Elisabeth Röhm Talks Lifetime's Family Pictures, Working with Justina Machado & More!

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If you enjoy television, then you're a fan of Elisabeth Röhm. She has worked on some of the most iconic series and entertained viewers with her nuanced portrayals of characters for years.

On Saturday, June 29, she's taking on Jane Green's Family Pictures starring opposite Justina Machado, each one portraying a wife very wronged by their husband, but also individually flawed.

As Maggie, Röhm gets to play a well-to-do character who has taken an easy route through life thanks to her wealthy husband (played by Matt Passmore), but she's also had her head in the sand. 

We had a chance to talk with Röhm about the fun she had working opposite Machado, Passmore, and kicking the trope out of her character on Family Pictures.

Unhappily Married

What did you think of the Family Picture script when you first read it?

I have to say I loved it because it was a really different departure for me. I don't do a lot of comedy. I just thought the character was great; the script that Ilene Rosenzweig wrote was just jumping. It had so much energy. It was fun.

Although there is this sort of extraordinary circumstance to the film, number one, these things do happen. Life is pretty extraordinary and surreal. But, also I really loved the opportunity to have a Thelma and Louise nucleus to a film between these two women.

I loved the idea of Justina, and we could not have delivered more together. I think we had great chemistry, which came really naturally. And really, I just adore her.

An Awkward Family Picture

Can you describe a little bit about Maggie's situation for my readers?

I think that Maggie, coming from her background. She came from nothing. In fact, like many of us, she's running away from everything. Her idea, what's going to make her happy, is extremely misdirected.

I think a lot of people think things and creating a perfect environment will make them happy. The fact of the matter is we can't control our environment, we can't control our lives.

What we have to do is figure out who we really are. When all of that falls away, unfortunately for her, it falls a way in a way that she would really rather not have happen.

She is forced to reconcile her past and really, much like both characters, step into her personal power and her authenticity in a way that she never has before, probably, which is why she's not the ... what did he say? He said, "You're my favorite wife." Or something like that to the other character. But, my character is not the favorite wife.

Elisabeth Röhm from Family Pictures

I think that she has to become really the person that she loves the most so that she can have a rich life.

I feel like watching this movie, I want to know where they go from here because now these two women, much like all of us women, have to go through a journey of change and transformation to really arrive into our own personal power and not trying to please The Man or accumulate things in order to find happiness.

One Woman Too Many

It's interesting that you mention their dynamics. What I really liked was how both you and Justina had an opportunity to start in one place with a character, kind of crisscross with each other, and then come out the other end.

How fun was that for you two? You mentioned how much you enjoyed working with her; what was it like just on set and really bringing that to life?

I think I heard it a long time ago, knowing, realizing that in order to have a really healthy fun environment, the actors really need to have each other's back. Back in the day, when I first started working with David Boreanaz on Angel, we really became allies, and I would say that was very much our experience working together, me and Justina.

It was not necessary. We would have still had, I think, a great time and a great result, but ultimately, the natural chemistry that we had with each other is magic. It's like catching lightning in a bottle, when two actors can have that type of connection. It was really a lot of fun. We laughed a lot.

Elisabeth Röhm as Maggie

We challenged each other because the other one is talented and just watching each other, I think. Achieving it together, so we're very teamwork. At the end of the day, she comes through for me in the beginning and saves me from myself, and I come through for her in the end. We end up helping each other fight each other's demons, which is extraordinary.

That's is what Girl Power is all about. That's why I liken it to Thelma and Louise, there's no scene in the movie where ... we don't drive off the cliff together. I think by the end of the movie you're really rooting for these two women and thinking, "You know what, they've really been each other's truest love in a way. Not him, he's yesterday's news."

How did poor Matt Passmore fit into your dynamic?

Into this girl pact? He's great. He's really solid, really positive. I think he has great chemistry with both of us. He's just a really great actor. I was a fan of his beforehand; I loved his TV series, The Glades.

Oh, I did too.

He's just really great. I really wish him all the best, all the greatest things for him, I hope.

Getting Back to Basics

What do you think is the key aspect for any relationship?

For me, in my relationship with Jonathan, I would say the key aspect of ... I think there's several things, I don't think there's one key thing. For me, I think communication is huge. I'm a big talker, as you can see; I like to talk in monologue. I've oftentimes told myself throughout my career, "God, you've really got to work on that sound bite. You don't have to be in such a rush."

Laughter, we really have a great time together. I think just really the ability to communicate and find joy together. Whatever that is for you.

If you could have given Maggie, Sylvie, or Mark any advice, what would it have been?

Mark, I would have told to take a long walk off a short pier, with a lot of other guys I've met in my life. I would say to Justina's character, "Girl, you need to grow a pair because you're extraordinary." But, let's leave this different shit at the door. I would say to Maggie ... ultimately, "You need to become a human being. You're a Barbie doll living in some technicolor dream that is a dead end street."

Thelma and Louise Redux

I feel like she really has much of ... I think both of those characters have much of what people do suffer from in life. The movie has great comedy, and it has some great heart.

Not to dig too deep, but ultimately, I think sadness and disappointment come from being misdirected, being a victim. Maggie is deeply misdirected, and Justina's character is the victim. She's given her power away.

That makes sense. What characters from your past would you love the opportunity to revisit?

Oh gosh, the characters from my past? I would love to revisit Serena again. I think in this world a spin-off, the idea of doing a great Law and Order spin-off would be really fun. I think Sally Toledo in American Hustle would be a great character; it's a great world. I loved working with both Dick Wolf and David O. Russell.

Ultimately, I don't know. I've loved everything I've done, but much like I think a lot of my colleagues would say, "What's in the past is in the past." I feel like it's just been a very wonderful prelude to what's coming next for me.

I mean, Would I resume certain roles like Kate Lockley from Angel? Yeah. To work with Joss Whedon or David O. Russell or Dick Wolf again? Absolutely. Or Kevin Williamson from Stalker, I've been very blessed to work with extraordinary talent. Ultimately, I'm moving forward.

Family Pictures Group at Lifetime Summer Laua

Speaking of moving forward, you have a lot still coming out in the next year or so. What do you have coming that you're particularly excited for audiences to see?

Obviously, I'm really excited for them to see this movie. I loved working with Lifetime. I think that this trilogy of books with Jane Green and also working with Kim Raver, who I love as an actress and also as a person, and Manu Boyer, her husband, it was really cool to work with a husband and wife team.

I'm looking forward to seeing Fair and Balanced that I did with Jay Roach, and I think it's going to be a really disruptive, important film. I'm always really happy to see, especially when I've done an Independent film, that it's gotten a chance to see the light of day. Sometimes the indies don't really get out as fast as you want them to.

Sgt. Will Gardner, which I did with Max Martini, and Gary Sinise, Dermot Mulroney, and Lily Rabe just got on Netflix, so I'm really happy about that because that movie is a movie with a message. I think those are projects I'm really proud of.


Family Pictures premieres on Lifetime Saturday, June 29 at 8/7c. 

We'll have an interview with Elisabeth's costar, Matt Passmore, posting on Saturday, and a full review of all the fun when the movie finishes airing ET!

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.

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