Interview with Gabrielle Stone on “Stray”

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Known for ZK: Elephant’s Graveyard, Speak No Evil and Cut!, Gabrielle Stone is an accomplished actress with an impressive resume of work. In Stray, Stone is Jennifer, a troubled young woman with a disturbing past and a penchant for killing. Penned and helmed by award-winning writer-director Nena Eskridge, Stray follows Jennifer as she struggles to break free from a cycle of violence and seek love and redemption in a small town. In this one-on-one interview, Stone reveals the challenges she faced in bringing a flawed and exceedingly complex character to life.

Gabrielle Stone
Gabrielle Stone

What attracted you to this film and the character of Jennifer?

Gabrielle Stone: I read the script and the role was an actor’s dream. There are so many layers to her. She’s so broken but so strong. She really spoke to me, and it was something I wanted to do. The script was written so well that it was really a no-brainer.

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Did you audition for the role? If so, what was that like?

Stone: No. Someone had recommended me to Nena. She reviewed my demo reel, we had a phone conversation and she hired me for the role. A pretty easy process on my end.

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What did you draw from to develop Jennifer as a troubled, complex character?

Stone: I think, in any character, the challenge is find the parts of you that are in that character. And even in a dark character, there are ways to do that. I really enjoyed being able to pull bad experiences from my past—heartbreak and deaths—that I had to deal with. So I used those in ways that made Jennifer always be in that fight or flight mode. And I hope that’s what translated on the screen.

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Ana-Maria Arkan & Gabrielle Stone

How collaborative was it working with Nena Eskridge as writer/director? Were there elements of Jennifer you added beyond the script?

Stone: Because Nena is an actor’s director, she was always open and wanting to hear my opinions and ideas. So we would kind of morph everything together when we were on set. She really had a delicate process in putting the film together. She flew me out a few days early and we walked around the town together. She showed me all the different places, letting me into much of the backstory and personal elements she had put into the script. So I really felt I had acquired a deep knowledge of Jennifer before we even started shooting. As far as adding my own elements, I think that happens naturally in any character, but Jennifer definitely had some aspects of myself. Nena was always open and wanted that.

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What did you find most challenging about your role in the film?

Stone: I think to not overdo things. When you’re doing a drama, there’s always the tendency to go all the way all the time. But you really can’t in something like this, where there’s so much going on. You have to pick and choose when she’s going to let everything out and let all that stuff come to the surface, and when to keep it internalized and not go so big with it. So that was the challenge of finding the really important moments in a slew of so many important moments.

Dan McGlaughlin as boyfriend Greg Wells
Dan McGlaughlin as boyfriend Greg Wells

I sensed that. There were a couple of scenes where you really could have gone over the top and turned Stray into a slasher flick, but you held back and kept her humanity.

Stone: You have to do that, especially when you want people to connect with the character. It’s hard when you have a main character that’s so up and down. You have to give her qualities that people can connect with, so the audience isn’t just hating her the whole time.  

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What was it like balancing a character who is at once dangerously psychotic and yet in some ways surprisingly sympathetic?

Stone: It’s really about looking at Jennifer as a whole and finding places in all the heightened things she was doing and going through, then finding what I connected to and related to. When I was on camera, I wanted to make sure that the things I connected to where things that I pulled back on. So the audience could see the humanity in her and the realness of identifying with how they might have felt that way at one time in their lives. While the circumstances are outrageous at times, there are parts of Jennifer that everyone has experienced or at least seen someone they know go through. So I wanted to make sure that when we got to those moments, they were very real.

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As a dancer, do you ever have the urge to do a dance film?

Stone: I did a film coming out next year called Dance Night Obsession with Harvey Lowry as director and featuring Antonio Sabato Jr. I only have one dance scene in it, and it’s not even my style of dance. But it was a blast.

What’s next for you?

Stone: I just shot a horror film in L.A. called Rock, Paper, Dead, directed by Tom Holland. I also wrapped a full-on comedy called The Competition directed by Harvey Lowry.

