Stitchers Interviews: Emma Ishta, Allison Scagliotti, Salli Richardson-Whitfield

This is the first of the Stitchers Interviews. As in all things chivalrous it will be ladies first, blame my mother, followed by the fellas and then capped off with the creator/executive producer.

This is the first of the Stitchers Interviews. As in all things chivalrous it will be ladies first, blame my mother, followed by the fellas and then capped off with the creator/executive producer.  Certainly the world is, overall, consumed with all things Oscars at the moment. Leonardo finally getting  a little golden guy, Mad Max taking six for the Aussie contingent and Brie Larson winning, quite deservedly, for her film, Room.

Still, Stitchers fans must be curious as to what transpired “on the day” so here is the first of three. These busy people took time from shooting the second season finale (Do not ask;  I saw very little and can only tell you that John Billingsley is awesome in terms of energy, focus and professionalism, as are the rest of the cast.) to speak with Mike’s Film Talk and they were all informative and fun.

The very nature of the beast had the regulars, and Billingsley, shooting the same scene repeatedly, for angle changes, reactions shots, et al. All the while each performer, and the dedicated crew, took breaks from the action and either, like Allison texted someone and watched the set mechanics from the viewing room, or spoke with Mike’s Film Talk, aka, moi, or disappeared to one of the nooks and crannies to either rehearse or shoot the breeze.

In the all purpose conference room, where the interviews took place, the order of actors actually had Kyle Harris as first in the queue.  However, since it is ladies first, Salli Richardson-Whitfield followed on the heels of Harris so she gets to go first.

MFT: “Hello I’m Michael Knox-Smith, nice to meet you.”

Salli: “Hi, nice to meet you!”

MFT: “I’ll start by telling you what I’ve told all the other cast members I’ve met so far, you look exactly the same off screen as on.

Salli: “Why thank you, although a lot of times people are disappointed. Plus you didn’t see what we looked like when we got here, before hair and  makeup!”

MFT:  “Just to let you know, I’ve been a fan since episode two and I have to tell you; I distrusted your character through the entire first season!”

Salli: (laughing) “Good then.  Good.”

MFT: “Before we carry on. Did I see your husband out there?”

Salli: Just now? Oh no, he’s not here now, but…my husband does guest-star this season on one of the episodes. I’m not sure I can say what he does, but he will be on the show. We try to appear on one another’s shows where and when we can. (For the record, Salli’s husband is Dondré Whitfield who will be playing a character called Sam Lewis in season two.)

MFT: Most of the season you could be seen as a bit of a baddy in the group but then, things began to change. Your character has access to a lot of secrets so  I’ll ask pointblank, is Kristen’s mother still alive?

Salli: “We think she may be.” 

MFT: “Okay…Obviously, your character was very  connected  with not only Kirsten’s father,  stepfather and her mother. Rather than being the “bad guy” of the piece your character is  more of a protector. Is that right?

Salli: I think that’s who Maggie is. I think that what you saw in the first, and more in the second season, is that things are never cut and dried, good or bad. Like getting a new president sometimes things are dirty. Sometimes you have to do things that are contrary to what are as a person or how you do your job. So there are times when you mistrust Maggie because of the things that she has to do.  She is an agent, but…Maggie, on the whole has the lab and the kids that she loves and she wants to protect them, while trying to keep her job. 

MFT: “That definitely came across towards the end of the first season.  How much has Maggie changed this season? Is she still on the same track?”

Salli: I believe she is. Although Maggie’s been given  more power this season and I’ve given out more power to them so they can do the things they need to do. So  I think we’re all just growing in the roles we fill in the show. 

MFT: So what do we see this season, more of the “big bad?”

Salli: Let me see, it’s all starting to become a blur. Well, we do learn more secrets this season.  For example we see some people who “should” be right, not be right. There are also some definite twists that we have to figure out.  And it looks so much better. The show looks great; darker, edgier and more interesting as well as more “filmy.” 

MFT: “Brilliant! Leaving Maggie and Stitchers aside for the moment, do you guys, as in the cast, get to “schmooze” around much away from the set?”

Salli: “Not a lot because, you know, I have children. I think they hang out a lot more than I’m able to. I have two under 12s but we all had dinner the other day and had a great time getting to hang out. We all like each other which is great. I’m sure you heard, on the set, when we’re stuck in the “stitch” area, it’s a long day. It’s better if we can get along. 

MFT: “I was amazed at how small it actually is compared to what it looks like on television.”

Salli: “It can make for a long day. I know I never seem to have a lot of dialogue in the stitch thing and  suddenly there is like two pages and it’s like ‘what did she say?’ (laughs) So it gets a little silly and you should have fun.” 

MFT: “Everyone was having a laugh as we came in this morning and that’s always a good sign. I’ve been on sets before where no one was laughing.

Salli: “Yes that is generally a sign that something’s wrong, luckily we all get along.”

MFT: How long did it take you to work out where you needed to be as your character? Did it take awhile, or did you step into Maggie’s shoes pretty much knowing where you wanted to go?

Salli: “I’d like to tell you that it took me a really long time to get there but, I do this kind of role a lot.  For instance, my last series was “Eureka” and that was, pretty much, the same kind of role. Although in that show you knew pretty much where I was coming from, I was a good heart. In “Stitchers”  I’m a bit more stern and you don’t necessarily know where I’m coming from.  But it’s still; agent, spy, head of government scientific kind of thing so it’s a role I fall into pretty easily.

MFT: “Do you like playing roles in this type of genre, Sci-fi/fantasy?”

Salli: Well it seems to like me. I enjoy it although I don’t like the dialogue sometimes. It can be very hard for me so I have to work a little harder. But I do like the genre, I am a sci-fi kinda girl and a Marvel girl, I like those kind of shows. So it works well for me. 

MFT: “It’s the season finale you’re all working on today. I guess the big question is whether or not we learn even more about where your character stands in the verse in terms of good or bad?

Salli: “Oh definitely. I believe that by the time this season ends you’ll have a very clear idea of who I’m working with and my intentions with the kids. This is a good one for surprises, like ‘uh-oh sh*t! What’s happening now?’ I’m really happy with it as it is a very well written season finale. 

At the end of the interview, we talked about the pop culture references. I mentioned that I had congratulated Kyle Harris on who well he delivered these.  I was very impressed at the Buckeroo Banzai reference. (Kyle admitted that he had to look up the vast majority of these in his interview.) Salli explained that many of the “kids’ had to do the same.

Salli: For instance, one set of references were from The Archie Digest and I was “wow that was my cartoon book! Most of the kids know a few but Kyle doesn’t know a lot of the most significant ones, (that you should know as an actor) so we’ve made a list of films that he needs to watch!

After remarking about the attractiveness of the cast, which many critics took umbrage to at the start of season one, Salli graciously allowed me to take a “selfie” with her and thus endeth her portion of the interview, but not before assuring her that her character did not look old enough to be playing “mum” to all those youngsters.

Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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