Elizabeth Mitchell ('Santa Clause 2')
’The Principal Components of Acting’
While a lot of attention will be coming her way for her role opposite Tim Allen in Disney’s ’The Santa Clause 2,’ Elizabeth Mitchell (3/27/70) has long since earned her dues with numerous roles in film and television.
Mitchell was born Los Angeles, CA. where shortly after her birth, her family relocated to Dallas, TX, where she spent the majority of her young life. Her adorably charismatic looks proved an asset to her budding career as an actress, and she would eventually return to the Hollywood scene on the West Coast.
Mitchell was married to actor Gary Bakewell, her onscreen husband in ’The Linda McCartney Story,’ in 2000. In the role of Linda McCartney in this made-for-TV movie, Mitchell portrayed the woman with whom Paul McCartney (portrayed by Bakewell) would fall in love, and the tragic story of her battle with breast cancer, based on real-life events.
Before the onscreen-turned real-life romance with Bakewell, Mitchell had already accumulated a lengthy list of credits in the entertainment business. In the mid- to late '90s, she made numerous guest appearances on prime-time television, with roles on shows like ‘The Sentinel,’ ‘Time of Your Life,’ ‘Spin City,’ and ‘ER.’ In 1998, she played Linda in the TV-movie ’Gia,’ and Jane on the TV series ‘Significant Others.’ She appeared in the film ’Molly,’ starring Elisabeth Shue, the following year. The dramatic thriller ’Frequency’ (2000) starring Dennis Quaid featured Mitchell in the role of Jules. Along with ’Frequency,’ she appeared in a small role in ’Nurse Betty’ in 2000, and in 2001 kept busy by playing roles in the films ’Double Bang’ and ’Hollywood Palms,’ as well as a recurring role on the doomed ABC TV series, ‘The Beast.’ She would return to collaborating with husband Bakewell in 2002, as the two of them starred in the made-for-TV BBC drama, ’Man and Boy.’
Now seated comfortably in front of me, the quietly spoken, genuinely conversant young lady first opened up about having to work with so many children in the same place at the same time. ”If I thought about it all it would’ve driven me crazy, but I thought Tim (Allen) was awesome. I had a great time working with him. He is absolutely breathtaking funny in person. You’re sitting there and you’re almost involuntarily laughing and you want to stop for a minute but then something else happens. But the kids were definitely the real challenge. But the way it was run the kids were the most polite kids you’ve ever seen. I never behaved like that as a kid . I was a nightmare. And they weren’t. They wanted to be there. They were having the best time. So they worked long hours they were all around you. Little elves with ears. There were many, many times I walked around there and my parents came to visit. It was really beautiful. They were going to have real snow, but they were worried about the lawsuits and children falling. So we just had the fake stuff but it was fluffy and cold anyway !”
What was your hardest acting challenge in this movie ? ”I think the hardest thing for me was taking her from where she was to where she ended up and believing it myself. That’s what it was. I have to believe in anything that I do or else. But I thought about it a lot and I kind of fell in love when I was making it with somebody – not anyone in the movie – but I realize how much that has to do with it going on faith and deciding that you’re going to trust. And I thought that was fascinating.”
So who’d you fall in love with ? ”I can’t say.”
Yes, you can ”No, I really can’t !”
Fine, have it your way. So, how did you get involved in ‘Santa Clause 2’ in the first place ? ”Michael (Lembeck – Director) brought me in, and please ask him why ! Because I have no idea why ! Judging on what I’d done before, what would he have seen ? I don’t know. I didn’t think I would and then I went and auditioned for it with him, of course and for Disney, and did the whole thing and got the job.’
You were great in it ”Thank you. I really enjoyed this movie too.”
Is there another of your movies you look back on fondly ? ”’Nurse Betty’ was probably my favorite.”
But with only five movies to your credit and the ABC TV show ‘The Beast’ – the theatre seems to be where your heart and passion is. Would this be true to say ? ”Yeah, I think so. Mainly because that’s what I was brought up in. I was about seven. I’m still at home there and I just love it. I only started about five years ago in film and television. As far as I’m concerned, I could do theatre forever so it’s just a medium that I’m comfortable with. Mainly because that’s where I was trained. Either people buy it or they don’t.”
What’s your favorite genre of theatre to work in ? ”I got a lot of comedy on stage. I was even in a comedy group for a while. It’s so different. It’s so completely different. The idea of going to work and being able to laugh all day is great to me. Although there is a fair amount of sadness in this (‘Santa Clause 2’) , but I enjoy my comedy. There nothing harder than comedy. I think that anyone that thinks it’s easy just try and make someone laugh sometime ! I think that comedy is hard, but I really enjoyed it. It’s nice when you can get the guy to laugh. I think it’s breathtaking.”
