'Blindspot's' Jaimie Alexander on Nudity: "Her Body Is Literally a Treasure Map"

"I knew it wasn't going to be exploitative," the actress says of the NBC freshman series.
Virginia Sherwood/NBC

The most striking introduction of the 2015-16 TV season may well belong to Jaimie Alexander's character on NBC's Blindspot.

Her character, known only as Jane Doe, emerges from a duffle bag in the middle of a deserted Times Square, naked but covered in tattoos. It's an image that NBC has already shown countless times in previews for the series, but it still packs a punch in context.

"She's covered in story — that's the way I look at it," Alexander says. "Her body is literally a treasure map."

The Thor: The Dark World actress talked with The Hollywood Reporter about that first appearance, wearing all those tattoos and what viewers can expect from Blindspot, which premieres Monday following The Voice.

Let's start with the tattoos — how big a pain are they to apply?

I've gotten used to them. To be honest, sometimes I don't even remember they're on. They're not too bad. The summertime makes it a little more difficult because it's very humid in New York, and they get pretty sticky from time to time. But other than that, it's great. They're just cool. [Laughs.]

Do you have a favorite among them?

I'm a huge fan of neck tattoos, so I love the bird on the left side of my neck. I just think it's a really cool thing to have. Then I have another one up the back of my neck. It's a really cool look with short hair — I've always liked that on females, and now I get to sort of live that fantasy through Jane Doe.

In the pilot, the character spends a lot of time with her body exposed as she's being scanned and examined. That must be kind of a strange, vulnerable feeling for both the character and for you, right?

I think there are so many ways to show vulnerability, and in the right context I've always said I have no problem using my body to show certain things [about] a character, so long as it's the right context and in makes sense. Pointless nudity is ridiculous to me. It cheapens the value of a project. So when I read that she comes out of a bag in Times Square completely naked, I didn't even think of it as being naked. I just thought, "Oh my God, this poor woman." How violated she must feel. I knew that when that was my gut reaction to the scene, I knew it wasn't going to be exploitative.

I've read here and there, there are some activists and certain people saying this exploits women, and I want them to know it absolutely does not. This could be a man — it could be anyone. It's not pointless nudity. It's not shot in a way that's pointless or gratuitous. She's covered in story — that's the way I look at it. Her body is literally a treasure map. It could have just been on her arm, it could have been on her foot. Either way, we have to show that — that's the premise of the show.

For me, it was a little daunting just because it was so cold. ... But it was so worth it, and there's something so strangely liberating about it because it's such a shocking thing to film, in the middle of Times Square completely shut down. There are no visual effects in the opening sequence at all. There were really no people there.

When we meet Jane, she has no memory whatsoever of her past. How do you build a character from such a blank slate?

I see it as a fantastic opportunity for me as an actress. The sky is the limit, really. I get to sort of create this character alongside the writers, producers and directors. It's been a really cool journey for me, just taking one little block of Jane and building on that piece by piece, episode by episode. A lot of times I don't know what's going to happen until about the day before we shoot the episode. I don't like to read ahead, so everything stays pretty fresh for me. The only thing I like to know is if there is a massive stunt coming — which is pretty much every episode [laughs] — so I can train. But that's about it. Any other emotional aspects of the scripts, I wait until just before we're about to shoot it.

So, without venturing into spoiler territory, have there been revelations thus far that have surprised you?

Yes. There are so many twists and turns that I'll get chills when I'm reading the scripts. Which is so great. That's what my hope was for the show, that it would be something I could be creatively satisfied doing, and also that I want to know what's going to happen next. It's not just a job.

This show is so gratifying, that's the best way I can describe it. You get answers right away. In the pilot, you get answers. It's a fast-paced show while also being easy to pick up on if you come in at episode three, which is fantastic. We've somehow managed to pull that off while still being gripping and interesting. You get answers with all the characters. As the story unfolds, there are twists, there are turns, but you get explanations. There are [also] things the audience gets to figure out on their own — we don't spoon-feed you like a lot of procedurals do, which I like. It's very smart. Our showrunner and producers are extremely smart for doing that. Audiences are just so much more evolved than they used to be. ... We want you guys to work for it a little bit.

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