Fans of the Fox series “The Gifted” know Skyler Samuels. And Skyler Samuels. And Skyler Samuels.
The former “Scream Queens” actress was recently bumped from recurring to regular cast member, playing the Frost sisters — cloned mutant telepathic triplets Esme, Phoebe and Sophie — in this X-Men-based drama from Marvel Comics. In season 2, which premiered Sept. 25, average suburban parents Reed and Caitlin Strucker (Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker) are still on the run from the government, after discovering their children have mutant powers. But the fight for mutant rights gets more complicated this season, with underground forces splintered, and mysterious mutants like the Frosts and other members of the “Inner Circle” seeming more ruthless than ever.
A Los Angeles native and Stanford University grad, Samuels, 24, is currently shooting “The Gifted” in Atlanta, where Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio caught up with her by phone.
How hard is it playing a Marvel character? The fans are pretty opinionated.
On this show, we really pay attention to what fans have to say. I always want make the fans happy, and make a show that embodies X-Men values. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job, especially this year. Not to get too political, but . . . our show is about refugees in America seeking asylum. We have a fun time exploring the world of superheroes, but the show is really about this social consciousness. And how to be a better human in a world where maybe not everybody understands each other or knows how to get along. We have a young audience. I hope the fun of it draws them in, but the message stays with them.
Your generation was raised on mutant tales — in comic books, films, TV. And millennials in particular are laid back about social issues — gay marriage, equal rights and so on. Are the two connected? Do you think all these tales of mutants have given your generation a unique worldview?
We were raised on TV and the internet. That offers such a gift by exposing you to a lot. The idea of being different felt ubiquitous — we’re all different, we’re all cool. While I hope there’s a general thread of acceptance running through this millennial age group, we can’t relax. Because the truth is not everybody is relaxed about these issues.
A technical question — does playing triplets mean you shoot each scene at least three times?
Yes. It’s funny — when I got this job it reminded me of middle school math class, like, “If you have three characters and X number of angles, how many times will you have to shoot each scene?” I thought, “My new job is a word problem!” (She laughs.) Actually, I work with two amazing actresses — Amber Erwin and Rebecca Ray. I couldn’t do it without them. They dress with me, and read lines as the other sisters. It makes my job so much easier to have real people to interact with. That’s essential in season 2, when you’ll see the Frost sisters start to fight.
In the comics there are five sisters — possibly more. Will we see others?
It would be fun to meet a few. Without giving too much away, we have a flashback this season where we see the sisters when they’re little. All I can say is, you get a better look at the family tree.
You also star in the upcoming film “Spare Room,” about military families. Something you know pretty well.
It’s about a young widow who loses her husband in Afghanistan in 2007. While picking up the pieces, she meets a man just back from being deployed, who’s trying to sort out his own life. My dad has been in the military for 35 years. My brother’s in the Air Force. I’m familiar with what it’s like being in a military family — the unusual traumas you carry around with you. It’s an amazing sacrifice to be in the military. I’m very pro-military. It’s a big part of my life I don’t talk about much or get to access much in my work.
You’ve been acting since you were 6. Many in your position would’ve gone straight to Hollywood after high school. Why college, for you?
I was blessed to grow up with parents who weren’t enamored of show business. They made it clear I was a student actor till I was done with college. I definitely identify as a nerd — love being in a classroom. That feeds my soul. I love acting, but I felt incomplete not understanding what else was out there. I wanted to make friends with people who cared about other things besides box-office openings or TV pilots. I studied marketing at Stanford. It was my dream school. It changed my life.