Exclusive: Rhona Mitra Opens Up 'The Gates'


I love a good supernatural TV series as much as the next FEARnet reader, but let's face it: they've not had a great track record.  Networks like to launch these shows during the summer months, and dark and creepy isn't exactly synonymous with summer. But we can always hope. And maybe The Gates will fare differently.  The new ABC show is set in a Stepford-like gated community, where some of the residents are human, and some... aren't.  It's a world populated by secret vampires, werewolves, witches, and more.  Rhona Mitra (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) stars as Claire, picture-perfect on the outside, blood-thirsty and haunted on the inside.  Rhona took a break from shooting recently to talk to us about working with werewolves again, and why she thinks this show WILL survive the season.

How did you get involved in The Gates?  What drew you to this project?

From what I understand, the producers were pretty far along in the casting process, but they were having a hard time finding my character.  I think that they had reached out to see if I was available, but I wasn't.   I changed agencies, and someone from the show was with this agency as well.  My name was brought up, and this person said that they didn't  think I would be available, but as it turned out, I was.

They sent me the script on a Friday, and I would have had to start the next week, so I had to make a quick decision and get my tushy down to Louisiana and morph into a vampire/housewife.  As fate would have it, the creators of the show, a husband-wife team, Grant Scharbo and Gina Matthews, are actually people I had met before, socially, who said they wanted to work with me.  I hadn't put two and two together.  They did.

What can you tell us about your character, Claire?

Claire is, on the surface, a wonderful, beautiful, pristine wife and mother.  She has an abundance of elegance and decorum, and culinary skills!  But that is just on the surface.  She lives in a community where appearances are everything.  Everything revolves around what your neighbors think, behaving a certain way, and keeping up to certain standards.  With all that comes a lot of pressure, for anyone.  But in Claire's case, not only does she have to sustain a certain image, but she is concealing a dark secret of "addiction," in a basic sense.

Was it fun to play a dark character... or creature?

She's actually not that dark.  That's one of the things that drew me to her.  Looking at the possibility and potential of these -- what have been dubbed "creatures," or even monsters in some minds -- the possibility of what would happen if they lived in our society today.  How would we coexist with them, how would that affect them?  I suppose they might become a hybrid of sorts.  I would say she is 70 percent human, and 30 percent vampire.  Vampires seem to have evil, vengeful, selfish connotations.  Our take on Claire is that her life doesn't revolve around sucking the life out of people.  She wants to have a life, be a mother, and exist in whatever normality she might have.  She doesn't want to be a slave to this "demon."  For some this is easier, which is why we liken it to addiction.  She doesn't find it is that easy to quell her appetites. 

I think that is why people are drawn to vampires.  They are, potentially, an extension of ourselves.  They aren't like werewolves; they look like us, just a more refined, elegant version.  Claire is all of that, but unfortunately she gives in to her weakness every once in a while.  She finds no pleasure in it; in fact, she beats herself up over it.

It's a fun role, that's for sure.  And I get to make cupcakes!

What other kinds of monsters can we expect to see in The Gates?

There are vampires and werewolves and witches... but I don't want to ruin any surprises.  A few things will come up that I don't think you've seen before.  It's not that I don't want to tell you, but it is more fun for you to see when it comes up.  But living within human society, there are a number of different "breeds."

Do all of these creatures know of each other?  Can you "sniff it out" on each other?

Yes.  We [the creatures] all know each other, but the humans don't know who we are.  There are certain rules we all comply to -- or are supposed to comply to.  Because of our heightened senses we all know who each other is, and it is supposed to be a copacetic existence, but you know how it goes... like with the vampire/werewolf thing.  They don't get on very well.

You do have a lot of experience with the whole vampire/werewolf issue.

Maybe a little more than the average person!  I actually really enjoy it.  I think working with Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy [on Underworld: Rise of the Lycans] gave me an appetite -- no pun intended -- to continue in the genre.  It's so fun, and you have so much poetic license.  There is no rule of thumb for vampires or werewolves.  You adhere to a certain amount and the rest is up to you.  There is a lot of freedom in that.

The thing that is so fantastic about the "monsters" in our show, as many call them, is that they are not outwardly monsters.  They are, potentially, an extension of ourselves.  I get to be versions of myself, then I get to play other versions of myself that are hidden.  It's like eternally being a child, using my imagination.  It's so much more appealing than some procedural crime-drama.  Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen, two fantastic actors, came back to a franchise three times over because they love it!  There is a lot to be enjoyed.

So if they were to do another Underworld, would you be on board for it?

I think I ended up being burned in the sunlight in the last film, so unless they go back somehow, I don't know how they would bring me back.  But if they did ask me back, I would do it.  Especially if Bill and Michael were doing it again.

Thrillers notoriously don't do well during summer season.  What will make The Gates stand out?

There is a voyeuristic element to the show.  The producers have created an environment that could possibly exist somewhere.  I think there is a reality to it.  We have dynamics between husbands and wives, parents and children, that we can all relate to.  But you add in these supernatural elements and you get people thinking how would these "people" interact if they weren't just out to get each other.  But it's not dark.  There is enough camp in it to make it good summer fare.