Do you have any memories of Santa when you were a kid ? ”Actually, my favorite memories in my family are we’d walk down the stairs and wait at the bottom for the relatives and we’d sit there, the three of us and hold hands.’
Unless I’m ruining it for you, when did you realize Santa Claus didn’t exist ?! ”He still exists in my heart. My mother would say that I used to come in her bedroom on Christmas Eve at 7:00pm , at 8:00pm, and I probably came in at 5:00am just to check if he’d been yet ! I remember coming home from school and saying the kids had said Santa didn’t exist. And she’d say, “How sad for them. Oh that’s terrible, that’s awful. I’m going to call their mothers. I’ve been working for him for years !” Man, she was so good. ‘How does he come down the chimney ?’ “How does he do that ?’ She came up with incredible explanations for everything. So we still go downstairs, but we no longer hold hands ! But we look at each other still with excitement.”
What was it like working with Tim ?”I think Tim’s really sexy. I really do actually. Being in the room, he’s an incredibly dynamic person and if he puts his attention on you it’s pretty great. So having his undivided attention on camera was fantastic. It was very easy in character to fall in love with this character because I thought he was delightful. And that’s the truth. Really, the things that he’d pick up on about you were incredible.”
You broke your nose filming ‘Frequency,’ so I was wondering if you broke anything or injured yourself on this set ? ”Believe it or not I did not. Thank you.’
Mind you, with that real life ice rink surely someone at sometime went ass over tit ?! ”Well, okay, I did fall and a little kid fell on top of me. But neither of us were injured. Just a scraped and a bruised knee or two,” she genuinely smiles.
Any behind-the-scenes secrets from ‘Santa Clause 2’ ? ”I don’t think so except that everyone was the nicest people - especially the kid, Spencer. I think he was amazing. I thought he was so funny. And all the little girls - Danielle and all of them.”
Did you ever have a mean Principal like the one you portrayed ? ”Well, I didn’t think she was mean so much as she was exacting and I think she felt if she didn’t keep everyone completely in check, they’d drop out of school, and they’d no longer get an education. Plus she doesn’t have a lot of magic in her life. She’s a little dry, a little brittle because of the way life had been so far. That’s what I thought was kind of nice, kind of like watching a plant get watered. She kept getting fuller and fuller until she became the person you see at the end.”
How long did it take to shoot the film ? ”Forever – no five months, I guess. But there was a lot to do. When Tim was in makeup I went to Yoga. There was a lot of stuff with the other Santa that I wasn’t involved with.”
What’s next for you ? ”I don’t know. I am thinking about doing some radio stuff, but I really don’t know. There’s one play that I’m thinking about and a movie. I’m perfectly happy. That drives my agents crazy because they’re like ‘you need to this’ and ‘you need to do that’. And I’m like ‘I don’t need to do anything. I can work somewhere else.’ So everything I’ve ever taken, I’ve taken because I thought I could do something that meant something.”
Didn’t you take a spot meant for someone else for your role in E.R. ? ”Yeah, the clothes that I was wearing had the other girls name on it. I felt terrible, really terrible, but it happens to everybody. E.R. was a little more mainstream, but if I thought about the way people would respond to it, I don’t think I’d ever do anything like that again ! My life in itself is very quiet and the rolls I play are fascinating to me for one reason or another. E.R. was offered to me. The writers – it was very personal to them. I got the script and had to do it that same day. I was never more terrified. I went on auto-pilot.”
And then ABC’s ‘The Beast’ didn’t exactly rise to expectations ! ”Yeah, but I wanted to work with certain people on that show and I had a good time working on it. The character wasn’t that interesting, but when I read it I thought it was good. But I never, if I looked at stuff and I thought okay this is questionable I don’t think I’d ever do anything !”
Did you enjoy working with the BBC in ‘Man & Boy’ ? ”Yes, I did enjoy working with the BBC. So much fun. I was having the best time. I really was. That was fantastic. I wanted to work with the BBC for the longest time so that was pretty much it. They said ‘we want you to meet the director.’ ‘Are you interested ?’ ‘You’d be in London, but not make much money though !’ And I said ‘yeah.’ They were so great there and I had a wonderful time. It was good. Do you see my co-stars ? Man do I luck out. Constantly, even the women are beautiful. So I think I just always luck out. I’m very, very lucky. I mean Dennis Quaid … who hasn’t had a crush on him ?!”
Could you see yourself doing a sequel to ‘Santa Clause 2’ where there’s now a child of your own involved ? ”I’m so material driven. If it doesn’t appeal to me I just don’t do it. I’m horrible that way but I’m nowhere near popular enough to be in any way picky; but I am. So I imagine I will continue being the way that I am as long as I’m not hurt. I’d probably just do something else. There’s a lot of stuff out there that’s really boring.”
Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk
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