WARNING: Spoilers ahead for season 1 of Fox’s The Gifted. Read at your own risk!
Skyler Samuels is seeing triple.
Or rather, playing triple. As Fox’s The Gifted revealed at the end of its midseason finale, the actress’s mutant character Esme turned out to be one of three (three-in-one?) when the telepath freed her siblings. The triplets all share the same psychic power, and only become more powerful when together.
“I may have gone a little crazy [while filming], because I feel like I have three different people living inside of me,” Samuels says, laughing. “It’s a great challenge, but it’s really, really fun. I hope fans are happy!”
After all, as soon as Esme’s name was revealed back in episode 8, those familiar with the comics suspected the mutant was one of the Stepford Cuckoos, quintuplet clones of mutant Emma Frost who became students at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and later lost two sisters to separate tragedies. Here’s a look at them from Marvel’s X-Men: Phoenix — Warsong limited series comics:
The Gifted isn’t following the comics exactly — Esme is the name of one of the two sisters who perishes — but it is featuring the hive mind of the Cuckoo/Frost sisterhood.
EW spoke with Samuels about the reveal, as seen in the exclusive image below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, comic-book fans definitely saw this one coming.
SKYLER SAMUELS: I hope they’re happy! We spent a lot of time and effort on it. I’ve had my hair cut, and my wardrobe and everything is supposed to be a replica or homage to the comic books, so it’s a very true representation of the Stepford Cuckoos and the Frost sisters, which is pretty cool. The hive mind definitely carries on in the show, which is kind of insane to film. [Laughs]
In this episode, Esme goes rogue against the Mutant Underground’s orders and even kills members of Sentinel Services to get her way. What do you think of how she operates?
She’s got an edge, to put it kindly, and there’s no clear determination between right and wrong with what she’s doing. I think at first look, her going rogue on this mission definitely seems like she’s going her own way, but I think she realizes that if that hadn’t happened, the Strucker kids, Blink, and everyone who got trapped inside probably would have died. It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is in that moment, but Esme takes matters into her own hands, and while it’s a messy way of going about it, it does get everyone out of there.
And I don’t think it’s that Esme doesn’t feel remorse about the people she has to kill, but I think for her, she’s been separated from her family for so long and [has gone through] brutality herself, so I don’t think it’s as hard for her to make that choice to sacrifice lives.
How did you research this three-way part and how do you separate these three different, yet very similar characters?
I definitely spent a lot of time going through the comics and talking with my producers at Marvel, who are literally the most informed superhero nerds on the planet. [Laughs] They know everything. It’s really great having so many resources available [because we want] to find ways to make a character new and fresh and into something we haven’t exactly experienced before.
So the way I divide up the Cuckoos is I think of them as the id, the ego, and the superego. They are three different people but when they operate as a hive mind, they operate in three different points of temptation. One of the sisters is our id, this rebellious, feisty one, and then we have another sister who’s more rational, and Esme is the ego, balancing them both.
What’s it like playing all three parts, especially in later episodes when we’ll be seeing all of them together and apart?
It’s really fun. They use being identical triplets to their advantage, and they definitely interact, so they argue and discuss things with each other, which is always insane to film. [Laughs] We are always identically dressed, so it’s the personalities and how we talk and behave that differentiates us.
We do a mix of things when we’re filming, of split-screening and green-screening and face replacements, so I’ll jump back and forth, but I also work with two amazing girls who play the other sisters and read with me as we rotate. It’s not simple, but it’s super, super fun, and now we’re a few episodes in so we’ve gotten the hang of it.
What can you tease about what the sisters really want at this point? They seem to have a bigger plan in their hive mind.
I can’t say specifically, but it becomes apparent that there’s no such thing as coincidence when it comes to the Frost sisters, and every choice that’s been made is agenda-driven. They are working up towards an idea of their own, but they also do need the help of the Mutant Underground. They’ve definitely got something up their sleeves, all six of them. [Laughs]
Are they working for anybody, or associated with some villain we haven’t seen yet?
So, like the comics, the Frost sisters’ lineage does sort of inform what their agenda is when it comes to engaging with the Mutant Underground, but they’re not associated with Sentinel Services or Trask; they’re definitely mutants who are fighting for mutant rights. They just have a slightly different take on it than everybody else, so that becomes a point of contention moving forward, and of course Campbell is still out there, so we have to figure out what to do with him. I don’t know that I can say much more…
In that case, just one more question I have to ask: Will we see Emma Frost at some point on the show?
To be totally honest, that’s still up in the air. I feel like that may very well be something that happens further down the line — however, I will say that the Frost sisters and the Frost family runs tight, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t meet Mama Frost at some point down the road. I think that would be awesome. [Laughs] I absolutely adore the X-Men world, and I’m just having so much fun being in a world where we get to kick ass and do really cool things.
The Gifted returns in January on Fox.