3:00pm PT by Lisa Weidenfeld
'The Path's' Michelle Monaghan Talks Finale and Season 2: Sarah Is Coming Into Her Own
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the entire first season of The Path.]
Over the course of a season, The Path moved its trio of leads vastly far away from where they started out. Cal (Hugh Dancy) tried to lead the movement, only to be overtaken by his personal demons. Eddie (Aaron Paul) struggled to hide his doubts about the movement from his wife, only to be discovered and excommunicated. And Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), who’s perhaps the most faithful believer of them all, grappled with what it meant that both her husband and her son were doubters. The Hollywood Reporter talked to Monaghan about what all of this means for Sarah, and whether or not there’s hope for her and Eddie going into the recently picked-up second season.
Sarah goes through quite a lot over the course of the season, but she never lets her faith get shaken. Why is that?
She is, I think, their truest believer. This is someone who was raised within the movement; it’s the only thing that she’s ever known, and I think the idea even for her to consider that it’s based on lies or it’s not real is just unfathomable. She’s a wife, she’s a mother, but above all of that, she’s a devout follower, so it supersedes her family as well. And you see that as you go through the season, you realize this is a woman who’s willing to lose everything in the name of her faith. She’s empowered by her convictions. To have any doubt at all, her world would implode. It’s self-preservation for her, I think, to just keep moving forward and to not look back.
The moment where she goes into her estranged sister’s house seems like the only moment where her faith is at all in crisis. She finds these medications and suddenly feels very justified about her life choices. If she hadn’t found that in that cabinet, how much would that have shaken her?
I think it would have shaken her quite a bit.… I reflected on it a lot in terms of, religion and faith and spirituality surround all of us. People who have a really strong sense of faith, that have a lot of conviction, are very much calm, cool, and collected. They’re not emotional, because their faith grounds them.
I felt like this is someone who’s brought up in the movement, she’s a higher-ranking person within the movement and she has exemplary faith, she’s very stoic, she’s all of these things, and she wasn’t trying to be anything else. That’s who she was, and so when things started to implode around her, where her husband has had an affair, and she’s like, well, we need to go through this, x, y, and z, and I’m not going to completely lose my mind over it because we have these things that we work out and process in the movement to help us get through these transgressions. And then that doesn’t work, and slowly you start to see her unravel a little bit.
So often in pop culture, women are the wives, or they’re only wives. You see them only in relation to their support for their spouse. In The Path, this part easily could have been that, but it’s not.
One hundred percent. And then I easily would have walked away from it. It’s no coincidence that our showrunner is a female, Jess Goldberg. I’ve said it before, I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve worked with a female director or I’ve had a female co-star or I’ve worked with a showrunner or writer. They’re just so few and far between, it’s ridiculous. I go where the great material is, whoever wrote it, but I will say it’s really nice to feel like I’m playing a woman who’s very multidimensional and that I can speak to as someone who is a mother, okay, and a wife, yes, but I’m also something much more than that as well, personally and professionally. It’s been really nice delving into that world with her.
It’s this huge crisis for her marriage that Eddie’s been hiding his religious doubts from her. Why is that so much worse than an affair?
I wrestled with that the whole time.
It clearly is, though!
But I kept saying to Jess, I’m like trying to wrap my head into the character and who this person was and I’m like, they live with transparency and this is a couple that have been through it all, they unburden and they’re so connected, why doesn’t he just tell her he’s having doubts? And she was like [dramatic voice], "Noooo, that’s the ultimate betrayal." And I was like, "Oh, she’s like that." Do you know what I mean? But it was so interesting, that it’s just that very simple idea, that it was safer for him. Because you could never dream that reality — in my world or your world or anybody’s world — that you would feel safer saying to your partner, listen, I had an affair, or I transgressed, or whatever, and you’d feel that that was the safer out. And so I wrestled with that for a while, but once I understood that idea, then I was completely informed into who the character was.
There’s this big confrontation scene with Cal where she knows something has happened, but she doesn’t know what it is yet. And there’s a real sense that he’s the one in danger, even though we know he’s killed a man, we know he’s a little unstable, but she’s the intimidating one. How do you get to that point?
I think it was a part of frustration building up for her in the season, because that relationship between her and Cal is really complicated because we haven’t even clarified who they are to each other, what their history is. We only know that he’s come into the movement at a very young age. They were very very close, maybe they had some sort of intimate but very innocent relationship, but they’re very much spiritually connected. And I love the idea that, personally, he comes to her all the time in his times of need and that she’s there for him and she supports him spiritually, and they have a really profound respect for each other.
What gets really tricky or miscommunicated is when the lines cross, where I don’t feel like he respects her professionally, meaning within the church, he doesn’t take her seriously.… She’s a very keen person. I think she’s got really great instincts, so I think she knows that there’s something off about him, but she can’t quite pinpoint it.
By the end of the season, she’s gone through all these things in her life changing. Do you think she’s ultimately stronger for it, that she understands who she is better, having gone through that?
I feel like she’s in the midst of it. I feel like she doesn’t at all. Because I personally feel like it’s based on life, but she doesn’t know any of that yet, so she’s going to be coming into her own, and I don’t even think she’s that self-aware yet.
Is there hope for her relationship with Eddie?
I don’t know! I hope there is. Because they are so connected. I would think that any couple could overcome anything.
The Path will return to Hulu for a second season.