MeKenna Melvin is a genuine rising star who managed to quickly win over the hearts of the passionate fans of Chuck when she joined the cast of the NBC series for season four. Now that Chuck is back with season five (sadly, its’ final season) MeKenna will be gracing the small screen again as Alex Hugh, daughter to John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and girlfriend to Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez.)
She has also recently acted in and co-created the independent film “Amber Lake.” It’s a lot for this actress to digest, seeing as it wasn’t all that long ago that she was still waiting tables and dreaming of being able to do what she loved. Given her talent and the encouraging embrace that both fans and higher-up’s have for this skilled actress, you should expect to see plenty more from her in the future.
I was able to talk with Melvin about her present in an interview conducted on Thursday the 28th of October. Chuck spoilers were hard to come by, as she didn’t want to take anything away from the exciting premiere for tonight. However, we talked about the evolution of her character Alex, Alex’s relationship with Morgan, the interesting creative methods behind “Amber Lake”, her Halloween plans, and even her hair (which, if you hadn’t noticed, is fantastically shiny.)
The vibe I picked up from Melvin is that she is incredibly gracious and grateful (especially towards the Chuck fans – she can’t say enough nice things about them), sweet, intelligent (she’s not just a pretty face that shows up to read lines) and a strongly capable, humble actress that’s continuing to grow.
About the Chuck Experience
Jessica Rae (JR): Morgan has changed a lot for this season. Does Alex see the change in him, and what kind of reaction does she have to that?
MeKenna Melvin (MM): Well, I’m not going to give too much away. But I can say that Morgan has a lot of changes. (Laughs.) And there are a lot of Morgan moments in season 5 that are super funny, laugh out loud, amazing. It’s really fun, the journey that they all go on.
Will Alex be involved with Carmichael Industries in any way?
MM: I… have no comment. (Laughs.) I can’t give away too much of the juicy stuff!
Will Alex and Morgan celebrate any major relationship milestones this season?
MM: Their relationship does have a fun little journey that it goes on.
I know you have all of these martial arts skills. Will we see Alex doing any stunts, big or small before season 5 ends?
MM: I would always love that… But I’m not going to tell you. (Laughs)
Let’s move onto less spoilery things. Morgan hasn’t always had luck with ladies, what do you think has made Alex and Morgan so right for each other? What does she see in him that other’s haven’t?
MM: Morgan at the end of the day is a really sweet, wonderful guy who gets himself in a little bit of trouble with the ladies and everyone else in the show. But I think she sees who he really is, deep down. And that’s what she loves about him.
What kinds of other guys do you think Alex probably dated in the past? Bad boys, super smart ones? What do you think her relationships have been like?
I think she has probably dated not necessarily any “type.” I think she’s really down to earth and in-tune to people. So, with every one she dated she probably dated them for specific reasons about them and their character – not necessarily “the bad guy” or “the nerd.”
Can you talk about whether Alex will have scenes with Gertrude (Carrie Ann Moss)? I imagine that’ll affect the father/daughter dynamic.
MM: … Again, I can’t tell you. I will say that this season is so much fun. When I was reading the scripts I would laugh out loud, I was crying during one. I am really excited for this season. I think there are so many unexpected things that will happen. And I, and everyone else, hopes that the fans will love it.
Oh, definitely. I feel like it’s already a slam dunk. Can you talk about any blooper reel moments on set you’ve had recently?
MM: I feel like I’m constantly embarrassing myself, and I don’t know how often the camera is rolling to catch it. I personally have so much fun working. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. But I’m sure when I see blooper reels at the end of the season I’ll be like, “Oh God, oh God…”
As you know, Chuck fans love to get creative with fan music mixes, videos, artwork, even carving pumpkins – do you have a your favorite type of creative work to see from fans?
MM: Well, they made us, this year, and I just got mine a couple weeks ago, Chuck vs the Scrapbook. And it was…I can’t even express how overwhelming it was for me to read all of these beautiful letters that people have sent to me. My whole life I’ve wanted to be an actress and didn’t know how it was gonna happen.
I was a waitress two years ago trying to make it work…and to get this book of people who have embraced me on this show, doing what I love to do, what I’ve always dreamed of doing…it was really amazing moment that was so special. And I was so incredibly grateful. And I think that was one of the coolest, most beautiful things that they’ve done for me personally.
