If you’ve been keeping up with Freeform’s latest mystery thriller, ‘The Watchful Eye’, you’ve seen Mariel Molino as Elena Santos trying to piece together who and what she can trust in the massive melting pot of characters that is The Greybourne building. The first season of this show takes many twists and turns, and it’s all leading up to the finale, which airs this Monday, March 24—and Molino herself has dished on some of the behind-the-scene and finale details.
How has this season been for Elena? What has her journey been since arriving at The Greybourne?
I think that she’s really been on a journey of reparations for her family. That’s really been her mission throughout this whole process, to, in some way, find justice for her father. I think that at the beginning she justified that through monetary means, and if she wasn’t going to be able to get justice in any other way, it was going to be through money. As she became more invested in the secrets and the lies and the deception and finding out that this family not only has done this to her, but to other people—then I think she let her emotions take over.
That’s when things started to get really dangerous. Any time your emotions take over, you start losing grasp on what is right and what is wrong. Once she was in The Greybourne and she started seeing things, she really wanted to make it personal and she wanted to make these people pay for what they did at the risk of not only losing a lot of people around her, or even her family, but also herself in a way.
Elena forms a lot of relationships with different people in and out of The Greybourne—was there one that was fun to explore onscreen or on set?
I still love the relationship between Tory (Amy Acker) and Elena. I think it’s that unlikely pairing of these two very strong women, very opinionated women that from the get-go, you know, they feel that intimidation from both ends… I think that if they were under different circumstances, they would be friends or they would support each other.
But I don’t know, I’ve loved seeing that relationship have its ups and downs. And Amy Acker is actually the most lovely human, so she’s just so good at playing someone like Tory. I also say that because I think you’ll find something very unlikely to happen between them in the finale, which is very interesting. Then obviously, it was a dream to get to act with Kelly Bishop. I felt like every time I got to film with her, I had to be on my A game. I felt the pressure in the best way and she’s a pro. So that was really a career high for me.
Yeah, I could imagine Kelly Bishop being similar to her character.
Yes. And more [laughs], but she’s also just the kindest, sweetest human. But she is on it—she’s so precise, she’s so specific about her work and just a joy.
And what about moments from the show? The masquerade seemed like fun, and on the other hand, the basement scenes seemed like they might be terrifying to film.
I loved the masquerade. It was so fun to get to dress up, and it was really great to work with the costume department and the makeup department to create this look that we’ve never seen Elena in, and to try and make her unrecognizable.
Then, yes, there were plenty of times [in the basement scenes] that we were filming that it felt very real and it was very scary. There was the location in which we do the basement and a lot of where the break room is for the doormen—that was all filmed in this place called Riverview. Riverview used to be an insane asylum and the tunnel was connected to a prison that would transfer their inmates. It’s so creepy, and it closed down in the eighties… you can just feel a presence there.
How would you describe Elena and what do you like most about her?
I like that when she sets her mind on something, you can’t dissuade her. When she says I’m going to the gala, that’s it, she has that idea and she is not going to take no for an answer. There’s something about her that I love where she doesn’t really care if she’s ruffling feathers and if people don’t like her. She’s okay with having a smaller, close and tight-knit group of friends. I think it’s one of the reasons that there are characters like Ginny (Aliyah Royale) that find her attractive, because she wants to know more about her and Elena doesn’t want to open up and she doesn’t want to reveal things about her. She is someone who hasn’t dealt with her trauma and her grief and is trying to do the best that she can by protecting her family, but she has to realize that you need to let people in in order to experience love again.
What has been the most shocking twist for you in the first season?
I remember finding out that Scott (Jon-Michael Ecker) was a Greybourne—that was a huge shock to me, I could not believe it. I knew that there was something up because there are clues in the script and there was that moment where he kind of shuts me down when I ask him who his intel is on the Ruby. Then there is a moment in the finale that is so shocking… well a couple of moments. But there are three big ones that I did not see coming and yeah… We would receive the scripts before we would go into filming an episode, and so we were really finding everything out as it as it was playing.
I’m sure the not knowing helped keep everyone on an even playing field for Elena in terms of trust…
Yes, because then I’m really seeing everyone on the same playing field and I’m viewing everyone as a potential threat.
And what would you tell fans overall to expect for the finale?
I’m going to say there are a lot of unlikely team ups, and not just with Elena, but with other characters that you wouldn’t imagine teaming up. You’ll see them work together in different ways, and there will be a lot of shocks that come with it— and you can expect a cliffhanger. But, you can also expect to have a lot of your questions answered which I think is really nice to know because sometimes with mysteries, there can be so many red herrings, and then they’re not really resolved. With this, most of your questions are going to be answered, if not all of them. Like, we see that at the end of episode eight, Darcy (Megan Best) is looking at something in the computer and we’re not really sure what that is. You’re gonna know what that is… and you’re gonna know what Ronnie (Jacqueline Obradors) is up to, Elena’s mom. So yeah, it’s just crazy.
Catch the season finale of ‘The Watchful Eye’ with Mariel Molino on Freeform Monday, March 27 at 10 p.m. ET, available to stream the next day on Hulu.