Interview with “Tri” Director Jai Jamison

Director Jai Jamison
Director Jai Jamison

A skilled filmmaker who focuses on character and emotionally driven stories, Jai Jamison has directed, written and edited a number of captivating films. These include Speak Now, Wheeler, Anthony Samuels and most recently, Tri, which Jamison directed and co-wrote. Named the Best Narrative Feature Film at the Chesapeake Film Festival, Tri stars Jensen Jacobs and Chris Dyer garnering them Best Actress and Actor, respectively.

Jensen Jacobs & Walker Hays
Jensen Jacobs & Walker Hays (day one)

TRI follows Natalie (Jacobs), an ultrasound tech who is inspired by a cancer patient to sign up for a triathlon. With the support of her friends, coaches and teammates, Natalie digs deep to discover just how far she can push her mind and body. In this one-on-one interview, Jai Jamison reveals what drew him to this project and the many choices he made in making Tri such an emotionally moving film. (warning: contains a few spoilers)

Jensen Jacobs & Walker Hays
Jensen Jacobs & Walker Hays

Tri is so powerful on many levels. What inspired you to make this film?

Jai Jamison: I was hired by Ted Adams, the producer, to do this film. He’s a two-time Iron Man athlete and a certified triathlete coach. He used input from people he trained along with some personal stories from those he knew to do a story about triathletes. What drew me to the film was the inspiration: In triathlons, the community is so important in terms of pushing each other to do their best. It’s less a competition against each other and more about competing against yourself. It’s about the people supporting you—the volunteers, the other racers, the family and friends around you. I saw a lot of parallels between the Tri community and the people that surround cancer patients and their support groups. So I wanted to tell a positive story about inspiration.

Natalie (Jacobs) "hitting the wall"
Natalie (Jacobs) “hitting the wall”

The film accurately walks us through the steps and hurtles of a triathlon. Had you ever run the triathlon yourself?

Jamison: I had never done a triathlon and had never even been to one. So as soon as I was hired to direct the film, I attended a triathlon. I was struck by the community and such a positive vibe, the support, the volunteers, the racers, the family and friends—they were all there to push and help each other out. I left with a big grin and said to myself: this is what I want the movie to feel like. That was the broad, macro-vision of the film. In terms of depth, Ted was the hands-on consultant for how the steps played out. He was there to make sure we had the steps, and that those steps corresponded well with the narrative of the story.

Candice (Shawn Pelofsky)
Candice (Shawn Pelofsky)

You include not one but several people struggling with cancer. Why did you include so many in your film?

Jamison: When they came up with the story, they definitely wanted a parallel between those two struggles. Many people who do triathlons run in someone’s honor or they are cancer survivors who use the race to push themselves and reclaim their fitness and physicality. When Ted did the Nation’s Triathlon a few years ago, he remembered seeing a woman wearing a shirt that said, if you think this is hard, try chemotherapy. And that really left a mark on him. We thought that weaving together those two journeys—cancer and Tri—was a way to have each journey become a metaphor for the other. We felt that including more than one cancer patient would allow a broader swath of people to relate to what these characters were going through.

Zeus (Kenneth Simmons)
Zeus (Kenneth Simmons)

Why did you choose the Zeus character (Kenneth Simmons), a retired wrestler, to help Natalie overcome her self doubts?

Jamison: When doing the rewrite, we wanted to showcase the broad spectrum of people who compete in the triathlon. So we included an athlete from another discipline. The idea of including a big, hulking professional wrestler who is almost Zen-like with his views on the world and an ability to see things and motivate people in an unexpected way, that was something that really appealed to me. In essence, he became the conscience for the group.

Jensen Jacobs & Chris Dyer
Jensen Jacobs & Chris Dyer

I found the Mission Moments both inspirational and emotionally powerful—is that something often done in triathlon training?

Jamison: The Mission Moments came from seeing the team in training. It’s a way for team members to share what inspired them to compete before they go out and train. The Moments really stuck out as a true narrative device to get into the backstory of these characters.

