Ella Rae Peck knows a thing or two about portraying the lives of New York's scandalous elite. Peck joined the CW's Gossip Girl in its fifth season as Serena's (real) cousin Lola Rhodes. Now she's returned to the city of scandalous Upper East Siders as the youngest daughter of the dysfunctional Bowers family at the heart of NBC's Deception.
So far this season, Mia's discovered that her murdered sister Vivian was really her biological mother. If that's not bad enough, her decades-older biological father is looking to connect with Mia primarily to harvest her bone marrow for a transplant. Mia certainly hasn't had an easy time of it so far, and as Deception nears its March 18th season finale, it seems likely things are only going to get more complicated.
I talked to Peck about what's coming up on Deception, her favorite scene this season, and returning to Gossip Girl for the series finale.
So what's coming up next for Mia as Deception nears the season finale?
Oh God, a lot of stuff! She's busy searching for answers and searching for someone she can trust. She's trying to figure out whether or not Vivian and Haverstock (John Larroquette) really did love each other. Is he just this kind of creepy pervert or is he sort of an okay guy? She wants to know if they loved each other and whether it's worth giving him her bone marrow.
Mia's discovered a few big revelations this season, so what's her family relationship like moving forward into the final few episodes?
You know, actually, Mia becomes pretty devoted to her family. They're all crazy and she's mad at every single one of them. But I think she'll defend them until the end. They annoy her when she's with them, but I think when it comes down to it she'd do anything for them. They're her family and she loves them and trusts them. In the final episode, Mia's trying really hard to kind of get her family back together. It's actually sort of good going forward.
I find her relationship with her mother really fascinating too. What are the challenges playing that dynamic, especially after she found out Sophia isn't really her biological mother?
She goes back and forth so much between being really deeply hurt and angry and frustrated and confused, and also feeling like "I love this person. This is my mother. This is the person who's raised me, who's nurtured me, who's given me everything." She can't stop loving her, she can't stop needing her, and she's only 16. So it's sort of a constant battle.
Sophia (Katherine LaNasa) tries so hard to win her back and I think Mia is perceptive to that. Mia doesn't have anybody. Vivian's her real mother but Vivian isn't around. And Haverstock is her father, but he's kind of a creep and she doesn't know what's going on with him. And now she's estranged from Kyle (David A. Gregory). So in spite of herself she sort of loves her mom and kind of forgives her.
I remember really liking the moment in episode seven when Mia throws a party and her mom makes her clean up afterwards. She's mad because she just found out they'd been lying to her this whole time, so you would think she would just go up to her room and forget about it. But instead she sort of defers back to that mother-daughter relationship because it's all she knows.
Exactly. That was my favorite scene in the whole series. It was so simple and sweet. Tate Donovan [who plays oldest brother Edward Bowers] directed that episode and he was pretty hands-off about it. He kind of just let us do our thing and then came in with little adjustments here and there. And the writing was so good. I love working with Katherine [LaNasa], she's wonderful. I just loved it.
I thought it was really unexpected and really sweet and so manipulative on Mia's part; it was such a teenager moment. Because she's so busy trying to be a grown-up and trying to rebel throughout the whole episode and then to see what it's all about, to see that she's thrown this party, she's done all this stuff because she needs her parents to notice. She needs an explanation from her parents; she needs them to see she's hurting and what she's going through. To have that moment just made the episode for me, I thought it was so good.
I loved that moment too. Especially because she's kind of trying to use this big thing, this big secret that they kept from her to get out of cleaning. It's such a small, teenage kind of moment.
Right, exactly! The emotion is so real, but then Mia's so smart and kind of obnoxious and manipulative that she tries to spin it to get out of the cleaning.
What makes Mia an interesting character to play? What do you like about her?
Oh my gosh, so much. Well first of all she's smart and that's really fun, it's great to play a smart character. She's pretty no-nonsense. She's got this inexplicable moral compass. She's surrounded by these terrible influences and these people doing unforgivable things and it's all she knows, but for some reason she has a really strong sense of what's right and wrong. And she'll call people out when she thinks they're doing things she doesn't like and that she doesn't think are right. And that's nice.
