'The Gifted' - Skyler Samuels on the Big Revelations About the Frost Sisters
'The Gifted' star on what we learned about the past and what it could mean for the future.
Spoilers follow for the latest episode of “The Gifted,” “iMprint,” follow.
The latest episode of “The Gifted” offered a lot of insight into the Frost sisters, as flashbacks revealed their disturbing and tragic past, while Esme made a closer connection with Polaris in the present.
Marvel.com spoke with Skyler Samuels, who plays the triplets -- Esme, Sophie, and Phoebe; now revealed to be clones -- about this big episode, what it means for the future, and what it’s like playing multiple characters in the same scene together.
Marvel.com: I imagine it must have been pretty exciting for you when you learned “iMprint” was going to be this spotlight episode for the Frosts and their history?
Skyler Samuels: Oh, yeah. I actually found out about that episode on the way to San Diego Comic Con, so that was exciting, because I actually got to see [“The Gifted” Executive Producer/Showrunner] Matt Nix and talk to him a little about it there. I was excited when I learned that we were going to meet the other sisters, which people had been asking about. In the comics, there's a group of five sisters originally, so I was really pleased that we got to go back and see all five of them here. But also, I think that it explains why the girls are a bit deranged, because their upbringing was pretty rough from an early age. That flashback episode, for us in particular, raises a really interesting debate about nature versus nurture. It’s in their nature to read minds, but I think they were nurtured to manipulate. I think that's something that Esme has trouble with all season. There are moments when Esme has used her powers almost out of empathy or more for insight than manipulation. The girls don't always manipulate when they read people's minds. Sometimes they just peek behind the curtain and see what's going on. But more often than not, especially this season under Reeva's very strict agenda, they've had to be quite manipulative.
That's been taking a pretty serious ethical toll on Esme and so it was really important to get this look back at this weird lab/prison-type place that they were held, where they were basically forced to be manipulative and taught do that at such an early age. I know we can make some questionable choices, but at least you know why. It was a glimpse into our world and why we ended up the way we did. So it was a really fun episode to make and Saree Mcintosh, who played -- I call them the “Snowflakes” -- the girls, I thought she did such a wonderful job. I was very pleased to see it all come together.
Marvel.com: Did you get to interact with Saree much?
Skyler Samuels: I did! The day before she filmed, she came and chatted with me and Amber [Erwin] and Rebecca [Ray], who are the actresses who help play my sisters. She got to watch how we talk and our body language all together as the different girls and how we go back and forth. I think it was her first TV job ever and I was like, “Whoa, way to just open with a bang! You're going to play five people right off the bat!” She was totally game for the challenge and then when they filmed her stuff, I came to set that day and worked with the girls so everybody knew how to stand and to have the right posture for each of the sisters. It's a lot to keep track of for me as an adult playing three people and she’s playing five people! I was thinking good lord, she's got her plate full. So I was happy to be there and cheer her on. Michael Goi, who directed the episode, did a really great job in finding moments of symmetry between the little ones, the snowflakes, and the Frosts, as we cut back and forth in time.
Marvel.com: At the end of the episode, Esme makes a pretty big promise to Polaris to help her and Dawn, whether Polaris continues to join the Inner Circle fight or not. It seems like that could create some issues with Reeva. Is Esme prepared for that?
Skyler Samuels: You know what, I don't think she was at the moment she said it, but it's a rare moment we get to see her vulnerable. I don't believe, up until that episode, that we had ever seen Esme cry, or express any sort of serious deep sentiment or emotion. When she talks about her sisters in Season 1, they were sort of like a long lost sadness, but we really feel the weight that she carries in this past episode and that is really chipping away at her day in and day out. And we also see the pressure cooker that she's in from Reeva and that's been building all season. That was a big proclamation that she made to Polaris, and she means every word of it, but you can't be on both teams. So I think it’s definitely going to come to a crossroads for her, as far as is she going to stay true to her -- to dedicate herself to Lorna and the baby -- or is she going to stick with who she knows, which is Reeva, and follow through on Reeva's plan.
Marvel.com: This season, including in this past episode, we’ve seen some arguments between the Frosts. What’s it like for you to do those scenes, considering how technically challenging it all must be, on top of your performance?
