¡¡¡¡Melissa George on ‘The Mosquito Coast’, Why the Casting Process Never Gets Easier, and Still Getting Fan-Hate From ‘Alias’

¡¡¡¡By Christina Radish

¡¡¡¡Published 17 hours ago

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¡¡¡¡The actress also talks about the kind of work she’d like to do in the future

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¡¡¡¡From series creator Neil Cross (Luther) and adapted from the best-selling novel written by Paul Theroux, the Apple TV+ original series The Mosquito Coast (which has already been picked up for a second season) follows Allie Fox (Justin Theroux), a radical and resourceful idealist who takes his already off the grid family on the run to Mexico. With the US government after them and possible dangers lurking around every corner, the Fox family will be pushed to the limit with their survival at stake.

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¡¡¡¡During a virtual junket to talk about the streaming series, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with Melissa George about playing Margot, Allie¡¯s wife and the mother of their two children, not having previously been familiar with the source material, how difficult the whole casting process can be, how she identifies with her character, the three roles in her career that were all-consuming, and bonding like a family. She also talked about an unusual Alias fan encounter that she had in an elevator, and the kind of work she¡¯d like to do in the future.

¡¡¡¡Collider: When this came your way, had you been familiar with the title, either through the novel or the movie? Did you know what you might be getting yourself into, when you read it?

¡¡¡¡MELISSA GEORGE: I had no idea at all. I saw the title of this on the script and I was like, ¡°Oh, that sounds like a lovely title. What¡¯s this story about?¡± And I read it. And then, over the months, I was telling friends about The Mosquito Coast. I didn¡¯t have the role at that point, but everyone was like, ¡°Oh, my God, I love the film. The book is so good.¡± And, and then I heard from Neil [Cross] and Rupert [Wyatt] that this will be a prequel to the book and the movie, so there was no interest of mine at all, at the beginning, to watch the film or read the book. Then, four months into the casting process, I finally did a casting because Justin [Theroux] called and said, ¡°Where is Melissa¡¯s casting?¡± And I was like, ¡°Oops, okay, I better do it now.¡± I finally became Margo, so then we went on this journey. Of course, you only get given the first script. You don¡¯t get given the rest because it¡¯s still being written. It was a big journey. It was a long one. It was an intense one. It was a dramatic one. It was a fun one. It was all of those things.

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¡¡¡¡Image via Apple TV+

¡¡¡¡With just one script, what impression did that give you? Did you have a lot of questions that you needed answered, before you signed on for this?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: No, not really. I did the casting and I was the top favorite after many, many months, so Rupert called my agent and said, ¡°Does Melissa know? Is she fully aware of just how big this is gonna be? She needs to know.¡± There wasn¡¯t a lot of information given to me, but the pilot, or the first script, was enough for me to say yes. It was full of unknown twists and turns, and things that were left unanswered, which is what we love because then there¡¯s a place to go.

¡¡¡¡RELATED: Justin Theroux on ‘The Mosquito Coast’, ‘The Leftovers’, and the Misunderstood Joys of ‘Your Highness’

¡¡¡¡What¡¯s it like to know that you¡¯re the top choice for a role, but you¡¯re still waiting and don¡¯t know what¡¯s going to happen? Is that something you just have to get used to dealing with?

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¡¡¡¡GEORGE: You never get used to it, but in this particular case, I didn¡¯t do the casting for one very big reason, which was because I didn¡¯t wanna lose the role. If I went in too early in the casting process, they¡¯d probably think it was a brilliant casting, but maybe the grass is greener, and I wasn¡¯t ready to play that game. I wasn¡¯t strong enough in my personal life to go on tape for a role that I really wanted. I was just like, ¡°You know what? If it¡¯s mine, it¡¯ll find me.¡± If it¡¯s gonna come, it will come.¡± After many, many months, they¡¯d cast everybody else and they¡¯d seen everybody, but they were like, ¡°Maybe there¡¯s one that we haven¡¯t seen.¡± And that was my moment to strike.

¡¡¡¡Does that get easier, the longer that you¡¯re in this business?

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¡¡¡¡GEORGE: No, it¡¯s horrible. Earlier on, it¡¯s better because you¡¯re not so aware. A few knocks, you¡¯re okay. But after you¡¯ve been knocked down for 20 years, you¡¯re like, ¡°This is starting to hurt. I¡¯m starting to learn the tricks here. I¡¯m starting to understand the way things work.¡± It¡¯s interesting, like a gambler that doesn¡¯t talk about the money they lost, but only about the money they won, as an actor, you only really talk about the roles that you got, which is why we¡¯re talking today. I haven¡¯t told you about the list of roles that I didn¡¯t get. That¡¯s the way it is. You¡¯ve gotta play to win it and play to be in it. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn¡¯t.

