Melissa Roxburgh Is Like Her 'Manifest' Character In More Ways Than You'd Think
Melissa Roxburgh walks into her photoshoot for Elite Daily carrying her shoes. They're a pair of rockin' pumps, red and black snakeskin, the kind I'd instantly covet standing in front of the shop window while knowing I have no reason ever to put them on. Roxburgh is far less impressed. "Do you want to wear them?" Apparently, they're misery on the feet, even though they're photogenic as hell. She wears them exactly as little as she needs to, like a sensible human. Within a few minutes, it's apparent Melissa Roxburgh is like her Manifest character in more ways than I expected, from her practicality to her sleuthing skills.
Roxburgh has reached household name status recently thanks to her starring turn as Michaela Stone in NBC's out-of-the-box hit Manifest. Her character is one part all sense, a cop who just made detective, and one part true believer. Her rise in rank comes partially because of her trust in what the show refers to as "Callings," the mysterious visions she and other passengers begin having after their plane travels forward through time by five and a half years.
Roxburgh says she immediately connected with both the script and character when she read the pilot.
"I’m obsessed with mysteries... I thought Jeff [Rake, the showrunner] did a really good job of writing characters. Every single character on the page had different layers to it. I just identified with Michaela, too; she’s the black sheep of her family, I’m the black sheep of my family. She had a lot of religious influence growing up; my Dad’s a pastor. There’s a lot of correlations, I fell in love with her immediately."
Much like her character, Roxburgh is all about solving the mysteries of Manifest. The series began focused on Flight 828, which somehow jumped in time during a three-hour flight, leaving those on the ground to believe their loved ones were dead for five years. However, what seems at first to be a government experiment gone awry has taken several twists and turns through the second half of Season 1.
Roxburgh admits outright: "I want to know everything, I might be the nosiest in the world," and cops to reading every script searching for clues. She admits she was also surprised the original government conspiracy angle never went anywhere.
She does have her own theories as to what comes next. Roxburgh explains, "I hate to say this, but I think some of the characters are going to go dark. We’re all one unit right now; we’re all together against whatever is happening. But I have a feeling we're going to have some people wind up on the opposite side."
She laughs about it, but she can't help but be a bit obsessed. "[W]ithin the first couple of episodes of us shooting I bugged our showrunner. My whole key to uncovering things is to get him when he’s really, really tired. You can kind of tell: 'Oh, how you doing today? And he’s like, 'Oh, I’m just a little tired.' [I say] 'Perfect! So what happens down the road in this...' He’ll tell you 'cause he’s too tired to think about it."
It turns out this is the opposite tack of Josh Dallas, the actor who plays her brother Ben. According to Roxburgh, he never wants to know what's happening, preferring to have his character be in the moment. "Josh didn’t want to know anything about what happened. I wanted to know everything! I just, I love to know. I love to have the information."
The irony of this is the characters of Michaela and Ben are opposites, too. Ben is the grounded one, all science and math, demanding mysteries have clearly defined answers, while Michaela is ready to take her feelings on faith. These differing strategies have paid off, because while the on-screen siblings may disagree, at the end of the day, they still love and respect each other. Roxburgh says playing this kind of tight sibling relationship came naturally to her since she grew up in Vancouver as the second of four kids.
Roxburgh and Dallas may play a bit of a reverse X-Files dynamic, but it's very different from her other on-screen pairing with Jared (J.R. Ramirez).
Jared and Michaela aren't just detective partners on Manifest; they're also ex-lovers from before Michaela jumped through time. She imagined herself coming home to say yes to his marriage proposal, only to discover he went and got married — to her best friend. (Awkward.) But it wasn't long before Jared and Michaela were falling back into bed together.
Roxburgh admits she feels torn over whether her character should wind up with Jared. On the one hand, it's what the writers have been aiming for. On the other, it might be best if it doesn't work out. "I mean it’s kind of hard. ... I’m struggling with [it], you want true love to win, and you want them to be together, [but] obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that. Michaela’s trying to do things the right way... and now there’s another guy in the picture who may or may not go down that road as well. It’s just all becoming very complicated, but the end of the day I want true love to win.
The "other guy" is Zeke, played by Matt Long. He only turned up in the last few episodes of the season, but he's already become a fan favorite, both of viewers and Roxburgh. She has nothing but praise for Long, who came in late in the season, but has fit right in with the cast.
"Matt Long, who plays Zeke, is such an awesome guy. He’s been a perfect addition to our group of cast members."
She's also really into how their relationship changes up the dynamic between her and Ramirez's characters.
"As far as his character goes, Michaela and Zeke have a really awesome relationship. He’s kind of been a relief from the emotional stuff that’s going on with her and Jared, she gets to be herself, so I do like what’s happening there even if it’s just a friendship."
Roxburgh may see her character's connection with Zeke as a friendship to grow on, but fans have all sorts of other ideas. Roxburgh doubts the veracity of most of them but admits she reads them all, from the sublimely silly to the patently ridiculous. Her current favorite: "Zeke and Michaela are twins and didn’t know." She bursts out laughing. "[W]e don’t even look alike!"
Some of the theories that stick with her are the really imaginative ones that get into tons of fan fiction driven backstory: "There was another one... I’m pregnant and my baby is the holy grail. People are getting creative."
Creative maybe, but so far she hasn't seen anyone land the right answer to the current mysteries this season. As for Season 2, everyone will be waiting on clues for renewal from NBC soon. Whatever secrets it might hold, fans can be sure Roxburgh will be on the case.
Photographs by Lauren Perlstein
Hair by Carly Walters Bethel
Makeup by Andrea Tiller