Mickaelle X. Bizet Q&A: ‘American Crime’
“It was kind of spooky,” Mickaelle X. Bizet declares during our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above) about playing a character whose story bared some uncanny resemblances to her own background. “I got an audition and then I got a call back and then I booked it,” the actress recalls. “It was amazing because the fact that she was a black woman who spoke French and came to America to be a nanny, that’s exactly how I came to America,” Bizet explains, noting that she hails from Martinique where French is the native language. “It was like the Twilight Zone!”
In “American Crime,” the relative newcomer plays Gabrielle Durand, a troubled Haitian immigrant hired to work as a nanny for a wealthy family in North Carolina. As her story unfurls over the season, we discover that she is not only suffering from some trauma from her past, but is also the victim of horrifying physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the woman who hired her, played by Lili Taylor.
“American Crime” is an anthology series that sheds light on different “ripped from the headlines” issues each season. Season one dealt with violent crime, racial prejudice and drug addiction. Last season tackled socio-economic disadvantage and violence against LGBT people with its story of a rape investigation involving two high school boys. This season the show’s creator, Oscar-winning writer John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”) focuses on immigration, human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Like every season so far of this show, each actor is told very little about their character from the outset. “They didn’t tell me much,” Bizet admits. “I didn’t realize I was going to have a story line. I thought she was just a nanny. But she was the story line … I had no idea!” Bizet recounts how she noticed that the other actors were given books to read to prepare for their roles, but she was given nothing to read, and remained in the dark for most of the season. It turned out to be a very clever way for Bizet to get into the mindset of this desperate woman she was playing, and it paid off as Gabrielle becomes more and more unhinged throughout the season. “I realised why they didn’t have me read anything. They wanted me to feel that isolation, and not knowing what’s going on or what is happening … they kept me in the dark.”