Jennifer Finnigan On Character Grace Barrows, “I Just Immediately Connected To Her”

Last week Salvation made its series debut on CBS. This Wednesday, July 19th, the series is back for the second chapter of season one when the episode “Another Trip Around The Sun” airs at 9 p.m. EST. Salvation tells the story of a team of government officials working with MIT grad student Liam Cole [Charlie Rowe] and tech-billionaire Darius Tanz [Santiago Cabrera] to stop a giant asteroid from colliding with earth.

One of those team members is press secretary for the Pentagon, Grace Barrows, played by Jennifer Finnigan. CBS Local’s Matt Weiss spoke with Finnigan about her cast mates, portraying Grace and snagging an autograph from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

MW: Hey, Jennifer. How’s it going?

JF: Hey Matt. I’m good, how are you?

MW: Good, good! First off I want to say congrats on the show with episode two coming out this week.  One of the first things that caught my attention when I heard about the show and saw the previews was this really impressive cast you guys have pulled together. What’s it been like working with such a talented group?

JF: It’s really been the best. The scripts alone are extremely strong, well written, sharp, and smart. Then when you add this terrific cast, it just elevates everything. There’s not one person that I don’t like working with. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the three leading men quite often and I just enjoy my chemistry with each of them.

I feel like everybody on the show is so perfect for their character, for their part, and they just bring so much skill to it. As an actor, you always want to work with people who up your game, and every one of these cast members ups my game.

MW: Speaking of a talented group that you got to work with, you even had Neil deGrasse Tyson on set. That must have been pretty cool as well, right?

JF: I was such a nerd about it. I wasn’t on set that day, I was going to go even not working, but I had an appointment, I think a doctor’s appointment that I couldn’t miss. So I begged [Executive Producers] Liz [Kruger] and Craig [Shapiro] to get me his autograph [laughs]. So yeah, he autographed my script.

MW: Oh, that’s awesome! At least there was a happy ending to that story.

JF: Well, if we get more seasons, I hope he gets to come on every season.

MW: Yeah, put that in your contract. You have to be on set with him at least one day.

JF: [Laughs] Exactly.

MW: So your character is Pentagon press secretary Grace Barrows, what was it about her and that role that really attracted you to the project?

JF: I’ve always been attracted to strong roles portraying intelligent women, powerful women. I loved her warmth as well and her humanity. I’ve always just thought of her as the grounding force of the show. In a sense, we’ve all dubbed her the ‘moral compass’ of the show. I like that she is very much liked at her job as well by the press, she respects them, she is relatable.

I think she has a very good heart, she’s a very good mother, she’s brave and she’s a badass. When she is faced with big decisions and important decisions she rises to the occasion. I am attracted to people who have a fearlessness and a bravery about them, and I think she does.

MW: One thing that I’ve noticed, there are so many story lines and potential threads that can come out of Grace’s character. Obviously you’ve got her work with the Pentagon and trying to save the world, but then there’s the side stories with her daughter and her love life. I’m really excited to see where she goes because I feel like there’s a lot to her that will hopefully come out during the season.

JF: I agree. What I really loved was getting feedback from live tweeting or on Instagram from people who watch the show and who really connected with the character right off the bat. That just made me so happy, I just felt so proud, because that was exactly how I felt about her when I read the part. I just immediately connected to her. And you’re right, she has multiple story lines in a sense. She threads through every episode in a professional sense and a personal sense seamlessly. We really get to know her and who she is beyond just being a press secretary or beyond being this person who is brought into the fold to “save the world.”

We get to know who she is as a mom, we get to know who she is as a daughter, we get to know who she is as a woman, we see her in love. She is very multifaceted as a character and especially on network TV we don’t necessarily get that. I think there are so many procedural shows that don’t offer character development and for an actor, that’s all you hope for.

So, that’s one of the things that Liz [Kruger] and Craig [Shapiro] and the writers have done so beautifully, is not just further the story, it’s not just a plot-driven show, it’s really been about developing character. So, I’m with you, I can’t wait to see how Grace develops over the… well, I’m almost done this season! God willing, we get another. There are just so many avenues to go down.

MW: So episode two comes out on Wednesday, what can we expect from Grace and overall in this next episode?

JF: Episode two is one of my favorite episodes of the season, in some ways I like it better than the pilot. In the pilot we had to set up the story so a lot of the pilot is plot-driven. For two, we start to see some character development. Grace is pushed to her limit in every way and she really comes through. She’s always been a rule follower and Harris [Edwards] also works for the government and so they’ve always been connected in the sense of, okay follow the rules, and they are by the book in terms of their job.

But there is something about Darius [Tanz] that breaks the mold and that pushes her. It’s a very interesting relationship that they have. In this particular episode we see it develop and I loved seeing Grace pushed beyond her limitations. I think the audience will love it too.

MW: Well, I will definitely be one of those audience members this Wednesday.

JF: Cool, good! I’m really excited for Wednesday’s episode.

MW: Well thank you for the time Jennifer, it’s been lovely talking to you, have a great day and good luck the rest of the way!

JF: Thanks so much, take care!

Episode two of Salvation, titled “Another Trip Around The Sun,” airs Wednesday, July 19th at 9 p.m. EST. Check your local listings for more information.

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