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SYFY WIRE The Resort

'The Resort': Cristin Milioti teases how Emma is on the brink going into the Peacock series finale

Actress Cristin Milioti teases Emma's state of mind heading into The Resort finale.

By Tara Bennett
A still from Peacock's The Resort

One of streaming's under the radar, late summer gems has been Andy Siara's (Palm Springs) existential, time twisting mystery, The Resort. At series start, it was easy to assume this was just going to be a quasi true crime story about Emma (Cristin Milioti) and Noah (William Jackson Harper), an estranged married couple on a tense holiday in Mexico, who stumble upon a cold case about two missing young adults who disappeared from the resort 15 years ago, and her obsession to figure out what happened. But over seven episodes the show has zigged and zagged to entirely unexpected places including time travel, family curses, a painting full of impossible secrets, and a mythical locale called Pasaje that seems to be the source of all the insanity. As the season finale looms (airing Sept. 1 on Peacock), it's clear that Emma's obsession has only gotten more dogged as the last shot of Episode 7, "La Pubertad del Matrimonio," reveals the main players ready to enter Pasaje.

That moment is the culmination of a long-journey for both Emma and actress Cristin Milioti, who was pitched The Resort three years ago by writer Andy Siara when she was playing Sarah Wilder, a woman stuck in a time loop, in his film Palm Springs"I was intrigued, but you never know how this stuff is gonna go. We sort of left it as, 'If it happens, call me.' And then sure enough, it did happen," Milioti tells SYFY WIRE. 

"I knew on Palm Springs that I wanted to work with Andy always," the actress says about collaborating again with Siara. "I just love the way his brain works. I love his writing. I don't know how else to describe it, but I just feel very at home in his worlds. Maybe we have similar tastes and our brains work similarly."

She also says that the casting of actor William Jackson Harper as Noah only further ensured her interest. "Will Jackson Harper was attached, who I had just worked with a couple of years prior in a play about a couple going through a divorce, so I was instantly in."

As the episodes unfold, it becomes clear that there are several mysteries unfolding in The Resort, including what's going on with Emma, who is emotionally withdrawn from life and Noah until the missing kids case falls into her life. Asked how much of Emma's arc she was told from the start, Milioti says Siara made sure she knew it all from the early days.

"When I was first signing on, I think only the first three were fully written. But then he and I got on the phone for like two hours one night," Millioti remembers. "I was still shooting Made for Love and he had been in the writers' room all day, so we got on the phone at like 10 at night or something crazy. He told me the entire story for two hours. There was some stuff that ended up changing but the bones of it all were still there. I knew about the loss that she had experienced, I knew that she and Noah were going to have this big separation later on in the season. I knew all of that. But definitely, we found even more as we went along."

Coming into the finale, there's a desperation roiling off of Emma that has been building since the reveal that their baby daughter died right after childbirth. It's information that Emma has had no interest in sharing with anyone, but explains so much about where Emma has remained emotionally in her life and marriage since. "Episode 5 is one of my favorites, when Balthasar is interrogating her because it's really when the tables are turned on her," Millioti explains. "My hope is that when you're watching it, you know that something is off. You know that something's off in their marriage. But you also, I hope, know that something is off with her, very much so."

It's only in Episode 7 that Emma's able to be honest with Murray (Nick Offerman) about what Pasaje could mean for her: a chance to see her daughter's face. "I don't think Emma is therapied at all," Millioti assesses about Emma. "Ever since she lost her daughter, she doesn't want to live in a moment of the present, which is the most understandable thing to me in the world. It is something that I lead with with her, where it was anything to drown out the memory of the future memories that she lost. But you have to mourn the memories that you create like when she graduates from high school or her first steps. She's haunted by that. But then I think the minute she hears about Pasaje, that hope comes back, but it's violent and obsessive. I think that she will do anything to not be here."

With the entrance to Pasaje looking Emma in the face, Milloti likens her character to a shark smelling blood in the water and that blood is long denied "hope" for Emma. "I think she becomes so laser focused and I guess that's why I use that shark analogy. I wanted her to seem like rabid," the actress explains. "She is so fixated that she pushes away the one person who went through that experience with her and who was also in mourning. Something I always thought that Andy did so well with Emma and Noah is showing that they are such a perfect and terrible match for each other. The way he caretakes for her is very cloying and it's her worst nightmare of caretaking. And the way that she keeps everything locked up and refuses to talk is like a slow death for him. I thought that was such an amazing way to show the dynamic of these people. This is what happens when people get divorced, they've gotten into this cycle where they don't know how to take care of each other anymore. They're holding on to this love that is totally there, because it's old and their history and it's real. But they're so far away from each other."

Come back after the finale of The Resort, streaming Sept. 1 on Peacock, for our post mortem conversation with Cristin Milioti.