She's played a Holocaust survivor, a satanic cult leader, even a psycho Russian gangster who's crushed men between her legs. So you better believe actress Lena Olin is ready to take on the role of the Man, a.k.a. Laura Bristow, ''Alias''' double-crossing, KGB-card-carrying, long-thought-dead-in-a-car-crash mother of Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner). ''This is going to be so much fun!'' says the 47-year-old actress. Besides, she confides, ''in real life, I would call myself the Man, for sure.''
Long known for her work with director Ingmar Bergman (''Fanny and Alexander'') and in films including ''The Unbearable Lightness of Being'' and ''Chocolat'' (helmed by her husband, Lasse Hallström), the Swedish-born Olin is making ABC's spy drama her first regular TV role. ''This is a coup for us,'' says creator J.J. Abrams. ''Here is a woman who is so accessible and relatable and vulnerable, and at the same time, she is whip smart and could kick your ass faster than you blink.''
Although she had never seen ''Alias'' before (''I started watching when they approached me,'' she confesses), Olin says she was partially drawn to the small screen for the opportunity to get an immediate audience reaction, unlike the lag time with moviemaking. ''By the time the discussion starts about a movie,'' she complains, ''it's like bringing up an old boyfriend. It's like, I don't even remember exactly what he was like, and now we have to talk about it?''
But don't expect Mama Bristow to blow the cover on ''Alias''' tangled web of secrets. When asked how much she's been told about The Prophecy, 15th-century inventor Milo Rambaldi's notion that the Man may be a human weapon of mass destruction, Olin demurs, ''Not much.... We really haven't talked for hours and hours. I guess that's what we're going to do [when shooting starts] in July.'' Abrams is equally cryptic about Olin's part on the ''Alias'' canvas: ''The character is very complex. And whether she is good or evil will be learned over the course of the series.''
Whatever role the Man plays, the upside for Olin is that she's one step closer to having her own action figure (a line of ''Alias'' collectibles, starting with Sydney Bristow figurines, debuts this fall). ''I like that,'' says Olin. ''There weren't many [of them] for the Bergman stuff. He didn't do many action sequences.''