Natalie works through the pain
Natalie works through the pain

It seemed that Natalie had enough to overcome, why did you have her crash and sustain an almost debilitating injury on her collarbone?

Jamison: That was based on many of the real struggles triathletes had to face. Ted was running a Tri race in Hawaii called the Lava Run. He passed a woman who was running, limping and crying. After finishing the race, she later learned that she had broken her hip. She was in remission from cancer and the chemotherapy had weakened her bones enough to break her hip. So I wanted to throw one last obstacle in Natalie’s path. The bike accident happened to Ted during training. He hit a tree, was dazed, but was saved by his helmet.

Shawn Pelofsky & Chris Williams
Shawn Pelofsky & Chris Williams

The Max character (Chris Williams) initially refusing to award a metal for just competing in the triathlon seemed to come from a political position that espoused winning not just competing as the ultimate goal.

Jamison: The idea behind Max’s character was a hotshot outsider who really didn’t understand what the Tri community was all about. It takes Candice (Shawn Pelofsky) walking him through the concept of getting a medal just for finishing the event. He represents the idea that symbolic measures can help you accomplish your goals. In the opening scene, one character says about Winston Churchill, he spent a lot of time being profound; it’s amazing he had time to fight the war. And the reply was, well maybe that’s how he won the war—being profound. Max’s character kind of represents the antithesis or foil to that thesis. Eventually, Candice brings him around and completes his arc. The metals aren’t participation trophies. I believe that finishing a triathlon is an accomplishment.

Natalie, steps from the finish line...
Natalie, steps from the finish line…

Interview with Hannah Levien on “Blood Brothers”

Growing up in Australia, Hannah Levien worked extensively in theatre before making her feature debut playing a teenage-runaway in the award-winning Australian film The Horseman. A recipient of the Arts Queensland Professional Development Award, Levien also starred in SyFy’s The Magicians and appeared in the popular TV series, Supernatural (as Calliope).

Graham Denman, Hannah Levien, Jon Kondelik
Graham Denman, Hannah Levien, Jon Kondelik

In Blood Brothers, Levien plays dual roles: Genevieve, a waitress and single mother, and Vanity, a street tough prostitute. Both characters fall victim to two brothers who concoct a deadly game to fulfill their devious fantasies. In this one-on-one interview, Levien reveals what attracted her to this dual lead role and the challenges she faced in bringing both characters to life.

Hannah Levien as Genevieve
Hannah Levien as Genevieve

What attracted you to the roles of Genevieve and Vanity?

Hannah Levien: They’re two so very different characters. And I was eager to play both in the same film. That’s never happened to me before. As an actor, I came up doing a lot of theater in Australia, so I’ve had to play multiple roles on stage, but never on screen in the same film. I also believe that people have their light and dark sides, their fantasies, and the things they fear. I felt that by playing these two characters, it was like exploring each of them in a way—exploring Genevieve’s dark side through Vanity, and Vanity’s light side through Genevieve.

Hannah Levien & Graham Denman
Hannah Levien & Graham Denman

Did you audition for the role and what was that like?

Levien: No. I didn’t. I had worked with writer Jose Prendes before, and the producers were familiar with my work. They had seen Children of Sorrow, a psychological horror film in which I played a woman who immerses herself in a cult in Mexico. I’m very grateful I was offered these roles outright, because knowing that I had the roles, I didn’t have to go through that audition process, which forces you to make very quick decisions. And because I got to sit with these characters, I wasn’t influenced by any early choices one makes—I had time with the material to come up with ideas—like should Vanity have a wig or should she should do this with her voice and posture. It came to me through the process of what happened to her at the start of the film, and talking with Jose. So I’m grateful that I wasn’t influenced by these premature decisions, which would have made me construct these characters at the audition.

Hannah Levien & Jon Kondelik
Hannah Levien & Jon Kondelik

I sensed that in your performance. There were plenty of surprises that kept popping up in the film.

