Only the last section of this feature contains well-marked spoilers.
For 15 years, Eve Harlow has let no grass grow under her feet, cycling through roles on series such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The 100, The Killing, Canada’s The Guard, Titans and the “evil AI” thriller NEXT.
And then The Night Agent gave her a ring.
Adapted by Shawn Ryan (The Shield, S.W.A.T.) from Matthew Quirk’s novel of the same name, the Netflix hit — which was renewed just six days after its release — follows Peter Sutherland (played by Gabriel Basso), a low-level FBI Agent who works in the basement of the White House, manning a phone that never rings… until the night that it does.
That frantic call, from Luciane Buchanan’s Rose Larkin, propels both Peter and Rose into a conspiracy that leads all the way to the Oval Office. And Harlow’s enigmatic Ellen is there to dog the heroes every damn step of the way, as one half of a team of lovebird assassins. (The Heights‘ Phoenix Raei plays Dale, Ellen’s partner in both love and doling out death.)
In the Night Agent novel, that relentless assassin is an older Russian male who works alone. But showrunner Shawn Ryan has spoken of his preference to sic on the good guys a duo that could converse with each other, and thus let viewers understand their psyches.
“When Shawn and I first met,” Harlow tells TVLine, “he said that he had this idea in his head for a couple that are assassins, but he wanted to present them in a human way, and not the way that you traditionally see assassins — completely coldhearted and without any desires besides killing.”
As Harlow observes, “It’s a mistake to look at any character as being one-dimensional because no human being is one-dimensional.” For example, Ellen at one point considers the dream of life in American suburbia, and maybe even a family. “I mean, obviously these are very disturbed people — I’m not shying away from that,” says her portrayer. “But at the same time, there’s this desire for connection and fitting in, to a certain extent, because it gets lonely being someone like that in the world, completely on the outside of it at all times.”
Ellen’s propensity to “wig” out, meanwhile, was Harlow’s own flourish.
“The idea for the wigs was actually my idea,” she shares with a chuckle. “I pitched it to Shawn and he was like, ‘OK, cool. I’ll see what everybody else thinks.’”
In retrospect, “The fact that everybody went along with it is kind of astounding,” Harlow notes, “because I feel like a lot of times actors have ideas and we get told ‘Yeah,’ but then it’s never mentioned again.” But in this instance, hair department head Caroline Dehner “had this amazing array of wigs that I felt helped me with the character and added to the crazy,” Harlow effuses. “The wigs were f–king epic, man.”
As one of multiple malevolent forces that hunts the heroes during the 10-episode season, Ellen is a major Night Agent character. She also is arguably one of the most active and dynamic roles Harlow has ever played, and on an unqualified megahit. But Harlow keeps the feat in perspective.
“I think it’s really hard to gauge what anything will be when you’re doing it,” Harlow allows, “so the way that I’ve approached every part is to just take what you can get from it in the moment.
“Like, obviously I understand that [The Night Agent] is ‘No. 1 in 93 countries around the world’ — as the Internet keeps telling me!” she adds. “But the truth is that there have been other shows that I’ve been a part of that have been incredibly important to me on a personal level, where I’ve met people who have become very good friends.”
Surveying the much bigger picture, “I’m just very grateful to be an actor who’s working,” Harlow shares, before allowing a glimpse into her upbringing. “My family immigrated from Russia to Israel to Canada, and there were, like, five of us sleeping on the floor of a one-bedroom. That is where I come from, so the fact that I get to pay my bills by acting is a dream come true. That in itself is a victory for me.”
Now, let’s talk about where Ellen-the-assassin wound up as The Night Agent barreled to its conclusion….
FULL THE NIGHT AGENT SPOILERS AHEAD… FULL THE NIGHT AGENT SPOILERS AHEAD…
Again flashing back to her initial meeting with Shawn Ryan, Harlow says that because the gig was for only eight out of 10 episodes, she had asked the showrunner up front, “So I die, right?” When Ryan confirmed as much, it took Harlow just two tries to correctly guess the manner of her demise!
“I was like, ‘Do I get shot in the head?’ And he said no,” she recalls. “So I said, ‘Do I get pushed off of a tall building?’ And he was like, ‘How did you know?!’”
Harlow’s response: “Because I’m a supervillain, I need to die in an epic way. And the most epic ways to die are a shot to the head, or you get pushed off a tall building.”
Reflecting on Ellen’s intense, action-packed sendoff, Harlow raves, “Oh my God, it was so much fun. And it’s wild, because it’s like three seconds in the finished product, but it takes so much time to film and there are so many elements, and so many people involved to make it all come together, and then it ends up looking f–king rad.”
That rad look included a specific wardrobe choice that was a nod to one of the aforementioned “very good friends” Harlow has made in her travels: NEXT co-star Fernanda Andrade.
“Fun fact: The shirt that Ellen dies in is for Fernanda’s husband’s band, Stick to Your Guns, because I was like, ‘Ellen should be in band T-shirts, but I don’t want fake, cheesy band T-shirts. It has to be a real band, and I want it to be cool.’ So I was like, ‘Josh [James], can I see what shirts your band has?’ And he was like, ‘Sure!’”
“It’s stuff like that that makes me feel like life and jobs are a domino effect,” Harlow offers. “It’s not just like one thing comes along and changes it all. No, they all help each other.”