[This story contains spoilers from "Point of Origin," Episode 8 of The Twilight Zone.]
"Point of Origin" stars Goodwin as Eve Martin, a picture-perfect housewife whose rigid worldview crumbles after she's detained by a secretive, ICE-like agency with unchecked power. Tortured by a sinister suit (James Frain), Eve unearths buried memories of another dimension, one she traveled from as a child in search of a better life. But even as Eve's rights are stripped from her, her sense of privilege lingers. During a harrowing escape, she ignores the advice of her Guatemalan housekeeper, Anna (Zabryna Guevara), who knows from experience that "it is not good to trust anybody." Eve returns home to a family that treats her like a stranger. As agents barge in to drag her away, she discovers how little it takes to be rejected by the only home she's ever known.
The haunting immigration allegory hit home for Goodwin, who "grew up on" the original Twilight Zone and says she sees the same social consciousness in Jordan Peele's revival. "I think the original creator, Rod Serling, would be quite happy," she told TV Guide. "I feel like we can bring all of what simmers very deeply to the surface and let it be just a little more extreme and heightened and stylized and obvious, but not in a shallow way."
In a thoughtful interview, Goodwin weighed in on the most unsettling aspects of the episode, revealed which day on set was one of her favorite film days ever, and divulged what her husband, former Once Upon a Time co-star Josh Dallas, had to say about her physically demanding role.
What drew you to the part?
Ginnifer Goodwin: To be honest, I would like to act snooty and selective but the truth is the phone call was Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone and I said yes. And my reps did say, "You have to read the script," and I said, "You know I'll read the scripts, but why don't you start the process." There's no way that Jordan Peele plus Twilight Zone is a combination of elements that doesn't work! That is a genius pairing. So I did start to pack, and I did read the script, and I felt truly sick to my stomach. It really hit home, especially given the news these days. So I packed, and my husband, in fact, was 16 hours, I think, home from his series in New York [Manifest] and I handed him our children and said, "Good luck, sir," and I got on a plane.
How did you strike a balance between making Eve a full person but not shying away from her privilege?
Goodwin: Funny you should mention it, because it was a line that we struggled to walk, and the script was actually rewritten quite dramatically in the days leading up to our filming because the fear was that she needed to wear her flaws on her sleeve, and yet we needed for the audience to be incited by her not just unraveling but her imprisonment by the end. So it was really difficult. But I almost felt like what we had left in the script once we started shooting was likable enough that then I could try to sort of play the privilege, and play the less desirable — not to play qualities, but to play those actions that lead to less desirable results, and heighten them. I almost tried to play her like something unreal, and something very definitive, as if she were like a child's cartoon character through the first half, because I felt that she's so out of touch with who she really is for the first half of that episode. ... I wanted to create something that seemed a little unreal because she wasn't being real with herself, as it were, and have her sort of be forced into humanity through what she goes through.
There's a great sequence in the middle of the episode where Eve is in alone in her cell. We see her doing shadow puppets, jumping jacks, a little bit of soft-shoe — what was the direction like for that scene?
Goodwin: Oh my gosh, that's one of my favorite film days I've ever had on any set ever because they just rolled film for, I mean, I really think they rolled film for hours and they just let me go. It was an incredibly collaborative, empowering experience. Every actor should have the pleasure of working with these people on The Twilight Zone. They really did just put me in a room with a camera, and at various points would move the camera, and just said, "Just go. What would this character do in solitary confinement?" I think the overriding desire for the character was to comfort herself. So what are the things that she would do at home to cheer herself up, and will those things work in here? And I feel like the more one tries to cover something up and fix something, the more obvious whatever is trying to be hidden becomes. When people are drunk they try to act sober. ... And I think that's sort of what we applied here. What would Eve be doing to cheer herself up? Would it be tap dancing because at some point in her youth she was a tap dancer, and when you meet her twin girls they are tap dancing in one of their living rooms — one of their living rooms. If that's not privilege. Which is also a dining room but not the dining room! — or doing shadow puppets on the walls, because that's something that reminds her of her children and she can pretend she's doing it for her kids. And we even had some things that we snuck in there that were references to other works of art.
I made a joke about how, and it was more of a me thing than an Eve thing, but I always had this idea that if I were ever to go to prison, I would try to get in shape, like everyone does in the movies. So I was making myself laugh on set that day going: What if Eve is like, "OK, I'm going to exercise, I'm going to get in shape like everyone in the movies," but she gets through like three jumping jacks, and she's like, "I'm exhausted. This is not going to happen." But yeah, it was a really fun and terrifying experience. I felt things playing that character I'd like to never feel again. I was grateful that I would only have to, sometimes in the more painful bits, go through something once and they would say, "Moving on." And we tried to make the more horrific moments in solitary be more about her having her worlds collide and realizing that the nightmare that was the past is also her future, is also the present. She's dreamed this moment before.
It was a surprisingly physical episode, too.
Goodwin: Yes. I was physically more exhausted — my husband watched it with me and he looked at me and he said, "I know my lady, and I know you were beat." [Laughs] Yes I was. I am not a physical person and I do not exercise and it kicked my butt.
There's some ambiguity in the ending, because we know Eve's family rejects her, but I don't think we know for sure if her husband turned her in or if the ice cream truck driver wasn't trustworthy after all. Do you think she made a mistake trusting that driver or trusting her family?
Goodwin: There was a definitive choice, and it was cut. And what I believe the reason probably was, but I'm just guessing, is that it all goes back to what the Anna character said: You can't trust anyone. I think because I was an interdimensional traveler from this other world that it was really about, you know, everyone has done something, even little, even minuscule, that is contributing to what is going to be my deportation. There's also bystander apathy, there's also everyone just standing around at the end. Her best friends are just standing around watching her be dragged away, and it brought to mind, like, horrible poetry from World War II — I mean horrible as in gorgeous poetry that invokes horrible feelings. Or thinking about: What's the impulse in society that we stand around with our iPhones filming things instead of acting? Sometimes we stand around and film things that change the world. Sometimes we stand around and film things that change what we can do politically, and in the name of protecting people, and that's important. But there's this other thing that we do too, which is just: It's not me and so I'm going to detach.
What do you hope people take away from the episode?
Goodwin: On the surface it's obviously about how we're treating immigrants right now, but I also feel like on a more intimate level, I certainly had to look at myself and say, "Am I as open, liberal, accepting, non-discriminating as I like to think? Do I judge people based on where they come from, how they look, how much money they have? Do I treat people differently based on those things, and do I know as much about the people that I work with as they know about me? Because they care enough to know certain things. Have I returned that love appropriately?" It definitely made me sick in those ways too, and I hope that everyone kind of steps back. I know that our version on The Twilight Zone was a little — there's the heightened, stylized, theatrical version of Eve and this theme in her obviously collecting friends of various cultural backgrounds, thinking that that makes her an evolved social being, but there's something really shallow about that too. There's something really token about it and novel about it and gross about it. So I hope other people get that icky feeling in the pit of their stomach watching it.
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