The Cleaning Lady Star Martha Millan On Her Own Struggles With Healthcare In The US - Exclusive

"The Cleaning Lady" on Fox deftly handles the twists and turns in the lives of two mothers who are dealing with issues of immigration and healthcare, all while working to provide for their families.

In an exclusive interview with The List, actress Martha Millan, who plays Fiona, reflected on her character's journey in the first two seasons of "The Cleaning Lady" and just how many parallels she sees between Fiona's life and her own. "It's a beautiful experience for me to live out the character, but instinctively, straight away, I connected with her spirit," she began, sharing that the show's creator, Miranda Kwok, had also based the characters on Filipinos, which reflects Millan's own heritage.

And the similarities didn't end there — the Australian actress told The List she could relate to some of her character's struggles with immigration. "It's a process of assimilation and the experiences you have when you are in a new country, trying to be part of the culture and still maintain your identity. ... That's what I connected with," she explained.

When it becomes clear that the U.S. medical system will fail the young mother and recent immigrant Thony, Fiona's sister-in-law, she begins cleaning for the mob in order to support herself and her sick son. Actress Martha Millan can connect to this storyline herself, and she told The List about her own experiences with the U.S. healthcare system.

The actress shared her take on the American Dream

Martha Millan herself immigrated to the U.S. from Australia and can relate to others who have followed the American Dream. "['The Cleaning Lady'] shows how people are still willing to come to this country to find that American Dream, despite the system failing them, because there is still hope," she shared. Her own story included the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, a visa obtained through modeling, and eventually a green card thanks to her acting gigs.

Still, the actress struggled with finding medical care. "Despite being legal, I still didn't have access to any healthcare that was available to U.S. citizens," she shared. "I would have to go to Walgreens or whatever pharmacist that I could to deal with whatever situation."

Millan also mentioned programs that made all the difference early in her career: "I commend Planned Parenthood, who allowed for those services at that time when I didn't have access to healthcare." She added, "With Obamacare as well — those were the things that, when I wasn't really working as an actor, allowed me [to feel secure]."

Martha Millan admired Australia's COVID response

Martha Millan's background gave her empathy for those who are unable to pay their hospital bills. "[The show] reminded me of those situations," she explained. "Whenever I read about the people who weren't able to have access to the basic needs of healthcare, and I remember I'd be like, 'Oh my God, I don't want to go to the doctor because I know I'm going to have [to] pay all this.'"

A great deal has changed for the Australia native in the 25 years she's been in the U.S. Still, she kept tabs on Australia's COVID response and expressed her hope that the American system might match it. "During COVID, everyone in Australia had free access to vaccinations," Millan told us. "If they were sick, healthcare was provided. There wasn't this fear of, 'Oh my God, I can't get sick because I can't go to the [doctor] ... I can't afford to get sick.'"

Martha Millan remained in the U.S. throughout the pandemic, and she had her reasons for staying: "You come to this country with this dream and possibilities. Despite all the chaos and division that's happening, people still want that American Dream in their own unique way. Honestly, from where I'm sitting right now, it's absolutely possible."

New episodes of "The Cleaning Lady" air Mondays at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox.