LOS ANGELES -- Alexa Davalos has handled her share of rough-and-tumble action in movies including "The Chronicles of Riddick," "The Mist" and "Clash of the Titans."
But in TNT's new series "Mob City," the actress takes on the sophisticated nuances of film noir, in which come-hither glances and snappy patter are as key as the gunfire.
Davalos plays Jasmine Fontaine, a woman trying to keep her footing in a post-World War II Los Angeles that's the dangerous turf of mobsters including Ben "Bugsy" Siegel (Ed Burns) and Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), and the police waging war against them.
The drama series from writer-director Frank Darabont ("The Walking Dead," "The Shawshank Redemption"), which debuts Wednesday, Dec. 4, for a three-week run, enthralled Davalos from the moment she read the first script.
It's evocative of such classic noir films as "The Big Sleep" and "Double Indemnity," and so is the Paris-born Davolos' performance. The 31-year-old actress discussed the genre and her character in a recent interview.
Q. Did you have a passion for the noir genre before doing the series?
A. My grandfather is an actor (Richard Davalos, 'East of Eden'), so I grew up watching all the films from that time period. I've always felt like I was born in the wrong era.
Q. How would you describe your character, Jasmine?
A. She's a woman of that specific generation and all that entails. During the war, we know that women took on a lot of men's roles, and when the war ended and men came back, women were sent into a different space. I feel like Jasmine held on to that taste of individuality that she had.
Q. The period costumes are beautiful. Were they fun to wear?
A. I miss it. I miss the garters, I miss the stockings, I miss every little element. I was given the choice, do you want to wear pantyhose, and I said no, no, no. I want to do the whole thing, top to bottom, the seamed stockings and all. Our costume designer, Gigi (Giovanna Ottobre-Melton), is an out-of-control wonder, and she tailor-made things for me, cut patterns from the 1940s and did it herself.
Q. What do you look for in a role, and did you worry about being typecast as a sci-fi or fantasy actor early on?
A. We all do a few things that you kind of look back on and think, no one will remember that; that will be fine. It's being young and finding your way with everything. The older I get, for me it's about fear. If I read something and it scares the hell out of me, that's what I want to do. If it's a challenge and a massive risk and I'm going out on a limb ... those are the ones I want. And they are few and far between. I don't work very much because I'm very specific about what I want to do.
Q. And what occupies you away from work?
A. I'm such a hermit, I can't tell you. I love my garden (in Los Angeles). I spend a lot of time there. I travel. My heart really is in New York, in France. I go back as often as I can afford to. I read like a crazy person, I play the piano and I'm a photographer. I always say my photography keeps me sane. I spend a lot of time in the darkroom. It's a very solitary, quiet life when I'm not working.