Interview With Alison Pill

  • This episode is a big one for Maggie, and really sets the stage for her this season. How did you prepare?

  • I did a lot of reading in the month leading up to shooting the episode. Initially, I started researching Rwanda, which was the first incarnation of the storyline and from there I read about the genocide and the constant civil war around the Great Lakes region. Eventually, it became Uganda and I focused my research on Joseph Kony, Idi Amin, and the whole Central African region. I also read a lot of firsthand accounts when I could find them. It was fascinating and horrifying to get into the history of Central Africa—especially the Congo and what's happening there now. It's like Leopold II [King of Belgium and founder of the Congo Free State] all over again in terms of taking resources from Africa without any real payment.

  • Was there a particular book that stood out to you and informed your performance?

  • 'Dancing in the Glory of Monsters' was the most comprehensive. It provides background on the region so that you get a lot of the influences within the countries and why they've evolved into conflict so often.

  • Maggie claims she wants to cover Africa so she can be the “go-to” person on something, but is that her true motivation? Or do you think this is her version of Jim's escape to the Romney bus?

  • She's decided to dive into work instead of dealing with the personal side of the office. It is an escape, but it's an escape to the work itself, not necessarily to the place. She also has a genuine moral drive to get stories out there about Africa—specifically the Great Lakes region—because this conflict has been raging forever and so few people know anything about it. It's more comparable to Sloan getting five minutes on economics.

  • There are conflicts all over the world—why Africa?

  • As a newsperson she can see that by getting ahead of whatever future stories there may be, you can be a better journalist—in this case, to cover US defense in terms of Africa—it's journalistic foresight.

  • Why does Maggie feel so responsible for what happened to Daniel? She couldn't have left him behind.

  • I think anybody in that situation would feel responsible. It's impossible to avoid the “what if.” She's a white girl who goes to Africa and messes everything up, so there's that kind of guilt: “How trite! How stupid to have tried.” She's a moral, Midwestern Christian girl who goes and gets crushed by the reality of the world.

  • That idealism is definitely shattered by this experience.

  • It's hard going in somewhere and thinking you can change something. She learns a huge lesson as a journalist about maintaining some distance from whatever you cover

  • Maggie latches onto Pastor Moses' comment about her hair color being “nothing but trouble.” Is there more than just Daniel's death that compels her to cut her hair?

  • She wants nothing to do with the Maggie of before. Also, it's a much more combative stance for Maggie than the polite blondie. It's the greatest defense in terms of breaking any preconceptions about her.