¡¡¡¡At what point along the way did you find about Justin Theroux¡¯s family connection to the source material?

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¡¡¡¡GEORGE: I knew that pretty early on. I clued into that when I saw Paul Theroux¡¯s name. Justin had to cast as well. It wasn¡¯t like Paul called and said, ¡°I want Justin to play this.¡± I think he¡¯s freaking out more than I am, doing the role in his uncle¡¯s book. That¡¯s crazy. That¡¯s freaky.

¡¡¡¡What was it about Neil Cross¡¯ take on this material that you found relevant? Had you been familiar with his work, to know just how dark his stuff can get sometimes?

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¡¡¡¡Image via Apple TV+

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: Yeah, he¡¯s dark, but that¡¯s why we love him. He¡¯s got a dark side. Not personally. He¡¯s fabulous. He¡¯s just a witty British man. I love the way he wrote Margot. He made Margot something. He made her an equal protagonist to Allie. He made her not mother. He made her something stronger and gave her a fantastic arc.

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¡¡¡¡Would you have even considered playing Margot, if those changes hadn¡¯t been made to her?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: No way. Give it to somebody else. Why would I wanna do that? There would be nothing interesting to do. And I don¡¯t think we can get away with that these days. You have to make the woman as equal as the man, and vice versa. I don¡¯t mind taking a part that¡¯s less important than the man. That¡¯s fine, as long as she has a point and a purpose and something to say. But if she has nothing to say, there¡¯s no way that I would be interested. I would rather just be with my sons.

¡¡¡¡In what ways did you find yourself relating to and understanding Margot, and were there ways that you found her to be very different from who you are?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: There are moments where everything¡¯s just chaotic and she thinks on her feet and she¡¯s able to escape the moment, and that¡¯s me completely. I¡¯ve lived off the grid. I travel. I have two sons. I¡¯m able to run a career and a household, with no family, no help, and nobody around. My neighbor, who has lived next to me for just a few months, said to me, ¡°I¡¯ve watched you do more things in these few months. I can¡¯t even believe it.¡± Margot and I are very similar like that. We can think on our feet, quickly and efficiently, and come up with solutions. Like Allie says, ¡°There¡¯s a problem. What¡¯s the solution?¡± Margot and Allie are a great pair. They¡¯re very complimentary. They don¡¯t push each other to the point where they¡¯re gonna break. They reel each other in constantly. It¡¯s an addictive relationship and they shouldn¡¯t be together, but they¡¯re better off together then not together, I would say. What I relate to with Margot is that you would do anything for the life of your kids. That¡¯s why she¡¯s fighting so hard for a better life for her kids and herself. She¡¯s not forgetting herself, in this story. She doesn¡¯t quite know what she¡¯s doing. She¡¯s on the run. She keeps following Allie Fox, and Allie Fox is just a fox. He¡¯s just always on the run. That guy doesn¡¯t stop, and now we¡¯re dragging the kids through it. We were good for 10 years. In the first episode, this family was good. They had their little ways. They put us in these incredible, very secondhand clothes. They¡¯re very minimalistic people. They reuse things. They recycle. Nothing is fancy. There¡¯s no technology. They did that for 10 years, and then they had to run.

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¡¡¡¡This seems like one of those characters that could easily consume the actor playing her. Did you find that to be the case? How do you feel about that, when it happens?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: I wouldn¡¯t say it¡¯s like that all the time. I could list maybe three roles in my career like that. When I did In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne, I wanted to be her. I still wish I was her, I loved her so much. And then, when I played Rosie in The Slap, in the Australian version and in the American version. I also loved that woman, with all my heart. And Margot is my heart and soul. Now we¡¯re on a break and it¡¯s tough. It¡¯s tough to say goodbye to that excitement of the Foxes on the run and that lifestyle. Margot is just so much fun.

¡¡¡¡Have you had conversations about where their story could go next and what story there is still to tell for them?

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¡¡¡¡GEORGE: I know what we haven¡¯t shown, what we could show, and we haven¡¯t shown yet, and that¡¯s great. We¡¯ve barely even made it to where we had to go. We haven¡¯t even got there yet. I know there¡¯s a lot more.