Levien: I owe that to Joe’s script. Vanity just says things you don’t expect her to say. There were some more provocative things in the script that didn’t make it to the screen.

Hannah Levien as call girl Vanity
Hannah Levien as call girl Vanity

What did you find most challenging about playing these two women?

Levien: It was a relatively low budget film, so we didn’t have that much time to do many takes. We’re always trying to outrun the day. It’s characteristic of most films and TV—you can only do so much in the time you have. You also have to “kill your darlings” and let certain things go. I do find horror challenging because you have to get to really big emotions very quickly. You’re getting chased with a knife-wielding guy or smashed in the head with a rock. You sort of sit with a lot of dark stuff for a long time. You don’t have the creature comforts to help you sustain that emotion. We were fortunate to have some well-established actors in the cast.
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The film was hard to watch during some scenes, like when Genevieve was so violently attacked.

Levien: I found it difficult as well. Genevieve is just so sweet. But that’s what the writer wanted—someone who was perfectly pure to be attacked by two brothers plotting their first murder. They were taking something away from the world. It was a hard sequence to shoot because we were short on time, and I felt that if a woman was going to be attacked, she might fight her attacker a bit more than Genevieve did. If it were me in real life, I’d be putting up much more of a fight. On the other hand, it was great to play Vanity because she gets to kick some ass. That’s one of the benefits of playing two roles in a film. I did a bit of research and learned that if you’ve been hit in the head, it can totally debilitate you and prevent you from fighting back.

Hannah Levien as Vanity
Hannah Levien as Vanity

Was it difficult to make the transition from the innocent Genevieve to the tough-talking Vanity?

Levien: No, it wasn’t. I drew on my training as an actor. You develop these different voices and draw on things within yourself. So every time you work on something, you open up new worlds. I’ve played characters similar to Vanity, so that character came quite easily. The dialog helped as well, since Vanity’s was so different from Genevieve’s. I kind of wanted Vanity to have a spin-off film (laughs) because I wanted to see how she gets on when she leaves.

Hannah Levien as Vanity getting even
Hannah Levien as Vanity getting even

So what’s next for you in 2017?

Levien: I’m taking some time to work on some of my own writing. Right now, I’m talking to a number of filmmakers about some projects for next year. I can’t officially confirm anything, though.
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Hopefully, you’ll do something lighter, maybe a romantic comedy?

Levien: Yeah, there was a time when my friends were saying, “can you stop dying on camera.”(laughs).

 

 

Elise Eberle, Adam Simon, and Iddo Goldberg talk SALEM

At the roundtable with Elise Eberle (Mercy Lewis), writer/director Adam Simon, and Iddo Goldberg (Isaac Walton) as they talk about the hit TV series SALEM. Set in 17th century Massachusetts, SALEM explores what really ignited the town’s infamous witch trials and uncovers the dark, supernatural truth hiding behind the veil of this infamous period in American history. The third season will begin during Halloween week as the witches plan to remake the New World by bringing the devil to earth and making Salem his capital.

Writer Beau Smith and Tim Rozon (Doc Holliday) talk WYNONNA EARP

At the roundtable with writer Beau Smith and Tim Rozon talking about Wynonna Earp. Beau Smith has written for every major comic book publisher, including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, Eclipse Comics, Dreamwave Studios and Dark Horse Comics. Tim Rozon, who plays the enigmatic Doc Holliday has appeared in Schitt’s Creek, Crossfire and Being Human.

Based on the comic book series by Beau Smith, Wynonna Earp follows Wyatt Earp’s great granddaughter as she battles demons and other supernatural beings. A witty and wild modern-day gunslinger, Wynonna draws on her unique abilities and a dysfunctional posse of allies to bring the paranormal (Revenants) to justice.

Shamier Anderson talks about Agent Dolls in Wynonna Earp

At the roundtable with Shamier Anderson talking about his role as agent Xavier Dolls in the popular sci-fi series Wynonna Earp. A member of the US Marshals’ Black Badge division, Dolls comes to Purgatory to investigate the Revenant problem, reaching out to Wynonna Earp and offering her a place in the division.

