By Jay Bobbin
Mention to Ashley Judd that her latest character seems right in her wheelhouse, and she won’t disagree.
After playing heroines-against-all-odds in such movies as Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy and High Crimes, the former Sisters regular is proud to say she’s doing her own stunts for her television return in the ABC action/drama series Missing, which premieres tonight at 8pm ET and airs Thursdays (the actress will be doing a live Twitter chat during tonight’s East Coast premiere from 8-9pm ET).
Judd stars as Becca Winstone, whose son (Nick Eversman) vanishes 10 years after he saw his CIA-agent father (played by Sean Bean) apparently killed. Becca also was an intelligence operative, and she calls those skills back into play as her search takes her across Europe.
“This was a really good fit for me,” Judd claims of filming Missing on location. “It was only 10 episodes, which allowed me to stay really involved with the balance of my life. It has the power of a network behind it, and the premise is simple and unforgettable. The producers made quite an impression on me, and as I look back on our season and the remarkable places where we filmed, what continues to stand out for me are the people … the quality of the relationships, and how much I enjoyed all my coworkers.”
Still, Judd wasn’t sure about doing Missing at first, though being overseas is something she’s used to; she and husband Dario Franchitti — the two-time Indianapolis 500-winning race driver — maintain a home in Scotland.
“As much as I like to travel, I also really like to be home,” she notes. “I started to feel a little concerned about the length of the commitment, and a friend of mine sighed, ‘Oh, my gosh. Europe in the summer. How bad can it be?’ And that took me out of my concern.”
As did actually going to the locations. “We started with two weeks in Croatia,” Judd reports, “which is a country of which I’d heard but had never visited. It delivered absolutely everything that the tourism brochures promise. I could walk from our hotel, which was carved into the side of a cliff, to the seaside villa. I thought the first pool I swam in was magnificent, until I swam in the next pool. Then we moved on to places like Rome and Prague and Paris and Istanbul. It was quite an adventure.”
That also applies to the overall plot of Missing, since in the course of seeking her son, Becca is reunited with people from her past, often not happily. “There’s something of the reluctant hero in a lot of my characters,” Judd reasons. “A common theme that I’ve played, and that audiences have enjoyed over the years, is that these women are pitched into extraordinary circumstances beyond their control. And yet, each of them is able to rise to the occasion and kind of act out a wish fulfillment.
“The writers would begin developing every episode by asking, ‘Where are we emotionally? What is happening in the hearts and souls of our characters?’ Becca is confronted with an old lover and old enemies she has to ingratiate herself with, in order to procure their help again, and all of it is really intense. I think her arc will be satisfying to audiences.”
With filming completed on ABC’s initial order for Missing, the daughter of country music’s Naomi Judd — and sister of singer Wynonna — is proceeding with her many other activities, including her philanthropy for such organizations as YouthAIDS and the International Center for Research on Women.
Now the owner of a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University, Judd also plans to return to school, possibly for a Ph.D. “I do enjoy a full life,” she confirms, “and I believe I can do it all. I can’t necessarily do it all at the same time, and that’s the thing [former] Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has taught me.”
Still, Judd already is working on ideas for Season 2 of Missing, should that call come: “Knowing that we can’t predict what ABC will decide, we’re already talking about storylines, because this is a very complex production. We’re talking about picking up in Southern Europe, then moving to Africa. I’m introducing the producers to some real-life heroes, to help us with stories that reflect the challenges and realities there.”
Photo credit: ABC/Bob D’Amico