When Melissa Rosenberg was casting the role of Schiller for her new ABC drama Red Widow, she needed an actor who was charismatic and enigmatic but who could be chilling, too. Schiller may be a bad guy, but he's not a "big bad" of the series. Far from it, in fact, because as the heroine, Marta (Radha Mitchell) may team up with him out of duress at first, but she works with him nonetheless. And as they work together, an attraction grows. You can't just be a one-note baddie for that to happen. With Goran Visnjic, though, Rosenberg got something else she didn't quite expect for the character.
"What we discovered is he has this very weird sense of humor where he’ll say something really threatening and then start laughing. He’s a very interesting character. He’s very unexpected. You can’t predict what he’s going to do," Rosenberg said when we caught up with her on set in Vancouver.*
Of course, you don't meet Schiller until the very end of the pilot episode, after hearing about him and his ruthless, scary ways for a good portion of the hour. Considering he is owed a massive debt, as well, you wouldn't expect to see another side to him but that aggressive, angry one. Visnjic pointed out it's intended in the beginning of the serious that people talk about him in a way that makes him seem so much larger than life because then when you see him, you're taken a bit off-guard, surprised by how you might let your own guard down around him, thinking he can't just be what they say.
"As the series progresses, the beauty of this show is that you’re going to be seeing inside these families—inside Marta’s family and inside Schiller’s family. You kind of don’t expect to see inside somebody like that, inside his life," Visnjic said.
"We’re going to introduce his dad, and we’re going to learn about his history and how did he get to the States, and what are they doing here? And the history between his family and Marta’s family because there is history there, also. The relationship between the two of them is going to get extremely complex because first of all, they work together, but then on the other level, she’s going to completely, accidentally become involved in his personal life with something to do with his dad, and things are going to change between them. There’s a lot of trust issues going on, and towards the series finale things are going to change very much."
The insight into Schiller will lend itself towards seeing him as a whole, complex person, and not simply a mustache-twirling villain (though he certainly has the violent capacity to be that). He is hardened, closed-off, and hardcore, yes, and it all complicates his relationship with Marta. But she isn't so trusting or emotionally open, either, and even as their relationship progresses, she may be proven right to be that way.
"He doesn’t let anybody in. Whoever he does let in, that person doesn’t end up good. It’s almost you don’t want him to love you because if he loves you he might kill you because you’re going to become a distraction to him. He doesn’t want any distractions! So when we get a glimpse that there might be something going on on his side toward Marta it’s almost frightening because you start kind of thinking Marta might be gone really quickly. It’s not going to be a simple attraction that’s going to turn into something. It’s going to be a lot of attraction filled up with fear," Visnjic said.
Red Widow airs on ABC on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. Click here for our on-the-set video chat with Visnjic.
* Travel and accommodations provided by ABC
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