Mercedes Masohn is having a blast on 666 Park Avenue.
I recently spoke on the phone with the extremely charismatic and cordial actress, who plays Louise Leonard on the new ABC show, and she dished on her favorite episodes, the infamous elevator scene in the pilot and a "big surprise" to come that even shocked her.
Read on to find out what's in store this season.
How did you get involved with 666 Park Avenue?
It's funny, I was actually a part of The Finder which was on Fox, and we had aired our thirteen and we were sort of not sure if we were gonna get picked up or not, and I got an email saying our numbers weren't that good so you guys might want to think about a plan B. As soon as I heard that, I called my agents and I said "Guys, listen, I have a bad feeling we're gonna get canceled. Start sending me scripts." So I had a messenger come by that night, I think it was like 9 p.m. or something, with 10 to 15 scripts. And so of course, I'm like type A personality, I'm that nerd in school who would always raise their hand "pick me," I started reading them right away.
At around 2 in the morning I came across 666 Park Avenue. It was about the fifth or sixth pilot I read, and it completely jumped off the page and I couldn't stop thinking about it. So I called my agent saying "You have to get me in. You have to get me in," because i knew they were moving pretty fast on it. I knew if I didn't pull the trigger I'd be in trouble.
What was the audition process like? Was Louise the character you went in for?
I definitely went in for Louise Leonard, which is what I'm playing now. Again, I hadn't really slept the night before because I was up reading scripts and I was really nervous about being prepared enough, but they were so great in the room and they made me feel so comfortable that it just really came easily, if i can say that. it didn't feel scary at all. So, right then and there you kind of have a feeling that things went well and when i got out of the room, they said we want to test her for this character and I came in the day after that and then the rest is history.
Also, I paid them a lot of money to hire me. I was begging and sobbing, you know?
What drew you to Louise in particular?
Louise is a fashion photographer and I do have a little history with fashion, I used to model when I was younger. I've always been interested in photography and I worked for W magazine straight out of school. I interned for them and that turned into a bit of a job under tutelage of Joe Zee when he was still there, so fashion to me has always been a huge passion. So when I read the script I of course jumped at the chance.
And I really like her character. She's strong. She's poised. She's definitely got a dark past and she's troubled but at the heart of it, she has a really good soul or a heart of gold. So I related to her. There's comfort with Louise.
The elevator scene in the pilot was quite a shock. What was it like filming that?
That scene actually, when I originally read the pilot, it was written as another character that gets hit by the elevator and gets killed. By the time we got on set for the pilot it had changed completely and I was the one getting hit and the other character was gone. It was actually smart because in theory I was still under contract with the Finder and we hadn't heard yet if it had been canceled or not. I think they wanted to give themselves the option or not of "Okay, she can still go back on The Finder," instead of spending another million dollars re-shooting the pilot, "We could kill her off." It was brilliant, it really was, and I'm so happy that wasn't the case. I was able to survive and I love the show and I'm really happy on it.
That accident ends up triggering something in Louise and it really becomes quite an issue for her.
What do you think makes this show so appealing?
I think it's different enough. Some people have compared us to American Horror Story and I think they both have that scary aspect, but they're so different story wise and the way that they're shot, that to me I don't see much comparison. I'm a big fan of both shows, obviously, but we're very different. For us, because it's a bit of a nighttime drama, and it's sexy, and all these things, and the fact that we're making it very cinematic and every episode is sort of an homage to old films, you know, the Hitchcock films and The Shining, it's nothing like I've seen on TV. And I'm a huge fan of things that go bump in the night, anything that gives me a little bit of a scare, I'm completely a fan of, so when I first read the pilot, that's initially what excited me so much because I could see myself in this world.
Has there been any scenes you've done that have been surprisingly difficult?
The elevator scene really did catch me off guard, again because when I first read it I didn't see that happening, and then we got on set it was the first scene we shot ever, Rob Buckley [who plays Brian Leonard] and I, so you can imagine being thrown in the mix of it, in the middle of a busy lobby, pretty late at night, and I think we just spent about two hours screaming. I'm a masochist, so of course I wanted to do all my own stunts, and I came home all bruised and battered and it really hit me, all right we're really doing this thing. That one really caught me off guard but in a fun way.
What is Louise's and yours biggest dreams and desires?
I want to rule the world and have everyone be my minions, no I'm just kidding.
For Louise, I know she wants to be the next Steven Meisel, she wants to be huge in the fashion photography world, and it's not an easy feat to do, especially because there is so much competition, and like anything else there's a lot of hurdles to overcome especially with her dark past that comes out. She kind of stands in her own way at times.
