As Sheriff Machado on The CW's Legacies, Bianca Kajlich moved out of Mystic Falls, but she didn't fully leave the supernatural behind. The actor is now further steeped in things that go bump in the night on the same network's The Winchesters, playing Millie Winchester, mother of John (Drake Rodger).
She is a woman who thought she was getting her son back from war, only for him to leave town almost immediately again, chasing information about his father, who disappeared when he was just a child.
Unlike John and his female counterpart Mary (Meg Donnelly), Millie never appeared on The Winchesters' predecessor drama, Supernatural — she was barely even mentioned there — but she's still an integral part of the family tree of the boys who literally saved the world (a few times over).
"Initially, I really thought about it and I decided I wasn't going to watch Supernatural because she came so much before all of that and wasn't a part of it. Millie knew about Henry's involvement with the Men of Letters, but she didn't want to have any part of that world, so she really kept herself at arm's length from all of it, so I guess you could say it was a little method," Kajlich tells Metacritic.
But seeing the fans' passion for the world of the show changed her mind and she has started watching now.
"The funny thing is, I have an 8-year-old daughter and I said, 'Hey you want to watch Supernatural?' I had no idea! I knew Jensen [Ackles] was a part of it, and I had seen little things, but I did not know it was so scary. We got until Mary's up on the ceiling, and no, no, no! We turned it off, and literally that night she woke up at three in the morning screaming about the woman on the ceiling. I felt so bad — like the worst parent ever," she says.
Which is ironic for the theme of Episode 2 of The Winchesters, titled "Teach Your Children Well," because in it the creature (La Tunda) uses grievances adult children have with their parents against them.
Often in the Supernatural world, hunters' loved ones would be put in danger, even used as bait, by beings trying to get to the hunters. In "Teach Your Children Well," though, the La Tunda that John, Mary, and their friends are hunting transforms itself into Millie in order to put John in danger.
In our world, La Tunda is a shapeshifter who transforms into a version of a child's mother in order to lure that child into the forest, where it force feeds them and keeps them docile. The Winchesters tweaked that myth so that the creature could transform into various authority figures. One guy saw his father, while another saw a nun, but John saw Millie, which allowed Kajlich to already play a second character on The Winchesters in only the second episode.
It was "every actor's dream," Kajlich says of the episode. "You want to play as many characters as you possibly can. And that's what's so amazing about the Supernatural world: We, as actors, get to wear so many hats; you're not just playing one character."
Here, Kajlich talks to Metacritic about how much Millie knows about Henry and the Men of Letters, where she thinks Millie was during the Supernatural timeline, and how John and Millie's heart to heart at the end of Episode 2 affects their relationship going forward.
What were your biggest questions about Millie after reading and/or performing the pilot episode?
My biggest question was, "How much did she know?" Because the first couple of drafts of the pilot, it was clear that she had some knowledge, but I think there were a couple of versions where she talked about how she had some idea — that Henry gave her a little bit of knowledge — but essentially wouldn't tell her more, just to protect her.
But even if she knew some, how much do you think she really understood, and how does that affect how she remembers him?
When we're in this world, it seems very easy to kind of expect these crazy things that happen, but for somebody who's not in the world and whose husband was deeply involved in the world, my question really was, "What did she think?" Did she think her husband was crazy? She loved this person, she allowed him to dabble in his thing, but hey, some guys have cars, some guys have sports, is his [things] monsters? It was really important to establish for myself what she knew and what her feeling was about it. Essentially, I think where I arrived at was that Millie is such a deeply loyal person and I think has a very intrinsic sense of right and wrong. She didn't plan on having a child — she didn't ever think she was gonna become a mother and then she did — and I think that everything was basically for John. So, she held the marriage together the best she could and especially if you think about like the time that this takes place it, it was very uncommon for a woman to be a mechanic, but then even have her own garage. So, I think that she kind of dove into her own world to survive, and I think she loved Henry deeply, and — based on what I know now, based on where we're getting to in this season — I think there's a part of her that did believe that it was real.
In doing everything for John as he was growing up but now seeing him go down this similar path as Henry, how does her own knowledge of the supernatural begin to finally grow, and how does that affect her ability or desire to protect her son?
At least the first seven episodes that we're into now, she definitely has a has a a quick arrival to some eye-opening, basically mind being blind open to the things that she thought were important versus what really is important and finding out what's behind the curtain, so to speak.