Were you ever nervous, going into the show, seeing how passionate the fanbase is?
MM: I was very concerned that they like the character. I came in very late into the Chuck game, and my characters kind of evolved I didn’t even know she was gonna have this journey that she had., I thought I was gonna have one episode and be done. And even now I think “I hope they like it.” Because we make the show for you guys. And if you didn’t watch, then we wouldn’t have a show. I feel so lucky to have been embraced in the way that I was. So I want to do justice for your show.
Well, I think that you do. They wanted you back! So, as a final Chuck question, is there anything you can tease? More chocolate?
MM: Ooooooh, the chocolate scene. (Laughs) Ah, I don’t want to give anything away. It’s gonna be awesome. It’s gonna be a really fun season. I think I can say that Alex comes back for the first time in the third episode. But I can’t give you specifics because it’s not going to be fun, then.
About Creating Amber Lake
Let’s talk a little about Amber Lake. I only just saw it, but it was really fantastic. And I’m not just saying that. One of the things I was curious about was how you all picked disorders… what drew you to Borderline Personality Disorder to work with for your character in the movie?
MM: We all decided we were all going to choose a disorder. So we all had our individual homework and did our research and decided which one was gonna be the right one to do. So, I was doing all my research, and I came across all these different disorders, but for whatever reasons… and I don’t want to say that I ‘saw myself’ in that, because by no means am I Borderline, but for whatever reason something about it resonated with me.
And the interesting thing is that we all chose different ones. Since we weren’t talking about it we could have all chosen Histrionic Complex or whatever. But we didn’t. We all three chose such very different ones. And I think for some weird reason there were parts of our own personality that somehow we could find a way in to understand what our characters were going through – maybe.
Do you think that if two of you had picked the same disorder you would have run with that?
MM: You know, we had a long discussion about that. How it worked was that we all picked it, and we went to Joe (Robert Cole), individually. And he said, if I remember correctly, that had any of us both chosen one of the same he kind of would have let us run with it. The movie very much grew organically. What each one of us brought to the table informed one more aspect of the movie. We knew where we wanted to go. But then once we chose our character disorders and created backstories and a life from the day they were born to where they are now we did different exercises. So we met Joe, privately, in character at Coffee Bean. It was very awkward to be Amber Hannold and show up and order coffee. And he was late, so I had to come in character and I was being somebody very different from me, and seeing the way the world responded to me.
And Natalie (Smyka), who plays Amber Allen, had probably one of the most interesting experiences because her character is a little bit attention seeking and sexual, I guess, and Natalie is like baseball cap, Converse and jeans kind of girl. So when she showed up at the Coffee Bean she said ‘I’ve never been looked at like that before.’ But it really helped us in terms of who we were. And then we brought it all together and did all these improvs and taped it all to see how it played out.
It sounds like a lot of improv was done in the creation of Amber Lake, what are your feelings on that activity?
MM: I personally love improv. And maybe not in the sense of a lot of people think like comedy improv, which I think is so much fun but I am terrified of that. But when I’m trying to find a character I like to do that. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I feel like you find the unexpected sometimes. For me it’s something I really enjoy, and it’s kind of rare because you don’t always get as much prep time, or access to your fellow actors who are working. It’s not always possible.
And what was it like to see a therapist, in character? Was it a real therapist, and did she knew you were acting?
MM: She was a real therapist, and she knew we were actors. We had to sign paperwork, obviously, that said she knew we were coming in as characters and she was giving us a real analysis on the character we were coming in as. Everything was covered. So we signed all those waivers.
But on the day we came in, I drove there in character, I showed up at the office in character, I sat in the session as character. The whole thing was videotaped. It was probably one of those most awesome experiences I’ve ever had as an actress. And also one of the most nerve wracking because I spent so much time going, ‘okay this is a trait, how do I bring this in?’ And if anyone can tell me if I’m portraying someone who is seemingly borderline it would be a psychologist. So I felt like if she said, ‘oh that was terrible’ it was gonna be all over. But she was so helpful for each one of us. I think we all (Polly Cole plays the third sister in the movie) had similar experiences. She really supported us in the direction we were going and even helped us further.
About MeKenna in General
You consider yourself first to be a dramatic actress, but you have such a natural comedic charm. Are you hoping for more dramatic or comedic roles in the future? And does your comedic talent surprise you?
