Mira Sorvino is the ambassador for Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women program, so she deemed it “a perfect fit” to star in a miniseries about the problem of women forced into sex slavery.
The script for the four-hour “Human Trafficking,” airing 9 p.m. ET on Oct. 24 and 25 on Lifetime — the female-oriented network’s first original miniseries — gave the Academy Award-winning actress the opportunity to combine “my social work with my acting.”
She had been offered a feature film with a similar theme, but chose the miniseries because she “was struck by its veracity and emotional power.”
Sorvino plays Kate Morozov, a Russian-born, New York City detective, who, after witnessing the suicide of a young girl trafficked into prostitution, joins the fictional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which attempts to expose and arrest the criminals who exploit such women.
Not a cop showSorvino collaborated with director Christian Duguay to “fill in shaded areas” of Agatha Dominik and Carol Doyle’s screenplay, particularly concerning Morozov’s character.
“We felt she should have her own history of sexual abuse ... which makes her feel very deeply about what she is doing, because she’s having to look backward into her own vulnerability as well as using all her training and strength,” says Sorvino.
“Mira was really concerned that we give some humanity to the character and not just have her be a harsh cop,” adds Duguay, stressing, “I didn’t want to turn this into a cop show.”
Morovoz’s drive to catch the bad guys is interwoven with detailed exposure of the plight of various victims, including a single mother from Prague and a teenager from Kiev — both of whom end up in American brothels — and a 12 year-old American kidnapped in Manila for shipment into slavery with other underage kids.
Robert Carlyle, who starred in the CBS miniseries “Hitler: The Rise of Evil,” also directed by Duguay, plays the crime boss whose modeling business is a front for trafficking. Donald Sutherland is Morozov’s boss at ICE.
Highlighting a serious issue
Before a recent screening, Sorvino talked with informed ardor about the issues raised by the miniseries. She notes that statistics are unclear on how many people are trafficked into labor and sexual servitude, but the numbers could run as high as 4 million a year.
Sorvino, who met with women who escaped such enslavement, also feels the series helps debunk myths about prostitution being a lifestyle choice.
“These are women who are beaten, raped, sold ... mentally dominated, threatened that their families will be destroyed,” says the 38-year-old actress. “They have no other options.”
In 1996, the Harvard-educated Sorvino won numerous awards, including a supporting actress Oscar as the sexy, dimwitted prostitute in Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite.” She also earned an Emmy nomination for the HBO movie “Norma Jean and Marilyn.”
Sorvino, who will appear in the upcoming movie “Leningrad” as a Western journalist caught up the World War II siege of that city, is the daughter of veteran actor Paul Sorvino, who wasn’t thrilled that she followed him into a business where rejection can be the norm.
“It certainly has its low periods, which can be pretty devastating to the self-esteem ... in other professions when you get to 30 and above, you are usually on an ascent ... but acting is not like that,” she says.
So how will she feel if her year-old daughter chooses to continue the family legacy?
“Boy, I hope she doesn’t want to be an actress,” Sorvino says, smiling. “But, of course, she will probably want to be.”