Melinda Clarke talks power struggles, torture scenes
Since Nikita premiered last year on The CW, I’ve been watching avidly. I was a fan of the stars, but their characters drew me in even more. So when TV Guide Canada got the chance to talk to Melinda Clarke, I was eager to talk to the woman who portrays the villainous Amanda. Plus, who wouldn’t want to interview the evil-turned-loving mother of Marissa Cooper on The O.C.?
But though both characters are less-than-noble, Clarke wouldn’t describe either as simply the bad guy.
“Julie Cooper was just a woman trying to survive and whose priorities were … just out of whack. So yes, she definitely fit the ‘villain’ role on [The O.C.], and certainly Amanda [does as well on Nikita], but I don’t approach it as a villain,” she says.
“In fact, I could probably sit down and make a case for every move that Amanda’s ever made, and Xander [Berkeley, her Nikita co-star] could do the same for Percy.”
Villain or not, before the winter hiatus, we got to watch Amanda torture Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) with glee. Clarke was “pleasantly tickled” when she read the enticing scene.
“It was a wonderful move on the part of the writers to hold back and wait this long to actually write a scene like that. It has always been implied that Amanda was the inquisitor and things were happening behind closed doors,” she says.
“It was a concern of mine because I had never done anything like that and there were so many things involved with the props and sticking something up Aaron’s nose. We ended up having a great time with it because it was so different then what we normally see from Amanda.”
Clarke says that despite how much fun the scene was to film, the show is careful not to desensitize the audience with constant torture scenes: “I know that [writer] Craig [Silverstein] is very protective of showing the audience too much. We need to keep the audience engaged.”
This season, Nikita pulled the ol’ switcheroo, placing Percy in a silo-type prison and giving Amanda the control and power within the Division. Clarke found the change exciting and a catalyst for character development.
“This season has been interesting for me because it feels like she hasn’t succeeded as much as I would have thought. One of the great things about the flip in power was, ultimately, between Xander and I, we were able to create a completely different relationship between the two characters,” she says.
“As the episodes go on, there’s quite a bit of peeling back the layers on [Amanda and Percy], and maybe getting a glimpse into their relationship and what it’s actually been, emotionally. I’m excited for that. It will be interesting to see.”
In addition to Berkeley, Clarke shares the majority of her scenes with Lyndsy Fonseca, who plays Alex, Nikita’s ex-protégé. “Lyndsy and I always have a great time. Amanda is invested in Alex and is constantly grooming her,” she says.
“Amanda is motivated by the obvious reasons, but she’s also motivated by, even if it’s twisted, a true affection for Alex - something that she lost with Nikita. But [Lyndsy and I] always play that kind of mother-daughter dynamic.”
Clarke enjoys playing multi-layered characters like Amanda, whose motivations and true emotional connections aren’t always revealed right away.
“Even though she’s supposed to be this imposing character, she’s definitely very patient with characters like Alex. I think it’s because everything you see in Nikita is a chess game, so you see one move, and there’s another move off-screen. It’s all about what you don’t see. Amanda is a woman of secrets, an enigma, and a puzzle, and a mystery! So, everything you see, the opposite might be true.”
Clarke also hinted at some interesting things that will be occurring between Amanda and Percy, so we can only wonder if there is romance in their future or if she’s hinting at yet another switch of power and control.
”There’s going to be a big surprise – a big reveal – of something about Amanda that I don’t think anybody would have thought has been going on. Everything that goes on is planned to be advantageous for her, even though it may look like she just had a loss. It’s going to get really interesting and exciting, and the future of Division is definitely up in the air.”
Nikita returns Friday, Jan. 6, at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.