Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Elizabeth Mitchell is a self-described goofball.
She's made a name for herself by playing strong, compassionate women in sci-fi action series.
But in this week's episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," the actress is embodying a deeply disturbed woman who is accused of committing a truly heinous crime.
"I play a piano teacher who is - given all appearances - you know, very good at her job. And she is accused of a really terrible crime involving one of her students. And we go down a road and we see her story unfold and it is - it's horrific and it's sad and it happens," Mitchell says.
It's a drastic turn from Mitchell's recent stints as time-jumping doctor Juliet on "Lost" and alien-hunting FBI agent Erica Evans on "V."
"I was very intrigued by her and just how child-like she was. It was very interesting for me," Mitchell says.
"The woman I am playing now is very much a victim who is still lost in the storm of that," she adds. "She most certainly hasn't made her way out of that storm. And as such you're just talking about someone who is almost not fully formed as a person and is seeking all kinds of things."
In the episode titled "Totem," the SVU squad discovers a young girl brutally assaulted and then murdered. Detectives Stabler and Benson (Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay) once again enlist psychologist Captain Jackson (guest star Jeremy Irons) to unravel the events leading up to the offense.
"SVU" showrunner Neal Baer says he's had the idea for this episode for 11 years, and he wasn't going to cast just anyone to bring the story to life.
Mitchell and Irons, he says, delivered the goods.
"This woman (has) been very arrested in her development, because of what's happened to her and what she's done," Baer says. "And it makes for, you know, one of the most compelling episodes we've ever done, and we've done a lot of compelling episodes. So it really is a hyperbole where, you know, we have all seen it and we just sit there stunned watching it, because it is so real in the performances that Elizabeth and Jeremy give that you feel, you know, that you're actually there in the room watching this all occur, because it's so real and compelling and honest."
Mitchell says she was attracted to the part because, "I think that I felt like it was very sad. I felt like it was very toxic. But I also felt intrigued by the idea of giving victims somewhat of a voice, because, in some ways, this woman - in many ways - this woman is an incredible victim. So that was intriguing to me."
Though she's done a lot of sci-fi of late, Mitchell says transitioning into something heavier wasn't a problem. The actress has previously guest starred on "Law & Order" and cut her TV teeth as a recurring character on "ER."
"I find sci-fi to be wonderful, because it is fanciful and much easier to not go home with the fact that I had to kill an alien that day, you know?" Mitchell says. "But I find that beautiful words, well-written words, which has been the case for both of my times on 'Law & Order' and also working for Neal on 'ER,' are why I wanted to be an actor; why I love being an actor; what I studied when I was a kid - what I hoped for.
"So even given the tragic nature of the subject matter, the words were beautiful; the scenes were beautiful. They had an incredible structure, and I felt that there was an ease to the doing - and that's not saying that my character was easy. I'm just saying there was an ease to the doing, because it was really well-thought out."
"Law & Order: SVU" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.