Zap2it: What’s the biggest challenge you have in playing your captured Special Forces-officer character in “American Odyssey” (premiering Sunday, April 5 on NBC)?
Anna Friel: I think [in] Odelle’s journey, the biggest thing she has to face is complete and utter loneliness. It’s why we have such an understanding and such empathy for anyone who has ever served in the military and been away from their children and their family for long, long periods of time.
Odelle is very much in this situation, and Aslam [an overseas youngster played by Omar Ghazaoui] is no one who can ever replace her child, but I think she feels motherly toward him and very protective. He ends up ultimately helping her. He’s the only one who shows her a thread of kindness, and I think, out there in her situation, that thread is a scarf. She wants to protect him and give back to him and protect him at all costs.
Zap2it: What sort of regimen do you follow to keep up with the physical demands of the role?
Anna Friel: My mean trainer makes me exercise. I go, “Please, please.” I’ve been really lucky. He ran Camp Bastion in Afghanistan and served there with 22,000 soldiers underneath him. He says anytime I kind of complain and go, “Oh, God, I’m tired,” he goes, “Yeah, but you can say, ‘Cut.’ We don’t get to say, ‘Cut.’ ” We go back, and he makes me swim for half an hour or do press-ups for ages. I know it doesn’t look like it, but you don’t have to be big to be strong. Size isn’t all that matters.
I’ve got a hard drive where I’ll watch movies and stuff. When my daughter is there … that’s how I can relate to Odelle the most. I’m separated from her right now. It’s the first job I’ve ever gone on without being with her.