Rachael Ancheril surely has stirred the pot since joining "Rookie Blue" this year.
And with three weeks left in the ABC police drama's fourth season, she's not done yet. Thursday's (Aug. 29) new episode sees her character, Officer Marlo Cruz, cross a very big line: She continues her self-assigned surveillance of the alleged pedophile (guest star Michael Cram) suspected, but eventually cleared, in the recent disappearance of Officer Chris Diaz's ( Travis Milne) supposed son.
When the man is found assaulted in his home, circumstances implicate Marlo, whose bipolar condition also leads others to ponder whether she was involved in the attack. It's rich material for a series co-star, particularly a relatively new one, and Toronto native Ancheril appreciates the opportunity.
"The bipolar aspect was really a very big thing for me in prepping for the character," she tells Zap2it. "I've always thought that with Marlo, her job is the No. 1 thing that comes before anything else. She takes her job seriously, and she may take it beyond where she should, but she's always trying to do the right thing."
Officer Andy McNally ( Missy Peregrym) recognizes that, which is why she has kept Marlo's secret of being bipolar ... even concealing it from Detective Sam Swarek ( Ben Bass), Marlo's current beau and Andy's former flame.
"I think Marlo would have kept that secret buried from everyone as long as possible," Ancheril reasons, "but it was refreshing for her to be able to tell Andy. She didn't want to, but when she did and she met with no judgment from Andy, it was probably something Marlo had never experienced before.
"I cringed a little when Marlo told Andy, 'Don't tell Sam,' because that's putting Andy in quite a bind. But I can understand why Marlo would not anyone to know, because there's a huge stigma attached to having a mental illness. I have seen that from some of the comments and messages I've received."
In fact, Ancheril adds, "I've actually had a couple of people with family members who are bipolar reach out to me. And one gal said she's bipolar, and she told me her story. They've all been impressed with the way I've played the character, and with the way the character is written.
"That's really exciting, and it lifts my heart. I only wanted to portray her with truth and respect, because I think people living with this condition deserve that."
As it happens, Marlo initially wasn't supposed to be the bipolar "Rookie Blue" character. "Originally, that was supposed to be Chloe ( Priscilla Faia)," Ancheril reports, "but they thought it would be interesting and a bit different to make it Marlo, who is supposed to be this very even-tempered professional. And I thought that was awesome."
Ancheril admits she "didn't know very much about" bipolar disorder when she began playing Marlo: "The writers were awesome and gave me a huge file of notes, but I wanted to learn as much as I could, so that I could make informed choices and not second-guess myself.
"On YouTube, I watched this amazing British documentary called 'The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive,' and I also went to the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association). I also read people's stories online, and they were so brave and giving. It's heartbreaking. I cried more than once reading stories and watching videos, for sure."
With the love that clearly still exists between Andy and Sam -- though a sizable development in this week's episode could alter that -- Ancheril is enjoying playing the spoiler. "I sort of think of Marlo as the extreme Sam, in a different aspect. She's a lot more closed off than he is, and she has similarities to Andy, though they're also very different. It's interesting to see how he interacts with Marlo."
And how Marlo interacts with Andy, too. Having more scenes with Peregrym in this week's story, Ancheril says, "She and I would have a lot of laughs when the cameras weren't rolling. It's hard to keep a straight face around her ... but with scenes that are more difficult and emotional, everyone is very respectful of each other. Missy is wonderful, and she gave me the time and space I needed."
For more on "Rookie Blue," visit ABC's official page.
Photo/Video credit: ABC