Skyler Samuels: It is very hard to cut yourself off in an argument! And I have to remember who cuts off who when and looks at whom when each thing is said. There's definitely a lot of details. But my triplet choreography is pretty solid. [Laughs] I do think that technical ability is with me, thankfully, or I don't know how I would be doing this job. When we did the scene in last week's episode, I was really insistent upon seeing them fight and be mean to each other - not because they're plotting something crazy, but because they're sisters. They have this business mode when they're out kicking ass all together and they're this united front, and then there's this dynamic behind closed doors where they're just sisters. And sisters in real life, like all siblings, they get on each other's nerves and they bicker and they're not always super kind to each other. Imagine having two people do that to you, who are related to you, and can literally be in your head. It’s a reminder to the audience that these girls do have a private life even if we don't see a lot of it on screen. It's a glimpse and a reminder. Their dynamic is complicated and its own thing behind closed doors, which might explain tension that we see when they are out with Reeva and those closeted tensions now. I think that will inevitably affect how they run their business in the Inner Circle. It's hard to keep that hidden for so long.
Marvel.com: And we also saw their cool and creepy looking bed arrangement in that episode.
Skyler Samuels: Our little spokes! That's how it was described to me, like a bicycle wheel. And their walk in closet! Somebody tweeted the other night that it looks like the Frosts had their closet designed by Cher Horowitz. And I was like, yeah, another blonde who loves plaid! She's absolutely somebody we identify with. I don't know how “Clueless” crosses over into the X-Men world, however, I'm sure if there were a universe where Cher Horowitz and the Frost sisters both existed, they would be friends.
Marvel.com: I talked to Matt a few months ago about how when he first saw the Frosts in the comics, he was struck by how much they look like his daughter and that his daughter's name is Esme on top of that. I’m guessing it made an impression on you learning that?
Skyler Samuels: Yeah, because then I felt extra incentive to deliver. I was already nervous to be playing three people, because at the time that I got the job, I really didn't know that. And then I found out that piece of information and moved to Atlanta two days later. So I was kind of winging it at the beginning. I think it was my first night in Atlanta… Matt was in town and he took the cast to dinner, and I told him I was so excited to join the show, but, also, “I don't know anything what's going on here!” [Laughs] He mentions to me that he had an aunt named Esme, as well as a daughter named Esme and that we were resembled one another and that's why there's an Esme in our universe, even though in the comics Esme dies fairly early on. And I’m thinking, “Oh cool… Cool, cool. No pressure!” - as I was deeply sweating. But it’s been great and it's nice he has that connection to it, because I think, in a way, the Frosts will always be a little personal, in a good way. It’s a little piece of home. Also, I love the name Esme and I met his daughter and she's a badass. She's super cool. I felt like I have a lot to live up to and I want to make these three girls worth watching.
Marvel.com: You had to dive into this, but did you look at the comic books at all for inspiration?
Skyler Samuels: I did a ton of research on my way to Atlanta. I'm a very serious student, so as soon as I heard the triplet situation, I immediately had a binder full of information and I remember I spoke to our producer, Derek Hoffman, and I said, “Okay, Derek, so I have this binder full of background stories and origins and pictures of the characters and this and that and I just had like 100 questions for you.” He told me “Remember all of this... And now put it out of your head! Because our world is a new world as far as how it exists in the X-Men universe. There's obviously a lot that's true to the comics, but it's not a replica of any exact story you've seen before. Keep it in your back pocket. It's a good thing to reference, but also let's see what happens."
It’s been fun because there's little things that we've been able to find along the way. I believe that my interpretation of the girls is the first time the Frosts have ever been seen onscreen. There’s a very fear-striking aesthetic in the comics when we see them and that definitely comes through in Season 2 particularly with our low angles and miniskirts and these power shots of how we arrive and stand in scenes.
Marvel.com: As an X-Men fan, I know I had that excitement of realizing who your character really was in Season 1.
Skyler Samuels: They're sort of like cockroaches… Stomp on them and two more will come running out. My personal thought is, we are everywhere. I’ve been asked if we’re going to meet more and I don't know, but I don't see why not. I feel like there's more. They’re clones. I think it would be really interesting down the road to just have Esme walk down the street and see someone who looks exactly like her, but who's evolved totally differently. Like maybe a sister who grew up somewhere else under different circumstances. That would be something fun to explore. It's a big family tree and there’s a lot of room to play!
Catch a new episode of “The Gifted” Tuesday at 8:00pm ET/PT on FOX.
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