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Rowan Blanchard on finding her long-lost mother in the apocalyptic second season of Snowpiercer

Rowan Blanchard Pic credit: David Bukach/TNT

Snowpiercer continues its endless journey around the world with the last remaining humans onboard when Season 2 premieres tonight on TNT, but it’s not all smooth sailing.

The first wrinkle is leftover from last season when the tailies led a revolt. So now, what was once a train with definite class distinctions underwent a class war and is now more of a free-for-all.

Second, at the end of Season 1, Mr. Wilford (Sean Bean) made a shocking appearance, hooking up a train called Big Alice to the caboose of Snowpiercer, and demanded his train back!

This was a shock for all, but especially for Melanie (Jennifer Connelly), who discovered that her daughter Alex (Rowan Blanchard), the daughter whose death she has been mourning for the past seven years, was alive and well on Big Alice.

“When she comes in on Season 2, there’s a lot of things going on,” Blanchard tells Monsters & Critics in this exclusive interview. “But one thing that’s brought up for her is how she has never had has a normal life, not that anybody on Snowpiercer has a normal life, but their lives have all been somewhat more normal than her life has been.”

Alex was supposed to have been aboard Snowpiercer when it left the train station on its neverending journey, but fate intervened and she didn’t make it. And now, we’ve come to learn that Wilford saved her, but employs her as a pawn.

“He uses her as he sees fit,” Blanchard says. “I don’t think she has much choice or autonomy over her decisions or her life until she gets exposed to Snowpiercer and gets to see all of the ways that she has been told just to follow and listen to Mr. Wilford. She’s been told never to question him. It was exciting to watch her change and learn and decipher different power dynamics.”

And, of course, she has to adjust to the new circumstances. Despite being under the thumb of Wilford, who has indoctrinated Alex against her mother, there still has to be a yearning inside of her to be loved by the woman who birthed her.

“It’s not really until she sees Melanie and meets Melanie again in person all these years later, and it’s like, “Wow!” Blanchard continues. “She pretends to be extremely hardened and jaded and less capable of feeling emotion. But, when she sees her mother, it brings up so much for her and that unfolds during the whole season.”

Blanchard also discusses what it’s like working with Jennifer Connelly and Sean Bean, the obsession with apocalyptic stories, what she would take with if she had to board Snowpiercer, and more.

Monsters & Critics: Alex seems to have inherited her mother’s smarts.

Rowan Blanchard: She’s very witty. She’s been pretty much treated as an adult her whole life. Even though she’s one of the youngest people on the train, she’s definitely been the most involved in the technological stuff with Big Alice

She doesn’t really have a family. She has not really spent any time with her mother. She’s pretty much raised herself. That’s, definitely, one of the first things I noticed about her. A really important part of her is that she’s always answered to Wilford in kind of a working way, but she definitely is like a mini adult of some kind.

She’s super witty and kind of hardened, kind of jaded, so peeling back the layers and figuring out the moments where she’s not jaded and the moments where she is softer has been a real challenge for me.

M&C: The majority of your scenes, at least the first three episodes, are with Jennifer and Sean. What is it like working with them?

Rowan Blanchard: It was amazing. Definitely, a part of what attracted me to the project was getting to work with Jennifer and Sean. Nearly all of my scenes in Season 2 were with them exclusively. So, I just felt really grateful for the opportunity, as an actress, to be around people who are legends and also people who are really hard workers. Just being around Jennifer taught me so much. I feel really, really grateful that I had the experience to work with her. I really didn’t take it for granted at all.

Rowan Blanchard, Jennifer Connelly Pic credit: David Bukach/TNT

M&C: The people aboard these two trains are the last humans left on Earth. And as the train travels around the world, what do you think is going through their minds? Do they worry about a breakdown, which would mean the end of life?

Rowan Blanchard: Well, I think that Alex is quite smart. So, she’s able to read everything that’s going on. I think that once she meets Melanie again, it definitely highlights for her the dissonances and the discrepancies between what Wilfred has told the people who live on big Alice and reality.

I’m just really interested in people’s reactions to seeing all these really crazy interpersonal dynamics happening. I think that there’s so much that unfolds within the first few episodes of Snowpiercer. Within the first few episodes, Alex’s character definitely becomes a chess piece in terms of how Melanie and Wilford navigate the world and the power that they want.

M&C: So many film and TV projects are set in the apocalypse these days. Do you think that there’s this obsession with the end of the world because people believe it’s coming, or do you think it’s because people are trying to prevent it?

Rowan Blanchard: I think it’s just such a fun genre because we constantly are feeling like the world is ending in real life. Especially in the past five or six years or so, a lot has felt super drastic with the rise of everything being online, and different ways of being able to communicate.

I think that the end of the world feels closer than people would like for it to, which makes it a fun genre to write and, and something really creative. This was my first time doing something that was sci-fi like that, and this was, honestly, such a fun ride. I’m really happy to be doing something that requires so much creativity.

M&C: The entire story takes place on a train, so the sets have to be narrower than normal, and then they move to give it the feeling of movement. What is that like to work with? Do you feel claustrophobic? Do you get a little nauseous?

Rowan Blanchard: The trains don’t really move that much. Sometimes, there’s prop people that push the trains around, but I will say, I’m a pretty claustrophobic person. So, there were some scenes, especially towards the end of the season, that were a little bit difficult for me to film, but good challenges.

M&C: Had you seen Season 1 or the film the series before you signed on? Were you a fan of the idea of Snowpiercer? 

Rowan Blanchard: I had seen the movie. I wasn’t too familiar with the graphic novels, which is what the show is more based on. But I was definitely familiar with the movie. I remember hearing about the project a while ago, when they were filming Season 1, and being like, “Oh, wow! That sounds like a really fun thing to be a part of.” I feel really grateful that I could join such a fun, crazy project.

M&C: Do you have a favorite moment?

Rowan Blanchard: Honestly, any scene with me and Jennifer has a lot of personal significance for me, because I feel like I was really challenged and I grew as an actress by being next to her. I really do think that when you’re around people who are talented and careful, your work only gets better. I feel really grateful for all of our scenes. Those are definitely my favorite parts of the show.

M&C: If the world was ending and you had to get on board, what would you want to take with you?

Rowan Blanchard: It’s a hard question because there’s so much food that’s not allowed on Big Alice. I was thinking about how I would need candy, or chocolate, or something sugar, but then I also would want a projector, a movie player, or something like that. I think that I would wish I could take a bag of things. I would stuff electronics in there and some books, because a lot of books weren’t allowed on Big Alice, and, maybe a recording device so I could spy on people.

Snowpiercer premieres its second season tonight at 9/8c on TNT. 

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