By Barb Oates
“When I got this part, my husband looked at me like, ‘Really? You are going to be the cleaning lady?’ I could show you a picture of the room I’m staying in right now,” laughs Élodie Yung, fully admitting that cleaning isn’t her thing. But traditional cleaning is not what her role in FOX’s new drama The Cleaning Lady, which premieres Monday, Jan. 3, is all about.
Yung stars as Thony, a Cambodian surgeon who comes to the U.S. to pursue a lifesaving medical treatment for her young son. Originally here on a medical visa, complications arise and she is forced to stay as an undocumented immigrant, where she makes ends meet living and working with her sister-in-law (Martha Millan) as a cleaning lady.
“She’s facing a horrible decision: Do I go back home and then that’s it? There’s no chance for my son to get any cure? Or do I overstay my visa and make the choice of being undocumented and potentially find a cure for my son?” Yung explains. That backstory, however, is just one of her problems.
“Things go wrong when she’s cleaning and witnesses a murder committed by the mob,” Yung tells. “She’s just constantly forced to make instant, horrible choices.”
From there, she begins to live a double life, working for the handsome Arman (Adan Canto), who is one of the leaders of a crime syndicate, and doing whatever it takes to save her son. Thankfully, her savvy smarts — she does a wicked makeshift tracheotomy with a pen — yield her some power.
“When I played Elektra [in the Marvel series Daredevil and The Defenders] I had to be very physical,” Yung says when comparing her characters’ resilience. “For Thony, it’s a horrific, emotional journey that she’s going through, but there’s nothing physical in this part, which I am kind of very happy with. I’ve done it. It’s been fun. But let me play with other tools.
“I have been really praying for a part like this, where I could really express what I have in my heart. And I do feel that Thony has given me the opportunity to really express my feelings, my emotions. And my truth.”