Laura Mennell in a scene from season two of Project Blue Book.
Laura Mennell in a scene from season two of Project Blue Book. Supplied

Mimi’s in the driver’s seat

LAURA Mennell never would have been satisfied playing just the happy housewife in Project Blue Book.

In season two of the sci-fi drama, based on astronomer Dr Allen Hynek's real-life project with the US air force, the Canadian actor is in the driver's seat as her character Mimi becomes more involved in her husband's UFO investigations.

"For a little character research I decided to learn how to drive a 1950s standard car - that was quite the process," she says.

"When I arrived for my lesson, it was a 1953 Buick in mint condition; it was beautiful, Then I found out this car is nicknamed Amy after Amy Adams. Not only did she also learn how to drive on the same car, she drove it in Big Eyes - the Tim Burton movie. In my head I was like 'Oh my God I'm going to crash Amy'. But thankfully it all worked out. Rick my lovely driving instructor even tricked me into driving on the highway 20 minutes into my lesson.

"It feels like real driving - four on the floor, as that Greased Lightnin' song goes."



Lauren Mennell and Aidan Gillen, left, star in Project Blue Book.
Lauren Mennell and Aidan Gillen, left, star in Project Blue Book.

Season two begins with a two-part storyline in which Dr Hynek and Captain Quinn travel to Roswell, New Mexico, where an anonymous individual has threatened to expose evidence to the world of an extraterrestrial crash landing six years ago.

"It really is one of the quintessential, biggest UFO cases of all time," Mennell says. "Even though Mimi is not going to Roswell, she does get to do some truth seeking of her own.

"We're starting to head into that territory where Mimi is starting to share Allen's passion. David (O'Leary) our creator and show runner has been really smart in having this fantastic arc for Mimi.

"She's stepping out of that 1950s housewife mould and becoming a woman ahead of her time."

Mennell is careful to point out that while Mimi did work alongside her husband in real life, her involvement has been dramatised for television.

"We're not making a documentary so we are taking some artistic licence - Mimi didn't really have a Russian spy as a best buddy, though it was a clever way for the writers to incorporate certain aspects of the time like the Cold War," she says.

"That being said, the real Mimi did have a part in Allen's work. She helped him in terms of being an editor with his writing, and she was very much present in the interview process with some of these cases. When (their son) Paul would talk about his mom he said Allen and Mimi in many ways started the Centre for UFO Studies. Allen was obviously the figurehead but Paul would talk about how Allen would never have been able to do that without her."

Aidan Gillen and Michael Malarkey in a scene from season two of Project Blue Book.
Aidan Gillen and Michael Malarkey in a scene from season two of Project Blue Book.

Mennell says their daughter Roxane was particularly helpful in informing her portrayal of Mimi.

"Paul introduced me to his sister - they have 16 years in between them - and she had a bit of a different view in terms of who her mom was earlier on," she says.

"She felt Mimi was not necessarily naturally as social as she became later on. She was very intelligent, but it took her some time to be able to really hone that. Luckily that also aligns itself with what we've been on the show. It's really nice to have their support and I know we've really enjoyed getting to become a little closer with the Hyneks. It's nice to see the legacy of their father and his work passed on now to younger generations."

In season two Mennell shares quite a few scenes with Sydney-born actor Keir O'Donnell, who plays UFO enthusiast Evan Blake.

"She joins this civilian UFO group, but she isn't able to keep her identity under wraps," she says.

"She learns a lot there and she makes a great connection with this guy Evan, who will be pretty central in terms of Mimi's education. He has some interesting information.

"You'll be seeing a stronger, smarter Mimi this season. She's naturally very inquisitive. She starts doing a little digging and she turns out to have a pretty good knack for that."

Season two of Project Blue Book premieres Wednesday at 9.30pm on SBS.