Emmy Contender Joan Allen on Abduction Drama ‘The Family’: It’s a ‘Bigger Story’ Than ‘Room’

Acclaimed actress tells TheWrap Emmy Magazine how her ABC series differs from her Oscar-winning movie

joan allen abc the family

A version of this story first appeared in the print edition of TheWrap Magazine’s The Race Begins Emmy Issue.

Can an actress with an arty reputation a Tony Award, three Critics’ Choice awards, three noms each for Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmys, plus the starring role in a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The Heidi Chronicles” — fit in on an emotional rollercoaster of a show created by “Scandal’s” Jenna Bans?

At first, Joan Allen thought it a bad idea to take the lead on Bans’ “The Family,” in which she plays the mother of an abducted child. “I got the script a month after I wrapped on “Room” [in which Brie Larson won an Oscar playing Allen’s abducted daughter],” she said. “I told my agent, ‘Didn’t I just play that scene with the newscasters in front of the house?’” 

But Allen soon realized her role as a mom who pours her grief into a career as a crusading mayor was an entirely different kind of drama. “‘Room’ is a microscopic study, and ‘The Family’ is more of a launchpad to tell a bigger story about a family,” she said.

“I liked that Jenna did a gender reversal: My character responds to the trauma in a way often associated with men — digging into your work — while my husband [Rupert Graves] becomes an author who gives talks about grief and loss, stays in the emotional moment of trauma, almost like a woman would respond.”

Allen was also reassured by “Scandal” star Jeff Perry, her old pal from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. “I met Jeff when I was 19, and he said that now broadcast TV is like being part of an ensemble,” said Allen.

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