What would you do to save the life of your child?
That’s the question driving Fox’s new series “The Cleaning Lady,” which premiered Monday, Jan. 3.
The heart of the mob drama is Thony De La Rosa, a Cambodian doctorturned-maid who left the Philippines to seek treatment in the United States for her son’s life-threatening immunodeficiency disorder. But when she becomes entwined in a gangster’s world after witnessing a murder, her own life is on the line unless she keeps cleaning up their spills.
“There’s a dark wish fulfillment element,” showrunner Melissa Carter told the Daily News. “What would it take for me to commit a crime? What would it take for me to be OK with something that’s a little morally off-center. If the justification is that it would save your child, then people are on board.”
A mom, a mobster, a mole
Justifications are the backbone of “The Cleaning Lady.” Thony (Elodie Yung) is trying to save her son’s life.
Mobster Arman Morales (played by Mexican actor Adan Canto) is using his criminal profits to fund the Armenian army to protect his homeland. FBI Agent Garrett Miller (Oliver Hudson), who tries to flip Thony to serve as a mole, is doing his job.
“I really can’t approach my character and have any judgment in thinking this is bad what she’s doing, this is good, this is wrong. I can only approach her journey and what she’s got in her heart through empathy, through compassion, through putting myself in her shoes,” Yung, the 40-year-old French-Cambodian actress who plays Thony, told The News.
“It’s very hard for me to even look now and have an intellectual way of looking at the story and what she’s done. She’s just being reactive. She’s made the decisions she has to make when she has to. Maybe not the best, but always having in mind the life of her son and the urgency of saving him.”
No good guys and bad guys
“The Cleaning Lady” lives in a messy gray area: the mobster who seems to genuinely care about Thony’s son and maybe even her, the FBI agent who toys with people’s lives all in the name of a win. There are no good guys and bad guys, Yung said.
“I’ve got qualities and I have flaws,” said the actress, whose own heritage helped inspire Thony, down to her character sharing the same name as her father’s cousin. “I have good days and bad days. I’ve made good decisions and bad decisions. I live with regret and hope.”
Miller, the buttoned-up boy in blue, is supposed to be the hero. But that’s not how it works, Hudson said.
Instead, the FBI agent has decided the end justifies the means, no matter who gets hurt in the process.
“If Thony gets to save her son, but three innocent people die because of her war, is that justified? ... What if it’s three bad guys?” Hudson, 45, told The News.
“As a dad, I would kill for my kids. I would go to jail for my kids. I don’t know how you would ever stop fighting for a child, especially one who is going to die. You risk it all. You put it all on the line.”