If you still thought of Amanda Schull as Jody Sawyer, the sweet and plucky ballerina with "bad feet" from the 2000 sleeper hit Center Stage, it's probably safe to say that wholesome visage has been dismissed (for now, at least) by the actress's new role in Season 3 of Murder in the First.
Moonlighting during downtime from her main gig as Dr. Cassandra Railly on 12 Monkeys and her recurring role as Katrina Bennett on Suits, Schull has surfaced on Murder as a tack-sharp attorney named Melissa Danson. And she got her guest stint on Murder going with a dynamic — and, let's be real, kinda naughty — first impression by seducing District Attorney Mario Siletti in the premiere.
As for Schull, who is no stranger to playing tough characters since she broke onto the scene as a ballerina in Center Stage, it is Danson's fierce sense of self that drew her to the role. "I love that she wasn't just a love interest," she told SheKnows. "She's definitely her own lady."
At this point, we've yet to see the depth of Danson's complexity, but that doesn't mean we won't. Despite the fact her role reportedly only comes into play on four episodes this season, Schull hints that fans will learn much more about Danson's motivation moving forward.
"She is indeed very strong and independent," Schull said of her bold character. "I think the fact that Melissa is absolutely willing to get onboard with this high-profile case and prosecute her — I hate the word — lover. That sounds so cheeseball, but that's kind of exactly what it is. But why she would be willing to do that and what her reasons are, I think we'll learn a bit about."
Naturally, there's the inherent possibility of controversy when playing a beautiful woman who uses her sexuality to level the playing field, and that's certainly something that informed Schull's treatment of the character.
"I think that it can be tricky when a character uses that aspect. You want to make sure that's not the only thing that leads, or that people come away with. So, I appreciate you recognize she is smart as well, because that's definitely the thing that I wanted to focus on most — and then the fact that she will use what she needs to use if her smarts don't get her where she needs to go immediately," Schull shared.
Of course, she noted, it was also quite possibly the path of least resistance for Danson. "With Siletti in particular, it was not that much of a challenge to use her femininity to further her goals, because it was sort of low-hanging fruit with him," she said, laughing. "That was going to get his attention."
Danson clearly plays by a different set of rules, and she also plays to her strengths. She is cunning, in command of her sexuality and not afraid to go for the jugular. In short, she's a force of nature. Does Siletti even stand a chance?
At this point, he's a bit of an easy mark. Not only did he play into Danson's advances perfectly in the premiere, but he also is now in a precarious position since accidentally hitting and killing a young woman with his car during a heated in-transit argument with his wife.
Still, it's a gutsy move for a newcomer like Danson to take on the prosecution of a prestigious public figure, and one she's been sleeping with, at that.
If that seems like a lot of ground to cover — and come away with any real resolution — in a four-episode arc, it's because it is. So, is there any chance Schull will make the jump from recurring guest star to series regular on Murder in the First?
We asked... and she sort of answered. After a long pause, Schull said coyly, "I think you'll have to wait and see."
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