In the new thriller series “The Watchful Eye,” Elena Santos (Mariel Molino) takes a nanny job caring for the son of a wealthy widower — only to discover that nothing in his opulent Manhattan apartment building is what it seems.
“I was a nanny as well. I worked with several different families,” Molino, 30, told The Post. “I know how to toe that line between your work and this very intimate space that you’re in, which is someone’s home, and your actual life — and where you have to keep the two things separate.”
Premiering Jan. 30 at 9 p.m. on Freeform, “The Watchful Eye” follows Elena as she takes on her new job for her own ulterior motives that are revealed as the story progresses. She moves into the staff quarters of the mysterious building, the Greybourne, where she works for widower Matthew (Warren Christie, “The Resident”), who lost his wife under shadowy circumstances. She’s tasked with caring for his son, Jasper (Henry Joseph Samiri).
“[Nannying] was one of the three jobs I was juggling in order to get me through [early days] as an actor, and while I was auditioning,” Molino said. “So, I’m very thankful for that experience, as tough as it was sometimes.
“When I first read the pilot, there was something about [Elana’s] deception that I immediately found very attractive,” said Molino (“Promised Land,” “Narcos: Mexico”). “She wasn’t who she said she was. There was this grift, this con, that I found exciting to play. And I also saw that there was something broken about Elena that I could relate to. I don’t think I’ve played a character so complex before.”
Molino said she drew inspiration from a mixture of real life and movies in order to play Elena.
“I loved looking at old noirs. There’s an actress that I love from this classic Hollywood era, Barbara Stanwyck, and to me she’s a quintessential femme fatale. But she’s a great comedic actress as well. Also, I think a big part of [Elena] is that she is a true New Yorker. I spent some time in Queens where we decided she’s from, Jackson Heights specifically, and there is kind of that ruggedness that comes with her. She’s a survivor. She’s on a quest for revenge.”
Along the way, Elena has to contend with Matthew’s suspicious and controlling sister-in- law, Tory (Amy Acker, “Angel”). She also crosses paths with other inhabitants of the Greybourne as she learns disturbing secrets: cranky Mrs. Ivy (Kelly Bishop, “Gilmore Girls”); teenager Elliott (Lex Lumpkin); and fellow nanny Ginny (Aliyah Royale). She also finds out that previous nannies have mysteriously vanished.
“Everyone brought some different energy to the table and it was exciting. But from a fan standpoint, working with Kelly Bishop was exciting and intimidating,” said Molino. “Because I looked up to her so much and she was someone that I watched growing up. I love [her ‘Gilmore Girls’ character] Emily Gilmore. She always kept me on my toes.”