Bridget Regan has returned to TV in the Spectrum Originals drama Paradise Lost, and that’s excellent news for television fans everywhere. She happens to be one of the coolest and most versatile actresses on the small screen; you know and love her for playing Sasha Cooper on The Last Ship and Dottie Underwood in Agent Carter.
But her new series is a completely different kind of challenge. In Paradise Lost, Bridget’s character Frances packs up with her husband Yates (played by Josh Hartnett) and moves to his hometown. But when Frances arrives in the small Mississippi town, she learns more about her husband – and other things – than she ever expected or bargained for.
So how much of the mystery was Bridget privy to? What was it about the show that made her want to take the starring role in the first place? And which of her many great characters would she love to revisit if she had the chance?
Learn more about Paradise Lost in our interview with Bridget Regan below, and if you missed Monday’s premiere, you can catch up through Spectrum on Demand.
Nerdophiles: Paradise Lost is your first series regular role since you spent three seasons on The Last Ship. What was it about the show that made you want to sign on for, hopefully, another several season?
Bridget Regan: After the birth of my son, Barney, I wanted to go back to work on something that would stretch me in a different direction than The Last Ship did. I wanted something emotionally demanding, darker in tone and maybe a little twisted. I also really wanted to play a mom. My emotional well of mom-ing was and still is very, very full. It’s crazy when you get exactly what you asked for.
I was blown away when I read the first two scripts. Here was this gothic, ethereal and modern portrait of the South that was filled with fully realized characters. Those first two episodes were the most compelling and exciting scripts I had read in a while. I immediately connected to Frances, especially the mother in her. Very luckily [creator] Rodes [Fishburne], [executive producer] Arika [Lisanne Mittman] and the producers liked what I brought in my audition. I am so thankful they trusted me with her.
NP: You were incredibly busy awhile back when you were filming Last Ship, Agent Carter and Jane the Virgin. After going between three shows at the same time, does your workload on Paradise Lost actually seem easier?
BR: When I was bouncing between those three shows was the most madhouse dream factory bonkers time in my life. Just insanely awesome. I was absolutely running on fumes (and caffeine and sugar) but it forced me to make quick decisions, commit and not overthink things, which I have been known to do.
Paradise Lost was different in that it was all-consuming. I packed up and moved my family to Lousiana and my singular focus was the show. As far as workload goes, whenever you’re number one on the call sheet, you can assume you’re going to be working a lot. But I honestly prefer that. I love working and I have a harder time relaxing into a character when I’m popping in and out.
NP: The premise of the show is that Frances is a newcomer to the community. Did that aspect help you in playing her, since what she was experiencing would also be new to you as Bridget?
BR: Frances and I have more than a few things in common; we’re both mothers, wives, passionate about our careers, normally reside in California and had recently relocated to the South. Whenever I have similarities with a character I’m playing, I will quite readily lean on that avenue in.
I most felt like an outsider when we were shooting on a historic plantation that normally functions as a tourist destination and wedding venue. I was stunned that there was still any nostalgia for the Antebellum South. I wasn’t able to ‘ooh and ah’ at the beauty of the property, as I could tell the employees of the property anticipated me to when the display of wealth so clearly depended on enslaved labor.
NP: This being a mystery series, how much information did you have at the start? Did you have to figure things out along with Frances? As that seems to be more and more common when it comes to TV shows with any kind of surprise in them.
BR: I had only read the first two scripts when I joined the show. Frances is like the audience in that we are discovering the truth together, [and] I was happy to be surprised along with her. And yes, that has been par for the course mostly. I had no idea I was Sin Rostro – the big baddy on Jane the Virgin – until the table read for that episode!
NP: The show centers around Frances uncovering Yates’ past and learning about this town he comes from, but will we learn more about her along the way? What about her do you enjoy the most?
BR: My favorite thing about Frances is her relentlessness and her compassion. The series focuses more on discovering Yates’ backstory and what skeletons his family has in their closets.
However, we do learn that Frances has been previously medicated for OCD and now manages her symptoms herself. Early on we see her ritualistic behavior and desire for symmetry. Later on, we see what happens when she’s triggered, and her compulsions and intrusive thoughts take over. Her real obsession becomes finding out the truth about Yates and the Forsythe family she’s married into.
NP: Frances’ marriage to Yates not only creates the stakes for Paradise Lost but it’s also the emotional core of the show. How did you and Josh Harnett build that dynamic?
BR: From day one, Josh and I agreed that if you didn’t believe in Frances and Yates’ marriage, if you didn’t buy that these two really loved each other, we wouldn’t have a show. It’s the foundation. So we just dove in. I was very fortunate to be working with an actor who is so available and open, and also so funny and gracious.
NP: On a personal note, you’ve done a lot of really cool TV shows. What about this series is exciting for you? What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
BR: I haven’t mentioned that Nick Nolte is in the show? And Barbara Hershey? And Josh Hartnett and Shane McRae and Gail Bean, and Danielle Deadwyler and Silar Weir Mitchell, et cetera…I’m on an all-star team.
As far as challenges go, to be honest, it was all extremely challenging. I struggled to feel prepared enough for each day; I’m one of those actors who always wants more time for research, more time for rehearsals, more marinating (i.e. procrastinating and stalling). I struggled to balance work and continue breastfeeding my son who was being carted to and from set, be present for my daughter and “Oh hi, husband! I remember you!”
NP: Speaking of going back into the past, is there any past role that Bridget Regan would like to revisit if you had the opportunity?
BR: Dottie (from Marvel’s Agent Carter) would be at the top of my list for a revisit. Everything about that character and world she lives in feels ripe for more.
Paradise Lost airs new episodes Mondays exclusively on Spectrum On Demand. To learn more about Spectrum Originals, click here.