How Élodie Yung Headlined a ‘Very Emotional’ Season of ‘The Cleaning Lady’ | Digital Cover

Élodie Yung is still processing her experience filming the recent third season of “The Cleaning Lady.”

The Fox drama series went through a creative shift this year following the sudden death of costar Adan Canto from appendiceal cancer, which rocked the production as they were forced to find a way to honor Canto while working through their grief.

“It’s been a very emotional season for me personally,” Yung told TheWrap for our “The Cleaning Lady” digital cover story presented by Fox. “It’s been hard and also beautiful, because I get to do it with people I truly love, and to honor Adan’s memory throughout the filming.”

With her protector and confidante Arman Morales missing, Season 3 found Yung’s lead character Thony De La Rosa balancing caring for her son Luca, investigating the circumstances behind his absence and working to bring her sister-in-law Fiona (Martha Millan) back home after getting deported to the Philippines.

By the time Thony found Canto’s Arman halfway through the season, he sacrificed himself to save her one last time, ending his time on the show as a hero.

Showrunners Miranda Kwok and Jeannine Renshaw previously told TheWrap that they focused the season on Arman’s disappearance with the hope that Canto would return after getting through treatment. But Canto’s death in January sealed his character’s fate, with Arman dying in the sixth episode.

The loss of Arman certainly changed Thony. Previous seasons found Yung’s character thrust into Arman’s criminal endeavors after accidentally witnessing a murder, fueled by both her growing feelings for Arman and his ability to help her provide adequate healthcare for her son Luca, who suffers from an autoimmune disease. Thony increasingly got her hands dirty as she moved from cleaning up the occasional crime scene to helping launder money and chopping up bodies.

Canto and Yung in the season two finale of ‘The Cleaning Lady’ (Photo: Jeff Neumann/FOX)

For Yung, Thony’s evolution as a character arrived as she’s become more comfortable navigating the criminal elements of the series. By Season 2, Thony went into “autopilot,” focusing on performing the crime at hand without much thought, given she had to do it to save her son. By Season 3, Yung said “it’s not new to her.”

“She’s alone navigating this now, but she’s experienced in this world. She’s grown in all manner, and she’s more decisive. She knows what she wants and how to speak their language and navigate through [to get it],” Yung said.

But even as Thony lost the guardrails provided by Arman’s protection, she did not deviate from her primary goal of ensuring her family was safe — even from the circumstances brought upon by her actions.

“[She’s driven by] this protective mother instinct, and she probably fell in love with Arman, so that guided her path as well,” Yung said. “But I do not believe that she’s attracted to [the life of] crime. I don’t think she wants that for herself or her family.”

Fans can’t get enough of Thony’s wild adventures on “The Cleaning Lady.” The show is Yung’s first major series regular role in the U.S. since rising to prominence playing Elektra Natchios in Netflix’s “Daredevil” and “The Defenders,” which came on the heels of roles in films like “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

It’s the first time I’ve been asked to portray a woman of Cambodian background and I’m very proud of it .”

Like many first-time series regulars, Yung landed the role of Thony after a rigorous audition process. The Fox drama is based on the Argentine telenovela “La chica que limpia,” but once Yung was cast, the creative team incorporated the actor’s Cambodian and Filipino roots into the character. It became the first network drama series to star a Southeast Asian lead, specifically one of Cambodian descent.

“It’s the first time I’ve been asked to portray a woman of Cambodian background and I’m very proud of it … it allows me to share a bit of that side of my culture, my dad’s side,” Yung said. “I love how it’s been received by the Filipino community, the Cambodian community … I do feel like I’m carrying a banner.”

Merely chronicling Thony and her family’s life in Las Vegas gives “The Cleaning Lady” an inherently political backbone given that the character is an undocumented immigrant. The show has explored the inhumane treatment of these immigrants through storylines on the show, and Yung credited the series for tackling these issues tactfully.

“We do bring topics to the table — like deportation, like the ICE raid that we had — so there are discussions [among viewers]… and I think it’s cleverly done in this show,” Yung said.

Élodie Yung in a red fringe dress, laying in a pool of simulated water. Photo by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap's digital cover series.
Jeff Vespa for TheWrap

Above all, the most pivotal relationship at the center of “The Cleaning Lady” is between Thony and her son Luca (played by twins Sebastien and Valentino LaSalle). Yung said watching her young costars’ growth has been “a privilege” for the past three seasons.

“They both have very different personalities,” she said. “Seb brings more emotion, and Val brings more playfulness… so they have different things that they bring…. Fiona’s house does feel like our house between takes. They just play around, it’s really nice.”

With the show renewed for Season 4, “The Cleaning Lady” is set to run beyond its two-hour season finale on Tuesday, May 21. The installment is poised to bring another surge of creativity for the drama series, coming off a grief-stricken season with a new showrunner in charge following Kwok and Renshaw’s exits.

But Yung and the De La Rosas remain, ensuring that Thony’s unconditional love for her son and family also stay at the core of whatever shenanigans her character finds herself in next.

“I don’t know where we should go, but I know we should keep this essence she has [that comes] from her endless love for her family… the drive that she has and the resilience she has,” Yung said. “The show is extremely entertaining, but to me it’s important that I relate to the character, so the audience can relate as well… so I want to keep her human.”

Yung continued, “It’s important for me for me that things stay grounded. I want her to be a woman struggling through life.”

“The Cleaning Lady” Season 3 finale airs Tuesday, May 21, on Fox. Past episodes are available to stream on Max and Hulu.

Creative Director & Photographer: Jeff Vespa
Wardrobe: Jacket by Vegan Tiger, Bodysuit by Steven Khalil, Dress by Julie Colquitt, Ring by Charlie Lapson, Ring by Brosway
Stylist: Michael Fusco
Hair: Marcus Francis
Makeup: Sarah Uslan
Video Production: Thadd Williams

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