In the new Sundance Channel original series THE RED ROAD, a brewing conflict erupts when a young teenage Native American boy is killed and caught in the crosshairs are a policeman’s family and the tribe seeking justice. Adding to the volatile situation is another missing boy, a criminal drug enterprise, and two young teens in love. With suspicions running high, a possible cover up in the making, and everyone seeming to have a secret that they need to hide, it becomes impossible to stay out of the rising conflict.
In an exclusive interview, co-star Allie Gonino talked about her role as Rachel Jensen, the eldest daughter of the policeman struggling to keep his family out of the erupting danger around them.
So you’re on THE RED ROAD now. That’s quite a bit change from your role on THE LYING GAME. Can you talk about what drew you to such a dark show?
ALLIE: After reading the script, the first thing that I really liked about it was that it had a political and social commentary with the conflict between the Native American tribe and the neighboring community. I liked bringing light to that situation. So that got me excited. Then I just found all of it fascinating with Jean’s (Julianne Nicholson) storyline. Rachel and I have very experienced similar boyfriend issues with the parents. So that kind of drew me to the character.
We see right away that Rachel is pushing her boundaries. She is doing anything she can to kind of test her freedom and figure out who she is. What is driving her to do all that?
ALLIE: I think just a desire to be her own person and sort of get out from under the authority of her parents. She’s 17 years old and feels like she’s smart enough to be making her own decisions and her mom’s been basically an absentee parent for most of her life due to her mom’s alcoholism; and now that Jean is starting to put her foot down, Rachel is like, “Wait a minute. Where have you been for the past 17 years?” Like, “I’m the one who’s called the shots in my life.” So I think she’s finding herself through her relationships and there is a danger-element with Junior that she gravitates towards as well.
Given that Rachel’s mom has her own drinking issues, you would think Rachel would steer clear of alcohol. But she kind of wildly embraces it.
ALLIE: That’s true. You’d think she’d learn. But I think at that age, she’s just wanting to rebel. I think ultimately Rachel is a smart girl, which you’ll see if you keep watching. I didn’t really know how she was going to turn out when I first started playing her. I thought she would just go down a really bad path and just unravel and become similar to what her mom has become. But you’ll see. She makes some interesting choices — unexpected choices.
Also unexpected was Rachel’s relationship with her mom. Again, Rachel seems rebellious, but she seems close to her mom, which is interesting as well.
ALLIE: There’s no relationship like a mother-daughter relationship and Rachel does care about her mother. It’s not like she completely disregards the fact that her mom loves her and she loves her mom. So like I said, the choices Rachel makes further into the series reflects that. I think she’s just having a hard time balancing wanting to be her own person, but also being loyal to her mom. I think that’s true for anybody.
In upcoming episodes, Rachel finds the cassette tapes left by her uncle. What drives Rachel to be so obsessed with listening to all those tapes?
ALLIE: I think she’s just really trying to understand more about her mom and is kind of doing it in a secretive way, and it’s obviously more exciting because it’s like no one knows and it’s her own little discovery. She never knew her uncle either, so I think she wants to know more about her mom and her uncle’s relationship. I think that drives her to go snooping around seeking answers.
Do you think Rachel is searching for a way into this adult world because it seems very separate from life? It seems like she is pushing her way in any way she can to get into it.
ALLIE: It doesn’t really seem like Rachel is currently involved with school. There’s nothing really motivating her in terms of her passions or a career of any sort or anything like that. So it feels like her only choice is to get caught up in the drama of her home town. I think that happens to a lot of people when they don’t really know what they want and don’t know what they are good at. They sort of drift and get involved with the drama that is going on around them.
Surprisingly, Rachel’s one refuge seems to be — at least initially — her relationship with Junior (Kiowa Gordon). That’s actually a kind of beautiful relationship, but then she kind of has issues with him and that may unravel as well.
ALLIE: It is beautiful. Rachel had a boyfriend before Junior, but it wasn’t really the same kind of sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of infatuation, as it is with Junior. It breaks her heart when everything starts to go downhill with them. But I also think that Rachel is pretty strong. She’ll figure out a way to navigate through things.
What do you most admire about Rachel?
ALLIE: It’s funny because at the beginning of getting this role, I didn’t know where her character was going. I thought she was a much different character. I actually think she is pretty strong and that is probably my favorite thing about her. I like that she stands up for her mom, later in the show, and she stands up for herself and ultimately decides that family matters more than getting involved with shady guys. So I like that she’s strong.
It seems she has a distinct clarity of mind in some ways.
ALLIE: She sure does. With all the chaos, she at least knows what she is doing in the moment even if she doesn’t know who she is or what she ultimately wants out of life.
We have seen Rachel intertwined in the world of Philip Kopus (Jason Momoa) in that little drug world. Did you get to work with Jason Momoa or was that just peripheral to her life?
ALLIE: It was great. We had a few scenes together. He’s super professional and he’s a great actor. He’s really fun to have on set. He’s like a really big, giant presence and a lot of fun. I enjoyed working with him. I thought he was going to be really scary and intimating at first because of the character he played on GAME OF THRONES. You’d think he would be really serious all the time. But he’s actually very fun and outgoing.
Were you surprised by some of your other co-stars that you worked with as well?
ALLIE: Yeah, when I worked with Julianne [Nicholson], I hadn’t seen any of her work prior to this show and she’s just so professional and she has such control over what she’s doing and yet it doesn’t look she’s trying. So she’s just magnificent to work with and watch her work. She was having to do such huge emotional scenes during the entire time we were shooting and I was so impressed that she was able to execute it every time.
How would generally describe the journey for Rachel this season?
ALLIE: In the beginning, she’s sort of selfish, self-centered and then towards the end, she does change. She sort of realizes what matters in her life and what matters to her and she definitely grows over the course of the six episodes.
That must have been a lot for fun to play for you.
ALLIE: It was. I had a really great time working on this show. I hope we get to come back.
What would you say you took away from that experience?
ALLIE: Just trust that I belong there.
It is such a serious project.
ALLIE: It is a serious project, but the material is so great and the company that I am working with are so great. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, those actors are so great!” and it’s a separate thing. Then you’re like, “Oh wait, I’m here working on this too. Better not screw up!” That’s what it was like in the beginning, but now I have the confidence as I know more about Rachel and I have a lot of support around me, so I feel more confident. So it’s just trusting that I belong there.
Would you like to offer a teaser of what’s upcoming in the next five episodes so fans can anticipate a little of what will be going on?
ALLIE: There’s going to be lots of drama, lots of fights. Someone might get hurt, really, really badly. And that’s all I’m going to say! (Laughs)
So with that teaser of intense drama and action to look forward to, be sure to see what lies in store for Rachel and her family as THE RED ROAD continues on Thursday, March 6th at 9:00 p.m. on the Sundance Channel.