LOS ANGELES -- Allison Tolman was excited about the opportunity to play Jo Evans in the new ABC mystery thriller "Emergence," set to launch Tuesday on ABC, as soon as she read the script. The character is a police chief in a sleepy community who takes in a young child who is the only survivor of a huge airplane crash and has no memory. Her motherly instincts and police training kick in when the child becomes the center of a huge conspiracy.
Tolman's criterion for taking on a role is the character has to be more than a woman who is defined by the men around her. She also doesn't have time for projects that spend a lot of time talking about the physical characteristics of the female characters. As soon as a script says a character is "overweight," she will stop reading immediately.
"Emergence" passed all her tests with flying colors, as it gives her a strong and well-defined character to play.
"She is a mom and a police officer and both of those things inform her, but I looked at her more as a fully formed human," Tolman says. "Jo is a mom. She already has this sort of maternal instinct, and that, accompanied by her sense of duty, I think, as an officer of the law, is what puts her in this position where she immediately takes this kid in who has nobody. She doesn't really see an alternative. She is a warm person, and she is a mother, and that's what leads to that.
"As this universe continues and answers are harder and harder to find, it becomes a concern as to whether this is the best thing for her family and in what ways is she jeopardizing her family and her town."
It was easy for Tolman to play a police officer because the Texas native's first major role a series regular on the first season of the FX crime dramedy "Fargo." She received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her performance.
Both "Fargo" and "Emergence" have characters who work for law enforcement, but Tolman sees them as very different.
"Molly on 'Fargo' was a woman who learning to find her confidence as an investigator and as a policewoman," Tolman says. "Jo is already there. She's already in charge. She doesn't have to prove herself to anybody. I think she has this hidden wealth of investigative talent that she's never had to call upon.
"But, when she is called upon, she's ready and knows she can do this as well. I think she's a methodical thinker and I think that is how her brain puts things together."
Also making the role easier has been Tolman's love of science fiction and horror. The first episode of "Emergence" hints there will be some sci-fi or science reality elements.