Robert Zemeckis’ fact-based UFO series Project Blue Book begins its second season on History this week, continuing the incredible story of the US Air Force’ investigation into UFOs following an alleged alien landing in Roswell New Mexico in 1947. It’s the Cold War and the military is on high alert, not just scanning the skies for foreign threats against the US but a possible alien invasion. Locals claim to have witnessed a space ship crash land in Roswell and a second elsewhere. They say they handled “alien” materials at both sites and a farmer claims to have kept direct evidence. Meanwhile, the Air Force shuts down Roswell and its citizens, claiming there were no spaceships, just two crashed weather balloons. A US General roughs up witnesses and threatens lives as mysterious calamities occur, and it’s clear no one’s safe. Canadian actor Laura Mennell plays Mimi Hynek, married to lead FBI investigator Allen Hynek; they find themselves in a dangerous position the further they go down the Roswell rabbit hole. I spoke with Mennell in Toronto.
The US Air Force investigation into UFOs after the “crash” in 1947 was real and top-secret, due to national security risks; a lot was at stake. Did you research the matter or did you prefer to leave it alone and rely on the script?
I did like to do research on it, I was reading about it. It’s fascinating, one of the biggest cases of all time, it can’t get any bigger than that. Learning about how many people were involved in Roswell in some way, shape or form, whether witnesses or people who knew someone who saw something, this unearthly metal that called “memory metal”’ the people who got their hands on it and the cover-up, how compartmentalized it was, how people were involved and what they were doing. The metal needed to be cleared out, it covered two different fields. There was a lot going on. It was huge.
The government was dangerously heavy-handed controlling the Roswell narrative.
It is a little bit scary how things may have been dealt with for the coverup and the force used. But at the same time, they were worried about news leaking and didn’t want any unnecessary complications.
What do you imagine it was like for your character, Mimi who was married to the lead FBI investigator, to get involved?
It is a dance she’ll have to do. She’s in a very different space than the first season. She was new and didn’t know what she was getting into, a damsel in distress. There was no information from her husband. Project Blue Book was top secret. So, she was in a difficult place when her husband’s job within the Project was becoming a threat to her husband and her family’s safety. But this season is great. Mimi is not as much at odds with him, Allen’s making good on his promise to bring her in and be more of a team. It’s even more exciting; she’s digging for information for Allen and working officially and arming herself with information. She’s comfortable with her family, but even so, it’s not perfect. Things are still pretty black and white in terms of gender roles relegated to the being a housewife. So, for her to start breaking that mould and getting out there in the workforce is a big deal. It’s fun for me too. She starting to learn who she is and using her natural curiosity for better or worse. Definitely it’s a season where Mimi will get an education and not just about UFOs.
Is Mimi based on a real person or amalgamation of people?
Mimi Hynek was a real person. The series isn’t a documentary, aspects have been tweaked for entertainment, it’s not a carbon copy, but she’s based on the real woman. However, the real Mimi didn’t have a Russian spy best buddy!
So interesting to find a solid series about Roswell, the Alien autopsy, Cold War Russia and Nazis and the whirl of speculation as to whether aliens invaded in 1947.
It really captured not just the American public’s attention but the world’s. It put Ufology (the study of reports, visual records, purported physical evidence, and other phenomena related to unidentified flying objects) on the map in 1947. When people started to take note of the “alien landing” Project Blue Book was set up. In our first episode, the writers found an intelligent way to draw us back into that original case. This is one of the greatest mysteries out there and our show does a great job. I think there is intelligent life out there, but for the most part, our world has been OK.
You’ve had an extraordinarily busy career on Canadian and American projects. What’s the key to being a successful actor?
I just knew that was always what I wanted to do. I never had a Plan B. I was firmly set as a kid that this is what I was going to do. It was escaping into other lives and worlds and doing different things. It’s a nice way to connect, to learn new things, it’s always changing and evolving as an actor. And you get to be a detective in every show, learning and finding what inspires you. It’s a weird job and I’m lucky to do what I do. Working on Project Blue Book is phenomenal. Especially the cast and crew, and there are Canadians.
Project Blue Book airs Tuesdays beginning January 21st at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HISTORY, for more information go to History.ca.
by @annebrodie – Critics Choice Association/AWFJ/TFCA/FIPRESCI