‘Lucky Hank’: Mireille Enos’ Character Is ‘Willing to Rock the Boat’ in Marriage to Bob Odenkirk’s Burned-Out English Professor

The “Hanna” actress trades in violence for academic ennui in new AMC series

Mireille Enos as Lily in "Lucky Hank”
Mireille Enos as Lily in "Lucky Hank (Season 1, Episode 1). Photo Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/AMC

Mireille Enos has spent much of her acting career in the very serious, life-or-death-stakes worlds of assassins and murderers in TV series “Hanna” and “The Killing” and battled zombies in the 2013 epic action horror movie “World War Z.” So when the opportunity for something a bit lighter came her way, she jumped at it.

Enos stars opposite Bob Odenkirk in the AMC series “Lucky Hank,” which premieres Sunday, March 19 on AMC. He plays a disgruntled head of the English Department whose position is in danger after he bluntly tells a writing student he’s not the next Geoffrey Chaucer. She plays his wife, Lily, the principal of the local high school who has her own headaches to deal with and longs to return to New York City.

“I wanted to tell a really human story, something relatable and something with a little bit of uplift and hope and humor. You know, just have a laugh,” she told TheWrap. She explained how her character handles the cranky Hank and why the series would make her late mother, a French teacher with a Master’s degree, very proud.

TheWrap: How did this series come your way?

Mireille Enos: I’ve been looking for something a little more relatable and human and maybe even funny and that took some time to find. And then the script just showed up in my inbox. You know, AMC obviously is dear to my heart and is incredible. And Aaron Zelman, one of the writers, also wrote on “The Killing.” So there were a lot of points of connection. I read it right away, and fell in love with it instantly and said, “Yes, please.” It worked out beautifully because I was spending the summer on the East Coast because [my husband] Alan [Ruck] was shooting “Succession,” and Bob was going to be there doing publicity for the last season of “Better Call Saul.”So we were able to sit down together and have a lovely lunch and conversation. And then I jumped on board.

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with Bob Odenkirk?

Yeah, I mean, he’s so incredibly talented and his talent is so, so diverse. He comes from this amazing comedy background, and then in “Breaking Bad” and “Saul,” he took this really dramatic turn. His storytelling has such specificity and his work is so brave and smart. It is always wonderful to surround yourself with people you respect.

Hank is such a difficult, prickly guy. How would Lily describe him?

I think they’ve been together a very long time. They’ve been married for probably 25 years. As the old saying goes, opposites attract and I think there was a real meeting of minds when they met. I think he made her laugh like crazy and her natural optimism pulled him out of himself. That was nice for both of them, for him to feel lighter and for her to feel like she had the ability to do that for him. 

Now life has taken them down this unexpected path and he keeps getting less and less satisfied, and more and more blocked and not really believing in anything in his life, not rooting for anything. I think Hank is definitely on the verge of a crisis and Lily coattails on that and says, “Well, if the ship is sinking, maybe I want to change a few things while we’re at it.”

The cast has so many other funny people in it, Diedrich Bader and Oscar Nuñez from “The Office.”

It’s so fun. It’s a really amazingly talented, funny, wonderful group of people. And it’s interesting what it’s providing for these actors. I’ve been doing really serious work, and now I’m getting to do something lighter. A lot of these actors come from comedy and have been doing much more broad comedy. [“Lucky Hank”] allowed them to do something more grounded with more dramatic moments, which has been great. Everybody gets to meet in the middle. 

Without getting into spoilers too much, what’s been your favorite scene to film so far?

That’s so hard, but I will say that episode five is a very special episode. The whole episode takes place not exactly in real time, but pretty close. Everybody is at Hank’s house for an English Department dinner. So you have 12 major characters all in one house and for 15 of those pages of that script, we were all sitting around one dinner table. It felt like shooting a play those two days and getting to carve out space for everybody’s moments and pass that baton and just sit in scenes that were 10 to 15 minutes long. It was very special.

What can we expect for Lily through the rest of the season?

She is asking herself some big questions and is willing to rock the boat in their marriage, in the hopes that it will actually make their marriage stronger. This show really allows people to evolve and change and be brave. I’m looking forward to seeing, watching people make these brave choices

What is Lily and Hank have a kind of contentious relationship with her daughter Emily (played by Olivia Scott Welch of “Fear Street.”)

Olivia is awesome. She’s been doing scary movies, so this is also an opportunity for her to do some really grounded, wonderful work. Julie is a great combination of these two personalities. I actually think that Julie’s character is a little more like Hank, which means that they butt heads more. She’s a little rain cloud like he is, but she’s not an academic. Hank and I are both intellectuals. And our daughter is not. And it’s interesting, like being the parent of somebody who’s really different from you, and I think Lily’s approach is just to celebrate Julie, you know, just to think that she is awesome that she’s gonna find herself. And of course Hank’s approach is to bristle and be a little frustrated because that’s how he approaches everything in life.

What is Lily’s secret to dealing with Hank and his issues?

I think in general, Lily’s coping mechanism is hope and optimism, and gratitude, to just be like, “Look at our amazing life. It’s not what we expected, but we’re happy we love each other. We have a beautiful daughter. We have this lovely home. We have this sweet little town.” I think there’s some deflecting of her own disappointments and that is part of the journey of this season is seeing her say, “Okay, that’s fine, but I could actually have some hopes for myself that are outside of [her current] life.”

Is this the kind of female character you have wanted to see more on TV?

I think there are already some out there. Two shows that come to mind that I just think are brilliant are [the Sharon Horgan British series] “Catastrophe” and “This Way Up.” Both of them walk that line between heartbreak and funniness, absurdity and real life, and comedy and and people just stumbling along trying to do the best they can. And even Season 1 of “Ted Lasso,” I think there was a lot of trying to make the world a little brighter while your heart is breaking.

Have you been in the world of academia at all?

My mother was a high school French teacher in the International Baccalaureate program, and she had gotten her Master’s on the nature of intelligence. So this is definitely a world and language and conversation that I had around me as I was growing up. I think she would have loved this show.

“Lucky Hank” premieres Sunday, March 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, BBC AMERICA, IFC and SundanceTV and AMC+.