Shamier attended Wexford School for the Arts where he majored in Musical Theatre & the Drama Intensive Program where he graduated with honors.  Aside from acting, Shamier is an avid Wing Chun Kung Fu practitioner. Based on the IDW Comic, Wynonna Earp follows Wyatt Earp’s great granddaughter as she battles demons and other creatures.

Frankie Adams & Shohreh Aghdashloo talk Expanse at 2016 Comic-con

At the roundtable with Frankie Adams and Shohreh Aghdashloo talking about the popular ski-fi TV series The Expanse at 2016 Comic-con. Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system and Mars has become an independent military power. Rising tensions between Earth and Mars have put them on the brink of war. Against this backdrop, a hardened detective and a rogue ship’s captain come together to investigate the case of a missing young woman. The investigation leads them on a race across the solar system that could expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.See also my interview with Cas Anvar

https://youtu.be/-AtB9B8xaFc

Interview with Amber Coney in Dead of Summer

Amber Coney
Amber Coney

Best known for her work on The Creation of Aspen, Send Me to Heaven and Horoscopes and Fortune Cookies, Amber Coney can also be seen in the upcoming L.A. Series, Kill The Czar, and Actors Anonymous. In Dead of Summer, Coney plays Carolina ‘Cricket’ Diaz, a warm, snarky camp counselor who harbors deep-seated issues beneath her carefree, fun-loving exterior. A former attendee turned counselor, Cricket returns to Camp Stillwater looking strikingly different from her younger self. She seeks validation from her peers, especially her longtime crush, Alex. In this one-on-one interview, Amber reveals the challenges she faced during filming the series and what she enjoyed most about her role.

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What attracted you to this decidedly mixed genre series?

Amber Coney: That’s a great question. When I got the script, I immediately loved it. It was something I knew I’d be on board for. I’m very open in terms of genre or style, and I was drawn to the story in a deep and truthful way.

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Did you audition for the role?

Amber: It was one of the first scripts I’d received for the pilot TV season. I saw the casting director and he called back almost immediately. I’ve never had such a fast turnaround before. I went home, took a bath, and was ready for my callback. They taped me and helped draw out my best performance. I tested with Adam (Horowitz) and Eddy (Kitsis), who created the show, as well as Once Upon a Time and Lost. It’s no surprise that I fell in love with the material. They’re masters at what they do. It was an opportunity to work with them, and I felt the energy in the room. After the test, I knew I had to be this character.

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What challenges did you face during filming?

Amber: Besides the cold? (laughs). We’re filming out in Minaty Bay in Vancouver. The camp was nestled in the mountain areas. We shot the pilot in early spring, doing all overnight shoots in the freezing cold at four in the morning. We’d strip down to our skivvies and run across icy rocks to the pier. My skin was all red by the time I finished. I would layer over my other clothes and have these hot foot warmers. It’s weird because I feel that every project I seem to get involves overnight shoots.

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Are Cricket’s deep-seated issues presented gradually or abruptly in one episode?

Amber: It’s gradual. The cool thing about this series is that in the first episode, you’ll see little clues from each character that provide bits of insight as to where they’re coming from and what they’re dealing with. It’s set up in a way that every character will have a flashback episode where you’ll learn about their backstory.

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What can you tell us about Stillwater’s dark, ancient mythology?

Amber There’s definitely an ominous presence that causes us (counselors) to question reality and see our fears manifested in a way that we’d never experienced before. This creepy, scary sense going around camp starts to manifest itself stronger and stronger. Soon enough, we’re all trying to figure out what’s going on, where it’s coming from and how to stop it.

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Can you go into a little detail about Cricket’s relationship with Alex?

Amber: In the first episode, we’ll see Cricket fawning over him. He’s basically the guy she wants. She does everything she can to make that known to him without ruining her chances. You’ll have to see whether or not she’s successful.

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Is there a backstory we’ll see between Alex and Cricket?