She wants to be the best and photography has always been her passion, so that's really gonna be what she pursues and what she may go to Gavin or the Drake and request to have that happen for her. And I'm not sure what she'd be willing to give up for it, but knowing that character, she'll probably go to the ends of the earth, so I'm really excited to find that out.
As for myself, I'd have to say I've learned a lot about myself in the last few years. I'm growing up as we speak, so you know acting to me has always been my passion, and I've been blessed to do all the things I've been doing. I just want to continue in film and television and then hopefully down the road maybe get into directing. Currently I've just got through the first draft of a script I'm writing and I just love this industry. Ultimately, I want to write, direct, and act in my own feature. It's years down the road, but it's always fun to have goals.
Do you get to have any input into your character?
We get the scripts and do the table read, and after the table read we sort of pull the writer aside or one of the executives aside and say, ''I have issues with this' or 'I'd like to see this' or just to hash out wordage or ideas, or if there's confusion that needs to be cleared up. And when we get on set, the great thing with a good director is that they'll let us play, so there's been several times with a few different directors where they've come in and said, "Hey, why don't we do it like this" and just because I know Louise, I know she wouldn't do that. And so then I go, "We can definitely do it your way, but can we try my way as well? I think she would want to do this and this," and so far, they've been really receptive and we've kept a lot of the things I've suggested and it feels good. It makes me feel like we're developing something, I'm developing a character and it's collaboration and not just being told what to do and stepping in as a mannequin.
How long will it take for Louise to figure out Brian is looking out across the way at Alexis?
We are just in the middle of shooting episode nine right now and Louise is completely unaware. I think as of eight, there was a few times where I sensed she's across the way, but I don't think she suspects at this point that her own assistant, that she brought into her own home, at all. She trusts Alexis and I think maybe at the end of the season she'll find out, but I'm not sure how she'll take it, she's madly in love with her husband and who wouldn't fight for the marriage? I honestly have no idea.
Do you like not knowing and being surprised by the scripts?
I love not knowing for me personally because everything is a discovery. If I knew it, I'm afraid that maybe even subconsciously without wanting to, I might give hints away or my body language might do something inadvertently that I don't want to do. I love the idea that we're kept a little in the dark. That being said, I want to know about my past, so they were really great at painting exactly what led me to the Drake. That really is so helpful as an actor to step into the skin.
Do you have a favorite episode filmed so far?
I have a couple. I have to say the fifth is the Halloween episode and that was a lot of fun to shoot because it's an homage to [Stanley] Kubrick's The Shining, which is one of my all time favorite movies. It's definitely top five. I can watch it repeatedly and I'm still freaked out. So that was a lot of fun for me to shoot.
And then, this last episode, eight, that we shot, Louise was able to get a bit emotional. She was able to show her vulnerability, which is always fun when a strong character is able to do that, for me at least.
Those two stand out in particular, but so far I've had such a blast that I can't complain.
Any of the actors that you wish you got more screen time with?
I love when the rest of us can collaborate. I love when they do the double date thing with Henry and Jane because that's normal to me. You know, when you live in a building, you befriend somebody and that's what we do, especially New York, I mean what do we do? We drink and we eat. That's how people bond.
And the other thing I love, which everybody knows, I have a huge crush on Terry O'Quinn. Every scene with him, I go totally mushy, and act like an idiotic twelve year old girl, so that's always fun for me.
And Vanessa's great as well. I love the idea of Brian and Louise maybe having a bit more connection with them because we're in their building, so I'm really looking forward to that happening.
And finally, what can you tease about what's to come on 666 Park Avenue?
You'll definitely learn a lot about all the character's pasts. You'll start seeing a lot of relationships challenged and I'm not just talking Louise and Brian. There's Jane and Henry in a little bit of turmoil, as well as Olivia and Gavin. Everybody is going to be sort of pushed to their brink to see how strong their relationships are. On top of that, there's going to be a surprise that happens, so we've been teased that… Oh I don't know how much I can say, let's just say that somethings going to happen to the Dorans that's going to throw them both completely off and we don't learn this until about episode nine I believe, which is what we're shooting now. I remember reading it and gasping and then of course I had to call Buckley and Helena and Rachel and everyone and go "oh my god. What do you guys think?"
It really threw me off so I can imagine audiences being like, "You're kidding! I did not see that happening."
See Mercedes Masohn and the rest of the cast discover the secrets of the Drake on a new episode of 666 Park Avenue at 10/9c on ABC.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.