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Special Interview - Jennifer Finnigan - A Whole New Style of BadAss - A Conversation About Salvation, Motherhood and Being a Cheerleader for Team Gracius

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star Jennifer Finnigan would be among the first to tell you that the stakes on the sophomore season of the CBS action thriller have never been higher. Last week, Finnigan graciously (pun intended) took time from her much-earned hiatus and birthday celebrations to speak with SpoilerTV about the show's red-hot second season, her love for her character of Grace Barrows, and how motherhood has made her a better person and actor. When asked what has surprised her this season she is quick to point to the writing staff for upping the intrigue and the suspense.

"They just keep raising the stakes. And every episode, every time I think that we've sort of hit the pinnacle, somehow, I get the next script and they've raised the stakes further. I can't say enough about how sharp they are. I'm just constantly amazed by how they are able to thread a storyline from beginning to end. I've always wondered if before they begin the season, do they plot the entire thing because I feel like they just have a master plan. And I've never been on a show that feels so cohesive in that way. So, I was constantly shocked, like the audience, every time I got a script. I could never predict what was coming next and I think that's a sign of fantastic writing."

She also feels the closeness of the cast is a big factor in that cohesiveness. Off the charts chemistry aside, this is a cast that enjoys each other and enjoys the show. They can often be seen on social media on show night, interacting with fans and each other, sharing fun behind the scenes moments, photos and videos. Since the show's debut, fans have been intrigued and drawn to Grace Barrows, the strong, capable woman at the center of the Salvation trinity of Grace, Darius, and Harris. She is the moral center of the show and in portraying this unique woman, Finnigan has become one of Grace's biggest fans and defenders. And she has quickly become a fan favorite. Initially, Finnigan wasn't drawn to being part of a show about an impending asteroid disaster, the premise didn't appeal to her. Then, she read the script.

"This woman just jumped off the page for me. I loved that she was intelligent, that she had strong values. That she was a good mother and a loving mother, that she wanted to create a better future for her daughter. You know she's not an earnest character. She's got a lot of flaws and I love that about her. I've never wanted to make her earnest. I've always wanted to be able to see that this woman isn't perfect but at the end of the day, she wants to do the right thing. She's strong, she's badass and I love her."

Finnigan's portrayal of Grace has certainly marked her as one of the true badass women of television. She will be remembered for wielding Grace's greatest weapons, her words, and her quick mind, in her own inimitable style. She has been one of the keys to the show's success, attracting a large female following for a science fiction, action thriller and has turned Grace into a role model. She takes that responsibility seriously.

"I'm so humbled and honored and proud to step into this woman's shoes every day. I've never been so enamored of a character before. I think I have the same reaction as the fans do. I'm gleeful that the fans feel the same way. I am extremely protective of the character and I've even had conversations with Liz Kruger (Salvation's co-creator and showrunner) begging her not to do certain things to compromise her character, you know my character. I have such a girl crush on her."

The actress has carried that protectiveness of her character onto social media, where she is very active. She's been known to go onto Twitter and other social media platforms and defend Grace and says she will continue to do so. She's also quick to point out how much she has enjoyed her character's growth over the two seasons the show has aired.

"I haven't modeled her after anyone because I haven't had to. Her qualities to me are very much on the page and it's just been a joy to portray her and it hasn't been difficult. I've always known her, and I've always known who she was and what she stands for."

Salvation has been a standout this season in showcasing its strong female characters such as Grace, Jillian (Jacqueline Byers), President Pauline McKenzie (Tovah Feldshuh), Alycia Vertu (Melia Kreiling) and Fiona (Taylor Cole.) Finnigan, a proud feminist is quick to give credit for that to show co-creator Kruger.

"You know, that it's so refreshing to me because I've been on a lot, a lot of shows. I've worked for 20 years now I've been in the business, and even though I've been fortunate in that, most of the time I portrayed strong women. It's rare that the shows that I work on are just, you know, abundant with strong female characters. I think that we owe a lot of that to our co-creator, Liz Kruger. To have a woman, a smart, strong woman as a showrunner, that's huge. I'm grateful for that every day. And, she's very invested in doing these female characters justice."

Grace's agility with words, always seeming to know exactly what to say is a characteristic Finnigan wishes she shared with her character. Although, in this interview, Finnigan spoke with as much eloquence as her character. Consequently, she wishes that Grace would share her ability to forgive herself, and perhaps her humor, citing the way Grace has carried the burden of killing Claire. She also likes to believe that character and actress share similar values.