¡¡¡¡What was it like to bond, as a family? This is a family that¡¯s really only had each other for so long, so how did you approach figuring out that dynamic, especially with Logan Polish and Gabriel Bateman?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: I am such a mama bear that I took one look at Logan and Gabe and just felt responsible, instantly. I love them so much. It¡¯s not often that it happens like that. It can be work. You¡¯re forced from the director to go and spend the weekend with the kid and get to know them and really create this bond. I had that with Chloe Grace Moretz when we did Amityville Horror. Ryan Reynolds and I were the leads, and Chloe Grace Moretz was only six years old and she played my daughter. That was instant, when I met her. After that, we¡¯d have slumber parties. I would take care of her all weekend. She was like my adult daughter. So, it can happen at times, where it¡¯s just instant. It was like that with Logan and Gabe.

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¡¡¡¡Image via Apple TV+

¡¡¡¡How did you find the experience of working with director Rupert Wyatt? What do you feel he brought out in you, or that you learned about yourself from working with him?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: Rupert is a genius. I felt lost without him. We did the first two episodes, and then that was it. You become dependent on your director. He was there, every step of the way, to help us and guide us trough the other episodes. I love that feeling when they affirm clearly that you¡¯ve done a great job and there¡¯s no insecurity in your mind because your director approves and everything is gonna be fine. He was just such a joy. He¡¯s an absolute artist.

¡¡¡¡Do you still get hate from people who are mad at your character in Alias, or has enough time passed that it doesn¡¯t happen anymore?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: That¡¯s the least amount of hate that I get in my life. I get hate, all over my life, all day and all night. Yes, people loved Alias. I was in an elevator, and this guy got in the elevator and just stared at me with a horrible look, and then he backed himself off to the corner, just looking at me. I was like, ¡°Are you okay?¡± He goes,¡±Are you Lauren Reed?¡± And I was like, ¡°Well, no. Yeah, I played her, but I¡¯m not really her.¡± And he was so angry at me. This guy in an elevator was super angry. I was like, ¡°Oh, my God.¡± It was a great part. She was a loving mother and wife by the day and an assassin by night. You couldn¡¯t make this up. Throughout my life, I¡¯ve gotten these roles that are very controversial and create angst in people, but it¡¯s not real. Bring it on. I live in Paris. I get hate, all through the streets, all day. They¡¯re like, ¡°Oh, you Australian that speaks French with her sunny disposition, that can fight battles all day.¡± Trust me, the hate from Alias is nothing.

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¡¡¡¡You talked about being pickier and waiting, and not just accepting any role. What are you looking for in a character and a project now? Is it about a gut instinct for you, or is there more that plays into it?

¡¡¡¡GEORGE: I¡¯m looking for directors now. I wanna work with big directors that would take what I think I know and make me better. I just want that now. Otherwise, I¡¯d rather do something else. I want some of the best directors in the world to see something in me that they like and say, ¡°I can do a role with her as the actress, and I¡¯m gonna make her show her talent.¡± If there is any left. That¡¯s what I wanna do now. I just did a film with Catherine Deneuve (In His Lifetime) in French. I did another film, called Canines, where I play a vampire with my daughter, played by Pauline Chalamet, Timoth¨¦e¡¯s sister, who¡¯s doing great things in Hollywood. We play a mother and daughter vampire duo, and I send her out to bring people for me to feed. It¡¯s all in French. I wanna do things that stretch me and make me feel frightened because I¡¯m too afraid to fail. That¡¯s been a nice little year. I worked with Sean Penn, last year. He¡¯s one of my most favorite actors. I got to play his lover of 18 years, in The First. And now, I¡¯m with Justin in The Mosquito Coast. It¡¯s been a good 18 months.

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¡¡¡¡The Mosquito Coast is available to stream at Apple TV+.

¡¡¡¡KEEP READING: Director Rupert Wyatt on Setting the Tone for Apple’s ‘The Mosquito Coast’

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¡¡¡¡About The Author

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¡¡¡¡Christina Radish

¡¡¡¡(4840 Articles Published)

¡¡¡¡Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter at Collider. Having worked at Collider for over a decade (since 2009), her primary focus is on film and television interviews with talent both in front of and behind the camera. She is a theme park fanatic, which has lead to covering various land and ride openings, and a huge music fan, for which she judges life by the time before Pearl Jam and the time after. She is also a member of the Critics Choice Association and the Television Critics Association.

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