Amanda Schull is a very busy woman. Not only is she currently starring on Syfy's 12 Monkeys, she'll also be seen this summer on TNT's Murder in the First and has had a recurring role on the USA hit Suits.
When I had the chance to speak with her last week, I learned Amanda's also very passionate about her work and the characters she portrays. Even if they're never seen or discussed, she creates back stories for each to help her get into focus.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Amanda has become very close to Cassie, her character on 12 Monkeys. As we chatted, it became clear that she really hopes people can see Cassie and all of her layers with the same depth and understanding as Amanda and those who created and wrote the role. We gave it a go!
While 12 Monkeys Season 2 may not be hitting it out of the park in the ratings, it has been on fire creatively. When I congratulated Amanda on such a wonderful season, she responded, "It's frustrating regarding the ratings because we really poured out hearts into this season, and it's disappointing to think that more people won't be able to appreciate everyone's hard work, you know? I guess that's just what sort of happens with art. Sometimes you reach people, sometimes you don't."
"But I really do believe that every single person who was a part of this second season feels so proud of, not just their own work, but everyone's work collaboratively. I've seen every episode. I got to sit in for a lot of the post productions, so I've seen all of it. And it's so fun to get to watch the stuff that I wasn't a part of, that I didn't get to see, and then of course, to watch the stuff that I was in and see how it turns out. I was so happy with it, so thank you."
Cassie has become so much more integral to the story, and when asked if she ever thought she would be an action hero, Amanda laughed out loud and referenced her past career as a dancer and the ants in her pants that could never allow her to sit behind a desk for what she called a "real-life job."
Isn't it wonderful Amanda loves her work so much she doesn't equate it with real life? She loves being physical and noted, "It's really nice to be able to have productive, physical work for a job. This has really been icing on the cake for me with Cassie."
Cassie has grown a lot since 12 Monkeys Season 1 Episode 1 and seems barely recognizable. I wondered if Amanda, as an actress, had a plan to keep the character tethered to who she was and who she's become.
Surprisingly, Amanda shared that she had been talking about the subject with her husband just that morning. Cassie is never far from her mind. She seems to have truly bonded with the character, and it shows.
"It's interesting," Amanda said, "because I was having this conversation with my husband this morning about how she is still very much Cassie at her heart and at her core, and I think we see glimpses of that every once in a while when we see her compassion and her nurture. And yet, she is unrecognizable in that the person from the pilot was scared, obviously, of the man who broke into her car and kidnapped her."
"She was still strong and brainy, but she didn't have the brawn to handle that situation. Now she has the brawn, so she has this whole other tool set and callous that has developed over her natural instinct to care and to treat things in a much more delicate doctor-type fashion."
"But it is frustrating to me when people don't recognize the reasons for that change, and that's been something that I've been really grappling with when I hear people say Cassie is a completely different person, but not understanding the reasons why she's become a different person."
Amanda admits she's probably taking it personally because she has become so attached to Cassie, but she remembers it's for reasons of adaptation to her new environment that Cassie has become who she's become.
"I get so defensive about Cassie and why she is the way she is," Amanda continued. "I didn't realize I would take such a feminist stance, but when people call her a bitch, it actually hurts my feelings on her behalf, because I feel like there are so many really reasons why she's had to become closed off from everyone."
Amanda said there is a small contingent of people on social media that will stand up for Cassie when someone calls her names, but others are superficial and only see the words coming from the character's mouth, forgetting about all of the subtleties, layers and shades that go into bringing Cassie to life. She's more than her words.
"She was living a very different life a couple of years ago, and she was thrust into this world where it was kill or be killed. She didn't know if she'd ever see the person who was responsible for sending her there, she really has no allies there, with the exception of Jones, who can't physically protect her."
"Then, when it comes to Cole, the same thing goes. She has to defend herself. If she allows herself to take her eye off the ball and feel for him, I think she sees so much more hurt coming out of that. The result of that is if they are successful with their mission, they think if they're successful, he'll be erased, and she won't have him anymore."
"I think she's so terrified of that idea, and she feels so isolated already that she can't allow herself the comfort of happiness," Amanda admitted. "She has to keep trudging along on this mission."
"There's also the possibility that she could die in the pursuit of this mission, or he could die in the pursuit and not just in the accomplishment, and then she will be alone, just completely and totally alone. I keep saying she's adapted and calloused, but I think underneath all of that, she's hurt and terribly afraid."
From the outside, as TV viewers, the Cassie/Cole relationship looks beautiful, and it's easy to wonder why Cassie would be cold toward Cole. Amanda understands that. "It's really hard to put into words, because their's is a relationship that defies logic. They exist because of each other and despite each other. It's so beautiful and so tragic in so many ways."
