Entertainment

‘FBI’ star Missy Peregrym relates to her character’s motherhood journey: ‘I started with my career and have had to alter and grow as I have had children’

It’s not often that a television procedural delves into the personal lives of its characters — especially when it’s a police drama that typically devotes its episodes to solving crimes of the week. CBS’s FBI, the hourlong Dick Wolf drama centered around an elite team of FBI agents in New York City, aims to do just that.

Over the past several episodes, FBI team leader Special Agent Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym) began exploring the idea of motherhood — weighing whether in vitro fertilization (IVF) was the right decision to make. Those conversations continued when an old friend and colleague, Special Agent Jessica Blake (Rookie Blue’s Charlotte Sullivan), requested Maggie to be the temporary guardian of her young daughter, Ella (Rose Decker), after she was diagnosed with an aneurysm. Shortly after, Jessica died following complications from the surgery, leaving Ella without a mother and Maggie her sole caretaker.

“It’s nice to see a different side of Maggie in regards to wanting a family,” Peregrym told Yahoo Entertainment of her character’s arc. “Things haven’t gone the way she’s planned, but she is showing up to do the right thing.”

She continued: “She’s ready to add to her personal life after taking so much space after her husband’s death. She’s at an age and time in her life where she is feeling the desire for deeper connections outside of work.”

Charlotte Sullivan as Jessica Blake and Peregrym as Bell. (Bennett Raglin/CBS via Getty Images)

On Tuesday’s episode, a grieving Maggie deals with the aftermath of her friend’s sudden death by distracting herself with the team’s latest case: a deadly bombing. It’s uncharted territory for the special agent, who simultaneously grapples with how to raise Ella.

“Maggie is struggling to sort her new role with Ella while also grieving one of her good friends,” Peregrym said. “She feels helpless to meet Ella’s needs knowing that she won’t ever be able to fill the role of her mother, but also cares to do all she can.”

The origin of Maggie’s motherhood journey came out of initial conversations Peregrym had with producers last year about “exploring the more maternal side” of her tough-minded character.

“The writers wanted to explore freezing eggs, and I pitched the idea about a friend passing [away] and I was the guardian [of their child], and this is where it landed,” said the actress, 41, who is mother to 4-year-old son Otis and 22-month-old daughter Mela, with husband Tom Oakley.

As Maggie sought parenting advice from co-workers and friends, she voiced various concerns about becoming a mom — notably the stress and uncertainty that comes with the role. Coupled with the dangers of her FBI job, her insecurities and doubts became much more apparent. Those inner battles are familiar to Peregrym, who channeled her own experiences as a working mother in her approach to portraying Maggie’s circumstances authentically.

“I work to provide financially for my family while feeling like I should be home to provide emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s a conflicting position to be in, one that I have to work through often,” she said. “I started with my career and have had to alter and grow as I have had children, and I can easily relate to Maggie in this respect.”

Peregrym continued: “Maggie has given her life to her work, to protecting others, and it’s a dangerous job. Instinctually, she will go toward disaster to help save others running from it. But now with Ella, she can’t live like that anymore. She has to be able to come home to provide the deeper needs, which is quality time and connection.”

The actress took two leaves of absence from FBI to give birth to her children — the first in spring 2020 and the second in fall 2022. She credited the production for making her feel “supported with time” and allowing her to bring her babies to work so she could breastfeed.

“The cast and crew were so helpful to me, especially other parents who understood the difficult balance,” Peregrym said. “I will say, there’s a lot of laughter sharing stories of who slept less and comparing who has it harder in that moment!”

Though the storyline is still ongoing, Peregrym believes Maggie is seriously entertaining the idea of making her temporary guardianship more permanent. That alone presents new challenges as “legal complications will arise,” she said. “She loves Ella and also wants to honor Jessica by watching over her. The hesitation is that she doesn’t want to get hurt and put Ella through the trauma of losing another guardian.”

Formalizing Maggie and Ella’s relationship, if that’s the path FBI goes down, would open the door creatively, Peregrym said.

“It could be a really interesting storyline — relatable to a lot of women who take care of children while also working. But more than that, the women in the police force who do exactly what Maggie is doing. I would be happy to explore that more,” she said.

FBI airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.


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