Mariel Molino: Tough to trust anyone in mystery thriller 'Watchful Eye'

Mariel Molino's "The Watchful Eye" premieres Monday. Photo courtesy of Freeform
1 of 3 | Mariel Molino's "The Watchful Eye" premieres Monday. Photo courtesy of Freeform

NEW YORK, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Actresses Mariel Molino and Amy Acker said it can be a challenge to talk about a mystery thriller like their new Freeform series, The Watchful Eye, because they don't want to reveal the secrets and lies too soon and ruin the fun for viewers.

"It's like a land mine of spoilers," Molino told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "But because the show is so suspenseful and engaging and addictive, it makes it easy to promote."


Acker agreed.

"You want to get people excited about the show, but there are so many good secrets and juicy details that you don't want to give away," she said. "I think after people see the first episode and have an idea of what's happening, there will be some answers and a lot more questions."

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist and Ghost Whisperer writer-producer Emily Fox, who is the showrunner for The Watchful Eye, said each episode is designed to answer a question -- and then ask another one.


"We designed the show so each episode reveals something. It's peeling away the onion, and you have the opportunity to tease something up," Fox said. "There's a resolution in each episode, but then you are setting up another thing. It's like dominoes."

Premiering Monday at 9 p.m. EST on Freeform and streaming the following day on Hulu, the series follows Elena Santos (Molino), the new live-in nanny for widower Matthew's (Warren Christie) young son, Jasper (Henry Joseph Samiri), at a luxurious, but trouble-plagued, fictional Manhattan apartment building called The Greybourne.

Acker plays Matthew's sister-in-law, Tory; Jon Ecker plays Elena's boyfriend, Scott; and Aliyah Royale plays Elena's friend Ginny.

"Elena is a really bright woman with a complicated past, who is trying to do right by her family and seek justice and revenge. In Scott, she sees an ally and someone who sees that life is not fair," Molino said.

"Ginny is this beacon of love and comfort, a friend whom she really wants to trust, but because she is jaded by the world, she takes two steps in and then four steps back," Molino said. "It's difficult to trust anybody in the building."

Although Elena might not always be truthful about her identity and goals, Molino had no trouble keeping track of who she is and what she wants.


"I had a very clear place that I wanted to go to, a clear mission of what I wanted to achieve and, then, the other characters, including The Greybourne, become the obstacles for me that get in my way," she noted.

"Throughout the story, I try to stay true to Elena's core belief system and her motivation. Then it's kind of the thing, that I do what I must do to get what I want to get."

The right costumes helped her create the character from the outside in.

"I wanted to incorporate some punk into Elena. She has a very dark palette. As the show progresses, her costume gets a little bit darker, she gets a little grungier," Molino said.

"I was able to design some tattoos for her, which was really exciting and that kind of helped me have that element of a back story and her family," she added.

"For me, costume is one of the first things I look at when I am trying to figure out a character because that is kind of what you present to the world."

Christie said Matthew looks at Elena as a lifeline when she arrives at The Greybourne.

"This whole thing gets set off by such a visceral, tragic event that has such a profound effect on them," he said, referring to how he is still reeling from his wife's supposedly accidental death. "His No. 1 goal is protecting his son and moving forward."


Acker's character, Tory, "in her very pushy way" is trying to support them, Christie said.

"But as the season goes along, we're going to realize that these characters have known each other a long time. In the short term, this is his immediate family and who he is going to need to lean on," he said.

Acker agreed Tory and Matthew unite in their need to safeguard Jasper.

"Tory kind of takes it to a Level 10 by needing to protect her whole family and The Greybourne itself and everything about her image. They both kind of have a similar goal which does bring them together," she said.

Christie said Matthew is thrilled to see Elena develop a real connection to Jasper.

"It's cathartic. It's something he didn't realize how much he needed," the actor said.

"He still hasn't really had time to grieve because he initially just went to protecting his son, so I think he sees her as a bit of a savior and a relief, someone who can help his son heal and move forward. Because of that, he may be a little blind to the odd red flag that may come up."

Acker admitted Tory isn't someone who gives people chances easily and it is actually something of a miracle that Elena gets hired as Jasper's nanny.


"She probably wasn't my first choice. It really does throw off the balance of everybody. Also, Elena is not afraid to do that," Acker said. "She is kind of a disturber in a sense, even though she is trying to hide in the shadows and not be noticed."

Fox said Elena is not "a passive observer" in this story.

"She comes in, she sees what she sees and she does disrupt, but it is in a very clever way and it's not disruption for the sake of disruption," the writer-producer said.

"Any time you add a new element to an equation, it changes it," she added. "Everyone was already in trouble when she got there, so it's not like she arrived and was like, 'I'm going to mess everything up.' But it does change things because she is fundamentally unknowable, but she sees everything and takes it all in."

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