She's funny and just full of conflict and contradictions. She's tough and at the same time really vulnerable. She pushes people away because she doesn't want them to think that she needs them and then at the same time she's crying out for people to come and love her. I don't know, it's such a rich, incredible character.
The big mystery of the show is who killed Vivian. Do you know? Does the cast know?
We do. We just found out. We had no idea until we read the very last episode. So that's when you find out.
Before you found out did you have your own personal guesses? If so how close were you?
I had my own guesses but I really wasn't sure. I didn't speculate a whole lot because Mia's part of the story is so separate from everyone else's story. Like Mia doesn't know anything about -- I guess she knows a little since Edward's press conference -- but she doesn't know a whole lot about Lyritrol and what's going on with that. She's not invested in the company.
And she doesn't know about Sophia and her sordid love affair with this incarcerated hillbilly. She doesn't know about Joanna. There's so much that she doesn't know, so for me I just want to focus on what's in front of me. I tried not to speculate because I didn't want that to influence the way I treated anybody and what I thought of them.
The thing that I really thought they were going to do actually, is I thought they were going to make it Joanna. One of our production assistants came up with this big theory that it was Joanna and how they had to start doing these flashbacks of her going a little bit crazy. Maybe she was some sort of sociopath. And maybe she starts twitching a little bit or telling weird lies or starts eating cereal out of a shoe [laughs]. You know just these things to indicate that she's gone a little bit crazy. And then have it be Joanna. That's not exactly how it went down, spoiler alert!
Speaking of Upper East Siders who are crazy, obviously you spent some time on Gossip Girl. What was the experience like working on that show?
Oh it was so fun! It was kind of surreal, that show had such a following. I kind of didn't know how much of a following it had. The first day on location there were rows of girls and paparazzi screaming in different languages and reaching out to touch Chace Crawford and taking pictures. Everyone had to have a bodyguard. It was just this huge operation and I had no idea. So that was wild. And to just kind of be thrown into it, I was sort of unprepared but it ended up being really fun.
And the clothes! I got a huge lesson in fashion every time I went to a fitting. I didn't know anything before I went. I came out of that experience knowing so much more and having a much greater appreciation for fashion.
It was different from Deception. Gossip Girl was a well-oiled machine. On Deception it's kind of this living, breathing thing we're still figuring out. So every day you have to be so present and so engaged and constantly trying to figure out what the show is and what your relationships are. There's so much that has yet to be explored. So it's just a much more involved process for me being on Deception than it was being on Gossip Girl. But it was super fun being on Gossip Girl, I had a great time.
Did you watch the series finale? Your character got a little shout-out in the finale!
Yea I did! That was funny. Because I hadn't been watching season six, but someone told me when I went to go do that, "Oh, yeah. Lola's away shooting a movie in Budapest."
Yea, they would mention Lola was off doing a show on NBC.
Oh yea that's right. Wasn't that nice? When I found out they were doing that I thought it was so nice of them to give my show a little plug. It was so sweet.
That show was very self-aware with their references.
That was one of the greatest things about that show, is that it was so interactive. It completely interacted with what was going on in the world. It was really great.
Since you watched the finale, what did you think of the identity of Gossip Girl?
I had no idea! I was shocked, but I thought it was great. I thought it was great that it was one of the core cast members. Totally shocking and so not a cop-out. I thought they were going to make it someone sort of peripheral so they could explain it a little more easily. But they didn't and I thought that was great.
What else should we be looking forward to on Deception?
Oh my gosh there's a lot of stuff. I will say in this, Mia goes a little crazy.
Crazier than stealing wine bottles?
Yes, crazier than stealing wine bottles. She goes a little crazy, so that's exciting. It gets more violent, more dangerous, more deadly. The stakes just get higher and higher. I think everything is a little more tense as the season comes to a close.
Deception airs Mondays at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.