Suggest to Ashley Judd that her latest character is right in her wheelhouse, and she won't disagree.
After playing heroines-against-all-odds in such movies as "Kiss the Girls," "Double Jeopardy" and "High Crimes," the former "Sisters" regular is proud to say she's doing her own stunts for her television return in the ABC action-drama series "Missing," premiering March 15 at 8 p.m.
Judd stars as Becca Winstone, whose son (Nick Eversman) vanishes 10 years after he saw his CIA agent father (played by Sean Bean) apparently killed. She also was an intelligence operative, and she calls those skills back into play as her search takes her across Europe.
"This was a really good fit for me," Judd says of filming "Missing" on location. "It was only 10 episodes, which allowed me to stay really involved with the balance of my life. It has the power of a network behind it, and the premise is simple and unforgettable. The producers made quite an impression on me, and as I look back on our season and the remarkable places where we filmed, what continues to stand out for me are the people . . . the quality of the relationships and how much I enjoyed all my co-workers."
Still, Judd wasn't sure about doing "Missing" at first, though being overseas is something she's used to; she and husband Dario Franchitti -- the two-time Indianapolis 500-winning race driver -- maintain a home in Scotland.
"As much as I like to travel, I also really like to be home," she notes. "I started to feel a little concerned about the length of the commitment, and a friend of mine sighed, 'Oh, my gosh. Europe in the summer? How bad can it be?' And that took me out of my concern."
In "Missing," while searching for her son, Becca is reunited with people from her past. Often not happily.
"There's something of the reluctant hero in a lot of my characters," Judd says. "A common theme that I've played, and that audiences have enjoyed over the years, is that these women are pitched into extraordinary circumstances beyond their control. And yet each of them is able to rise to the occasion and kind of act out a wish fulfillment.
"The writers would begin developing every episode of 'Missing' by asking, 'Where are we emotionally? What is happening in the hearts and souls of our characters?' Becca is confronted with an old lover and old enemies she has to ingratiate herself with, in order to procure their help again, and all of it is really intense. I think her arc will be satisfying to audiences."
Judd also wanted a project that would satisfy her, particularly in one of her first acting jobs (along with last year's movie "Dolphin Tale") after receiving her master's degree in public administration from Harvard University. Additionally, "Missing" had to suit the other elements of her life.
"I flew from Prague to the Indianapolis 500," she recalls, "and I followed my husband's racing very closely while filming. I wasn't able to go back to North America to attend all of his races, but I certainly was there when I really needed to be. We and the entire racing world lost a great hero in Dan Wheldon , so I was really glad I was there when it mattered."
With filming completed on ABC's initial order for "Missing," the daughter of country music's Naomi Judd -- and sister of singer Wynonna -- is proceeding with her many other activities, including her philanthropy for such organizations as YouthAIDS and the International Center for Research on Women.
"I do enjoy a full life," she says. "and I believe I can do it all. I can't necessarily do it all at the same time."