Olivia Benford is a complex woman who’s deeply in love, but struggling with the recent events of the future flash she, and everyone else on the face of this planet, saw in the new ABC series FlashForward. Olivia is played by actress Sonya Walger, who has guest starred on LOST since 2006 as Penelope Widmore, another woman deeply in love and struggling to keep that love intact. TVOvermind had the privilege to speak to Sonya Walger yesterday about her role on the show, and what we can hope to see as the mysterious series progresses at a rapid pace.
On the series, Sonya’s character Olivia is in a loving marriage, but one that has been strained due to her FBI husband’s alcoholism. He’s clean now (for seven years) but the struggle that they’ve endured is evident from the opening moments of the pilot. However, it becomes very clear very fast that this is a woman who has fought to keep a marriage, and a love, strong and together. But when Olivia sees herself in bed with another man, who she’s affectionately calling “honey” and who seems very comfortable in her and her husband’s house, it throws her world into an upheaval. She’s been in denial that the flash forwards are actually going to happen, until an episode two weeks ago, called Black Swan, where she was finally forced to consider that these events are actually part of their future. Despite the fact that she obviously seemed to accept the notion that these flash forwards are actually future flashes of her patients lives, has she in fact accepted her own fate, or is she still struggling with it?
“Yes, I think she’s still very much struggling with it.” Walger told us during a phone interview. “I think its something she’s going to fight to the end.” Walger also elaborated, saying that her character is unwilling to consider that the flash forwards will really happen because of the implications it has, that her marriage has ended and she has moved on. How that can happen, so quickly, is not something that she can understand nor accept at this point. Like the rest of us, watching this show from our living rooms, Olivia Benford simply doesn’t have the full picture of events that lead up to that fateful day, April 29, 2010. However, Walger did give us a clue that episode 8, which is titled “Playing Cards with Coyote” and airs on 11/12/2009 will involve events that have a huge impact on Olivia and have her more fearful than ever that these events are actually going to happen.
Another curious question that the audience is still struggling with is just what the flash forwards are at this point. Are we seeing actual future events, and if so, can those events be changed? Or perhaps these are just possible future events or even events from an alternate or parallel universe and our characters can change what they saw happening. So should we consider the flash forwards themselves as gospel at this point, or will our point of view radically change in a way that gives us new perspective and insight on the same events that we’ve already seen? Not knowing the outcome of the show herself, Walger could only give her opinion on this and tell us that she feels that these flash forwards are a fluid and ever-changing glimpse. If what we saw turns out to actually be the real future, then we’re probably going to learn at some point that our perspectives are skewed, and even the characters themselves may have been jumping to conclusions about what their flash forwards really meant (or will mean).
In talking about the mysteries and secrets of FlashForward the obvious question arose, and we couldn’t help but be curious about the steps the show’s producers take to keep future plot elements a surprise, and also how it compares to her experience with the Lost crew, which we know work very hard, but sometimes struggle to keep major plot developments a secret.
“Well, I can’t really speak to the comparison because I was only ever a guest star on Lost, so I never received advance scripts or anything like that. However there are a lot of precautions taken on the set [of FlashForward] to ensure the story isn’t ruined by major plot developments being leaked. The scripts are watermarked and we have to turn them in every day when we’re done, so yes, there is a lot of security but I think its absolutely necessary to ensure the integrity and enjoyment of the show.”
In mentioning Lost it brought up another good thought. Sonya Walger, presumably, could return to Lost as a guest star when it begins early in 2010. So hypothetically she could appear on both shows during the same week. We asked Sonya if she’d consider that a surreal moment, or if it was nothing more than business as usual for her.
“It would be much more surreal for the fans than for me at this point. I’ve certainly been on multiple shows at the same time before, so there’s no real difference for me.”
Before ending our interview we asked Sonya Walger one last question about fan reactions. FlashForward has tried to embrace the rabid internet fans by creating an online forum, among other things, where fans can interact directly with the writers and show runners, and possibly even some of the actors on occasion. We asked Walger if she followed the fan reaction to the episodes at all.
“I don’t… no.” She went on to say that as an actress fan opinions of her work can influence her too greatly and impact her performance. “It is a character that you’re portraying, but you’re pouring part of yourself into that person, and it can impact your performance on set if your not careful. If I read a comment from some guy in Kansas who doesn’t like my character or performance on the show, I’m going to end up taking those negative thoughts with me to the set that day. And you can’t let one fan influence your performance like that.” Regardless of whether you like the character of Olivia Benford or not, you should certainly be able to understand the horror she faces. She only just learned that her husband was drinking in his flash forward, and also that he lied to her about it. This will no doubt continue to impact her and the decisions she makes going forward. And just wait until she learns that her daughter Charlie saw something related to D Gibbons in her flash forward. Those events, and other plot twists we can’t yet fathom will mold her future flash into something that does make sense, and along with the other flash forwards, we’ll finally have enough pieces of the puzzle to understand what it all means. So will Olivia Benford. We only have to wait until April 29, 2010.