Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with actress Sonya Walger, the Argentinean/British star of ABC’s new hit series Flash Forward, which premiered last Thursday to an impressive 12.4 million viewers. Walger, 35, spoke to Vivo Por Tivo about her exciting new role, the difference between Flash Forward and Lost, her favorite books, and what it’s like balancing a brand new job with a brand new marriage.
Tell us about your Flash Forward character Olivia Benford.
Olivia is a trauma surgeon. She’s a dedicated doctor and the wife of Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) who is an FBI Agent. They’ve been married for seven years—maybe 8—and he’s a recovering alcoholic so he’s in a program—and they’ve clearly had some bumpy times in their marriage in the past. But they’re in a good place now. They’ve got a little girl named Charlie, and I think the condition is for as long as he’s sober, their marriage works. But she has said to him before that if he drinks again, she’ll leave him. With him being in the FBI and her being a surgeon—they are a busy couple.
What do you think draws Olivia to Mark?
That’s a good question. I think she loves what a good dad he is, and how devoted he is to Charlie. I think she feels very loved by him as well. She knows he battles with these demons all of the time and there’s nothing she can do about them. I think that’s the endless battle of being with anyone who has an addiction—it’s not about you, it’s about how much support you’re willing to give. So I think they have a real profound connection, but I think it’s been tested over the years.
I watched the pilot and I think Olivia may have some demons too. Does she?
That’s interesting. I think if Olivia has any demons it’s her work ethic—her completely massive focus on work. Maybe she’s taken that to an extreme in the past. Yeah, I’m sure she has some demons of her own.
Obviously, one of the great things about the show is its larger-than-life scope, but what do you think is the bread and butter of this show? Is it the relationships?
Yeah, it really is. It’s epic in scale, and as you can see from the pilot, its epic in concept. It’s shot like a movie, so I think it’s breathtaking how big it looks! But it’s really intimate in terms of where the drama is coming out of—the drama is really coming out of these relationships. We’re about to start shooting episode 9 and 10 this week, and watching what is really happening to Mark and Olivia because of what she’s seen and what he’s seen that he hasn’t told her—it’s so interesting. It’s not huge crashing events that are forcing them apart. It’s just the daily wear and tear of living with someone and wondering if you’re going to cheat on them.
The first episode was a little depressing. It seemed like the lives of these people were a little hopeless. Is this a show about hopelessness?
There’s so much hope in it! The pilot only focuses on a handful of people’s flash forwards. There are so many other characters that you don’t see in the pilot, but you start seeing in subsequent episodes who have flash forwards that you hope come true! It’s so wonderful what they’re seeing in the future. So that’s what has become so interesting is that everyone is wandering through the world, and some people are trying desperately to make sure they don’t happen, but others are looking for theirs to come true.
As you well know, Flash Forward has been exhaustingly compared to Lost. How are the two shows similar or different?
I think they are very different. I think they are similar in that they have an ensemble cast and that there’s one giant event that propels everyone into these different situations. But after that, I think we part ways quite quickly. Flash Forward doesn’t have this embedded mythology in the same way as Lost. It’s very human. What you will see from here forward are the ripple effects of everyone dealing with what they saw in a very human way. People are given the real time to come to terms with what they’ve experienced. It’s not a science fiction show. It’s much more grounded in human reality, apart from the flash forward, which is the only thing that you’re asked to buy into as an audience member.
You’ve done so many different kinds of shows, from Lost to HBO’s provocative drama Tell Me You Love Me. What attracts you to the roles you have played?
I really like investigating the things that make us human. I like playing interesting, complicated women. If there’s a common denominatoir in all of the parts I’ve played, they are all strong women in tough situations.
You got married in July, so congratulations! What is it like juggling a brand new marriage and a brand new TV show?
It’s a great thing! I thought it would be a lot to deal with. I’m loving both. I love going to work, and I love coming home. So I’m a lucky girl!
Your dad is from Argentina, right?
Yes, from Buenos Aires! He ‘s lived there his whole life pretty much. He married my mother who’s English and they went to England for a little while, and then they split and he moved back to Buenos Aires. I didn’t grow up there. They brought me up bilingual and I traveled back and forth there my whole life, and my Godparents and half my family’s there. So I feel English, but I also feel very Argentine.
Do you like Argentinean food?
I do eat empanadas, carne, chorizo. Everything! [Laughs].
In addition to being Argentinean, you are also very well educated! What was it like attending the elite Oxford?
That was magnificent! That was really some of the happiest times of my life I think. It was just wonderful. I studied English literature, and woke up every morning to read literature and in my spare time I was doing plays. I made wonderful friends there… I look back in sort of disbelief. It was a really privileged time.
What are some of your favorite books?
Oh, I am very old fashioned about my literature taste. I like Henry James. I like George Elliot. I like Dostoyevsky. I like the old people. I really do. I like people who write big fat juicy novels you can get completely lost in!
Do you have a specialty in literature or were your studies general?
No, we just started at the beginning and went through to the 1950s—when Oxford seems to think literature ends. We started with Chaucer and finished up with T.S. Elliot, I think.