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Wayward Pines: Melissa Leo talks brief return to town

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Sergei Bachlakov/Fox

Spoilers for the second season of Wayward Pines ahead. Read at your own risk! 

Nurse Pam returned to Wayward Pines — and just as quickly exited. Like actress Carla Gugino before her, season 1 star Melissa Leo couldn’t stick around for a full second season of Wayward Pines. Instead, she tells EW, she carved out enough time about two weeks ago to film a few scenes for her guest star appearance on the spooky thriller.

And so, in the second season’s third episode, Pam injects herself with smallpox — a move meant to bring down the entire town (and humanity) once and for all, because Wayward Pines has turned into the opposite of the haven David Pilcher (Toby Jones) wanted. Below, Leo talks her brief return, filming her scenes, and exiting the show:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this quick stop in Wayward Pines come about for you?

MELISSA LEO: We’d been talking about it for quite some time, to tell you the truth. I’m working on another network this year, so they own me, as it were, and so I was only allowed to do one. I literally finished shooting two weeks ago. It was an unusually short turnaround. But I’ve been very lucky, and as always with Wayward Pines, one never knows what one is signing up for.

What was it like coming back to set?

Once I settled in, I had a great time. Wayward Pines, I tell you, is a strange place, and the entry is always the hardest part. I was just going along for the ride. [Laughs

It was so much fun getting to go back and do [the role of Pam]. I’m serious. Wayward Pines has a couple of my good friends, Toby [Jones], Terrence [Howard], and I thought they were dead, and yet… [laughs]. There’s a whole past that I can come back and still tell!

Did you have any other ideas for how Nurse Pam would exit?

I hadn’t considered what it would be at all. I was quite busy, but the job, especially in television, for the actor is, if you’re blessed with knowing who the character is, and after playing someone for a season, you know who they are, and you can navigate experiences that you may not have anticipated you would be in. That was the pleasure of coming back on. Wayward Pines has largely been, in my experience, a show left to the actors. I haven’t seen the episode. I still have to see what the hell we strung together a couple of weeks ago in Vancouver.

Sergei Bachlakov/Fox

When you were filming, how confused were you about what was going on?

I kept on trying to get filled in, like, “Does this help the story you’re telling this season? Was this how it was the first season? Oh, I see we have to do it that way, whatever you need.” It was fascinating.

Let’s talk about your final scene in the middle of the woods. What was it like filming such a bloodless death?

A death scene is a delicate scene. We were shooting in the delicate woods in Vancouver, and that area is so in need of funding that they fund this preserved forest by allowing filming to happen in it, so in the middle of the night, when I’m being killed, I was very grateful to the crew. They were astonishing and quick and did it very quickly.

What about a scene earlier, when Nurse Pam lays out the red dress she’ll wear and prepares to die? How did you feel about the writing of that scene?

To step back into a character that I had grown very attached to over several months, really, inventing her with the writers a few years ago, to go back and find my way into her was serious business for this overly serious actor [laughs]. The original costume designer and I had realized that Pam costumes herself, and the nurse’s costume, although she’s a nurse, is a costume. And so is her military garb, and so are the many guises she puts on to go and collect people. So I’m seeing this as her getting dressed for this Typhoid Mary role. 

On a broader note, was it a surprise to you to see the show return? You filmed season 1 years ago, and the show didn’t air for a while.

[Laughs.] Yeah, we did it a long time ago, almost three years ago. It was very strange reentering it, and I think it’s reinventing itself, which I think television does nowadays [with shows]. I’m interested in what the fans think, in what would make them feel connected to the Wayward Pines they had grown to love. I had a lot of fun thinking about the first season.

Wayward Pines airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.