'The Fosters' star Maia Mitchell's secret to cheering up: Cute animal pictures

the-fosters-winter-premiere-maia-mitchell.jpgWorking on an emotional show like "The Fosters" really takes its toll. How do you spend three days in the desert crying all day long and then snap out of it to go back to your real life? For star Maia Mitchell, it's cute animal pictures.

In the winter premiere of the ABC Family drama on Monday (Jan. 13), Mitchell's character, Callie, finds herself in the middle of the desert after running away from her foster home. She's on the road trying to get as far away as possible from her foster brother Brandon, with whom she shared a kiss (and some confusing feelings). But her independence is short-lived.

"She gets completely lost has to make a really tough call as to where she's going to go and how she's going to do it," Mitchell tells Zap2it. "Her plan is to be independent, so you're going to see how she plans to get there and if that's possible. We see her really in a very rough state. She's physically lost and also emotionally and mentally lost. So it's pretty full on!"

That means the first few days of shooting the second half of Season 1 were full of tears and nonstop emotional intensity. "It's completely draining, because in between takes you're focusing on staying in that space and you can't really jump out of it, so then when you finish it's the biggest relief," she says. "You're so happy and then you realize you have no energy to be happy and so you just have to do nothing. I go home and I watch Netflix or look at cute pictures of pugs."

Eventually, Callie lands somewhere stable. In the second episode back you'll see the teenager in her new group home, under the tutelage of a counselor played by Rosie O'Donnell. "It's basically a home for juveniles -- some have been through the foster system and through the juvenile system -- and it's a place where they go where they have a strict routine," Mitchell explains. "It's kind of like a lockup almost."

O'Donnell's character, Rita, will guide Callie through her crisis. "She plays this mentor and counselor to these girls who have been through the works: been through the foster system, been in juvy three times, had drug addiction since they were like 10, their family's in jail -- really heavy stuff. Callie feels really out of place and Rita really opens Callie's eyes as to what her issues are and why she's has ended up there."

Continues Mitchell, "The fact of it is that Callie has put herself in that space. [Rita helps her understand] what in her past is affecting her still. Callie does realize that she does belong there and she does have a lot of issues that she needs to sort through."

Watch Callie begin to sort through those issues when "The Fosters" returns Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family.
Photo/Video credit: ABC Family