We spent ten precious minutes with V's Morena Baccarin, our favorite alien visitor — and she answered all our questions, as long as they painted her in a positive light. Of course, we had to ask her if she's Obama.
Baccarin plays Anna, the leader of the alien Visitors (or Vs) who come to Earth professing peace and friendship and promising healthcare and advanced technology. And of course, it's all too good to be true. Some pundits have been saying her character is meant to be Barack Obama, and Baccarin seemed to be aware of the comparisons. So we asked her if she thinks she's playing our new president, and she says:
I don't think we're saying Anna is President Obama. But she is the leader of her people, and she is coming down to Earth and offering healthcare, and offering cures for diseases, and things that sort of clean out and give people hope, and there are definite parallels to be drawn and our intentions are to create a show that people relate to. And I think this is something that's been on people's minds, even before Obama... finding hope again, and healthcare, and finding a leader, and someone who can save us from the hole we've gotten ourselves into.
Don't expect Baccarin to play to the cheap seats. One thing Baccarin stressed over and over again, in our interview, is that she's going for a subtle portrayal of Anna, and she never plans to become as out-and-out sinister as Diana, the evil alien leader in the original miniseries.
"We're working with Anna being a little more subtle than in the original," says Baccarin. She wants Anna to be "creepy" and "scary" but also have qualities that the audience can relate to. That said, in the next few episodes, we'll get to see Anna "show her true colors a little more."
Baccarin says her goal is to make the audience feel drawn to Anna, even though they know they shouldn't be:
It's really true of all the characters on the show: We walk a fine line. It's way more interesting to question why they feel they want to follow this character. There should be qualities that [the audience] can identify with, that we see them in ourselves. People identify [with Anna] and feel compelled by her, and feel like they want to follow her... and can't understand why they feel drawn to her. [The audience should be saying,] "I don't know, this isn't right that I'm going for it."
This was something the producers had worked out early on, she adds:
We had discussed early on, when I auditioned, [that] she couldn't be robotic or alien. She had to be nurturing and human, to be allowed into people's lives, so that people would trust her... We created this character who's very calm and controlled and nurturing. You don't see her losing her cool, and you don't see what's behind her motivations. It's like having your neighbor turn out not to be who you thought they were.
This subtle approach means that you have to watch Baccarin carefully to catch the little cues she drops in. The way she flutters her eyelashes. The way she lifts one eyebrow, or looks straight at someone, or looks away. Says Baccarin, "Obviously, Anna lives in a very constrained space, in that she is very precise, but there is a lot of freedom of subtlety and nuances."
I asked Baccarin how she felt about playing a villain after playing the more sympathetic Inara on Firefly, and she responded: "It really is fun. I'm not going to call her a villain. I'm going to say that you said that." (She really is good at the slippery politician thing.)
From Anna's perspective, "she is is being the best leader she can be. And if it's at the expense of a couple of humans, so be it."
Baccarin admits she gets asked whether she'll be eating a live hamster — like, pretty much all the time. She says:
We haven't done it in these [first] four episodes, and I'm bracing myself. And so many people ask about it, I think it's imminent. I think we are going to pay homage to those moments, but not maybe do them the same way — so hopefully I won't have to put a hamster down my throat.
Finally, I asked Baccarin how, as an immigrant from Brazil, she feels about taking part in a show that promotes xenophobia and suspicion of visitors. She says you shouldn't read too much into V:
I think we should all be suspicious of aliens. We're not saying be suspicious of people from other cultures, I think we're saying be suspicious of people from outer space. So we're very safe there. There's a lot of ethnic diversity in our world now, and we're not commenting on that all. It's literally about people coming from another world.
V airs on Tuesday nights for the next three weeks, and then goes away until March due to some kind of sporting event.