Actress and producer Amanda Righetti began her career as a young model at the age of fourteen before transitioning into acting in 1995, scoring a few minor parts in the movies Love & Happiness (1995), Kiss & Tell (1997) and Angel Blade (2002). Then, in 2003, she was cast in her first breakout role: that of Hailey Nichol on Fox’s The O.C. After finishing up a multiple episode stint on that show, she landed the leading role of Tessa Lewis in North Shore (2004). Some of her other television credits include: Enemies (2006), Entourage (2006), Reunion (2005), K-Ville (2007), Chicago Fire (2014) and Chicago P.D. (2014).
In 2008, Righetti was cast as the lead in Michael Bay’s remake of the classic horror film Friday the 13th while also playing Grace Van Pelt in the CBS drama The Mentalist. When that show ended in 2015, Righetti took a role in the film Cats Dancing on Jupiter. Now, she’s starring as Madeline in Carlton Cuse’s and Ryan J. Condal’s new show Colony, a sci-fi drama about a dystopian society in which alien Occupiers have taken over the world. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Righetti about her new role in Colony, what it’s like to work with the cast and her love for Mr. Robot. Check it out below!
What appealed to you about “Colony”?
I really like that it’s a character-driven piece, and it really revolves around the family dynamic and the emotional struggle to survive under the Occupation. That was really that part that appealed to me.
What was your first impression of Madeline?
She is a really complicated character. Initially, I was kept in the dark about the script so I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into with her, but there’s something really unpredictable about her and she makes decisions that I think even shock her. The idea that it was something completely different from what I did on “The Mentalist” was really exciting for me.
In the pilot, we saw Katie finally get insulin for Madeline’s son. In the upcoming episodes, what other challenges will Madeline face?
The insulin challenge seems to be an ongoing issue for her because it is so scarce. The only way that she even has any–it’s not that she’s guaranteed it even in The Green Zone but there is more of an opportunity for her to get it in The Green Zone, so her challenge is finding her way into The Green Zone and into a position where she can get it. She has to find her way into a higher society and a better life for her and her child, especially since she’s sort of fallen from grace so to speak. Before The Arrival happened, her and her husband were well-off; they worked hard and they didn’t struggle, but after The Arrival, everything was taken from her and the rug was pulled out from under her feet, like with a lot of the people in The Arrival. So, for her, she’s having to build from the ground up again.
I think that’s something that I really like about the show, too, that each character’s backstory isn’t given to us all at once; it’s a slow process.
Yeah, I think–and, you know, I was talking to Tory Kittles about it, and I think he has a good point in that, in some ways, this show is like peeling an onion because there are so many layers to the characters and there’s so much that you don’t know about this world and the people who are in it. You just get thrown into it in the pilot and, as you go along, you start to figure out more in-depth and more details about where they come from and why they’re making the decisions that they are making. I think that gives it a lot of potential in the future because they really can open doors that they haven’t let themselves into yet. There are so many different directions that they can go with that.
What is it like working with Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies?
They’re awesome! This is an amazing cast. Playing Sarah’s sister and that Josh is my brother-in-law on the show, we really kind of walked into that. They’re all such welcoming and generous actors that playing family felt easy and it felt like, even though we didn’t really know each other, we kind of knew each other by six degrees of separation. (laughs). It just felt really easy to be family with them.
Do you think that Madeline is going to become involved with the Resistance too, like her sister?
(laughs) I don’t know! Carlton really plays things close to the chest. Every episode, I didn’t know what was happening until I got the script, so there were a lot of things that were shocking. I think, for Madeline, she doesn’t pick a side. She’s always kind of grey, I feel like in some ways, because her sense of survival is not based on taking a hard life; it’s about getting through it. So I don’t know. Maybe she will go for the Resistance at some point or even go for the Collaboration at some point, but I think right now, for her, it’s just about doing what she has to in order to survive and for her family to survive, and so she can secure a better life for them.
I look forward to seeing it, too. I’m really excited to see what they do with her story this season.
Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely an interesting arc.
So, I’m going to switch topics for a minute. You’ve guest-starred on a lot of different shows. Is there a show that you’d love to guest star on that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
That’s a loaded question (laughs). There are so many great shows out there. I’ve really kind of fallen in love with “Mr. Robot” much like everybody else. I think it would be amazing to do something on that. I really liked–there are a few shows on AMC but they aren’t coming back. Like, “The Returned” was really cool, one of Carlton’s shows, but I don’t think it’s coming back. “Game of Thrones”…the list goes on and on. There are so many amazing shows on TV right now, so that’s a tough one!
I loved you on “The O.C.” Because there have been so many revivals recently of shows from that era, if they were to a revival of “The O.C.” revival, would you want to be a part of it?
If it were all the same cast and Josh were on board, yeah! It might be wishful thinking, but you never know!
I also loved you in the remake of “Friday the 13th”. What was it like working with Jared Padalecki on that movie?
That was another cast that I really had such a great time with, and Jared was really great. He’s a total Texas boy, so he was showing us the ropes and all the good places to eat and hang out and go listen to music and all that fun stuff, so I had a great time working with him. We would spend the weekends doing tons of stuff like wakeboarding and it was just so much fun. It was a good group, and a lot of pranks happened on set for that movie, which I think really made the experience that much better, especially for a movie that’s so creepy.
Besides acting, what are you passionate about?
I love to cook. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. I like to play music; I play the cello and have dabbled in playing the violin. If I have the courage, I may try to take up guitar at some point because I’ve always wanted to. I like to box, and I used to—my body doesn’t really let me anymore—but I used to dance quite a bit. That was actually my first love. Now I just really enjoy watching it.
What kind of dance do you do?
Ballet. Ballet was my passion. I started when I was about four. My dream was to be a prima ballerina, but I hurt my hip when I was 17 and that was kind of the end of it. I was like “Well, I’ve got to figure out what to do with my life now.” So, then I would dance as a hobby and go take classes but then it just got to the point where the pain after doing it was too much. So, I don’t dance as much as I used to but I definitely enjoy going to the ballet. It’s still something that I love to watch.
As an actress, how do you hope to inspire people?
I think, as an actress, I hope to be able to touch people in a way that transcends time and space. Being able to entertain people and touch them on an emotional level and be a part of something that has escaped reality, and be able to entertain somebody for an hour or two hours with a story, there’s something really exciting to me about that. And, hopefully I can inspire good, on some level, especially in the light of the tragedy of life that we see on the news. I hope that my acting can alleviate that in some way for some people. The world is a heavy place and there’s a lot of heavy stuff happening in the world. Sometimes, I think about what I do and there’s something so silly about it. I think people just need escapism. They need a way that they can escape reality if even for a short time, so if I can help them in that way, I guess I’ve done my job.
A new episode of Colony airs on Thursday, January 28 at 10:00 pm EST on the USA network.