Amber: We were all campers as kids, so there’s already this history in that we all knew each other growing up. How Cricket feels about Alex in the present day is just a dramatic progression of what she thought about him as a kid. It’s sort of a perpetual summer crush.

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Is the series more coming-of-age story or more supernatural horror?

Amber: I think the cool part is that it’s actually both and that’s why I was drawn to it. This dynamic and the progression of the characters are just as strong as the supernatural horror element.

Dead of Summer premieres on June 28th.

 

 

 

An Interview with Flash’s Violett Beane

Violett Beane2

Best known as the DC Comics superhero Jesse Quick in The CW series The Flash, and as the missing girl in HBO’s, The Leftovers, Violett Beane appeared in the horror feature Flay, and the indie Slash, which recently premiered at SXSW. In Slash, Beane plays Lindsay in a coming-of-age drama about adolescent outsiders who write fan fiction. Beane can also be seen in Tower, an emotionally draining film that focuses on the mass school shooting at the University of Texas in 1966. In this one-on-one interview, Beane reveals some insights about her various roles and how she approached them.

Did you audition for The Flash? What was that like?

Violett Beane: I did audition for it, but I didn’t know that much about the character. A week and a half later, I learned I’d got the part and they told me her name and more information about her character. It was definitely weird not knowing who I was going out for at the start.

Violet Beane as Jesse Wells
Violet Beane as Jesse Wells

What challenges did you face in playing Jesse, the iconic daughter of Earth-2’s Harrison Wells?

Beane: It was difficult, especially coming in on a new season. They have these on-screen and off-screen relationships. It was definitely tricky at first, creating these relationships with the other actors and their characters. And creating that father-daughter relationship. Making those connections five minutes before the first scene was a challenge. When I flew up to Vancouver, they drove me to the set and five minutes later, we’re doing the scene where Jesse confronts Harrison about the truth. It was scary because I didn’t know anyone or know quite what I was doing.

Will Jesse face any obstacles that will change her in some way? How will she grow?

Beane: I think you’ll see throughout the season that Jesse’s getting used to this Earth and coming to terms with it. If you watched the finale, you see that she made up her mind to go back home. She misses everyone that she knew and everything familiar in her life. She was just ready to go home, and it’s really sweet that Harrison was willing to go home with her. She is his world.

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What can we expect from the Wally-Jesse relationship? Will it grow into something once they’re “up to speed”?

Beane: It’s interesting that they broke up this slow romance between them a little bit. But I know that the fans on social media want to know what’s going on with them. I think it makes sense that they find each other. He’s sort of the outsider to the Flash team and she’s the complete outsider. So I’d love to see where that goes.,

Switching gears to Slash. It sounds like every Comic-con fan’s dream come true. Have you been to Comic-con?

Beane: No, I haven’t. I’m going to try to go this summer. I hear it’s just crazy.

What did you like most about being in Slash?

Beane: Slash was cool because of the fine actors I got to work with. I met a couple of really cool people that I still talk to today, including Michael Johnston, who plays the lead. It was a fun little role. It was a cool break and we shot it in Austin, so that was nice.

SLASH

What part does Lindsay play in the Julia-Neil relationship?

Beane: I was only in Slash for a couple of scenes, but Lindsay is kind of a mean girl who makes fun of Neil’s nerdy-ness.

You’re also in the soon to be released gripping tragedy, Tower. What drew you to that film?

Beans: It’s a heavy one for sure. It was the first on-camera project I’d ever done. I shot it over a course of two years. It’s a documentary about the 1966 UT shooting, the first major school shooting in history. It premiered this year at SXSW. It’s half real footage and half re-enacted, plus some interview style recounting of what happened. It’s so powerful. I went to the premiere and everyone in the theater was crying. It hit so close to home with so many people because of how frequent shootings in the country are. It’s touring at almost every film festival this year, all around the states and in Canada. I hope that it gets enough attention because it really is absurd and insane how many shootings and violence we see in America. The film tells this in a way that you can’t ignore.

