Cassandra Freeman Dishes On ‘The Enemy Within’ and Her Character Jacqueline Pettigrew
Actress Cassandra Freeman is no stranger to action. The Florida native has starred on TV series like Luke Cage and Blue Bloods before landing a lead role on the NBC drama —The Enemy Within. On the show, Freeman stars as FBI Special Agent Jacquelyn Pettigrew — a former FBI Academy Instructor at Quantico. Itching to get out of the classroom— Jacquelyn finds herself on the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division team.
Led by Supervising Special Agent Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut), a man grappling with his own demons, Jacquelyn becomes the most outspoken member of the team just as Erica Shepherd (Jennifer Carpenter)– a former CIA operative turned traitor is pulled in to help the FBI catch an elusive terrorist and his web of spies.
Recently, The Cheat Sheet got the opportunity to sit down and chat with Freeman about why she’s MIA from the show’s pilot episode, why The Enemy Within is so gripping, and how TV has opened the horizon for many actors and actress of color.
Why doesn’t Jacquelyn Pettigrew appear in the first episode of The Enemy Within?
Freeman’s character, Jacquelyn Pettigrew only appeared in The Enemy Within’s pilot very briefly. The Inside Man actress was injured on the very first day of filming. She revealed,
It’s so crazy. If you’ve seen the show — my character appears in the third episode, but I was originally in the first episode. The first day of shooting, I showed up, and I was seven months pregnant. On set, they were like, “Don’t worry, you don’t have any crazy stunts. You just go walk down the hallway and you’re going to turn it to the elevator.” I’m like, “Got it! this simple.” Literally, we walk down this hallway, and when I turned in to the elevator, I broke all the bones in my ankle. I went down. The two things I remember is the director being like, “I’m sure you can just walk it off —I’m sure you just sprained it.” I’ve never broken a bone in my body, and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ I had to sit out those first few episodes to have surgery. [Jason] Bragg (Noah Mills) was a new character that they had to invent to take my spot. But, Ken [Woodruff] and Vernon [Sanders] who is another producer— they were so wonderful, they checked on me constantly.
Do the actors on The Enemy Within do their own stunts?
While some of the actors on The Enemy Within choose to do their own stunts —Freeman is more than happy to have her stunt double step in for her. “I don’t believe in stunts,” she laughed. “There’s an episode where I’m actually under a car, and I’m like trying to undo the thing or whatever thinking what if this collapses on me. After that stunt, I was like, ‘I’m done!’ Being in the FBI and CIA is like being in the military. I don’t think I thought about it like that. I saw them as more like, desk workers which many of them are.
Why does The Enemy Within feel so different from other procedural dramas on television?
Though most network dramas follow specific troupes and have certain staple elements —The Enemy Within isn’t afraid to break the mold. Though Keaton (Chestnut) blames Sheperd (Carpenter) for his fiancé’s death — he is still able to empathize with her.
“Everyone’s pain is so layered,” Freeman reflected. “To see Morris on this show is amazing because I’m so used to seeing him do the romantic lead —and that can be fun, but there’s so much beautiful pain coming off of him. Every week he just gets deeper. The show has also made me think that our enemies are who they are because we’ve done something to them.”
How has the golden era of television given women and actresses of color more opportunities in entertainment?
With cable and various streaming platforms —the content on television these days is almost overwhelming. “I feel like TV is like the new movie,” Freeman said. “There’s so much content; everyone’s trying to come up with the best most original different idea.”
For Black women in particular —shows like Scandal have opened the floodgates for what can be seen on TV. Freeman reflected,
I really feel like it started out when Michelle Obama got into The White House —I started to see some roles were written differently. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, they never prepared me for this. I was prepared to come out to be like the third lead, never the lead.’ I remember I had to do a mental switch in my brain to say, ‘I can be the lead of a show too.” Now, there are so many black women who are leads on a show. Kerry Washington getting Scandal —everybody went out for Scandal. Now, it’s like every day there’s like three different Scandals or something with a black lead. It can be sci-fi, it can be a thriller. With every show, there is something very unique.
The Enemy Within airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC
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