The Watchful Eye

Mariel Molino and Warren Christie star in “The Watchful Eye,” which premieres tonight on Freeform and streams on Hulu.

Elena Santos is a young woman with more than her share of secrets.

As played by Mariel Molino (“Promised Land”) in the Freeform psychological thriller “The Watchful Eye,” premiering today, she’s the new nanny for the old money Ward family of Central Park West. Six months earlier, Allie Ward jumped to her death from her apartment window, leaving her young son motherless and her husband Matthew (Warren Christie, “Alphas”) a widower in need of child care.

Though she passes muster with him, Elena has at least two parties who aren’t so sure – Tori (Amy Acker, “Angel”), the deceased’s suspicious and uptight sister; and Mrs. Ivey (Kelly Bishop, “Gilmore Girls”), elderly dowager and dyed-in-the-wool snob. Then there is the building itself, the Greybourne, a grand, old 19th century edifice with a history of suicides, murders and accidents and floors full of mysterious creaks, groans and apparitions.

But it is here where Elena, who did a good amount of lying to get the job, wants to start a new life and leave what apparently was an unhappy one behind.

“Elena is very savvy,” Molino explains. “She’s complicated and I think that she is a person that is just overwhelmed with revenge, resentment, anger, and I think that ultimately that burden that she carries about the past will become too much to deal with. I think that she is a person that is motivated by trying to provide for her younger brother and trying to make sure that he has a future and is safe. And ultimately, she’s in a quest for family. I don’t think that she really has one and so I think that she is yearning for that.”

To create Elena, Molino did extensive work, studying the script and creating a backstory, working with a dialect coach and even spending time in the character’s home neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, to nail the specific accent.

The series, which was created by Julie Durk (“Grace and Frankie”), was filmed in Vancouver and New York and the Greybourne exteriors were shot at a building uptown near Harlem, which Molino thinks gives the series much of its ominous pall.

“I think that it’s such a great place to set (the show in) a place like the Greybourne or New York,” she says, “that has such a glossy veneer but then inside there’s like this dark underbelly. That I think is a great metaphor for the show and its characters and what lies underneath. And I love stuff like that, where to me the building is also a character in the show.”