Chyler Leigh talks with Entertainment Weekly about Sanvers and Floriana’s casting. Read below:
What was casting for Maggie like? You went through chemistry reads, so what do you remember of Floriana coming in to do it?
Well, in that conversation when I was talking with Greg, I was like, “Listen, I don’t want to come across like I’m super strong about this whole thing, but at the same time, just hear my heart, hear where I’m coming from: I’m insisting on being in the room.” We were in Canada at that point. We had already made our move up there, which we learned we were moving to Canada, and then I learned that I’m a lesbian, and I’m just going, “All right, hold on a second, give me a minute to breathe here.” [Laughs.] So, I was up in Canada, and I was like, “Please give me the short list of who you were thinking,” because I want to make sure that we’ve got a good connection. I’m very particular about who’s on our set, just because we’ve got a vibe. We’ve got such a great cast, and it’s a family, and I’m a mom, so for me, I want to make sure that everybody gets along. This was incredibly important to me because I knew how delicately this was going to be treated.
They sent up the audition tapes for three girls. I looked them over, my husband looked them over with me. He’s like, “I’m going to make sure you get a good girl!” I was like, “All right, honey.” It’s pretty great — he picked out my girlfriend before I did. So, we saw the tape, and he was like, “I think this is your girl,” and he was talking about Floriana. I said, “All right, I’m going to test her in the room to see how it goes.” She was the second one to come in after the first girl who came in — they were all lovely. The first girl came in, and I looked at casting and everybody in there is like, [shakes head] “Not it.” Then, Floriana came in second, and the moment she walked in — and she’s stunningly beautiful, so that is one thing, but I could see that she and I, we’re a wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve kind of person and real-deal kind of person. Life’s too short, I don’t have time for B.S. I was like, “I’m just going to put it out there and say, ‘This is me, this is where I’m at, this is who I am, who are you?’” We didn’t even have many moments to really talk, because she’s testing. But it was just this thing, all of a sudden I just look over at her, “Huh, I like this one, I think she’s great.” We did the scenes, she walked out, and I looked over like, [nods head] “She’s the one.” We had the third girl come in, she was lovely, too, but I was like, “No, no, Floriana is the one.”
We get through the whole process, and it seemed like everybody was on the same page. I wrote to Greg, I wrote to Andrew, I wrote to Peter Roth. I’ve known Peter since I was a teenager, so I was like, [mimes typing] “Dear Peter, I want her. Get her for me. I love you. Thank you. Take care. Bye.” He was just like, “Chyler, I can’t believe you emailed me.” I was like, “No, for real.” He’s like, “I totally see it, I get it, she’s lovely and wonderful.” Then I get the call that she was going to do it. I got her information. I literally hunted her down. It sounds really creepy, actually. Hmm. But I was like, “Please, please, you’re lovely and wonderful, please come, please be a part of it.” She’s like, “I love it.” It was pretty awesome.
Since you didn’t know each other beforehand, did you take any time to get to know each other, or was the onscreen chemistry just immediate?
Well, she was in L.A., so I didn’t really have time to sit down or what not. But we texted each other quite a few times and went back and forth, tried bonding that way. But when she came on set, it was like, “Oh, okay.” It’s one of those times where you meet somebody and it feels like you’ve known them forever. It’s the same thing. We were very similar in a lot of ways, so it was just easy. That’s what I really appreciate about it; we didn’t have to manufacture something. In our business, you never really know who you’re going to get and who you’re going to work with. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s awful, and you gotta do what you gotta do. But this was one of those cases where she’s a special girl and we have a cool bond.
When you started shooting the episodes with the very first seed of Alex and Maggie’s burgeoning relationship, were you nervous?
I was. The first scene that I had with Maggie was in episode 3, and she shows up in the airport, and we’ve got this whole crime scene situation. That was fine. There was this flirty thing, and it was this unspoken thing going on, but you see the fans that watched — the second they saw a photo of us, they were just like, “Oh my god, they’re in love with each other!” [Laughs.] I’ll tell you when it was, it was when the light bulb started to go off in the dialogue for Alex, and all of a sudden, I was like, “These words are coming out my mouth!” and I felt uncomfortable, because I hadn’t walked in Alex’s shoes from that side of her. I felt like I was coming out as Alex, so I’m just saying all these things, and I’m talking to my husband going, “This is so strange, but it’s amazing and I love it.” It was challenging, though, for sure. The director, Glen Winter, who is just amazing — this was episode 5, the episode where I sit down with her in the bar and say, “Maybe there’s truth to what you said.” I kind of felt like I was nauseous doing it, because I’m a very emotional person, so I don’t have to sit here and think of things that make me super sad from my past to be able to cry. I don’t know, I think I have this empathy reserve in my body that I can just defer to that. “Okay, I feel things really intensely, just use it.” So all the stuff in the bar, I really felt it. That’s something that people have been relating to the most because it’s honest. I’m not trying to [whispers] bullshit people. That’s not me. That’s when it started for me, episode 5, when it was going, “Oh my gosh, these words are coming out of my mouth!”
Now that we’ve gotten a little bit more of Maggie’s background, what’s next for the couple? Kreisberg intimated they’ll be on a more even playing field as a couple.
Yeah, that’s a great way to say it because it is that moment when Maggie reveals what actually happened in her coming out, or being outed, that all of a sudden, it’s this realization that we both have things we’re working through. Maggie’s been in prior relationships, and Alex hasn’t really been a part of it. That was the whole happy, bubbly thing when she came out. “Ahh, this is amazing!” Maggie did want to protect Alex in so many different ways. Once she realizes, it’s not about protecting, it’s about being honest. There’s a great moment in episode 17, Kevin Smith’s episode — who is probably the coolest person on the planet — where they have this moment that we run into one of Maggie’s exes. Alex is kind of like, “Oh, let’s go chat her up.” I think there’s profiling thing that’s going on. [Laughs.] Alex is, you know, she’s Alex. She finds out what really happened between them and it’s a much deeper story, a darker story. It’s a lovely episode for Floriana, just learning more about Maggie’s background and what’s gone on in hers, and how it really does level the playing field between the both of them. So there’s great development in that.