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INTERVIEW – ‘The Cleaning Lady’ Star Martha Millan Talks Season 3

Martha Millan The Cleaning Lady 1 min

FOX’s hit drama series, The Cleaning Lady, is back for a third season, which finds Fiona De La Rosa in the Philippines after being deported in the finale of season two. With Fiona separated from her sister Thony (Élodie Yung), the series will explore more of her background and put Fiona on her own story arc.

I had the opportunity to speak with Martha Millan, who plays Fiona, about her character’s development over the last three seasons. Millan, an Australian-Filipino actress, who graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, can also be seen in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentleman on Netflix. As Fiona, Millan has the unique ability to express strength and empathy, as she tries to help her sister Thony while also protecting her own children.

What’s special to me personally about this interview is that I’ve had the chance to speak with Millan before the start of every season of The Cleaning Lady, including before the series premiered in 2022. It’s been a unique experience to see Millan on this journey and watch her and her character evolve over the last several years.

Millan talked about the support that she has received from fans all over the world, and in particular, from those who know the challenges of being an undocumented immigrant.

“I’ve had a lot of feedback in terms of how [they related] to the female characters. I get a lot of DMs about Fiona’s journey of being undocumented and living such a precarious life. Those who have experienced it or know people who’ve experienced it, have given me a lot of love and it’s something that I’m really very careful in portraying,” Millan said. “These are true stories and we’re extrapolating from those stories in order to create something that is authentic and that’s something that I really wanted to do. Getting that kind of feedback is so meaningful to me and it meant so much because I wanted to be truthful to who and what their circumstances were.”

Millan was born in the Philippines and grew up in Australia, where she attended The University of Sydney. She expressed how much she appreciated the love that she gets from both of her communities.

“Struggling through many years of struggles, being an actor. And to actually be on a show, and not only that but to be on a show that’s quite meaningful in terms of content and topical situations that I’ve experienced throughout the storytelling have been just amazing. The Filipino community has been so proud. The Aussies are always just ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!’ so it’s wonderful. But I think it’s a testament to the show. This is a global community now. Everybody is on social media and everybody knows that there are other cultures, and to not acknowledge that is something that is a little bit of a detriment to the industry. So I’m very proud. Very, very proud,” Millan said.

Martha Millan as Fiona De La Rosa in FOX's The Cleaning Lady
Martha Millan as Fiona De La Rosa in FOX’s The Cleaning Lady

This season, audiences will see Fiona dealing with not only the consequences of being deported to the Philippines, but with the life she abruptly left behind. There promises to be quite a few revelations about Fiona’s past, and Millan is clearly excited about the opportunity to experience her birth country through her character.

“It’s been incredible because, even for me, I grew up in Australia since I was four-years-old, so to live out being in the Philippines was also something new for me. Rochelle Berliner, our set designer, created a set here in Albuquerque [New Mexico] and we shot through winter. We were supposed to portray a hot, sweltering Manila, and it was like 33 degrees Fahrenheit!” Millan said. “And at the same time, everybody’s wearing tank tops, and to still be grounded emotionally in those elements, was quite challenging, but it made me emotionally more vulnerable…as a Filipino, I’ve never really experienced it as much, so for me to explore it first-hand and live it as if I had, was something of a revelation too.”

A major figure in Fiona’s past life in the Philippines is revealed to be a cook named Paolo, played by JB Tadena, who joins the cast this season. Tadena previously starred in CW’s Kung Fu series where he also played a chef.

“He was so easy-going, extremely charming, very chill. So it just made our rapport and our scenes so easy-going and I guess that’s what was needed for their relationship and with the past that they’ve had,” Millan said about working with Tadena.

With this new arc, Millan has the opportunity to more fully delve into the character that she’s lived with for the last three seasons, and she relishes the opportunity to tell more of Fiona’s story.

“For me, even starting from season 1, I just always wanted to bring justice to the writing, every performance I would have. At that time, the writing just kept building for Fiona so I was so grateful that they wanted to explore more of Fiona instead of just being a sidekick. I’m incredibly grateful to the writers for really wanting to dive deep into who she was and why she and Thony are such ride-or-die sisters,” Millan said.

Watch our full conversation below. The Cleaning Lady airs Tuesdays, 8 PM/7 PM Central Time on FOX.

POC Culture Interview with Martha Millan

About The Cleaning Lady:

Based on the hit original Argentine series, The Cleaning Lady returns Tuesday, March 5 at 8/7c on FOX. The series follows Thony De La Rosa (Élodie Yung), a whip-smart Cambodian doctor who comes to the U.S. for a medical treatment to save her ailing son, but when the system fails and attempts to push her down, Thony refuses to be marginalized, and instead takes matters into her own hands.

The stakes in Season Three of The Cleaning Lady are higher and more intense than ever, from the mystery of Arman’s whereabouts to Thony’s efforts to bring Fiona back to the US after she was deported to the Philippines. As Thony’s journey continues to unfold, she is completely alone. Her world is turned upside down as she fights to protect her family, forcing her to take steps that deepen a new association with a dangerous Cartel.

The Cleaning Lady stars Élodie Yung, Martha Millan, Sebastien & Valentino LaSalle, Sean Lew, Faith Bryant, Eva De Dominici, Kate del Castillo and Santiago Cabrera. Guest stars this season include Brandon Jay McLaren, Clayton Cardenas, JB Tadena and more. The Cleaning Lady is produced by Warner Bros. Television and FOX Entertainment. Miranda Kwok developed the series. Kwok and Jeannine Renshaw serve as showrunners and executive producers of season three. Rose Marie Vega and Paola Suarez also are executive producers.

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Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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