"[Their relationship] is so destined to be, and it's challenging also as an actress to say the words; you need to get the words across to the other actor, and I'm hoping –and I do know that a small percentage of people see – she can't always make eye contact with [Cole] when she says stuff. She's also not great at talking about her feelings, so it's a lot easier to shut down and keep her nose to the ground."
"She's never been an open person. I think a lot of that is because she was raised by her father, her mother died when she was very young. She's not a touchy feely girly girl. She never has been. Living in the apocalypse has made her even more so this hardened, mission-oriented person, but who still, very much feels. There's a heart in there."
There may be a close connection between Amanda and Cassie because so much of Amanda is in Cassie. That's because showrunner, Terry Matalas, knows his actors and writes to their strengths.
Shooting the pilot, the entire crew grew very close, so close that even Amanda surprised when Matalas knew her as well as he did. "I remember him saying, 'well, why doesn't she just say it in that dry, Amanda humor way.' I thought, why does this man think he knows me well enough to start writing this character with dry humor?"
Amanda laughed, "And then I caught myself saying things that were very much Cassie-esque, and I thought, 'Oh, because he's good at his job. Because he's perceptive.' That wasn't something that I realized. And whether I realized it or not, there are different things snuck in there that he knows play to who I am."
Amanda loves tweeting along with 12 Monkeys fans each week, but she's not giving up anything – not even her opinion on the best of the witness theories out there. "I love that people have theories, that it's a thinking show and that we have a very bright audience that follows along. It's not a show that you can sit and passively have on while doing your chores around the house. You have to actively watch it."
"I love that people are doing that and then taking to social media to throw out their ideas. It's become a little bit of a community. I recognize a lot of the same names discussing things, and I love each and every theory that they have. I'm not going to discredit any of them, because I want them to keep going down their ill informed roads. [laughs]
As excited as Amanda got when asked about fans waiting patiently for a little action between Cassie and Cole, "Ohhh...I had a feeling you were going to go there," she exclaimed, she gave nothing up.
She did share that on 12 Monkeys Season 2 Episode 10 we would learn a little bit more about Deacon and Cassie, also noting that, "Well, to be fair, Jennifer Goines is vying for Cole, and he is not at a loss for options, either," and laughing about Deacon when she said, "It's funny that people are kind of feeling things for a mass murderer now."
Amanda couldn't stick to just three words when asked to describe the remainder of 12 Monkeys Season 2, "Well, the first word that comes to mind when I think about the last three episodes is epic. They're just so big in every regard. Captivating. And...I'm torn between dramatic and exciting. Can I do four?"
After agreeing Amanda could have her fourth word, I wondered what one word she expected to take over Twitter in reaction to the finale. "I'll give you two words blended into one," she replied coyly, before laughing. "Holy shit! If I'm allowed to say that."
Amanda will also be seen on Murder in the First this summer as the new DA. Sometimes, her shooting schedule can get a little hectic. She felt a little schizophrenic one day when shooting the finale of Suits and 12 Monkeys in the same day. But there are ways she knows to keep herself in focus.
"The wardrobe with both shows helps considerably get me into the other character's skin. I went from Suits, where I was wearing Gucci and Christian Louboutin heels and my hair was polished, I had false eyelashes on. I went home, took a shower, went to work and put a tack vest on."
"It was a very seamless transition because Katrina Bennett would not be caught dead in Dr. Railly's wardrobe. It even changes my posture a little bit, and helps me get back into the groove of things."
"Regarding my character on Murder in the First, her name is Melissa Danson, I wanted to make sure that she was – obviously the writing lends itself to this and the story lends itself to this – but I wanted to make sure, as a lawyer, that people don't automatically think I'm doing a different incarnation of Katrina. So I tried to create a different back story for her, a different physicality for her."
"On Suits, Katrina speaks with a very specific lilt to her voice, a very specific pentameter to her speech, so it's easy to kind of get back into that quality with Katrina. When I read the words, they do a very good job of making things very rhythmical, and there's a music to the way Katrina speaks. With Melissa, it's a very different character. She's obviously a different person; I just wanted to make sure I presented her in a way that doesn't resemble Katrina at all."
Amanda's been very lucky in the past few hears to play very intelligent women. "It makes me feel happy," she said.
She gets to play characters who are where they are strictly of their own doing. "They haven't just fallen into a life that made them who they are," Amanda continued. "Each time I get a new character, I create a new back story and I try to live in that back story for a little while."
"Even if you don't see it or we don't discuss it, it's there somewhere under the skin, and I can think about a certain experience even if it's not seemingly not relate at all to the words on the page, and I can portray these women who have been the masters of their own creation. That's been a gift, I think.
Be sure to tune into Amanda tonight on 12 Monkeys when it airs on Syfy at 9/8c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.