October 9, 2017
Produced in association with Marvel Television and set in the X-Men universe, the Fox drama series The Gifted follows Reed and Caitlin Strucker (played by Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker), whose ordinary lives are suddenly turned upside down when they learn that their teenage children (played by Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White) possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a government that’s hostile toward mutants, the family seeks help from an underground network and realize that they must rely on each other and fight to survive.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Amy Acker talked about how secretive Marvel was during the audition process, why this series appealed to her, bonding with her co-stars, what life was like for the Struckers, prior to learning that their two children are mutants, whether we’ll learn about why these parents who supposedly don’t have mutant powers have two mutant children, and why playing Root on Person of Interest was both the most challenging and rewarding experience of her career, before now.
Collider: How did you come to The Gifted? Did you get a script, or were they very secretive about things?
AMY ACKER: They were super, super secretive, as Marvel tends to be. They gave me some sides (for the audition) with characters that all had fake names, and they kept changing the names. But then, in my audition, I met with (showrunner) Matt Nix and (executive producer) Lauren Shuler Donner.
What was the biggest draw of this series for you?
ACKER: Coming from genre TV, which is mostly all I’ve done, usually these types of characters are outcasts or they’re on their own, trying to find a new family. I thought it was an interesting take, having kids myself and with everything happening in the world, that this family decided to stick together and take a new life journey. I thought that was an interesting, new way to look at it.
With such life-or-death stakes for this family, getting the audience to care about keeping them together and keeping them alive is so important. At what point did you meet the other actors that would be making up your family, and what was it like when the four of you got to spend some time together?
ACKER: Well, I met Stephen Moyer at the audition. They did a test at Fox, where I got to read the scenes with him. He was already cast, at that point. He was such a calming center and so loving about the whole thing, throughout the audition process, which is often so nerve-wracking, that it made the whole experience way better than I expected it to be. The kids we met, for the first time, at the table read. The scripts that we had, at that point, changed pretty dramatically. We just got so lucky with the kids. Natalie [Alyn Lind] is so mature. I’m the mom on the show, but she’s 17 and like the mom of everybody. She’s always taking care of everyone and baking banana bread for us. She’s so sweet. And with Percy [Hynes White], I just love everything he brings to the part. He doesn’t have any of that child actor stuff, where he feels like he’s acting. It’s all organic and impulsive. He’s just so smart. I enjoy listening to him talk about the script and about movies, and about everything. He brings so much to the part that I’m excited to see where his role goes because I think he has a whole lot to offer. We got really lucky that we all like each other. We got to hang out in Dallas for a little while, while we were shooting the pilot there. The kids went to Six Flags together, and we did silly family activities around town.
How would Caitlin describe Lauren and Andy, before learning they were mutants? How did she view her children, prior to learning about their secret?
ACKER: I feel like she thought she had the typical suburban American family that anyone could relate to. They had the normal boyfriend problems and homework problems. Somehow, even though her daughter was hiding this major secret from her, it seemed like their main problem was just daily life around the dinner table. It’s the boring stuff that I struggle with, with my kids. They argue and pick on each other, but you never think that there’s anything to worry about. They seemed like the perfect family.
How much does Caitlin know about what her husband was doing, before finding out that his own children are mutants?
ACKER: That’s something that I hope we continue to explore and go further with on the show because I think it’s really interesting that basically their whole livelihood, up until this point, was all based on putting mutants away. Her own complacency in being okay with the societal norm that the government says these people are dangerous and should be put away, and not questioning what she really thought about it, but just going with the flow of the general population. She didn’t really ask the right questions. She believes that he thought he was doing the right thing and she believed in him, so she just went with it. But when she finds out that her kids are, in fact, mutants, it brings up a lot of guilt and questioning and a lot of the stuff that is happening in the world, right now. She’s really struggling with all of that.
What’s it like for Caitlin to not only find out that her kids are mutants, but to actually see them use their powers?
ACKER: It’s a quick learning curve. She had no idea that this was happening to them, and now they’re saving her life and their own lives, by using their powers. The struggle for her, in the first half of Season 1, is knowing that they have these powers, but being very hesitant about letting them hone into them or use their full ability. She doesn’t want them to get hurt, so she’s trying to be protective and make sure that they’re using these powers for the right reasons.
What’s most exciting about the journey that you get to go on, over the course of this season?
ACKER: The most fun part is that I have this character who was actually quite happy with the life that she had, and that all gets flipped around, pushing her to become who she should be. Even though I don’t have superpowers on the show, I find myself being much more powerful than I thought and doing things I didn’t think I could be capable of.
Will we learn, at some point, why these two people who supposedly don’t have mutant powers have two mutant children?
ACKER: I think we are going to get into that. It’s been hinted at, but I don’t know the answers yet. I’m excited to find out how that happened.
Caitlin not only has two mutant children, but she ends up with a group of mutants that she has to trust to help her family. Does she feel motherly toward them, at all?
ACKER: What their relationship is within this mutant underground is continuing to be explored. Caitlin and Reed are the only non-mutants there, so I feel like it’s actually more about us gaining their trust. We’re the outsiders in this environment. That will come back into play, as she finds out what she believes in and what she wants to fight for.
With a show like The Gifted, it’s so important to bring in the right directors to create the look of this show, and you had Bryan Singer and Len Wiseman for the first two episodes. What’s it like to be in their hands?
ACKER: I don’t know how that worked out, but they were really, really awesome. Having Bryan there, initially, with all of his X-Men knowledge added details to the characters. And then, working with Len and watching how detail-oriented he is, he just really wanted everything to be right. There’s never enough time, but he really made sure that everything worked and looked really cool. We got a little spoiled, early on.
You’ve played some very memorable characters that will always hold a place in people’s hearts, including Root on Person of Interest and Fred on Angel, among others. In your career, which roles have most challenged you and changed you, as an actress?
ACKER: I’ve been so lucky. I’ve worked with such amazing writers that have made these characters, and then I’ve gotten lucky to play them. Maybe it’s because it’s the most recent, but playing Root was a turning point. I am not computer savvy. It was fun to get to do a lot of research on that character. And then, getting to have that relationship with Shaw and what that meant to the fans, and seeing how important their relationship was and how it affected people, was really special. That whole experience was challenging. It was the most challenging and the most rewarding.
The Gifted airs on Monday nights on Fox.