Dermot Mulroney on playing a 'complicated' villain in Hanna season 2: 'It's a mental puzzle'
Hanna has a new bad guy in season 2, and he's going to be much harder to take down than last season's villain. Dermot Mulroney joins the Amazon Prime Video thriller as John Carmichael, and the actor warns that his character is more complex and dangerous than he initially seems.
"Like any good spy yarn, you're only going to learn a little bit at a time, and only what the writer wants you to learn," Mulroney tells EW. "As soon as you meet John Carmichael, you learn he's responsible for the Utrax program from season 1. They were the ones developing these wolf-DNA-enhanced embryos into full-grown female assassins to be used to the devices of the CIA and that inner sanctum group that I'm a member of. [Showrunner] David Farr really handed me a great character."
As season 2 begins, Utrax enters a new phase that trains its young killers to blend into the world so they can be sent on actual missions. The stakes have never been higher for Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles), who vowed to destroy the shadowy government organization. And while Mulroney was excited to finally get to play a villain, Carmichael isn't exactly the kind of mustache-twirling evildoer you might expect to see in a spy drama.
"You have to [think of him as a villain] because of what you learn toward the end of the season," he says. "But as an actor, you don't really approach it that way. And in this case I think it's really clear that he believes deeply in what he's doing. He's no antagonist to Hanna, he has the best intentions with her. He needs to bring her in and take care of her. She's a revelation; he didn't know about her until she emerged from the forest in season 1. He has her best interests at heart because what's good for Hanna is good for his program."
Mulroney pauses, then smirks as he adds, "It's really that Marissa Wiegler [Mireille Enos] who gets all up in the situation, who wants Hanna to move to Canada, get her out of danger. Not going to happen."
Carmichael and Marissa have a complicated history when they reunite at the start of the season 2, and Mulroney enjoyed how they constantly keep one another — and viewers — guessing.
"What I like about the relationship between Marissa Wiegler and me, not all the corners are painted in," he says. "Some of it's left for the viewer to wonder about and not even ever know. I can think of a few other ways that plays out in season 2, where it's not that you're left unsatisfied, but you will be satisfied with not knowing certain things. One of those things is how did they work together? What would that be like if you reunite with someone that you trained and must have respected and so forth? All of that it's very complex, and you're reading it between the lines. The one thing you can be assured of is each time Carmichael is speaking to Marissa, and vice versa, he's not saying what he means, necessarily."
When it came to building that tense onscreen dynamic with Enos, Mulroney credits her with laying the perfect foundation in season 1. "I came to work and rested right on her square shoulders to follow her lead on how to approach these characters," he says. "She just did incredible work, restrained in power in her performance."
And restraint was something he had to learn, since his excitement over playing a villain resulted in him going a little too big at the beginning of filming. "I don't always get to play the bad guy, so I really want to be a good bad guy," Mulroney says with a laugh. "So [Farr] had to say, 'Just settle down. Look at the computer and don't do anything. We'll get around to you. Trust me. This develops.'"
Mulroney was impressed with "how complicated" the character and his motivations really are. "It's a slow reveal, so I didn't know all of what Carmichael was doing when we were shooting the initial episodes," he says. "It's a mental puzzle. There's no way of preparing for it."
Hanna season 2 is out now on Amazon Prime Video.