Olivia Swann is the first to acknowledge that NCIS: Sydney‘s Special Agent Michelle Mackey has been a bit “blunt” thus far — though the English actress’ preferred adjectives are “fiery,” “maverick” and direct.”
That early read on the merged NCIS/AFP teams’ leader may be about to change, however. Because the first international NCIS offshoot’s fourth episode, airing tonight at 8/7c on CBS, will shed some light on why Mackey is the way she is.
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Thus far, as referenced in the premiere, we know that Mackey was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot who at some point faced a court martial for an unknown incident, but was found not guilty. (It was during that court martial process that she first met NCIS Special Agent DeShawn Jackson, back when he was a JAG.)
This week’s episode, titled “Ghosted,” will fill in some blanks on the aforementioned incident, after a U.S. petty officer’s body is found dead in Sydney’s historic and haunted Rocks area.
TVLine spoke with Swann about the imminent reveal, her commute to Australia, and what those time-traveling (and, sigh, cancelled) Legends of Tomorrow must be up to these days….
TVLINE | Mackey thus far has been taciturn, brusque…. What words are you comfortable with to describe her?
I mean, I’d say fiery, if anything. She’s very strong, fierce, a maverick, very tough, blunt, direct.
TVLINE | But this Tuesday’s episode sheds some light on why that is?
It sure does. This episode is definitely a turning point in the Mackey that we already know. It definitely adds another level and a layer to who she is.
TVLINE | Did you know the details of this dark part of her past going in? Was that part of what drew you to the role?
I actually know quite a fair bit about her. And this was part of it. When I auditioned, usually you get a bit of a breakdown of the character, but with Mackey it was about 2-1/2 pages. So already I was like, “Well, this is fantastic! There’s so much to work with already.” And then once I got the role, I sat down with [showrunner] Morgan [O’Neil] and instantly was like, “Tell me even more, I want to know everything about this woman.”
TVLINE | Oh, it sounds like you know way more than is even revealed tonight. There are other shoes to drop…?
Ohhh, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface, which is I know a horrible tease, but also it’s fantastic because there is so much about her that we still don’t know.
TVLINE | Between last week’s episode — where she told Blue, “Take a breath” — and the reveals of week, do you think Mackey is becoming a warmer colleague to the rest of the team? Or at least someone that the viewers will to start to warm up to and better understand?
I think so and I hope so. I know that she was the kind of character that when you first meet her, you can be quite taken aback by her directness and her bluntness, which I love — but I do understand how she can come across. But definitely, we are starting to see a Mackey who is warming up slightly and actually genuinely developing a genuine like for her fellow teammates, whether she’d admit that outright or not.
TVLINE | This week’s episode kicks off in the Rocks section of Sydney, which is apparently haunted in real life. What sort of “ghost stories” did you hear?
I actually didn’t hear any ghost stories, which I’m glad about, because I scare easily. [Laughs] So, if someone had told me them before going, I would not have gone. I didn’t even know that it was really haunted while we were filming — so again, thrilled that I didn’t know that.
TVLINE | What has been the most interesting area of Sydney for you to visit so far?
Oh, interesting…. At the beginning of Episode 2, where they find the body in the water [Cowan Creek in New South Wales], that was really awesome. But a lot of the crew told Sean [Sagar] and I that there were these things called “croc holes” where crocodiles live and will come out and attack you, so we spent a big portion of that shoot being terrified… before learning that they don’t exist.
TVLINE | Had you ever been to Australia before? Was this commute a consideration that you needed a moment with before you said yes?
Absolutely not. I was like, “Can I go tomorrow?” I’ve never been to Sydney before, so when someone is like, “Hey, go to Sydney for five months and shoot a really cool series,” hell yeah I’m going. I never feel like attached to any one place, so I don’t really get homesick. I will happily uproot and go anywhere for work, and feel as home there as I do here in London.
TVLINE | Colonel Rankin (played by Hunters‘ Lewis Fitz-Gerald) has been a fun, slithery adversary. Is he going to show up every now and again like a bad penny?
He sure does. He doesn’t seem to want to go away. But he’s just fantastic, isn’t he? He’s that kind of shadow man in the background who’s just always lurking and always just seems to be there…. I think he’s just such a wonderful kind of character. It’s like, will they need him at some point? Would he help them or not? Who knows!
TVLINE | Lastly: Are the Legends still in the time prison, you think…?
Oh yeah. Come on, get us out! Astra’s probably there ruling somehow, she’s definitely got a team of minions doing her bidding. But does that mean Sara’s had a baby in prison…?
TVLINE | Oh, right. That’s sad. But a fun story to tell the kid when it grows up.
You know, it is. [Laughs] We always had this envision of doing a cellblock tango number [if there was a Season 8], that’s what we pitched to everyone.
TVLINE | Were you sad that fans never got true resolution to the show?
Yeah. I mean, we were all really sad because I think it would have been so fun just to at least go out on our own terms. But having said that, I mean, I might not be here promoting NCIS: Sydney if it had — so everything happens for a reason.
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