You may or may not have watched the iconic 1980s film Fatal Attraction – hold your horses, because a TV show following up on the cult classic has just been released. The series delves deep into themes of privilege, personality disorders, and of course murder – after serving a 15-year prison sentence for the killing of Alexandra Forrest, played by Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Gallagher, played by Joshua Jackson, is released on parole with just two ambitions: to reconnect with his family and to prove his innocence. But his plans don’t quite work out as he wanted them to…
His daughter, the determined Ellen Gallagher, is portrayed by Alyssa Jirrels. The rising actress has previously starred in Boo, Bitch, As We See It and This Is The Year, to name but a few, and is now showing off her impeccable talent in the Paramount+ exclusive series.
We had a chat with her about the casting process, her favorite scenes, and the development of her character.
You are starring in Fatal Attraction as Ellen, which is super exciting. How was the casting process like?
It was probably the shortest casting process for something that I booked that I’ve ever been through. Because usually, you go through a bunch of screen tests. But for this, I had one audition, one self-tape, and then I did a director session with Silver, Alex Cunningham, and then Kevin J. Hynes – the directors and showrunners, and they were great, and it was a super short session. Then they used that tape for the screen test for the network, and then I booked it. It was super easy. I’ve had ones where they’re giving you so much feedback and you have to redo the tapes and you have to wear the specific thing or talk to the specific person. This one was just very seamless.
Wow, that sounds super smooth. It was meant to be! So where were you when you got the call that you made it to the cast?
It was at the end of last April, it was at the tail end of the busiest month I have ever had in terms of auditions. I think I had like 28 in four weeks. So I was burned out, I’ve never had this before. And I actually had a flight scheduled to go to Northern California. And I was rushing off from doing one audition to pack. And I was in the car on the way to the airport with two of my good friends from my hometown. And so I got right on a plane and I was freaking out. We were driving to the airport and then we went into the Burbank airport and we did a shot of Tequila to celebrate.
That sounds fun! But 28 auditions, wow. Do you ever confuse characters when you’re auditioning so much?
I mean, yes and no. These days, because it’s all over self-tape, I think the work that you have to put in is even more. So this particular season last year, there were a few where I was definitely forgetful,, but there were a few really good ones that were very long and I put a lot of time into and Fatal Attraction was definitely one of those. So yeah, I think you remember the ones that you really love.
And it clearly worked out well because we can now see you in Fatal Attraction! Speaking of your role, you’re playing the older version of Ellen Gallagher, and in the original film that the series is based on, the character wasn’t as present as you are in the series. I feel like your character has quite a lot of depth in the series. What kind of preparation did you do to channel your character?
The only thing I think I took from the movie is just how traumatized she is. Also, Ellen’s appearance in the original movie is very androgynous and we wanted to keep that energy for her as she got older. She’s so little in the movie that there’s nothing to compare it to, so my prep was all based on the scripts for the actual show. And yeah, it was a lot. I think the writing is so good. But I also read a lot about childhood trauma and abandonment wounds and intellectualization. I talked to a forensic psychologist named Jonathan Mueller who was our tech consultant on the show. I think he talked to both Lizzie and I just about different types of trauma and reactions to that. So there was just a lot of digging, digging as deep as I could.
I find that you also have such great chemistry with your onset mother, Amanda. What was it like working alongside her?
It’s funny because she’s the person I spent the least time with out of everybody. But I just love her. I’ve also been a fan of hers for years. I really adore her as an actor and just as a person. And I mean, we didn’t have that many scenes together, but she’s just a really easy person to get along with. I met her in the first scene together, we’re walking the dog. And she was trying to learn phrases that Gen Z’ers say, to impress her daughter. And I just felt like she’s just a really kind, motherly energy and she’s also been an actor for a long time and she very quickly opened up to me about a lot of her anxiety as a young actor, and that made me feel super at home. I totally adore her. She’s also the most present person in a scene.
That sounds incredible and exactly what you want in a co-actor. I love how you taught her Gen Z phrases, which ones did you teach her?
‘The tea’ was very big. Like, what’s the tea?
That’s a classic, hah. So was there a particular scene or episode that you enjoyed filming the most throughout filming? And if so, which one?
Oh, there were a lot! Well, number 1, I really enjoyed the roller skating scene. It’s a very short scene in the show, but it was quite the process for my friend Bella and I, who I became super close with, who plays Stella. We actually had to take roller skating lessons to prepare for that scene. So that was just a fun break from all the sadness. But I also really enjoyed a scene in episode five where Dan, Josh, and I are at the bar and I’m psycho-analyzing him. And that was a very intense day. We were super cut for time. We were really hot. It was in the middle of the summer and it was the very last scene of the day we all kind of got there and everybody was a little stressed out and we ended up having to just be super present right off the bat. I don’t know, it made it more enjoyable and sort of a little vortex of energy. And that was a really cool experience.
How long were the filming days overall, and how long was the whole filming process in general for the whole series?
So we shot for four months. And Kevin and Alex, who are our showrunners and executive producers, are really passionate about keeping the days to 12 hours. Because a lot of the time on sets, things can go 16, or 18 hours. That just exhausts the entire crew. So I mean, the days were long, but I feel like the average was 12 to 14 hours most days. That was always the goal. We were block shooting, too. So basically, it would be this thing where I felt terrible for Josh because, for the first month and a half, he was in every scene every single day. And we were also switching it around because people were getting Covid so he was having to memorize things from episode five in the first block when we were shooting episode one but it was how it was shot. For me, I wouldn’t shoot for two weeks and then I would have three days where I was in every single scene and we were doing every single one of my scenes from three episodes and it would just be super intense.
That does sound intense! I feel like the series ending makes us definitely need a season two. So is there anything you’d like for Ellen to explore if there was another season?
There’s a lot that I think Ellen could explore and I think Alex Cunningham’s ideas are probably infinitely better than mine. I just feel like it would be an unleashing of sort of everything that she has kept bottled inside of her because of her desire to not be seen, or her desire to be able to perceive things from the sidelines and you know she has her dad back in her life. I think there are a lot of different shades to explore there, but I guess we will have to see!
Fingers crossed! Apart from Fatal Attraction, you’ve been starring in quite a few other series and films so far. Is there like anything at the moment that you’d love to be a part of?
You know what I’m very interested in doing right now is theater. It’s quite anti-climactic for after you’re on a show, but I started in theater. I really am interested in doing a straight-up black box play. I would love to get into some off-broadway stuff or even sort of look into the LA theater scene right now. I think I’ve learned so much in the past few years about film and TV that I’m just really interested in going back to that. I think I would like to have that experience. But other than that, I’m interested in working with people who have a very avant-garde way of working. I’d be interested in working with someone like Bradley Cooper, like an actor-director, or people who will push you out of your comfort zone.
That sounds exciting. So is there anything that you’re currently working on that you can unveil already?
Nothing I can unveil right now, but we’re hoping for a new season. If not, then it’ll be something else. Everything’s on the horizon right now.
Let’s manifest a new season! So last but not least, what’s your favorite guilty pleasure film or series?
Oh let me think. I don’t want to say it’s a guilty pleasure film because it’s insulting to people in the film but do you know the movie He’s Just Not That Into You?
Ermmm yes, I rewatch it every year!
I love it so much, it’s such a funny movie but god I really, I love that movie. I’ve seen it so much.