|Fiona Gubelmann, photo courtesy Lifetime|
Touted as a modern-day “Bad Seed,” “Mommy’s Little Girl” — which premieres on Lifetime Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m. ET/PT — centers on Theresa, a young mother who lost her husband shortly after they were married. Feeling ill-equipped to care for an infant, she left her daughter, Sadie, in the care of her paternal grandmother, unaware that the bitter, resentful woman isolated the girl, home-schooled her, and never allowed her to socialize with other children. When the two are finally reunited, 10-year-old Sadie is thrilled to leave behind the life she hated to begin a new life with her mother and soon-to-be stepfather, Aaron (James Gallanders). Although her intentions are good, Sadie’s skewed perception of the world and her inability to distinguish right from wrong will ultimately prevent her from having the life she so badly desires.
Celebrity Extra: I was just catching up on “Castle” before our interview, and I was so happy to see you guest-starring on the last episode I just saw!
Fiona Gubbelman: That’s so nice to hear. It was a great experience. You never know it when you step onto a drama set, and you’re wondering if everyone is going to be serious or dramatic but, no, everyone was so much fun. Most of my scenes were with Stana (Katic, who plays Capt. Kate Beckett), and she is so silly and sweet. And also, she is really talented, and so it was great getting to work opposite her because it was just so natural.
CE: And you also guest-starred on one of my favorite comedies, “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.”
FG: That was such a great show. Getting to do it was just so much fun. I loved my character on it. She was kind of a bitchy girl, which is fun because I don’t often get to do that. And James Van Der Beek, he is so funny. That is one of my favorite things I’ve seen him in. And I ended up getting to be on another comedy he was on, “Friends with Better Lives,” maybe a year or two ago. I’m a huge fan of his work and his work ethic, and he’s just great in comedy.
CE: You’ve had the chance to work on a lot of great comedies.
FG: It’s really wonderful when you get to work on a show that you also watch. A lot of the comedies that I’ve gotten to work on — “Modern Family,” “New Girl,” “Key and Peele” — these are all shows that I watch. And then getting to be a part of it is just great.
CE: Your latest project, “Mommy’s Little Girl,” definitely would not fall into the comedy category. Tell me a little about the story and your role in it.
FG: My character, Theresa, is finally taking her daughter, Sadie, home to live with her. She’s finally getting married. She’s finally doing well in work, so she’s finally going to raise her own daughter. Sadie had been living with the paternal grandmother. And the paternal grandmother did not do the best job raising Sadie; she is akin to the mother in “Carrie,” to give you an idea. She’s been messing with Sadie’s head all these years. It’s sad too because this poor, sweet girl, all she wants to do is be with her mother, so because of the fear that has been created in her by her grandmother, she will stop at nothing to make sure she stays with her mother and that no one gets in the way.
CE: What kinds of things will Sadie resort to?
FG: It might include some murder and some foul play.
CE: This is being compared to the cult-classic “The Bad Seed,” which was known for its sometimes-unrealistic melodrama. How would you say that “Mommy’s Little Girl” differs from it?
FG: What’s so great about the film is that it could be just silly, and you could be like, “Oh, yeah, would a kid really do this?” But what the writers did so brilliantly — as well as under the direction of Curtis Crawford and producer Pierre David — is that they made sure the story was motivated by true feelings and emotions of this little girl just wanting to be close to her mom. It’s really psychological, and you actually feel bad for the little girl — even though she’s scary — and at the same time, it’s a sad story. I think they did a really great job of balancing the fun and popcorn-movie aspect of that.
CE: So Sadie isn’t evil for evil’s sake; there is an underlying need to be loved there.
FG: Exactly. She’s just trying to please her mother. She’s just trying to be mommy’s little girl, and she just doesn’t quite know how to. But she’s definitely not doing it the right way.
|Fiona Gubelmann and Emma Hentschel,|
FG: We shot for a month up in Canada. It was great. And what’s really neat about Pierre, the producer, is he has you shoot for four days on and then you take two days off. So instead of doing five days in a row, you actually do only four, which gives you a chance to recuperate on those two days off. And then the crew and cast and everyone have way more energy. Pierre found that his sets were more productive that way. Our days were long, probably about 15 hours. Since Emma (Hentschel, who played Sadie) is a minor, that definitely affected the hours and shooting schedule. I was pretty much there every day as first up and then the last to leave because we had to make sure that we were getting Emma in her eligible hours. It was fun — the whole cast and crew were such a great group of fun, kind, talented, hardworking people that the shoot just flew by. I still keep in touch with them, even here on the West Coast. I feel like Emma is my little sister now. We still send each other funny videos and text messages.
CE: Since this kind of movie is such a departure for you, what did you take away from the shoot?
FG: I am just so grateful that I was able to work on this. Right before filming this, I shot another film for Lifetime called “911 Nightmare.” I played the lead in that as well, and I was a cop. It was so great to play that because, again, I never get to play cops, and I never get to play tough characters. Like you said, it’s generally more the comedic roles, even in dramas. The producers of that film were talking, and somehow word got around and Pierre heard about that, and so gave me the opportunity to do this film. I am so appreciative of him for taking the chance on me and letting me play this type of character because it’s not every day that people are willing to do that. It was so much fun getting to play Theresa. I had a really great time. Also, I have to say, working across from Emma, she’s so talented naturally that when we would act together, it just felt completely natural. I never had to work hard to get emotional or to find anything like that because when she and I would speak, the emotions just came naturally. We had such great chemistry and such a great bond.
CE: What do you hope viewers take away from the movie?
FG: I just hope they have a really fun time. It’s a wild ride, and there are a lot of twists and turns. And the relationship between all of us, I think, is really beautiful. I really hope that they see the heart in the movie as well as the suspense.