman, really interesting to play in, because it’s such a traditionally male kind of world.”
How did you get on board with Homeland in the beginning?
I was asked to come in and read two scenes for Alex Gansa. I got sent two scenes. It sounded like such a great part, and then I got cast really quickly. It all turned around in a few days, and then within about a week, I was in Berlin, getting ready to shoot. They’d already started shooting, so it was really sort of a whirlwind to get the whole thing started, and I had to do a lot of it on the run.
You talked to a former member of the CIA as preparation?
Yes. I felt like the rest of the cast are so entrenched in that world, they understand it so well, and I felt like, in the position that I was going to be in with my character, I really had to know a lot very quickly about everything that was going on. Once I was over in Berlin, they have a consultant on the show who used to work for the CIA, who then helped me a great deal. I would have really wonderful long conversations with him on the phone about what would happen in this situation. We kind of built a back story together, how we thought I would have become chief of station in Berlin, what kind of training I would have done.
How much did you know about your arc going in?
I kind of got a sense from one of the scenes that I was reading, perhaps there was something with myself and Saul. That was what I knew going in, that she was having an affair with Saul, and that she was indeed working as a spy for the Russians as well. So, I knew those two pieces, but I thought that would be my whole arc. The audience wouldn’t know until the end of the season that I was actually working for the other side, but as it turns out, the audience found out, I think at the end of episode four, and so then I was like, “Wow, what happens next?” They really do move through the story really fast, and they just keep coming up with more amazing things to follow it.
Absolutely. It felt like a male role, in that so often, women’s roles, we get kind of typecast as we’re people who are emotional all the time, that we’re always worried about our children, or we’re dealing with these kind of issues that are more domestic. That’s what’s so great in this show, is the women have roles where they’re arguing with ideologies and concepts and sort of greater issues in the world rather than just getting more domesticated.
How did you get into Allison’s almost sociopathic headspace?
It was interesting, because it was kind of developing as it went. I felt toward the end it was really fun to play, because it became much more that she was somebody who was in it for herself at the end of the day. Her first loyalty was most definitely to herself, and not to her colleagues or her country, or anything. It was very much her own need to survive, her own need to attain things along the way, and in the end to try to survive everybody.
How did you feel about her dramatic end–being shot in the trunk of the car?
On some level I know a lot of people really hated her for so many things that she did, but I kind of liked her on some level, because of her intelligence, I guess, because of her cunning. And in the end, I really wanted her to get away. I wanted her to disappear. I wanted the trunk to be opened and her not to be in it, and that you never heard from her again. But I mean, I thought it was a great end. There was a part of me that was like, “I just want to see her get away with it.” I think you can’t help but like your character.
When I left Homeland at the end of last year, I was thinking, “I loved this world so much.” I found it so stimulating to work on, and just the character’s so interesting, and I thought, “What am I going to do next?” Then this came through, and it was a show that I had really loved when it first started on TV, and it was Howard again, so I really jumped at the chance. They’re using the concept of the show, of real time. Obviously, that’s one of the amazing and original aspects of the show. There’s something about it that is even more pressing now, with everything that is going on. It just seemed so incredibly current, which I find really interesting to work on. It is very much in the moment that we’re living in right now.
With Homeland and now 24: Legacy you’ve carved out a niche as this tough agent type. Do you feel you have a certain quality that made you a good fit for those roles?
I think what we find most interesting in actors is some kind of paradox, some kind of juxtaposition of ideas so that we can never really completely settle on who they are. We’re never really sure exactly where they sit, and I suppose in some way physically, because I’m fair-skinned and all that, I sort of have a slightly more fragile look or something, so it’s interesting to see someone like me play something that is harder and tougher, because it’s not what you would expect. I think you kind of have to play to those contrasts, you know? I think it’s a good place for an actor to be.
To view the trailer for 24: Legacy, click here.