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Interview: Laura Mennell

On Tuesday, January 21st at 10/9c, the History Channel will be premiere the second season of its thrilling series Project Blue Book.

The series is based on the work of astrophysics professor—and eventual ufologist—Dr. J. Allen Hynek in the 1950s and 1960s. The goals of Project Blue Book were to prove if UFOs were a threat to national security and to go over and analyze UFO-related information.

One of the characters involved in the History Channel series is Mimi Hynek, who is the wife of Dr. Allen Hynek. The character is portrayed by the talented Canadian actress Laura Mennell.

On the big screen, she’s appeared in movies such as Watchmen and Thir13en Ghosts. On the small screen, many of you may know her as Nina Theroux from Alphas. She’s also appeared in series such as Motive, Cedar Cove, Smallville, Supernatural, Van Helsing, Sanctuary and The Man in the High Castle.

We sat down with Laura to talk about Project Blue Book. We talked with her about Mimi’s growth during the first season, the relationship between her and Susie and what fans can look forward to with the second season of Project Blue Book.

Pop Culture Principle – Your character had quite the rollercoaster ride in the first season. As an actor, how much do you enjoy playing a character that offers so many layers for you to play with?

Laura Mennell – I think that’s part of the reason that I fell in love with Mimi because of the arc she had and also specifically, the relationship she had with Susie in the first season was really layered, interesting and complicated to say the least. Getting to play all of that with Ksenia Solo, who is such a talented actor and a lovely human being, was great. I was originally drawn to Mimi because I felt like even though I was coming from a different place, I understood what it meant to be someone who had a bit of a void in their life. I think we all go through a point in our lives where we are missing something in our lives and we might not know exactly what that is.

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For Mimi, she was stuck in the rut of domesticity at the time that a lot of 1950s housewives might have felt. There was something she needed in her life and didn’t know quite what that was and I think in many ways, Susie came along and she was able to fill that void and really see her and understand her and helped her get out of her shell and helped her find inner strength. Susie was the catalyst for a lot of change in Mimi’s life and that was exciting for me to see and I kind of understood it in a weird way without being in that exact world.

Pop Culture Principle – Did you do any type of research to prepare for playing a woman from the 1950s?

Laura Mennell – One of the most interesting things about being an actor is that you get to be a bit of a detective at times. One of the ways that I did for research jumping into the role of Mimi was figuring out what it was like to be a woman back then. It’s pretty pivotal in terms of also understanding Mimi’s storylines and it was one of her struggles from the very beginning that they lightly touched on.

There were these really great educational films for young women back then. The films taught them how to be ideal wives. They are interesting to watch because at first you kind of fall in love with these cute, vintage movies, but after a few moments, you start really thinking about what was the main purpose of all these films. In these films, the women basically were to fully and completely compromise their needs for that of their husbands. It wasn’t a half and half thing; it was basically all on the side of the woman and I found it to be kind of a difficult thing to watch. It made me understand Mimi a little bit more and where she was coming from.

Pop Culture Principle – The pacing of Mimi’s growth and story in the first season was well done by the writers of Project Blue Book. Would you agree with that?

Laura Mennell – Definitely. I really love that they’ve been smart about it in that Mimi goes through a significant amount of growth in the first season and it will continue in the second season. This season, Mimi will be a stronger, more driven inquisitive Mimi who is starting to break the mold of being the passive housewife. She’s really getting out there in the world and will start doing a little truth-seeking of her own, which I think is exciting.

She’ll get to do a little research for Allen in terms of helping him with his cases and will also officially get to work with Project Blue Book. It’s a really nice transition and it’s really fun for me as an actor to get to go from the sheltered little Mimi we see in the first episode to really becoming a woman who is a bit more ahead of her time in the second season which is great.

Pop Culture Principle – Mimi has had an interesting friendship with Susie throughout the first season. How important has that friendship been for Mimi in terms of her growth?

Laura Mennell – I touched on this a little bit before, but I don’t think that Mimi’s feelings towards Susie became a little complicated. I think when someone comes along in your life and they really do see you and they fill that kind of void; I think things can get a little complicated. I mean obviously, things got a little morally blurry, but some of that was not Mimi’s fault, but when life gets a little complicated, Mimi does love her family and she loves Allen and she doesn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that. So, she’s taking a little bit of a step back and waiting for that energy to change with Susie.

