Interview with Reiko Aylesworth (as Michelle Dessler / Almeida)
How do you approach the period between seasons?
REIKO AYLESWORTH: It’s always “Does the show get picked up?” and then on this show, it’s always “Am I going to be a part of it?” Since it takes place all in one day you can’t even be assured-even if you’re not killed off you could just be caught in cross-town traffic when they send your character out for donuts. “Michelle, go get some Krispy Kremes.” And there’s a ton of damned traffic and then you’re gone half the season.
Is it hard to deal with the uncertainty?
REIKO: I think having been in the business for a while, you’re used to the uncertainty. Coming in the second season, I knew the deal going in. I think a lot of the people in the first season were caught unawares because it’s not like any other series in that way. A lot of other shows have that uncertainty, it’s just not so integrated into the storyline.
Is there economic consideration for being killed?
REIKO: Yeah, I mean there’s always that. If you hear that you’re going to get killed off, you want to hear before pilot season (laughs). As an actor, you’re a squirrel, you have to put your nuts away and get ready for hibernation. Like an athlete, you know there are a set number of years that you can work. If you’re a series regular on a show you know you’ll be paid throughout that year. Which is why you don’t want to make serious investments or blow all your money. There’s definitely an economic factor. But we choose this life, and I feel like I’m lucky to be doing this and making a living at it. I’d like to know that I could do something else if I had to.
Do you feel relaxed about getting roles?
REIKO: I think everyone worries about that. I talked to some of my friends and said, “Okay, you’re set. Your name is out there, people know your work, you’re set.” And it’s just not the case. There are so few good challenging roles out there. Economics aside, artistically, there are so few roles out there that we’re really lucky. I’m so grateful to be on a show that is this challenging.
Your role is a strong female.
REIKO: That’s another thing. It’s a great opportunity to play an intelligent, strong-willed woman. But also compassionate. It was important.
Could you be like Michelle in real life?
REIKO: I have good role models for that. My mother’s one of the toughest, strongest, smartest women I know. I’d like to think that I could be the same. We’re pretty pampered as actors. We have long hours and this show is a very challenging show, but I look around at our crew and I see how hard they work. My mother runs a jail, and she’s pretty tough. She gets dealt some serious situations-people overdosing, getting stabbed-I don’t have to deal with these things in my life, and thank god. But I’d like to think that I could. I definitely don’t have the computer smarts that Michelle does, I can barely check my e-mail.
Do you base some of her on your mom?
REIKO: Actually, I do. When I had to take over the office, I looked a lot at the way my mother handles stressful situations. You get put in a power position and people think you have to cut off all emotion and be the tough guy. To be the most effective leader, I don’t think you have to do that.
Do you think your character won’t die?
REIKO: Oh, you haven’t seen the new episodes?
I’ve seen up to eight.
REIKO: I am led into much more dangerous situations, which I have to say is a little nerve-wracking because I don’t know where the character’s going to go. But it’s great to get out of the office.
Would you like a show with better wardrobe?
REIKO: I did get a wardrobe change. The most exciting thing that’s happened this year is I have pockets. Acting with pockets is a whole other world.
There can’t be many shows where you wear the same thing all the time.
REIKO: No, and I actually love it. I missed out on Catholic school so I didn’t get the uniforms then, but the whole uniform thing is very appealing to me. It cuts down on so much time. On other shows I’ve done, you do one episode, you’ve got 10 changes and you’ve got to go shopping. You’ve got to try on all these different things, get them tailored and get fittings and-it’s great, but uniforms are fun too. Once in a while, I like to change my clothes. And I don’t mind waiting until summer vacation to do that. (laughs) We’ve got such great hair and makeup people, that it’s fun.
Was your family supportive about acting?
REIKO: Oh, absolutely. I think I had an incredibly supportive family. A lot of my family works in the social work and criminal justice system. They didn’t want me going into that. I don’t know how I fell into acting, it just developed as a passion. I was studying science in college and doing theater, and suddenly I had this passion for acting and science got left behind. My family is very supportive of me.
Did you come to LA for this show?
Reiko: Yes. I was in New York.
Are you at home here?
REIKO: No. I wish I could take the show and just move it to New York and then it would be perfect. It’s not that I don’t like LA, it’s that I love New York. It’s been hard to adjust in that sense.
Do you miss family and friends?
REIKO: Yes. My friends are all in New York, my family is spread out, in Chicago and Seattle. And I miss them terribly. But I’ve made a great group of friends out here, mostly through the show. It’s like how you find chemistry with other actors, our crew and cast have this chemistry. I can’t explain, but it’s fantastic. Thanks, everyone.
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