Rhona Mitra on ‘The Last Ship,’ Viruses, and Reuniting with Eric Dane

Rhona Mitra The Last Ship Interview
Rhona Mitra at the 2014 San Diego Comc Con (Photo by Richard Chavez/ShowbizJunkies)

Rhona Mitra (Strike Back) stars as paleomicrobiologist Rachel Scott in the hit TNT series The Last Ship now airing season one on Sunday nights at 9pm ET/PT. The setup of the show finds the world’s population decimated as the result of a fast-spreading, unstoppable virus, and Rachel Scott is one of the few scientists left able to work on developing a cure. Onboard the U.S.S. Nathan James, Rachel and the ship’s crew, led by Captain Tom Chandler (played by Eric Dane), race against the clock to try and save the world.

At the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, Mitra spoke about her character and her off-screen research into viruses.

Rhona Mitra The Last Ship Interview

Where did your fascination with viruses come from?

Rhona Mitra: “I am fascinated with all things involving neurotoxins, so not necessarily viruses but neurotoxins because they have become one of our species’ greatest threats in the last, definitely last half century leading to neurological diseases due to something that I went through myself. So I was already very in touch with the world of virology, talking to scientists just through my own interest to see what impact various different things are having on us as a species, so various different threats, whether it’s GMOs, chem trails, EPAs, heavy metals but fundamentally neurotoxins that are hitting our central nervous systems that are creating a defunct species out of us. I find that to be a very poignant subject matter. So this being a virus that’s coming in as another thread, it just seemed like another avenue to explore and uncover, and to dissect and hopefully overcome.”

What did you study?

Rhona Mitra: “I did some studies with neurotoxins. Two years before I started working on the show, I’ve been talking to virologists and doing my own research on the causes of neurological diseases and neurotoxins and the solutions and remedies for neurological diseases – all natural might I say. So the study of plant medicine and environmental remediation.”

How is your experience filming on the ship?

Rhona Mitra: “It’s been extraordinary because I’m a foreigner so I’m sort of being welcomed aboard Team America and I’m not military in this. I’ve played military in the past so it’s a lovely thing to take off the suit, if you like, and be the rogue element in a very strict environment, but also adhere to their world and learn from their world. I look at it from a place of I just see boys and girls. I just see men and women. I don’t see flags. I don’t see badges. I don’t see hats. I think it’s an extraordinary environment for an orphanage, a generation of people who need a place to go, to serve and be proud. It’s a place that I see that isn’t really about war. It’s about a unified force, and the military outfits that I’ve worked with in the past, the common denominator that I find between the men and women who are at war, whether it’s the army or the Navy or the Navy SEALS, SAS is that there’s a feeling of a unified pride in being able to show up and do your best. That’s what I see. The rest of it, and this amazing machine and who made that and there are these guns and they’re so expensive. I’m like, ‘It costs how much? And it destroys what?’ And I’m a pacifist so I’m the sort of hippie on the ship. I find myself in these environments though that are very testosterone-driven and I connect to the human element, so it’s lovely to see that and feel that.”

How did the men make you feel welcome?

Rhona Mitra: “I’m fortunate I’ve worked with Eric Dane before. Years ago we did a shoe called Gideon’s Crossing so he was one of my first friends that I met when I came to Los Angeles. He’s like old family so that’s an easy one. I don’t know if you’ve met the other chaps but they are all – we’re really lucky because not all casts are as even keeled. We’re all like a bunch of cubs. We all just muck around and no one’s got an ego, which is an incredibly rare thing. Everyone’s super excited to work and show up every day and do their best. It’s a really unusual group of people and there’s no diva, no one wants to be bigger or better than anyone. Everybody’s just on an even keel. The military also will kind of extend that because I think the uniformity of our surroundings puts everybody on best behavior, so everybody plays nice. I did make Eric, when he came out in his white uniform first, I said, ‘Okay, for a minute you’re going to be Richard Gere and I’m going to be Debra Winger and we’re having this moment and you’re picking me up.'”

-By Rebecca Murray

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