Eve Myles on ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day,’ Gwen Cooper as a Mother, and Why Gwen and Captain Jack Should Never Get Together

Eve Myles, as Gwen Cooper, with John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness.

When Torchwood: Miracle Day returns to television tonight, Gwen Cooper will have to come out of retirement from Torchwood to save the world—and the health care system—when everyone on Earth suddenly becomes unable to die. I talked to Eve Myles, the actress who plays Gwen, about what this season of Torchwood has to say about leadership and David Cameron, what it’s like to play an action star who’s also a mother, and why Gwen and Captain Jack Harkness should never get together (though she previews a big scene between the two later this season).

I’ll be recapping Miracle Day for the rest of this season, but this post will function as an open thread for tonight’s episode. A fuller review of the show, with particular attention to its healthcare implications is here. And I’ll be curious to hear what y’all think about Torchwood‘s move to America, and the health care storyline that forms the core of this season.

Obviously transporting Torchwood from Wales to the U.S. is a big shift. How did it change your experience of the show? What about the experience of having a team that’s a blend of old Torchwood members and American intelligence officers?

Well, I mean, initially, I’m playing the same character, so that’s always a help. So I didn’t have to delve into a different pair of shoes. It’s just the surroundings and the situation have changed. The way it’s written is Gwen is finding it all quite awkward…It was just something that we had to do with the series this year. If we’re going to top Children of Earth, we have to make it bigger and better, and the only way to do that was to bring it to the United States. We wanted to make it a blockbuster, and hopefully, that’s what we did.

You’ve got all these individuals with very strong personalities. We’ve been asked constantly about us having a bigger budget and it beging more of an explosive series, because it is aesthetically better, no doubt. But the most engrossing part of the drama is when you’ve got all the individuals under one roof sitting around a table talking to each other.

The main story in Miracle Day’s also quite explicitly political—at least, coming off of health care reform, it’s going to seem that way to American audiences. Do you think it’ll resonate in the UK in the same way?

Well, I think there’s all sorts of resonances in there. There’s so much politics being written into this story…Obviously, with us having a new PM, and David Cameron being so young, it’s all about decision-making. And what the humans do to each other to get by, and it’s disgrace.

Well, and even sex is political. I was particularly struck by that scene in the third episode where Jack and the guy from the bar talk about whether you have to use protection if no one’s going to die.

If you ask people, if the universe is going to end in 24 hours, so many people would say I’d get drunk, and I’d have sex, and I’d do crazy things, and I’d have a wonderful time. But the reality of it is, is if you do get hurt, if you catch a dreadful disease, you have to live with it for eternity. It doesn’t go away. They don’t stop hurting, or being in a terrible kind of state. If you’re involved in something that happens to you because of something you’ve done to yourself, or you’ve had that one-night stand, actually there is a consequence to everything you do. It’s highlighting you have to take care of yourself, because these things do last forever.

Initially, you think it’s a good thing. But you start scratching the surface on it and it’s a curse.

It’s a longer arc than Miracle Day, too. How did it feel to have ten episodes to stretch the story out in?

This is a story [series creator] Russell [T. Davies]’ always wanted to tell but never had an opportunity to do so. You can’t tell a story like this over five or six episodes. It’s full of diversional storylines in it. You need a big, big airtime to be able to tell it. So if you’re going to tell a story like this, you better get everything correct.

One thing I loved was when one of the characters quotes Robert Frost. I think that’s something British shows do better than American ones, put characters in the same kind of context we live in using cultural references.

It always has to resonate from somewhere real, from some sort of truth for people to buy it, to buy into it. To go, this could really happen. By using things like that, it’s a wonderful way to kind of connect people to that kind of literature, to remind you that people have read the same books as you, that Esther’s read the same poetry as you, that Rex reads the same newspaper as you…People really underestimate the kind of viewer. And from day one, our viewers are so, so intelligent, they’re so with it.

Given that Gwen’s had some sort of disconcerting experiences with pregnancy, whether she’s been infected with alien eggs, or gotten pregnant during an alien invasion targeting children, how does she feel about being a mother? I liked her using her Torchwood adventures as fairy tales for [Gwen’s daughter] Anwen.

This is why I find Gwen being a mother so difficult. Because every decision Gwen makes, I find hard to play. I just couldn’t do it as a mother. But on the other hand, I don’t have to save the human race. Helicopters coming outside my house trying to kill my family, I haven’t been on the run for the last nine months. I have to put things in perspective. Gwen as a mother is a fierce protector, but she’s also got to share herself with Torchwood, and that’s very difficult. And to be able to play that is a wonderful thing in drama, because it gives me somewhere to go in every scene. I don’t think she’s the most natural of mothers. I think she finds it very difficult to be the all-encompassing mum, because any moment, she could walk out the door and never come back. She’s a great mother, she does everything for the little igrl, and she protects her to the day she dies. Torchwood isn’t a job, it’s a way of life, it’s not her choice any more.

So many times [in playing a scene where a helicopter shoots a missile at Gwen’s home], I said “Get away from her, you bitch,’ and it wasn’t allowed. It was written as the iconic shot of Gwen Cooper with a handgun shooting a helicopter down. It’s a wonderful, wonderful, strong image. If something dreadful’s going to happen with that baby in her arms, she’s going to be fighting to the end.

One of the questions I’ve always had to the series is how fully Gwen can commit to someone who isn’t in Torchwood. So I was interested in that scene in the third episode where Jack calls Gwen to tell her how much she means to him, and she sort of blows him off for a chance to chat with Rhys and Anwen. Is this a tipping point for her? Is Gwen moving towards a point when she can live without Torchwood, as long as she’s safe?

I think she’s completely committed to her husband…when you first see Gwen Cooper, she’s bored out of her mind, and she can’t wait for that helicopter to show up so she can kick some ass. She’s bored of digging up the back garden and playing with the chickens. She’s saved the world, she’s saved the children of earth, she’s played cards with a weevil, for god’s sake.

He is this swashbuckling, beautiful foreigner, who comes and shows her this world for what it is. And they have this incredible, soulmate, wonderful, wonderful partnership. She could never have him not be in her life, and him the same. So there is a romantic side to this couple that, there’s love of course, but what kind of love it is, you’ll find out. There’s one huge, huge episode for these two characters, where they just lay it out on the table and they fly at each other, and it’s not what you expect. She loves Rhys. It’s because of Rhys that she can do what she does every day. She needs him so much. And she loves him dearly. And she loves Jack.

With these two characters, I don’t think they should ever get together, because it weakens their characters. I think they’re stronger characters than that, and they know exactly how they feel about each other. They’ve turned into this kind of super-partnership where they finish each other’s sentences…I think that’s a far sexier relationship than seeing two naked people making out. It’s more of a fantastic, intelligent relationship.