By Andrew Dansby
February 17, 2014 | Updated: February 17, 2014 5:24pm
On an unseasonably warm winter day, Mireille Enos is dressed for spring. Red-headed and radiant in a floral print dress, she’s also quick to smile. This bears mention because Enos’ roles in film and television tend to not be very bright.
The Sugar Land native and High School for the Performing and Visual Arts grad is best known for doing three seasons of “The Killing,” work that requires a lot of standing in the rain in Vancouver during the winter. Fittingly on the show, she plays Detective Sarah Linden, an anguished Seattle officer who does the decidedly glum work of investigating the murders of children.
Prior to “The Killing,” Enos played twins JoDean Marquart and Kathy Marquart on the dark “Big Love.” Nothing good happened to them. And more recently she was Karin Lane in “World War Z,” which allowed Enos to clutch a walkie-talkie waiting for calls from Brad Pitt, who was being pursued by zombies.
“My manager and I joke that next I need to play a character who talks and wears colorful clothes,” Enos says, laughing. She rattles off a few forthcoming projects, all of which sound pretty dark. “But I did just shoot a lovely little movie called ‘If I Stay’ with Chloë Moretz based on a lovely young adult novel. I get to be much lighter and happier in that one. Which was nice.”
We’ll have to take her word for it. The IMDb summary of the film is as follows: “A car accident lands 17-year-old Mia in a coma and claims the life of her family.”
But Enos works well amid death and darkness. Because she’s played such quiet types, Enos has had to find physical ways to convey information, particularly on “The Killing.” Enos has had a herky jerky relationship with Linden, simply because the show keeps getting canceled and resurrected. “We can’t get rid of it, right?” Enos says.
AMC canceled the show once but brought it back. After the cable channel pulled the plug a second time, Netflix stepped in with plans to shoot a short fourth season to air this year. A show frequently critiqued for leaving viewers hanging between seasons will likely have the opportunity to write its own resolution.
Enos – who has received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for the show – can’t talk about plot points, but says, “It’s a continuation of where we left off in Season 3. It’s about resolving events from that season.
“But it’s nice to have the opportunity to close it the way Veena (Sud, the show’s creator) wants to. I’ll miss Sarah. It’s the longest I’ve ever spent with any character. Getting to end it this way will help me feel like there was closure.”
Enos was in town last month for an HSPVA luncheon at the River Oaks Country Club, where she was honored and a guest speaker. She credits her mother, who was roving about the event beforehand taking photos of some of the art pieces and performers, with nurturing her career when Enos was young.
“She wanted to dance, but she didn’t have the chance,” Enos says. “So she promised herself – not just for the arts, but anything her kids wanted to do, she’d throw open the doors if she could. Of course she got a bunch of arty kids. But she was the one up all night helping us with audition pieces, driving us to rehearsals, throwing study parties.”
The fourth of five children, Enos followed an older sister to HSPVA, where she studied in the school’s theater program until her graduation in 1993. She calls the school “magic. There’s something very special they’ve captured there. Such a diverse group of kids thrown together. No cliques, no acting out. Just creative people who were thrilled to be there.
“There was no turning back after that. No backup plan. This was the deal.”
After college, Enos moved to New York City. Her first big break came with a 2005 Broadway production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” which earned her a Tony nomination.
Two years later she began appearing in “Big Love,” which led to her work on “The Killing.”
At 38, Enos is finding more doors open. She appreciates the slow slog toward success. “I don’t think I would’ve been responsible enough in my twenties to navigate all this,” she says.
In a few weeks, she’ll begin shooting the final episodes of “The Killing.” While the show was on ice, Enos took several other projects. The first one set for release is “Sabotage,” about DEA agents being targeted by members of a drug cartel.
She also has made a pair of films with director Atom Egoyan, who isn’t exactly known for light fare.
The first of those is “Devil’s Knot,” a feature film about the West Memphis 3 – a trio of Arkansas teenagers who were believed by many to be innocent of three 1993 child murders for which they were convicted; they were released in 2011.
Enos plays Vicki Hutcherson, who was a crucial figure in turning the police investigation toward the accused, even though she later recanted her testimony.
Once again she finds herself in an internalized and tormented part.
“She’s a tragic figure,” Enos says, “a single mom who was barely keeping it together.”
Like “The Killing,” the film sounds like it will be long on mood. Enos says Egoyan “shot it like a mystery. There’s so much in the story that we don’t know and will probably never know. He used factual events and actual dialog from courtroom transcripts. But there’s some mystery there, and the mystery is what Atom really leaned into. He made it twisty.”