Stana Katic Embraces the Anti-Hero in Her New Absentia Role

Stana Katic is returning to TV in a way that fans have never seen her before.

After eight years on the ABC procedural Castle, Katic makes her television return on Amazon with the psychological thriller Absentia. Her new character Emily Byrne is also in law enforcement, this time the FBI, but she’s a lot darker than we’ve seen Katic play before. The series begins when Emily is found beaten and bruised but alive after six years of her family presuming she was dead.

Her return to normal life comes with bumps and bruises as Emily realizes her husband and young son have moved on without her. The only chance she has at reclaiming a normal life is to piece through her hazy memories of her abduction to figure out who captured her and why, but the journey will bring up questions of her own morality and what role she really played in the crimes that led to her kidnapping.

TV Guide talked to Katic about what attracted her to the new role, how it’s different from Castle and if we can already expect a second season.

What about this script made you want to do this as your next project?
Stana Katic: The main draw for me in this character and this show was the idea of playing an anti-hero. The idea of playing a character like Cillian Murphy‘s character in Peaky Blinders or Tom Hardy‘s character in Taboo — they are these characters that the audience is rooting for throughout the season but we ride a really thin line because our own morality is in question the whole time. These characters are not the classic hero. These are more modern day stories. This would be really great to play as an actor. Also, at the time, I was reading about survivors of WWII and the Holocaust and I was inspired by their stories of survival, about all the complexities of a person who has come out of that horrific experience. I thought that would also be an interesting quality to explore in a character like Emily.

How important was it to you to pick something radically different from Castle?
Katic: The choice wasn’t made in contrast to, the choice was more focused on what interesting stories are out there to make. Who are the filmmakers to make them with? This story is being produced primarily and created by Sony and they did it in a way where we are basically telling a more independent styled feature on television. I thought that would be a really interesting exploration as a character and as a fellow storyteller. It’s a serialized piece. There’s just the standard differences between telling a serialized story versus telling a procedural. I was excited about exploring the arc of a character, the arc of a story in that way. Then I got to participate as a producer, so that was an exciting opportunity and I really, really enjoyed it. That was something Sony offered up when we were looking at taking the part.

Beckett on Castle had a very sturdy moral compass that rarely ever was tested while Emily is much more ambiguous. What were the challenges and the fun parts of playing someone like that?
Katic: I love it. That’s classic anti-hero!…I loved playing Kate Beckett, but as you said, her morality was never in question. She was always standing on the right side of the law. This character I think is a little bit more true to form. This is what human beings are many times. Yes, we make mistakes and we do try to do the right things in some cases. Often times, we behave from amoral positions. That’s modern storytelling. We are looking at people that we root for, but while we root for them, we as an audience are being called into question. There are moments when we as an audience look at characters like the classic anti-hero — I feel like it’s not even classic anymore. It’s just a new type of storytelling — where we’re upset with them. We’re horrified by some of their actions. Our own kind of advocating for these characters is called into question. I feel like this is an exciting time, especially as a female, to tell that sort of story.

We’re taking our time getting to know Emily and figuring out what happened to her in this series. How long is it going to take to see what she’s fully capable of?
Katic: That’s part of the mystery of the first season. The question is: who is she, really? This is a character who was gone for six years and has come back but the world has completely gone on. She has no place in this new world. There’s a lot of secrets that have been neatly tucked away that are going to get unearthed through her resurrection. On top of that, she has little recollection of what happened during those six years. We do understand that there is a serious amount of torture, but we don’t understand to what extent. We’ll uncover that as an audience as the story moves forward throughout the 10 episodes. By the time we reach the end, we’ll have a certain amount of resolution to that but it’s the type of resolution that will leave a big fat question mark at the end of the first season.

Does that mean there’s room for a Season 2 of Absentia?
Katic: There is so much room to explore, yeah!…[Absentia] is a fun, gripping, thriller. It’s the story of a survivor and I think that people will be really excited to play in a world that is another sort of a Girl with a Dragon Tattoo-type story on television. I think it’ll be exciting for people.