Bridget Regan learns something with every TV role she tackles: horseback riding, firearms, languages, tactical assaults, disguises—even about true love. It’s all in a day’s work for this jobbing actor.
Regan currently stars as former Naval Intelligence officer Sasha Cooper in TNT’s “The Last Ship.” Viewers may recognize her from “Beauty and the Beast,” “White Collar,” or two more recent she’s made an impression. She shocked audiences as Rose Solano, aka sociopath-in-love Sin Rostro, in CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” And she managed to garner fan sympathy for the cold assassin Dottie Underwood in the dearly departed “Marvel’s Agent Carter.”
Regan and I talked about her various roles, learning knew skills and why she will never forget her time filming “Legend of the Seeker” in New Zealand.
“The Last Ship” airs at 8 p.m. CT Sundays on TNT.
The last time we talked was years ago when you were doing “Legend of the Seeker.”
Bridget Regan: My, oh my. Was I in New Zealand when we spoke?
You were in New York. Did you live in New York off season at that time?
I lived in New York for four or five years before it, and on the hiatuses as well. I would always run back whenever I could just to kind of instill my senses with theater and my friends. I still like to pretend that I live in New York, but I really don’t.
Do you get back to New Zealand ever?
I do go to New Zealand a lot because I married a Kiwi who I met during “Seeker.”
I didn’t know that. That’s a fun story.
Yeah, I know. [Eamon O’Sullivan] was an assistant director on the show; he came in like halfway through the first season. I was like, “Oh my God, that’s why I’m here doing this awesome, crazy horseback-riding and daggers show. I’m meeting my husband.” It was really meant to be and I felt like the universe was handling it all.
That’s so cool. Let’s talk about another relationship. What is going on with Sasha and Chandler?
Sasha and Chandler have this really unique relationship that actually I don’t think is probably that uncommon—someone from your past who knows this younger version of you so well. We haven’t seen each other for so long but there’s still that shorthand and there’s still that connection.
Sasha’s had a different career path than Chandler for the last 10 years or so, so she’s got different skills and she’s got her opinions and she doesn’t hold them back. One of my favorite things about her is that she trusts him and if he asks her to do something she’s going to do it. She’s going to follow him because she deeply respects him. But at the same time she’s got her own set of skills and knowledge and instincts that she follows as well.
I thought it was fun when he basically scolded her for challenging him in front of the crew.
To be honest, he was right. She was hurting his authority in front of his crew. In terms of me as an audience member, I think he was right. But Sasha still thinks of him in a different way. She doesn’t see him as the CNO. She sees him as Tom, which is great because she always calls him Tom. She doesn’t call him Chandler; she doesn’t call him CNO or whatever. She’s got a personal relationship with him which I think is a great choice for the writing because she is coming from an emotional place and not just a following-orders place like the rest of the crew.
Her point was correct though. She may have been wrong saying it in front of them but she was right about her point.
Thank you so much. I couldn’t agree with you more.
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Chandler is so stoic and also so sure about what he believes is right or wrong. Has it been fun to play those scenes with Eric?
Absolutely. Eric’s a powerhouse. He’s got such a command over this role, as does everyone on the show. When you join a show after they’ve been doing it for two seasons everyone’s so strongly, you know, two feet on the ground with their characters. They know exactly who they are.
I was still finding Sasha and learning every episode about a new skill that she has or maybe a little bit more about her past. I really followed everyone’s lead in terms of the tone and the vibe of the show, which is great. Any time I had any questions about anything Navy, the whole cast was there. They are impeccable with their knowledge and their training and all that.
Eric knows everything about the ship and all the ranks and everything. So I learned a lot from him. But playing with him is incredibly fun because I get to do something on the show that no other character has done in this way with him. He’s been challenged by other characters on the show but we have a romantic history and the most fun thing is that there’s still a spark there. And so these arguments are heated and there’s a lot of subtext. It’s just a lot of fun to play because he volleys right back when you throw something at him. Sometimes he shuts me down, which is fun to play as well.
So will they or won’t they?
That is the question, right? They’re kind of busy trying to save the world and their crew, so I think there are other things that are a little more pressing at the moment. Do you know what I mean? But that is the million-dollar question.
It sure is. It seems like he doesn’t necessarily trust her completely. Am I reading that wrong or is there something that maybe she’s keeping from him?
