Sunday, May 29, 2022

Interview: Autumn Best Talks ‘4400’ Finale, Mildred’s Backstory, and More! [EXCLUSIVE]

With the 4400 season one finale just around the corner, there’s no telling what the show has in store for our favorite characters. We got the chance to sit down with actress Autumn Best to talk about the finale, Mildred’s unique backstory, and more!

Nerds and Beyond: Mildred has been one of our central characters from episode 1. What’s it been like for you as a debut actress to bring her story and character to life?

Autumn Best: It’s been, honestly it feels like school to me in the best way. I love school. Where I just had no idea what this whole process is going to be like because I’ve never worked on a set before and so it was nerve-wracking, but it was also so exciting because this is what I’ve always wanted to do. Every day that I came to set it just felt like I was learning a million things and it was so fun. I feel like I really lucked out with the people I got to work with too, because we were all learning and growing together. It was never a super daunting, scary thing it was just an opportunity to learn as much as I can and soak it up.

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N&B: That’s amazing. I’ve seen some of the behind the scenes posts, and it seems like a close-knit cast.

Autumn: For sure, we’re all so close.

N&B: Tell me about the audition process and what drew you to Mildred?

Autumn: Yeah, so I got the breakdown for the role. It said that they were seeking a disabled actress and that they would tailor the character for the role. Automatically that was so cool because I’ve only auditioned for, I think, two total disabled characters in my 50+ auditions that I’ve done since getting with my agency and manager. Just that in and of itself was super refreshing to see. Also for her to have such an elaborate backstory and elaborate emotional arc throughout the season and to see a disabled person and character being written to have all these complex emotions like a real human being. That was eye-opening and crazy to me, that’s what really drew me to the character at first.

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N&B: Did you watch the original The 4400 to prepare for the role?

Autumn: I did, yeah. When I got the audition I read a Wikipedia synopsis, I think, that talked about the show and the characters so I could get an idea for the world. Then when I got the screen test I went back and watched the first couple episodes and then after I booked the show I watched the entire thing. Yeah, I’m a big fan of the original, I think it’s a great time.

N&B: You recently got the chance to work with two original 4400 crew, Patrick Flueger and Scott Peters. What was it like to work with Patrick and to explore Millie’s past?

Autumn: He is literally the nicest guy I’ve ever met. He was so great to work with. He showed up to set and knew every crew member’s name. He was the nicest, nicest guy. I was nervous to meet him, I was like I don’t know what this is going to be like. He’s this hot-shot Chicago PD guy, but he was just so humble and ready to work. That was super fun.

Then Scott, the director, is just also the nicest guy ever. He had such a clear creative vision for the episode and really knew how to communicate with actors in a way that was productive and move things along. Watching him direct was also such a good master class in how to direct and move a set around. It was really, really cool to work with both of them.

N&B: I love that he is such a nice guy and they brought him back as what is essentially a pretty creepy character.

Autumn: Yeah! It’s crazy too because he could not be more different than that.

N&B: Millie is young but has been through so much already with her past and her time at the hospital. How do you think that will play into her ability to trust others and passion for defending the 4400?

Autumn: She definitely is ready to defend the 4400 because as much as she was traumatized by the cult that she grew up in, obviously, I think she still has that hardwired brain to sacrifice her needs for the collective and sees how what she’s doing affects the group. I think that’s part of where that comes from, her fire to fight for the people she cares about. I think that from here on out it might be a little bit difficult for her to come back from losing Hayden’s trust and feeling like people don’t really see her true intentions. But at the end of the day, as we can see with Millicent, she just really deeply wants to do right by the people that she cares about. I think that will probably continue to be the truth about her character for the rest of her existence.

N&B: I especially loved all the small moments with Millie that now make sense because of her past. She flinched when Andre tried to take her pulse, she didn’t want Claudette to touch her hair. What were your thoughts on getting to see those little elements of Millie’s past bleed through?

Autumn: Those moments were always so difficult just because it takes a lot of emotional stamina to be able to do that kind of thing over and over again. At the end of the day, they were so rewarding because they are such important key elements to the stories that we are trying to tell. Trauma survivors do deeply experience triggering things that will set them off. It’s such a real thing that people experience and so I think without it, it would probably be a disservice to the story we are trying to tell. It was super important to have those conversations, and at the same time, I did not know what my backstory was going to be until I had the script in my hand essentially. Anytime we had to work through one of those moments, I was learning little slivers of where I came from because I really didn’t know before that. It was always really tough, challenging, but super rewarding days on set for that kind of thing.

