‘The Family’: Alison Pill on the Warren Family’s Latest Machinations

Alison Pill
John Clifford/ABC

If such a thing is possible, life is getting even more tense in Red Pines, Maine in Sunday’s episode of ABC’s The Family. It’s hard to top what’s already happening, though: Half the Warren family—father John (Rupert Graves) and older son Danny (Zach Gilford)—think that the boy living in their house is their son Adam (Liam James), who was thought to have been murdered and miraculously returned. Mother and gubernatorial candidate Claire (Joan Allen) and daughter Willa (Alison Pill), however, know that he’s really an imposter named Ben.

Willa and Danny are both sleeping with with the same untrustworthy woman, an FBI agent is held hostage and a couple of pedophiles are on opposite end of a horrific case. Pill helps explain it all.

How damaged is Willa? She keeps making really bad choices like making her family believe that her late brother’s co-kidnapped bunker mate Ben is really Adam. If that helps win her mother the election, all the better. She’s sleeping with Bridey (Floriana Lima) an anything for a scoop reporter? Faking DNA tests. Etc, etc.
There’s this wonderful clarity for me that producer Jenna Bans has created. They’re fully rational choices for a 13-year-old. She’s been stuck at the age she was when her brother disappeared. So she makes these emotional,somewhat childish decision. On the surface, she has everything together but it’s really just this childish desire to put everybody under one roof.

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She’s a compulsive caregiver to everyone in her screwed up family, but she seems to be one without much love.
I don’t think that’s true. She loves her whole family. Everything she does is driven by that. She’s also probably in love with Bridey. It’s not a lack of love, it’s being able to show it in appropriate ways.

She’ll do almost anything to get her mother elected. Why is helping her mother become governor of Maine so important to her.
She grabbed onto this because politics was the one thing that got her mother to get out of bed after Adam’s disappearance. This week’s episode shows just how bad it was in the house with depressed parents who could no longer parent the two kids they still had. So the origins of working on campaigns with her mother was to help her survive and make a connection. It has sort of become this twisted desire for power, that’s the impetus for all of it.

Each week her distrust of Ben seems to be growing. Does she find out more difficult things about him in the episode?
Yes. There revelations of what the relationship between the two boys was like and what really happened in the bunker.

Does she have long term plans about what to do with this imposter, who’s she beginning to see is not so nice?
She genuinely thought it would go differently. You’ll get to see that that was a bad idea. And now it is completely out of her control. In the beginning, she thought she could, in essence, get her brother back. She just didn’t believe that it was inevitable that it would turn out as messed up as it has. She really though she could put her family back together, save her parents marriage, get Danny back home and get her brother back. But no matter how bad, there’s nothing to do, but go forward with her plan.

Her affair with Bridey is pretty messed up too. She’s Willa’s first love, but does Bridey have any feelings for her other, than someone she can get a front page story. And, she’s also having sex with Danny too.
In some ways Willa and Bridey are perfect matches. Neither of them know how to love another person sanely, but at this point Bridey realizes that Willa’s an out-of-control liar and manipulator, so shie has gotten beyond any feelings of guilt. It’s a really interesting relationship, if they could just get on the same side.

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Can Willa survive finding out that Bridey is cheating on her with her brother?
As big a deal as that is, there’s so much other stuff going on.

Willa’s a religious Catholic.Doesn’t she feel the need to confess about helping frame Hank Asher (Andrew McCarthy) the neighborhood pedophile?
She has confessed but only in the church confessional.

What else is happening in the episode?
While Det. Nina Meyer (Margot Bingham) continues her obsessive search for Doug (Michael Esper) who she now knows kidnapped not only Adam, but her friend FBI Agent Clements (Matthew Lawler). There’s also interesting twists and turns involving Doug’s pregnant girlfriend Jane (Zoe Perry) and Clements ,who she wounded and has handcuffed in the basement of the house she shares with Doug.

How much of the story about Adam—and Ben—will be wrapped up this season?
Some. The end of our season finale is full of huge explosions of like, “What?” There are conclusions in the Doug case but there more that’s opening up in the Adam and Ben story and in new mysteries.

Is Doug the only villain in the piece?
What I love about this show is that everybody is in this gray zone. Willa has made terrible decisions that are the source of a lot of anguish, so she’s kind of the bad guy, but she’s also not. Bridey is sort of a villain, but there’s no others that do the kind of unforgiveable things that Doug does. There’s no new bad guy. There’s just the same bad guys that we’ve gotten to know and love.

And Ben? He seems to have a real cruel streak.
Can someone who as a child was locked up in a bunker for ten years, be truly evil? He’s manipulative and he’s trouble, but I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad guy.

The Family, Sundays, 9/8c, ABC