If there's anything we've learned over the two seasons of NBC's Manifest, it's that Flight 828 was a big 'ole plane and every single person on it has their own story to tell. In the Season 3 premiere, "Tailfin," Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh), Ben (Josh Dallas), and Cal (Jack Messina) discover another one of their kind in a disturbing shared vision (aka, a calling). In Costa Rica post-honeymoon, Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) and Zeke Landon (Matt Long) discover they are closest to this mystery girl's last known locale and it proves a knuckle-biter to find Angelina (Holly Taylor) before something dire goes down.
**SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains spoilers for Manifest Season 3, Episode 1, "Tailfin."**
As it happens, Angelina does get saved by the Stone family and whisked back to their abode so they can figure out both why she's in their joint calling and to help her heal in the aftermath of her horrible parents and the infamous flight outcome. Actress Holly Taylor (The Americans) joins the cast as a new regular where she'll find her fate deeply intertwined with that of Ben, Olive (Luna Blaise), and Cal.
Having worked since her Broadway debut in Billy Elliot at age 11, Taylor tells SYFY WIRE that Manifest was on her pop culture radar prior to auditioning, but it was only when she binge-watched the first two seasons for research that she fully comprehended the obsession it's become for so many of her friends. Now that she's been cast, Taylor admits she's protecting plenty of creator Jeff Rake's secrets, which include how Angelina will factor into the bigger issues regarding the callings and the ultimate fate of everyone on 828. While she remained pretty tight-lipped on our recent phone call, she did provide some juicy teasers about what's to come this season...
Audiences are introduced to Angelina via exposition throughout the episode until Michaela makes that stunning discovery and rescue. It feels like you and your character have both gotten dropped into the series rather dramatically, especially since you're shooting the series under rigid COVID-19 protocols.
Yeah. They've all been together for two seasons now and they're like a family. It's already a little weird being the new kid. You want everyone to know that you're nice, and you're a good person because I'm a people pleaser. [Laughs.]
But on top of that, you have to eat lunch by yourself in your room. And you can't be closer than six feet together, even in between scenes. It was hard, but I got really, really lucky that the cast was so welcoming and so nice. They made me feel really comfortable and I still was able to forge some connections with the cast, which I'm very thankful for.
What kind of guidance did you get from Jeff about how to play Angelina mentally after she's rescued? She seems to have bonded very quickly to Michaela, in particular. Will that extend out to the rest of the Stone family?
I think, in the beginning of the season, when she's brought home, she's very awkward, shy, and doesn't really know what to do with herself. But the Stone family is so outgoing and warm and welcoming that it helps her settle in a little bit, at least.
But at the same time, I think she's so desperate for any kind of connection that she clings to it. And falling asleep with her head on Michaela's shoulder, I think all of that is kind of subconscious. I'm sure she fell asleep first, and then her head fell on her shoulder just out of habit. She probably woke up and felt very awkward and uncomfortable about that. But she's just so desperate for any connection with anyone. She hasn't had anything since Flight 828, so for five years, I guess. She's really missing out on any kind of compassion from anybody. And I think she's willing to grasp at the littlest bit that she gets.
In terms of Angelina's overall arc in Season 3, how much did Jeff share and how important is her ultra-conservative religious background going to be as she moves forward?
Yeah, some of it is a little spoilery so I won't go too far. But for the first few episodes, it was really helpful — Jeff telling me the background of Angelina and that she was in a mentally abusive situation with her parents. I think that's a huge deal that they neglected her, which is bad enough in itself, but she was genuinely abused in some way. A lot of scarring comes from that and that is going to carry into her life, and she has to work on healing.
Also, the major religious component is parallel to this whole thread that the callings are bringing you along based on what you choose to believe and how you interpret those things that come to you, and how you choose to act on them. That's what her religion has given her: A foundation for her whole life. Now she has to re-implement those teachings into following her callings.
And her religion failed her for a little bit while she was being abused because it was turned against her. Her parents thought that she was the devil so it's hard to trust something mythical like that again. Which is why I think she struggles with the callings. Olive really helps her with that. The Stone family helps her to warm up a bit. And that was just interesting for me to see the parallel between her life story and the story of all the other characters of 828 and how it really is all connected.
By the episode's end, Ben seems primed to re-engage with this own faith. Will the two of you connect with that going forward?
Yeah, I think Ben and Angelina are on similar missions in different ways for this season. She interacts with him a little bit around the house, but I think it's really more Olive who helps bring her out of her shell because Olive has to have faith that what she's following and researching with these callings is going to keep her dad and her brother around. She has to have faith in that way, even though she doesn't get the callings herself.
She really enlightens Angelina with that and shows her that these are the positive things that can come from believing in these things that are happening to you and following your instinct.
But you know, people get hurt along the way. We've seen in the past seasons when Ben or Michaela follow callings, and it's not what they thought it was gonna be. They interpreted it incorrectly. Things go wrong; someone gets hurt. With all the passengers, we've seen that. Angelina is probably going to go through some of that too, some trials and tribulations trying to figure out what everything means, and how to navigate them.
Cal's welcome to Angelina, saying "I've been waiting for you," could be interpreted as both comforting and weird. What should we expect from their connection?
Yeah, I think Cal is very drawn to Angelina from the beginning. He knows that she's coming somehow all from his intuition. He's kind of like a little prophet and their guiding light for everything. And I think he becomes that with Angelina too.
As much as he's not physically there with her all the time, like Olive is, he takes her under his wing and wants to make sure she's OK. And he knows deep down that she's not OK. He senses that and feels it in his gut. They have a really strong bond from the beginning.
I think when Cal says, "I've been waiting for you," in some way, Angelina knows that too. She feels that connection with him, and knows that he's going to be an important part of her life and vice versa. Cal is one of the major components and instigators in saving Angelina's life. He's the reason that Ben pushed them to go save her. She's very thankful for him and their relationship is gonna get stronger throughout the rest of the season.
Have we seen the last of Angelina's creepy parents?
Angelina decided right away that she didn't want to report them and she didn't want to follow up with any of that. She just wanted to get out of there and get into a different environment. Hopefully, a safer one. I think she jumped on board with that just desperate for something healthy to happen in her life. She really just leaves them behind and doesn't think twice about it. They did so much damage to her that it's not worth it, digging up the past at this time.
She has these great, welcoming, stable people around her that can give her the space to figure out who she is. And I think she's gonna make the most of that.
This show throws a lot of curveballs at the actors and their characters. Have you had your own yet?
The callings that you see in Episode 1, where the three of us are just screaming and our skin is kind of translucent? That was hysterical and so funny to shoot. Talk about a humbling experience.
They brought us into this stage with huge green screens, and that was it, with all the camera crew. They had us stand there in front of everyone and scream our heads off. I definitely was a shy person for probably 75 percent of my life so far. I think that probably eradicated most of it because you couldn't hold anything back. [Laughs.] You have full-on bloody murder screams in front of all these people with their masks on. I kept thinking I wish I was one of those actors who could take this really seriously right now and be super into it and channel this emotion. But I couldn't get past the fact that we were just standing on a green floor screaming about nothing.
Is there an Angelina episode that you're most excited for audiences to see this season?
There's so much stuff that happens to my character this season that's life-changing for her. It's crazy. I feel like every episode, she has a new, profound experience. There's a lot of very cathartic things for me this season. It was a very, very emotional, traumatizing journey. I had to dig up a lot of stuff. I think we're all looking forward to a little bit of rest when the season wraps up.
New episodes of Manifest Season 3 premiere on NBC on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.