‘Awake’ Laura Allen Interview: Michael Is Not Dead, Rift In Britten Marriage May Question Sanity

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As one of the most unusual storylines NBC has ever captured on television, Thursday night’s Awake approaches audiences with two dreams, one world and a cast well worth returning to week after week. With only four episodes in, the series is so compelling that a first time viewer would think that it is already fully developed and moving on to its second season. Jason Isaacs plays Britten, a man constantly trying to retrace his steps as he’s left with a dream with his wife and a dream with his son, not truly knowing who’s dead and who’s alive after a tumultuous car wreck that fans now know– may not be so accidental after all.

As the grieving wife Hannah who may soon find her husbands sanity spiral out of control, actress Laura Allen gave me the scoop on what’s to come on tonight’s “Oregon” episode. Her plans to move cause a fracture in their relationship but also arises questions—Would a move affect his dreams? Will Michael’s lack of communication about Rex backfire? And is, well—is Michael actually alive?

Trust when I say, Allen was so sweet to speak with and if you haven’t watched the show yet (which would make you the minority) then this interview just may change your mind. Check out what to expect on tonight’s show and read between the lines. She may have already answered some of the said questions.

What part of the pilot did you read that really made you want to get invested in the series?
I read the script like a year ago and initially I was asked to come in for the role of Tara, the tennis instructor. It happened really quickly and within a couple of weeks suddenly I was thrown Hannah. The wife to Michael Britten and the grieving mother, and I was overwhelmed at the possibility and yet I get to play opposite of Jason Isaacs and tell this story of what sounds to be very melancholy, but it’s actually not. I mean there are so many gorgeous moments for me while filming Awake. It’s a privilege for me, a joy, and I think the writing is just gorgeous.

It’s only four episodes in and it seems like a few seasons in. You don’t feel like it’s a new show. What’s some of the feedback that you’ve been getting from fans?
It’s a really good way of putting it. I think we’re already deep into the psychology of this lead character Michael Britten and we’ve experienced his grief through many avenues—through therapy, through his job and through his home life with his wife. And so we feel like we know him and we emphasize with him and want to reconcile this world and yet, it’s impossible. And the truth is one reality is a dream and we don’t know which one. Either I’m dead or my son is dead and it’s devastating and yet Michael’s really trying to keep them both alive.

It may seem premature, but do you have your suspicions? Does the cast mull over ideas on what’s actually unfolding? Where would you like to see Hannah go? She could be dead.
Right! Well, we’ve been reassured that Michael is not dead and that Michael is not a cover. That one of these worlds really is a dream and yet I asked these questions so often while we were shooting the pilot and yet as we went deeper into the season I grew less and less interested in knowing because I’m really playing scenes as though Hannah’s world is like yours or like mine. I play it very real and there’s nothing that makes a person feel like there’s a dreamscape going on. It starts truly looking over his sanity a bit. I think it’s really called into question, if Michael can keep it together or if he’s losing his mind. There’s no obeying of certain laws or reality. And so yeah, they really start to play in the presence in a great way.

Awake has so many aspects: Psychological, Emotional, Criminal, Mystery. What’s most intriguing to you?
I can’t help but love the emotional part about the show. And yet, it doesn’t get melodramatic. The writers are so careful about that. It’s the same producers that were behind 24 so there’s an action-packed side to the show and a real existential questioning going on in the therapy offices. And so they’re all so strong and they’re all going deeper and deeper into Michael’s psychosis but I love the home life. I love playing a woman who’s trying to rise above her grief and move forward.

The next episode “Oregon” revolves a lot around some changes that may be headed Hannah’s way. What can audiences expect to see?
This episode “Oregon” really examines the relationship. It definitely challenges Michael and says look, most marriages—and this is true and awful but—most marriages don’t survive the loss of a child. Could it be that Hannah doesn’t just want to leave Los Angeles, but wants to leave you? And I think he’s confronted with this question and it frightens him and we have a real sit down about our relationship and what it means to move on without Rex. Without giving too much away, Hannah needs him. Hannah wants to connect with him, to engage with him, and she doesn’t need the house, she doesn’t need the room, of course Michael does. So there’s all different timetables and grief. They recommit to one another in this one.

It definitely seems like trouble in your marriage won’t be good for Michael’s two dream sequences.
Right, right! We thought immediately from the pilot that even him having these dreams and telling Hannah about it, it’s so disruptive to her process and grief and she shuts him down. So immediately the communication is off kilter and yet she’s constantly checking in. “Are you with me? Are we together on this?” She wants to go to the center and have this memorial for Rex and yet Michael’s not fully accepting that Rex is dead. So it’s troublesome for the marriage.

“Oregon” brings up the importance of location for this family and could possibly make the audience go, “Oh, never thought of that before.” It seems like it could cause an issue with Michael having to be stationed in order to live out these dreams.
I mean there’s this Sci-Fi fan base too that are like, “Is Rex’s bedroom the portal? What are the real rules going on here? What are the laws of crossing over? Can he go to work and still see Rex?” [Laughs] It challenges all of it. I think the writers as they go, they explore. No one’s ever written a show like this. They describe it like handling a car where there’s no manual. It’s exciting for everybody involved. It just kind of stretches the boundaries.

When will the car wreck be brought up again? It was mentioned that perhaps it wasn’t an accident after all.
Yes, it will get going and start a life of its own. This is where you feel the masterminds of 24. There’s Michael’s sanity and his own sense of trusting his own mind and that starting to falter. And we also start to dip into a possible conspiracy behind the accident in the first place. So these two things together take off on a momentum this season and take us to a really stunning finale.

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