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Cynthia Watros tapped into personal experiences as a mother in 'Finding Carter'

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TORONTO - Cynthia Watros says it wasn't hard to understand the emotions of a mother who is reunited with her teenage daughter years after she was abducted.

The mother of 12-year-old twins connected to her own powerful feelings about her daughters to play Elizabeth in the new drama series "Finding Carter," premiering Tuesday on MTV.

"It's so close to the surface, the emotions of being a mother, and the possibility of ever losing a child is so painful," Watros said in a phone interview. "I didn't have to do much research to tap into the pain and the anger and joy of finding her again, and the confusion."

Watros, 45, is known for playing Libby on "Lost," in which she was Hurley's love interest and appeared in mysterious flashbacks. She also joined the cast of daytime soap "The Young and the Restless" last year before departing to pursue "Finding Carter" full-time.

Billed as an unconventional family drama, "Finding Carter" stars Kathryn Prescott ("Skins") as 16-year-old Carter Stevens, who has grown up believing that her abductor was her real mother. When the police uncover the truth, she is reunited with her family and biological mother Elizabeth.

But it's not the warm reunion for which Elizabeth had hoped, as Carter still loves her abductor Lori (Milena Govich) and wants to track her down before officers put her behind bars. Lori was a fun-loving single mom, while Elizabeth — a cop herself — is more strict and protective.

"Lori was sort of more of a friend to Carter than she was a mom. I find Elizabeth being more like, setting down the rules, and still being loving but definitely she's very strict. It's also something that comes between Elizabeth and Carter because Carter's not used to that," said Watros.

"I set curfews. I tell her not to hang out with drug dealers. I tell her she has to obey some rules of the household and Carter's definitely having a problem. That's another issue that we're having to deal with."

As a police officer, Elizabeth will stop at nothing to make sure justice is served to her daughter's abductor. But she also knows that putting Lori in jail would devastate Carter and ruin their chance at a real mother-daughter relationship.

"Carter won't even call me 'Mom,' and I have a lot of anger and resentment around Lori, her kidnapper. But Carter feels as though she wants to be back with her. She's brainwashed," said Watros.

"My character struggles with that fine line of trying to reconnect with (Carter) ... and having that anger and wanting to capture the kidnapper and put her in jail, because really that's what she deserves, but knowing that that would break my daughter's heart. So it's a challenge for Elizabeth to know exactly what to do."

Watros praised Prescott, the young English actress who plays her daughter, as "not only talented, but just a superb person." She said the show's title refers to Carter trying to discover who she is after her life has been turned upside down.

Asked to compare "Lost" and "Finding Carter," Watros replied she admires both shows but the two are very different.

"I think Elizabeth is different in the way that MTV has a really great way of addressing issues and problems and putting it out there," she said. "Even though it's uncomfortable, we're talking about it. That's what makes it edgy and sexy and young and relatable."

And for "Lost" fans who still have questions about Libby's backstory after she was suddenly killed at the end of the second season, Watros says she doesn't have all the answers either.

"Libby was just mysterious. We didn't really talk about everything that happened in her life. There's still questions out there about Libby."

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