In ABC’s “The Family,” Joan Allen Picks Up The Pieces After Tragedy

The Family
The Family (l to r): Zach Gilford, Liam James, Allison Pill, Joan Allen and Rupert Graves.       Image Credit: ABC/Jack Rowand

It’s every parent’s nightmare: Your child disappears. For the Warrens of ABC’s riveting The Family, the abduction of their young son shatters them, and when he miraculously returns a decade later, the broken family tries to reconnect and move forward together.

Before Adam (Liam James) returns, “everybody’s trying to find a way to cope,” says Joan Allen, who stars in the ensemble drama as family matriarch Claire. Danny (Zach Gilford), the eldest son, seeks solace in the bottom of a bottle. Middle child Willa (Alison Pill) searches for salvation through religion. Devastated husband John (Rupert Graves) comforts himself by writing about his grief. Even the rookie cop (Margot Bingham) on Adam’s case hasn’t escaped unscathed; she’s buried her head in her police work.

The Family
In “The Family,” Joan Allen’s character, Claire, uses her son’s abduction to fuel her activism.
Image credit: ABC/Jack Rowland

And Claire has found purpose in activism, Allen explains. “She’s the one who has rolled up her sleeves and said, ‘If anything good can come from this horrific thing, I’m going to try to do it.’” When we first meet her, Claire is a woman looking to move beyond her role of wife and mother and earn a seat on her city council. A decade later, she’s the city’s powerful mayor and pondering a gubernatorial run.

Creator Jenna Bans has created a rich and spine-tingling world where the plot’s mysteries shift as the story reveals itself. “The stories kind of spiderweb out through the whole first season,” says Bans. And you won’t look at any of the characters the same way either, promises Allen. “Most of the characters are pretty well intentioned,” she hints. “Nobody is completely evil. Nobody is completely good.”

And as the family adjusts to their new reality, the reexamination of Adam’s disappearance unleashes new questions and opens old wounds. “Every time we get a script, all the actors are like, ‘Oh my God. What’s going to happen next?’” laughs Allen.

Allen has earned rave reviews for her portrayal of the parent of a missing young woman in the Oscar-nominated film Room. “Isn’t that crazy?” the actress marvels. “After I finished Room, a couple months later I got this script. Initially, I did the pilot, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I just did it. I just played a mother of a missing child.’” But the actress points out that though the circumstances of the two roles are similar, the characters and their journeys are markedly different. “The abduction is just the launching pad for The Family.”

The Family > ABC > Premieres Thursday, March 3 9pm ET/8pm CT
Airs in its regular timeslot on Sundays beginning March 6 9pm ET/8pm CT