Another bond that character and actress share is the bond of motherhood. Fans of the show know that Finnigan was pregnant during the filming of the show's first season and gave birth to daughter Ella Jack, last September. One of her favorite parts of the first season of Salvation was the mothering side of Grace and her relationship with her daughter, Zoe (Rachel Drance). She missed that side of her character this season and although she knew with current storylines it would be difficult to bring that part of the story back, Finnigan again went to Kruger telling her how much she missed seeing that side of Grace. She was thrilled to learn that beginning in the episode that airs tonight, that both Grace's daughter Zoe and her portrayer, Drance, will be returning. However, she revealed that Zoe has some shocking news that will change a lot of things for Grace.

When asked how giving birth to daughter Ella Jack had changed her, her outlook on the world and her approach to her character she was very open about admitting going back to work was very difficult. She initially hid it, but now admits she went through a serious bout of postpartum. All of sudden she was having anxiety and wasn't able to remember dialogue. She felt all of her priorities had shifted. A life that was once centered around her work was now centered around her daughter. She says she became a messier actor for no other reason than she was not herself.

"When I finally came out of that darkness, looking back I think it actually made me better as a person and as an actor. So, when I do scenes with my TV daughter now, it's a very visceral feeling, I don't have to draw from anything. I don't need to listen to music to put me into character. It's just there, it's emotional, it's visceral."

Finnigan says it is important for her to talk about her battle with postpartum now.

"I think it's something that we should all be more open about because it's important that people know they're not alone."

Becoming a mother greatly impacted her in last week's episode, The Manchurian Candidate, when guest star John Noble as Darius Tanz's dangerous uncle Nicholas Tanz, in a standout scene, threatens Grace's daughter.
"That's been one of my favorite scenes. I didn't predict that it would affect me as deeply as it did. I had chills doing that scene. I've portrayed moms before, but, this is the first year I've ever played a mom while actually being a mom in real life and for somebody to threaten my child, it's just the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I just, I felt that mama bear instinct."

She laughingly added that Noble was very convincing with his menace. The scene was her first with Noble, but she hopes there will be more to come. Should the show get another season she plans on begging for more scenes with him.

Another of Finnigan's favorite Salvation scenes is from Season One's From Russia, with Love. She says she will always choose Grace and Darius' dance as one of her very favorite of the series. Part of the reason for that is that she is very much a fan of the pairing of the two characters. And she's well aware of the fan investment of the Grace and Darius pairing and was as thrilled as they were when a certain Oval Office reunion aired recently in Abre Sus Ojos. She says that scene was fun to film. She loved that the characters didn't even interact the entire episode and then, cut to the oval office and they're together.

"I definitely felt the pressure when shooting it because we have a lot of people gunning for this couple and we wanted to do that justice. Make them happy and satisfied. So, yeah, it was really, really fun to see the reaction. I've never been part of a coupling that was so veraciously routed for. It's so fun and I root for them too. I'm Team Gracius, let it be known."

While she may be Team Gracius when it comes to Salvation, at home Finnigan is team family. So, it became a real family affair this year when her husband, actor Jonathan Silverman guest starred on the show. She explained that Kruger initially approached her saying they'd be remiss not to have the talented actor guest star on the show. The inside story she shared is that originally the character of White House Counsel Roland Cavanaugh was only supposed to appear in two episodes. She laughed as she recalled that in White House Down, and Cavanaugh abandons Grace at the hospital under siege, a scene was filmed where they discover the character has been shot and found lying in a pool of blood as they escape. Silverman so impressed Kruger with his work, the scene was cut, and Cavanaugh stayed around for four episodes to the delight of viewers and Finnigan.

"It was fun having him on set. It was tricky at times because you know, if we're both on set, then who's with the baby. So, there was a lot of nanny action there, but it was nice to have him participate. Not just because it was great to have him around as my husband and also as an actor. He's just so talented. So, we were lucky to have him."

Filming for season two of Salvation has wrapped and Finnigan can't wait for the episodes to air.

"Zoe's coming back, and her shocking news changes a lot of things for Grace and her priorities. And I would say nobody could predict where the show is heading. I certainly didn't and none of the cast did."

While on hiatus and waiting for news of a third season for Salvation, Finnigan plans to film a Christmas movie for Hallmark and then spend time with her baby. Although they have not heard a word about renewal, the cast is very hopeful for another season. They would all love it she says and are chomping at the bit to hear good news. Meanwhile, the remaining episodes of Season Two keep building to what is sure to be a heart-stopping conclusion. For a show that has been as on fire and building in fan support as Salvation has in Season Two, a third season should be a given. Loyal fans of the show deserve to see more of Darius and Grace and of course, learn if that asteroid does strike the earth. And this is the cast and writers for the job.

***Special thanks to Jennifer Finnigan, CBS and the Salvation writers for arranging this interview. Some photos courtesy of CBS.

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