TCA: Ashley Judd Goes from Harvard to Swimming in the Seine

Missing, ABC
Premieres: Thursday, March 15, 8:00 p.m. ET
A retired CIA agent, Rebecca (Ashley Judd), takes it upon herself to find her missing son (Nick Eversman) who disappeared while on a summer internship in Italy. And she'll use every means necessary to get him back.

After hitting the books at Harvard University, Ashley Judd is enjoying finding her acting muscles again.

The busy activist (she’s campaigned for women’s rights, animal rights, AIDS awareness) earned a masters degree in public administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2010.

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In Missing, she plays a CIA operative – long retired – who is forced to rediscover her spy skills when her son goes missing while at university in Italy. The ABC drama, which bows March 15 at 8 p.m., is shot on location in a succession of European cities (Paris, Budapest, Prague) as Judd’s CIA operative tracks the people who took her son.

“I lived a very sedentary life [at Harvard],” she says. “I basically sat down for two-and-a-half years and didn’t get up.”

Now she’s doing most of her own stunts, including jumping into the Seine in Paris.

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“Obviously we have to have stunt doubles,” she says. “But I do most of my own stunts. When I’m on that bridge in Paris and I’m shot and I fall into the Seine, I really did that.”

She says she practiced yoga and worked with trusted trainers in order to get back in shape.

“She was actually quite heroic,” says series creator Greg Poirier. “We put her through all sots of horrible things. And she did it with great aplomb.”

“I like to fight,” adds Judd. “I find it rewarding.”

Missing is Judd’s first TV series as a headliner (she appeared on the 1990’s drama Sisters) after a career largely on the big screen. And she said it was the material and the show’s modest episode order (the first season is ten episodes, while potential subsequent seasons would not be any more 13 episodes) that attracted her to the project.

“Obviously I was aware that this is a golden age of television,” she says. “The once impermeable membrane between TV actors and film actors is [disappearing]. I remember turning on The Big C, which is a show that I love, and seeing Liam Neeson.”

“Each episode is great TV set in a glorious European capital," she adds. "What’s not to like?”

Missing, which skipped the pilot process and was ordered straight to series, is highly serialized, a genre that can be challenging to sustain.

But the showrunners promised that the final episode will offer a payoff on the central storyline, though they stopped short of saying that Judd’s character will definitely find her son and offered few clues about how a potential second season would play out.

“I get as annoyed as anyone with one with shows that [don’t pay off],” said Poirier, who could have been talking about AMC’s The Killing. “This story will close by the end of the season. And if you watch until the end of the season you’ll feel satisfied. I think we really set out not to give you one of those disappointments like you get at the end of some [shows].”