I don’t know to be honest. I only know how Sasha feels about him. Let’s wrap our minds around these circumstances that everyone in this world of “The Last Ship” is living in, where government isn’t what it was, territories are shifting and it’s all about survival. I think everyone’s way of trusting has been changed. The whole world has shifted. I actually don’t know the answer to that question. It’s a good one.
You talked about how well-trained the cast is. What was your training?
I needed a lot of refreshing on firearms, because I haven’t worked with them in a while. So I have a friend who’s a Green Beret; I had a big refresher course with him on that. We have SEALs on set with us, so we are learning as we go, especially in the episode when we were breaking into Pang’s mansion. I was learning a lot on the fly. Travis and Eric even give notes [as we film], which was great. If my elbow was sticking up they’re like, “Pull your chicken wing in.” I’m learning as I go. Thankfully I have a lot of gun experience and I’m also a dancer. I’ve been told that I pick things up pretty well. I hope that it is believable.
But I loved it. I love the tactical work; it’s so cool to learn from these guys that really have done these things. Kevin, the guy who’s our main SEAL on set, he’s done like eight or a dozen tours. He’s just incredible, so whatever he says I do.
Did you have to learn all six languages that she knows?
Oh my God. [Laughs.] I had to learn the scenes. That was more challenging than the tactical work, to be honest, because you don’t just have to learn your lines. You have to learn the other characters’ lines so you know what they’re saying and you know when to come in. So I’d put in the groundwork for each scene, but filming the scene would be different.
As an actor you want to always be listening actively and not knowing what they’re going to say next. In these scenes I was listening to these amazing Asian actors we are so lucky to work with in a way that is different because they’re not speaking English. I’m looking at their faces differently, their mannerisms, their body language. It is such an interesting acting exercise because I’m not really knowing what he’s saying. I’ve memorized it, but if I sort of forget it I was picking up their physical and emotional life in a different way. I really enjoyed that.
The actors that I worked with were so great and they were very gracious and let me run it with them, I don’t know, 700 times before the scene. “Can we do it again?” “Can we do it again?” They were all amazing.
Almost every job an actor gets they’re going to learn something new that they didn’t know. Do you love that about the job?
Absolutely, I’ve learned to horse ride and now I can speak some Mandarin. Who would have thought?
You already knew how to fight from “Agent Carter” and use daggers from “Legend of the Seeker.”
Thankfully you pick up things as you go along. But the learning the languages has been really cool, and especially working with [Hiroyuki Sanada, who] plays Takehaya. He’s such an incredible actor. Later in the show I speak some Japanese, and it was a real joy because he’s such an incredible man and actor and has such a beautiful understanding of the language. He was even adjusting the translations because of my [character’s] position—or based on the relationship. He took such care with it and he didn’t have to. He was really going above and beyond.
What have you learned about yourself doing all this and playing this role?
The thing that I’ve enjoyed about playing this role is bringing out this more masculine energy, or exploring how a woman lives in a “man’s world.” … I thankfully got to work with a female Navy intelligence officer and she talked very candidly about what it’s like to be a woman in the Navy and also be an officer in the Navy. It’s a shifting time. The Navy is actively trying to get more women to join. I think it’s somewhere between 16 and 20 percent are women. There’s talks of changing the uniform so it’s not a skirt anymore when they’re in their dress whites. All these interesting things are happening.
The show highlights its women really well. Fay’s and Christina’s and Marissa’s characters are all such strong, capable women. Their gender has really nothing to do with their character and their rank and their position. I really enjoy exploring that part of it playing Sasha.
Any surprises you didn’t expect when you signed on?
What they do in eight days is astounding. They’re making these huge action movies every week. I love the people and I love the whole crew. I’m blown away by the talent from every department. It’s not easy blowing up things and doing all the effects and all the stunts and all the incredible shots. We have the incredible set decorators who do our interior sets that completely match these Naval destroyers. Everyone’s so talented and so skilled. I’m just very impressed that they keep raising the bar and making these huge summer blockbuster movies every week. Our camera department alone; it’s astounding what they do.
Sasha is very different from two of your other recent popular roles, Dottie and Rose. But they all have a striking similarity in that they are all strong women who really believe in what they’re doing.
Is that something you look for in a role? What is your criteria for accepting a role?