MM: I just don’t think of myself as funny. When I go to work very day, I’m working with people like Josh Gomez – who cracks you up every second. I have a hard time keeping a straight face sometimes because I’m laughing so hard at what he’s giving me. And Zac (Levi), and Vik (Sahay.) Everyone on that show is so hilarious. It’s hard for me to think that I make sense in that same kind of world cause I just don’t see myself that way. But I guess maybe I should open myself up… I’m having so much fun and I love it.
It’s really challenging for me. I’m not always super comfortable with my choices. But it’s exciting because I think you can really grow as a person if you put yourself outside of your comfort zone. And everything happens for a reason. I would have never said ‘yes, I’m gonna work on my comedy like that’, but it happened, and it’s been the most amazing experience. And I’ve surprised myself, I guess. Which is wonderful.
I love drama, still. I love everything. I just… Going forward, I just want to do… I wanna work. So somebody hire me! (Laughs) I just wanna do really fun projects, whether they be comedy, drama, whatever. I’m just excited to do projects that are challenging.
(Editor’s note: I love that she was a little bit flustered at being praised for having comedic talent. Of course, I think she does drama very well, too, as shown in Amber Lake. And I also adore that she doesn’t BS and added in, bluntly, that she really just wants to work. I think it’s classy when interview subjects aren’t just placating you and saying what they’re supposed to say.)
You have a puggle named Pennylane. How is she and what’s she up to? Are you going to buy her Christmas presents? (Editor’s note: I couldn’t have timed it any more perfectly that this is the moment my own dog barked a few times. Dogs are smart!)
MM: Pennylane is amazing. She’s a little butterball of joy with her snaggle tooth sticking out. And she will have a lot of presents. Trust me. She’s actually staying with my Mom and Dad right now, but we see each other all the time. She gets spoiled by her Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, me. Everybody loves her. She’s just amazing.
Do you ever dress her up for Halloween?
MM: Oh, yea. You know puggles. They’re like, kinda fat and they have a smushed face and curly tail. They look like pigs, kind of. So I got her this little pig costume with a little nose. Hilarious. She hated it and hated me for putting it on her. I think I had it on her for a second, for a picture.
Your hair is so amazing but you say you’re pretty low maintenance. And I love your hair! What kind of shampoo or products are you using to make it look so healthy and shiny?
MM: Well I have to thank Pamela Melvin, my Mom, for my hair. It’s genetic, as annoying as it sounds. On my Mom’s side of the family I’m Greek. I have really thick Greek hair, and it grows really fast. My nails grow really fast. I guess a lot of people would love it, but I find annoying because I feel like every week I’m having to get it cut so it’s not down to the floor. And I use a million different things, but not one specific product.
And for Halloween, are you going to dress up as anything?
MM: You know I just got back from the Halloween store and it was such an anxiety filled experience because I didn’t know what to get. I still don’t have a costume. But I am going to dress up, because I love it. But I don’t know what to be. And I hate how … why does everything have to be ‘slutty’ this? Slutty clown, I mean, really? Are you kidding me?
Don’t be a slutty clown. That’s too weird!
MM: Right? The weirdest things, they’ll put ‘slutty’ in front of. I saw Slutty Teletubies. I will not be anything like that. We’ll see. I’m probably just going to make something out of my closet, last minute. I’ll tweet it, I’m sure.
So, there you have it. She’s a relatable gal who mocks those ridiculous slutty Halloween costumes, adores both her dog and family, and maintains a level head where others might have let theirs inflate. Look for her tweets (MeKenna Melvin on twitter) and stick around Small Screen Scoop because she expressed an interest in doing another interview with Small Screen Scoop after Chuck season 5 has aired, so the spoilers don’t hinder her from being able to talk more freely about the show.
I know that I won’t be alone in continuing to follow MeKenna Melvin’s future projects. I am so glad that she was brought into Chuck and that it’s given us a chance to be exposed to what she has to offer this industry. I’m a pretty picky person (as loyal readers know), but she gets my full stamp of approval. And wouldn’t you know it, my current stamp of approval is shaped like the Nerd Herd logo.
Don’t forget to tune into Chuck at 9 pm EST on NBC on Fridays, or to watch Amber Lake the movie. You can read my glowing review of the movie here, with details on where and how to watch it for yourself. It’s the perfect kind of thriller you want to watch in this Halloween season!
Current Related Chuck Links on this TV blog: