Martha Millan knew it was going to be difficult stepping into the role of Fiona De La Rosa in “The Cleaning Lady.”
But it didn’t scare her – it challenged her.
“Fiona is definitely a character that holds her own,” Millan says during an interview from Australia. “Working with Élodie (Yung) was special. She and I would bounce lines off of each other. We play sisters-in-law on the series.”
“The Cleaning Lady” follows the story of Cambodian doctor, Thony, played by Yung, who comes to the United States for a medical treatment to save her ailing son Luca.
With her son diagnosed with a life-threatening immunodeficiency disorder and her husband, Marco, played by Ivan Shaw, struggling with a gambling addiction and unable to get a visa, Thony is left to save the boy on her own. Where she once had it all – a successful career as a doctor, loving husband and family, Thony is now in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her sister-in-law, Fiona, played by Millan, waiting for a matching bone marrow donor for Luca, while struggling to make ends meet as an undocumented worker.
When the system fails and pushes her into hiding, she refuses to be beaten down and marginalized. Instead, through an unexpected run-in with a lieutenant of a powerful crime syndicate, Arman Morales, played by Adan Canto, she becomes a cleaning lady for their operation. The series airs at 8 p.m. Mondays on Fox. On Jan. 3, the show premiered with 3.56 million viewers.
The series filmed in and around Albuquerque for nearly six months.
In that time, Millan and the cast grew to love Albuquerque, as well as the writing on the series.
“This show definitely comes with the explosions and the drama,” she says. “It’s really grounded in the topical issues that are put in the forefront. It’s not imposing on people. It allows you to walk a mile in those characters’ shoes. It creates empathy if you do connect.”
Millan was also happy to be involved with a project that represents a lot of marginalized voices.
The production also gave her some time to spend in New Mexico.
“I live in New York and in Australia, and New Mexico is the land of enchantment,” she says. “Seeing the Sandia Mountains as the backdrop to the city, I would cry everyday going into work. Albuquerque brings some earthiness and nature. The Sandias are one of my favorite places now. Even the sunsets are amazing. I went to Chaco Canyon and it was so magical. I can see why the landscape lends itself to many different shows.”
Millan lived in Downtown Albuquerque and spent a lot of time running in Tingley Beach.
“I immersed myself into the community while I was there,” she says. “I spent a few Fridays going to ArtWalk in Downtown. There were firethrowers walking along Central and it was really cool. I also spent a lot of time in Nob Hill and many in the cast were already talking about buying homes in Albuquerque.”
The production also filmed at Journal Studios, where the hospital and lawyer scenes were shot.
Millan says the crew was top notch and really helped the production run smoothly.
“The show is so unique,” Millan says. “The characters have their struggles, but it’s the foundation that helps them overcome the situations.”
SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.