News footage from Tower
News footage from Tower

Did you find it difficult to play Claire who lost her baby and boyfriend that day?

Beane: It definitely was a very heavy character to play, especially because I got to meet her at the premiere. She doesn’t live in Austin and she hadn’t been traveling for a long time. She only had good things to say about my performance. We had a little moment together. Seeing her lightness about it. She’s so optimistic and positive.

So what’s next for you?

Beane: I recently directed, edited and starred in a music video. It’s a scary video where I play this deranged orphan girl who lives alone in a house with two dolls.

 

Interview with Radha Mitchell on Sacrifice

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A versatile talent with a broad body of work, Radha Mitchell began her career in Australia. She quickly took center stage in the critically acclaimed indies, High Art and Love and Other Catastrophes. Her major film work includes starring roles in Pitch Black, Man on Fire, Finding Neverland and the action blockbuster London Has Fallen.

In the thriller, Sacrifice, Mitchell plays consultant surgeon, Tora Hamilton, who moves with her husband, Duncan, to the remote Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. Deep in the peat soil around her new home, Tora discovers the body of a young woman with rune marks carved into her skin and a gaping hole where her heart once beat. Ignoring warnings to leave well alone, Tora uncovers terrifying links to a legend that threatens to tear apart her marriage. In this one-on-one interview, Mitchell reveals the challenges she faced in bringing her complex character to life.

Rupert Graves and Radha Mitchell
Rupert Graves and Radha Mitchell

What attracted you to this film?

Radha Mitchell: I liked doing this character in this genre. It has a very particular perspective and a raw set of needs. It was that character, polarized against this kind of history, the subjugation of women, that was fun to explore.

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How did you prepare for the role of a surgeon who in essence becomes a detective?

Mitchell: Strangely enough, I’d been prepared for it in shooting a movie called the Crazies. At that point, I just wanted to learn something basic, like how to take blood pressure. So they sent me to a gynecologist who gave me some shorthand on venereal diseases, childbirth and female issues—from a doctor’s perspective. She just took me from room to room so I learned a lot on that day. But I never thought I’d need to use this information. Then strangely enough, I found myself playing a gynecologist some years later. So I felt that I had the training. It was an interesting transition for a character who suddenly finds herself on the run.

Rupert Graves and Radha Mitchell

Sacrifice speaks to betrayal in all its forms: betrayal in marriage, betrayal by in-laws and by the island folk. How do you think this changed Tora?

Mitchell: I think it speaks to the part of you that wants to ignore what’s right in front of you because it’s easier. In this case, it would have been a lot easier if Tora could just turn her eyes away, because she’s turning her own world upside down as she uncovers this horrific mystery. It’s going to prevent her from having the perfect life she’s wanted for so long. But she has a real sense of integrity, and I don’t think she has a choice. She’s courageous in a way that she doesn’t even realize. And those qualities were compelling because she doesn’t come into the story as a hero at all, but crippled by her own needs. And yet, at the end, she’s able to save someone else. Tora is an interesting character, and characters like Tora are more fun to watch.

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From a somewhat laid back surgeon to this tireless, heroic sleuth, Tora was indeed fascinating to watch.

Mitchell: I think she was totally driven by the adrenalin of needing to know the truth. And also being hunted. There are scenes where she’s running around in this dark abandoned hospital, which were quite exciting to shoot. It was like playing hide and seek, except I was running with these high heels. It does adrenalize you. And that’s the kind of energy Tora brought into that space. The stakes become incredibly high and her desire to uncover the truth is something she doesn’t shy away from.

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Sacrifice also addresses a woman’s fear of infertility. Did you draw from someone who went through this to develop your character?

Mitchell: I’ve played other characters that had the same issues. I think it’s like the fear of death, where you can relate to that at a certain age. Nothing lasts forever and the choices you make are important. The film also addresses the fear of infidelity, which is really at the heart of the story—the paranoia that you’re going to be left and that a second wife will replace you. But it ultimately empowers women by showing that it’s not that important to hang on to something that’s dead or over.