At the beginning of this new season, Mimi will be more focused on her work with Allen and Project Blue Book and other things. Susie will be focused on changing her sights and focusing more on working Captain Quinn. But, for people who do love Mimi and Susie as I do personally, you’ll just have to wait. At first, some people will be very confused and want to know why they aren’t together, but you will just have to wait. They will reunite and when things happen, there will be some pretty epic story points.

Pop Culture Principle – Although this series takes place in the 1950s, many of the subjects tackled in the series like politics, women’s rights, fake news and the threat of nuclear war and so on are very relevant today. Would you agree?

Laura Mennell – I would totally agree with that on every level, especially the issue of fake news. Project Blue Book was originally a misinformation campaign. The government was concerned with any possible mass hysteria happening from the public, especially after the huge Roswell event. So, that’s where Project Blue Book, which is an amalgamation of Project Sign, Project Blue Book and Project Grudge, was used to make sure that the public was calm. It’s interesting because the government was hiding a lot from the public, but then at the same time, I start to wonder if the public would have been able to handle the truth. The truth is stranger than fiction, but that’s a little bit scary and I am sure the government had their reasons as well. It was a very interesting time for sure.

Pop Culture Principle – One of the great aspects of Project Bluebook is that it’s not only an entertaining show, but it’s educational at the same time. Would you agree?

Laura Mennell – Yes. Especially for working for a network like the History Channel. A huge goal of theirs is to educate people and it’s really exciting because a lot of people would not have necessarily known about Project Blue Book and Dr. Allen Hynek and I’m included in that. I think our show is in some ways a crash course in Ufology as we know it and that’s exciting. They are real-life cases and the great thing about the History Channel is that if there are cases that the audience falls in love with, they can then go online or go on the History Channel’s social media pages and learn more about that or even start doing digging on their own at their local library or the internet.

Pop Culture Principle – Where does the second season of Project Blue Book pick up?

Laura Mennell – We will start off about several months later after the Season One finale. The Washington Merry Go Round episode was extremely epic and you wonder how they will top that. Somehow this season, the writers have pulled out all the stops and we start off with the biggest case of all-time which is Roswell. Yes, Roswell was in 1947, but there is an incident that will happen that will pull our team back to Roswell. It’s such a great episode and it’s very exciting for Neal McDonough’s character.

We find out he has ties to Roswell and you’ll learn a lot about his backstory and he’ll deal with some inner demons. I think the audience will be really excited about that and it will be a two-parter. That goes hand-in-hand with Area 51 and what is behind those gates and also the CIA secret mind control program will be part of this year. So, there is some pretty cool stuff to look forward to this season.

Pop Culture Principle – There are some who automatically compare Project Blue Book to The X-files. Do you think a comparison like that helps or hurts the series?

Laura Mennell – I think sometimes it might help in some ways because The X-files had a huge following, but we definitely have our own unique show. Especially because of the time period and just having that film noir, vintage feel to it really heightens it and makes it really exciting, especially because it’s so cinematic to look at. I think it’s just so much more fun having it placed in the 1950s, but also having that edginess and darkness of all these crazy cases, there is a lot to work with and a lot at play. I don’t think it really hurt us because I think once you start to watch the show, it is a very different show from The X-files. I liked The X-files and I was a lot younger when it first came out, so I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Pop Culture Principle – Has being a part of this show strengthened or changed your mind about UFOs and the possibility about life elsewhere in the universe?

Laura Mennell – Yes, completely. To be honest, I didn’t think about it all that much and I hate to say that, but it’s true. I think all of us have thought about the idea of their being intelligent life out there other than ourselves. Being a part of this show and also just learning about the history behind it all and all of these real-life cases, it really makes you think about it, especially with the coverup of it all. It definitely changed my mindset and it’s such a timely show with a lot of disclosure that has been starting to come out. All of these news articles, even in mainstream and reputable sites like the New York Times, The Guardian and the BBC, having stories about the UFO phenomenon right now and it’s exciting. It’s definitely had me looking at the skies in a different way and it’s great.

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A huge thank you to Laura Mennell for taking the time out of her schedule to talk with us. Project Blue Book returns for its second season on Tuesday, January 21st at 10/9c only on the History Channel!

**All Project Blue Book photos courtesy of History Channel**

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