By BILL HARRIS
Special to The Lede
Describing a show that’s as intriguing and mesmerizing as THE ROOK is no easy task, but Olivia Munn is up to the challenge.
“I'd say it's a psychological thriller with supernatural undertones,” said Munn, whose new series debuts Sunday, June 30 at 8 p.m. ET on STARZ, which is available through Crave. “What I love is that it feels like the old-school British spy thrillers that I love so much. And when we say supernatural, it's not super power, which I think is really important.”
THE ROOK follows Myfanwy Thomas, played by Emma Greenwell, who wakes up in the rain beside London’s Millennium Bridge with no memory of who she is, and no way to explain the circle of latex-gloved dead bodies splayed around her. When Myfanwy discovers she is a high-ranking official in Britain’s last truly secret service for people with paranormal abilities, she must uncover who wiped her memory, and why she is still a target.
Munn plays Monica Reed, an agent in the American division of the spy agency, who shows up in London “uninvited” - Munn’s words, not ours - with both professional and personal reasons to try to figure out what has happened, and why. We caught up with Munn - whose vast resume includes everything from the movie X-Men: Apocalypse, to HBO’s THE NEWSROOM - to talk about the crooked world of THE ROOK, and what drew her into it.
Q: You pointed to the difference between supernatural and super powers - what does that nuance mean to you?
Olivia Munn: “This show, all the characters in it, or a lot of the characters, have an ability that is based on what we all have as human beings. Some biological changes happened that have increased their abilities. Like, my character has extreme strength, or someone can hear a whisper in a crowd of thousands, or see for miles. I always thought that was a really cool thing, like when you get into quantum physics, and the understanding that there are people who are able to elevate certain things about themselves.”
Q: This isn’t an action show, per se, but there is a lot of action in it. Emma Greenwell’s character in particular does an awful lot of running.
Olivia Munn: “Can I tell you, if there was a fire in this room right now, I would briskly walk out. I wouldn't even run. Whenever I hear that someone died in a marathon, I'm like, 'That's why I don't run.' I would never do a marathon. I would do the beginning, and then the medal at the end. I would do the social-media version.”
Q: As the only American character among the main cast in THE ROOK, what was the thought process in terms of how to portray her, making sure that she wasn’t merely an American stereotype?
Olivia Munn: “She's kind of the U.S. eyes looking into this very corrupt British agency. When I first come in, it's all one organization, we're all part of one family. However, it's not normal for me just to pop over into the British side. Obviously, there are stereotypes that exist for a reason, because they ring true to a certain extent. But for me personally, that's not the kind of America that I relate to, and I have a lot of pride in being an American. So I wanted to bring what rang true to me. She is a fish out of water, but I wanted her to be a fish out of water who had somehow learned to breathe on land.”
Q: For you personally, what was it like hanging out with the rest of the cast?
Olivia Munn: “I learned that the dichotomy of British people is so fascinating. Like, they have a really funny, witty, crass sense of humour, so you'd think that they would be really ballsy and have no problem saying whatever they feel. But then they go to a restaurant and it's really bad service, and they won't say anything. Like, 'I haven't gotten my food for two hours, don't say anything! I got the wrong change, don't say anything!' ”
Q: When you were researching your role in THE ROOK, did you talk to any real-life spies?
Olivia Munn: “I never got to talk to a spy … because they’re spies.”