While ABC's new show "Missing" (premieres Thurs. March 15 at 8 p.m.) is largely centered around a mom (and former CIA agent, played by Ashley Judd) searching for her son, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of guys around to flesh out the cast. New Zealand native Cliff Curtis plays Paris-based CIA agent Dax Miller, torn between sympathizing with Judd's character and being pressured by top brass to bring her in, while Adriano Giannini is Becca's old friend and Interpol operative Giancarlo Rossi, determined to help as much as Becca will allow him. Finally, there's the focus of everyone's attention -- Becca's son Michael, played by Nick Eversman. All three of the actors were brought together for a conference call to discuss their very different characters, why prime time means watching your language and why the cool spying angle wasn't what got them on board - and may not be what draws in viewers, either.
What drew you to "Missing"?
Cliff Curtis: A lot of TV shows offer you a pilot, but this was unusual -- it went straight to series. You know how long you're gonna be on the job for, and they were filming in Europe. I'd always wanted to go to Prague, so this was perfect.
Nick Eversman: I'm fairly skinny, and a lot of guys my size don't get to play cool. Not that I'm that cool. I get kidnapped.
How key was it that the show actually shoots in Europe? That's fairly rare for an American television series.
Adriano Giannini: it's very nice to play on a TV show and be next to my home, which is Rome, [and] I'm used to working in Europe.
Eversman: For me it was a little bit of culture shock. I'd spent very little time abroad. It was a little difficult being over there, but at the same time it was one of those, "Wow, i'm getting paid for this" type moments. You get to see all these historical places. i stayed in a place that's twice as old as the country i'm living in. it was just a blessing to see all that.
Curtis: istanbul, i was surprised how beautiful it was. Croatia stunned me. The Eastern block nations, i'd never been that far East in Europe.
Do you think it's important for the show to shoot in Europe?
Eversman: When you're watching green screen, no matter how good, you can see the shadow around the person, or there's that element of "I'm watching something thats not real." But when you're in these locations, you're interacting with the scenery. It helps me as an actor and an artist.
Curtis: We had not only the same locations, but used the same crew as the Bond franchise. We had the same location scout, so we were using some of the same locations. If you look closely, you may see how some of it looks familiar.
Because the show is centered upon Becca's search for Michael, how will it avoid falling into a rut?
Eversman: Every single episode has an arc and a feeling of resolution. I think throughout every single episode people are going to find some sort of payoff.
Were you most interested in the spy world aspect of the show?
Curtis: Not a lot. I wasn't really interested in that. I was more interested in Ashley's character and her journey. I've played a lot of CIA and Interpol agents in the past. I had to [figure out] how this character coming from Texas end up with that particular post in Europe. i spent a lot of time on the CIA website, where you can look at the structure of the organization.
Eversman: Aside from watching the Bond films growing up, i was in over my head from the beginning.
Curtis: There's a great tension between my character and Ashley's character, in that she wants nothing to do with the CIA, but we have all the resources. My job is to get her out of the way, because she's pulling threads, which is very dangerous. My character wants to get her back home, but personally he wants to help her find her son. That's the fun part, too, because we're talking about spies, but… you don't know why he's being kidnapped or by who.
What's the difference between working on an American show in Europe versus, say, a European show or a movie?
Giannini: For me this is my first one, my first American show, but maybe because we were shooting in Europe, everything was easy. What I felt was different from Italian shows was the screenplay. All of the scripts were really very well written. This show what was interesting was that we were actors from all over the world, and sometimes in one scene we were five actors from five different countries, so to see the different cultural background, and how they were dealing with the same scene, the different perspective they had, that was interesting for me.
Curtis: This was not just an American crew on an American show, but a show airing on prime time at 8 p.m. That's got a lot of prescriptive elements you have to deal with, things you can say and you can't say. That was the biggest difference for me, that's the biggest issue for me. This wasn't like American cable shows, for example, so I wouldn't polarize it as an American show.
How compelling was it for you that Ashley's character is driven by her love for her son?
Eversman: For me being a son, that rings 110 percent true. I don't think there's anything my parents wouldn't do to help me or find me. They'd go to the ends of the earth just to see me one more time if something like this happened. i have a very strong, tight knit family, but regardless, when there's someone you're close to that's suddenly gone from your life, there's that longing and aching to get them back. When you know they could be out there and you have the tools to do it, you go. You only get one life and you hang on to those people. It's the most important thing you can do.
Curtis: You're taking that real bond and putting it into a genre, so the emotional content rings true, and that's the tricky balance, because there aren't many people who have the skill base to wield guns and kill operatives. That's the entertainment, that rings true. If you want to watch wish fulfillment, it works for you. I enjoy those things. I wish my mom could do some of those things.
Giannini: My mother is not a CIA agent but she's an Italian mother and she'd do anything for her son. This show is not just an action show, it's an emotional thing for Ashley's character, and thats what is going to make this show interesting and easy to understand.
Everson: It's kind of like a mother lifting a car off of her kid times a thousand.
How was it working with Ashley?
Giannini: I remember my first day, I've never worked so hard on the first day of shooting, and I forgot some lines. She was really nice and helped me a lot. In TV, sometimes you get lost in the fog of the scene and when you're working with such good actors, they can bring you into the scene.
Everson: The scene and a half I had with her was wonderful! She's one of the strongest and most confident people i've ever met. i was homesick and she was always there as a mother type figure, so loving and so caring. you just felt safe around her, and that was vital to have over there.