Something has to light a fire in me. Each of those characters certainly did that for different reasons. The reason I loved Sasha straightaway was that she was coming in with a lot of history and she was coming in with this connection to Tom and it gave me a lot to play. Whereas if I didn’t have that I would have to be filling in more and guessing, so to speak. I like that there’s a complicated relationship. I’m always invested in those characters that aren’t black and white but are gray and messy. It’s more interesting to play when there’s a lot to do.
“Jane the Virgin” is such a fun show and I adore that whole amazing crew. And I think Jennie [Snyder Urman] is just such an incredible showrunner and writer. And Gina [Rodriguez] is a marvel. So I was thrilled to join that show. And then I was constantly surprised every episode that I was in by what my character was up to and who she really was and all that. But when I joined “Jane” I thought I was just this trophy wife. I didn’t know that she was running an underground plastic surgery ring and has multiple personalities, so to speak. I was drawn to the complicated relationship that she was having with her technically stepdaughter. It was an inconvenient love that I found really fascinating, so I was drawn to that.
And come on, playing Black Widow on “Agent Carter,” that’s a no brainer right there.
Right. I’m sad it’s not coming back.
Oh my God. I’m in denial; I don’t believe it. I really don’t. I talked to Haley [Atwell] and Enver [Gjokaj] a month ago in England and we were just like, “I still don’t believe it.” I still feel like I’m going to get called and they’re going to tell me I have a costume fitting or we have a table read. I feel like it’s still going to happen. I’m totally in denial.
Will Rose be back on “Jane?”
I don’t know if I can say, but I feel like there’s—I mean that finale, come on. That was like the most fun moment I’ve ever had on a set I think, pulling off my face. How crazy was that? It was just so funny. Watching Yara [Martinez’s] face; every time [we shot it] it was hard to not break. She was so amazing in her response; she was the audience going, “What?!” It was great.
Jennie and I did have a very candid conversation about scenes we would love to see in Season 3. We were half joking around but half like really serious about how much fun it would be to shoot a scene with Luisa and Rose and Sarah working through the fact that they’re trying to make their relationship work. I don’t know if it will come to fruition, but it was so fun just batting around ideas with her. That show is just so fun.
Has it been fun becoming an LGBT favorite because of that show?
Absolutely, oh my gosh, yes. It makes me want every single one of my characters to be. By the way I also pitched to Jennie for Season 2 that Rose would be transitioning gender. She was like, “Whoa.” She entertained it for a moment. I also pitched to the writers on “Agent Carter” in Season 2 that the first time we see Dottie she be in full “Victor/Victoria” drag. I’m addicted to it. Now I just want every character to be gender bending. I find it fascinating. I also thought it made total sense, but nobody bit for my ideas.
You’ll have to write your own thing.
Yeah. The LGBTQ fans are honestly the warmest, most loving. There are people I see on Twitter and stuff who are rooting for Dich [Dichen Lachman] and my character to have a past on “Last Ship.” People read into things in a way that I find really fascinating. They find things that certainly weren’t in the script. It’s that imagination I find really great and fun. I love that you get to see what people are thinking and what they’re wanting to see. I find it really rewarding.
Jesse and Sasha do have a past on “The Last Ship.” What’s that about?
They do have a past and I actually believe that Sasha is alive because of Jesse.
“The Last Ship” writes are pretty masterful at ending each episode in a way that makes you want more right away.
That’s how I was when I watched the show. Thankfully I could just go to the next one. There are such crazy cliffhangers.
Did you get all the scripts at once or did you have that reading the scripts and feel impatient for the next one?
I absolutely had that. I would want the scripts straightaway. I’m always trying to steal it from the heads of department, the hair and makeup designer or the costume designer. All those people get the scripts before we do. … Other actors want to wait until the final draft comes out, because sometimes you can fall in love with a scene and then it gets cut or what have you so. But I like to know. I like to see what’s happening and then complain if a line that I like is cut.
Are you going to be at San Diego Comic Con?
Oh yeah, I’m so excited. I might be there the whole weekend, maybe go to some parties. I’m from San Diego; I’m in San Diego right now. I’m usually down here visiting my family and stuff like that.
You might have to wear a mask if you go on the convention floor.
I hope I see people dressed up as Sasha.
You could dress up as Sasha and people will say, “Oh, you’re a dead ringer for her. Wait a minute.”
[Laughs.] And that would be true, exactly. I think I’ll wear a pretty dress—something different. I’ll wear something with fewer weapons strapped to me.