Adrian S. Burrows Sr./The CW

N&B: So it was a surprise for you to learn she grew up on a commune?

Autumn: Yeah, it was not at all what I thought it was going to be at all. Originally, I think they had a completely different story and then it got changed halfway through the season. What they were originally going to do was explore the relationship that I had with my mom and stuff and they decided to pivot and do this commune thing instead. Having to change that mindset and rewire where I thought the character was heading for the first half of the season, that was a challenge. But ultimately I think it worked out.

N&B: It’s been great watching Mildred bond with other 4400 as well. First Claudette and now she’s roommates with LaDonna. They seem like an odd pairing but they work so well. Have you enjoyed working with the other actors?

Autumn: Yeah, for sure. Khailah and I are really close off set. Our personalities in real life are also really different so when they made us roommates in the show it was so funny because it’s like a parallel to what real life is actually like. I think that’s a good place for her to be because they could learn a lot from each other. They both have very different strengths and weaknesses, so I think if they continue to explore their friendship then they’ll both discover really important things about themselves for sure.

N&B: Speaking of, I have to ask about Millicent. Millicent working with the 44forum had to be quite the twist for you.

Autumn: Yeah, it was totally out of left field. In episode 5, when we were filming episode 5 they finally told me I had a sister. I didn’t know before then but they didn’t give me any information about her, so when I got [episode] 12 I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if she was going to be older than me, I didn’t know if she was going to be younger than me, I didn’t know anything about anything. Reading that I was probably just as shocked as you were.

N&B: You gave an incredible performance when Mildred tries to get through to her. You could really feel the love for her sister. Where do you see their relationship heading, it’s clear this could be a huge divide between the sisters.

Autumn: Well, thank you. Yeah, definitely think it’s going to come up again if the show gets renewed. To be traumatized by the commune and then retraumatized by the one person she thought would have her back at the end of the day, you don’t bounce back from that quickly. If the show continues then that plot line will definitely have to continue.

N&B: With her powers returned, what do you hope to see for Millie’s story development if you do get a season 2 renewal?

Autumn: I definitely want to explore more of how the effects of this season impact her ability to have relationships and make friends and trust people again. I hope we come off of this season with Mildred really taking her power back and claiming her strength and then go the next step deeper and see her try to repair her emotional side and connect with people again. I think that would probably be a pretty tough process, but it would be nice to see and I think that’s a story people can relate to.

Sandy Morris/The CW

N&B: She already undergoes some changes in episode 12. How did you feel about her big “makeover”? I loved the red hair, personally.

Autumn: It was so much fun. I haven’t cut my hair in so many years because I’m super particular about it and so when I read the hair would have to be different I was so shocked because I just literally never think about that kind of thing. To be able to try the wig on and see what I would look like was so much fun. On top of that, it’s interesting to feel when you put the wig on and things change physically how that impacts you emotionally and how the character feels on the inside and how that reflects in what they look like, it was really a helpful tool to jump into the mindset of where she was at.

N&B: If you could describe the finale in 3 words for fans what would you use?

Autumn: I would probably say unexpected, I would say thrilling and I would say rewarding. Those are the three words I would use.

N&B: The show has been very socially aware of what’s going on in the world right now, how is that as an actor to pull that into this fictional world?

Autumn: It’s been incredible to see network execs and higher-up creatives and people rally together to tell these stories that need to be told. That’s been really inspiring to me and I hope that’s a reflection of the industry as a whole and we can take that as a sign that the hard work is going to pay off and we’re headed in a better direction. The whole thing felt like such an important and once in a lifetime opportunity to help bring things to life that people really need to think about. Being able to feel the support of the creatives behind it was eye-opening to me.

N&B: We always like to close out interviews with a fun question, because we are Nerds & Beyond. What’s something that you are nerdy about?

Autumn: I am really into cooking right now, which I feel like I talk about in every interview, but I recently switched to a plant-based diet, and I’m such a nerd about vegan cooking and stuff like that. I will cook for anybody, I love to bake. I love the science behind vegan diets, I love all that kind of thing.

It was tough at first but what it came down to was I’d go to vegan restaurants and the food was better and I would feel better. So when I moved out to Chicago to film the show and had to buy my own food, I was like well I guess I’m going to be vegan now. It’s really fun to research and think about once you fall down the rabbit hole.

The series finale of 4400 airs Monday, February 14 on The CW. Check out all our coverage of the show here.

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