I've approached it as a parent myself. The theme is, we want so much to protect our children, we want so much to be able to shield them from any hurt or trauma, and it's just not possible to do that. The biggest lesson in loving as a parent is how to let go. And I think that because of the trauma of losing her husband and not understanding what happened to him, initially, I think that in a way, there's a projection onto John of, "I lost Henry, I can't lose you too." In some ways, he became her focus because of the lack of partner. And she was always more of a masculine parent figure anyway. So, it's an interesting dynamic, and I think what we're arriving at is ultimately learning that we have to let our children make their own decisions for themselves and you have to love them or leave them: You can support and join in, or it's going to be a pretty rough ride.
Millie and John have a really important conversation at the end of the second episode where he admits he was projecting anger onto her for Henry being gone. Is that a turning point for them? Did they both internalize that and come out of it with a better relationship?
It's complicated because I think they both have a lot of things they're not dealing with. In a way I think they're both projecting their Henry trauma on each other, and I think they are more similar than they are different. John has so much brewing inside of him, and Millie just doesn't know how to reach it. She knows it's there, but she doesn't know how to access it, and it seems like the more she reaches out, the more he pushes her away. There's gonna be a lot of that push and pull, and this will be a theme for them for a while.
I will say I was surprised by how quickly they gave you the "now you get to play the monster" element of the show. How did you develop the physicality and voice of La Tunda pretending to be Millie?
It was very important for me to differentiate, and the mindf--- for me was that I was playing Millie and then playing a different character who's trying to be Millie, so it was, "What characteristics would this monster latch onto to display most prominently?" And I believed that La Tunda enjoys playing with her toys; I believed that she enjoys the tease of it. When Barry's dad is about to feed on him and he says, "Yeah struggle more, it'll make it sweeter," the chase is as much the enjoyment as the actual indulging in these kids. So, I wanted to make sure that I was having fun with that scene with John in the hotel because it is the predator playing with the prey — a cat batting around a mouse before it rips its head off. There is a juiciness about that. And at the same time, capturing enough of the essence of Millie so that it wouldn't throw John off right away.
How much of the stunt with Drake did you actually do yourself?
We did stop and start where I would go in and then the actor playing La Tunda would go in, but I played it up to the part where he snaps the leg and I fall. The stabbing in the heart was entirely La Tunda.
Oh fun! And speaking of, even when it's real Millie, not La Tunda Millie, in this episode, it does feel like there's a bit more fun being had with Millie's personality coming out. She's serious around John, but she makes a joke about the van looking like a trash road runner.
That's just Millie. When Robbie [Thompson, showrunner] and I were discussing the character, I had just moved to Texas last year and I said Millie reminds me of those crusty old cowboys you meet who couldn't give a lick about you, but then you get to know them and and they just have the softest, ooiest, gooiest hearts inside. That's Millie. I think what she's been through in life and the road that she's had to forge for herself made her have a pretty crusty shell, but when you open that rusted old treasure box, what you find inside is really the true prize. It's been a really fun dynamic to play, especially with Demetria [Kinney], who plays Ada. Millie puts people through the gauntlet to make sure they're worthy of her time.
Yeah, that meeting between Millie and Ada wasn't the friendliest, but it also wasn't completely, "Get off my lawn." Is the door open now for a relationship where they can help each other or work together going forward, or is Millie salty that Ada knew what Henry was up to?
I think the minute that Ada hands her the address of where John is, that Millie feels her as mother to mother, on her side. And I think that changes everything.
A lot of actors have to flesh out backstory for their characters when stepping into a new series, but with Millie there is a whole future story we don't know but we can't help but wonder about. Did you talk with Robbie about where Millie was in the Supernatural timeline?
We've discussed it in so much as joking about how, when, where we'll get killed off. Robbie goes, "I'll kill you many, many many times, but you'll still be here." But we haven't actually discussed that part of it, I think because we've been so focused on really honoring where we're coming from and we're still discovering [things] as we go along.
Since you didn't discuss it explicitly, did you come up with a reason in your head with why Sam and Dean didn't talk about her in Supernatural?
I haven't actually thought about that, but I guess what I will say is that it just makes me excited to figure out why because I'm sure that's a story in and of itself.
The Winchesters airs new episodes Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
Get to know Bianca Kajlich:
Kajlich has been a staple on television for the past two decades, starting with Boston Public, but also with roles on Dawson's Creek (Metascore: 62), Rules of Engagement (28), Undateable (49), Bosch (73), and, most recently,Legacies (59).