Sacrifice2

The film raises the question of sacrificial religious sects being alive and well in some areas. Do you think they still exist?

Mitchell: I’m sure they do. We see evidence of fundamentalist behavior constantly in the news. There’s bizarre, freaky human behavior that still goes on. We come from a history of damaged generations. If you look at the history of humanity and how it manifests in these generations, it can be quite twisted. When Sharon Bolton was exploring the story, she was referencing things that had happened. And there are these twisted things that go undercover in very powerful communities.

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What did you find most challenging about filming Sacrifice, and of playing Tora?

Mitchell: Actually, it may sound boring, but the weather was a challenge. We were supposed to be shooting in July in Ireland. But the shoot was delayed until November. And I discovered that I was allergic to the cold, which was a great excuse for me getting back to my trailer. My skin would react to the wetness in the air, and I’d get these hives. But the cast was great, and between playing these intense scenes, we were laughing most of the time. Playing high drama is fun for an actor.

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You worked that backhoe like a pro. Did you practice on it or had you done that before?

Mitchell: I had to learn how to drive it and dig these holes in the ground. They don’t give you a lot of time to learn these things, but I’m actually doing some construction in my house right now, and it’s good to know that if I need to dig a pit out back, I can do it myself to cut down on some of the cost.

(cover photo of Radha Mitchell by Gen Kay)

 

 

 

 

Interview with Lucy Fry on The Darkness

Lucy Fry.
Lucy Fry.

Known for her various roles in Vampire Academy, Mako Mermaids, Lightning Point, and The Preppie Connection, Lucy Fry has an extensive body of work in both TV and film. Last year, Fry appeared in the indie Mr. Church. This year, Fry can be seen in the popular Australian miniseries Wolf Creek, as well as the time-travel thriller 11.22.63.

In the supernatural thriller, The Darkness, Fry plays Stephanie Taylor, a teen who returns home from a Grand Canyon vacation with her family only to discover that they’ve brought back a supernatural force that preys on her fears and vulnerabilities. In this one-on-one interview Fry reveals the challenges she faced in shooting the film and bringing her character to life.

Lucy Fry.
Lucy Fry.

What did you think when you read the script?

Lucy Fry: It was one of the scariest things I ever read. The supernatural element really terrified me. I’m not really in touch with that. It was foreign and really terrifying to see a family that felt so familiar, who on the surface felt like a normal, loving family. Then this spirit comes in and pulls out of the darkness. What scared me was that it was so relatable, that it could happen.

Did you audition for the role of Stephanie? What was that like?

Fry: When I was auditioning for it, I had to read certain scenes, but I couldn’t finish them because they scared me so much.
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What was your approach in developing the Stephanie’s character? What did you see as her weakness, her strength?

Fry: I saw her weakness as a fear of being alone. She has a family but they haven’t given her a lot of attention. She feels as though she has no space in the family and there’s no room for her. So she starts to expect that physically and she becomes bulimic and anorexic. She’s kind of wasting away into nothing and has these desperate cries for attention. What she wants more than anything is to be seen and heard. I felt so much empathy for her and for her journey to connect with her family. She feels shame and anger and tries to deal with her anger. Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 5.12.51 PM

What did you draw from in bringing out the problems of a girl with an eating disorder?

Fry: Unfortunately, it’s ingrained in much of our culture to want to be skinny and be a certain size. When I was in a series where I had to fit into a tight costume for six months, I remember doing all sorts of things to keep my hips from getting wider. It was excruciating. Even in high school, I remember having these ideas about how to stay really small and how I was being cruel to myself. It’s awful how accepted this is in our culture. I wasn’t consciously aware of how destructive I was being. It was really great to try to expose that through Stephanie’s character. I felt good that I had the opportunity to share that, and to bring about more empathy about that situation.

The film’s paranormal advisor said you were being followed around the house by a ghost. What was that like?

Fry: The whole thing was very creepy. There supposedly was this paranormal presence in the house, but I couldn’t really feel it. What with the filming, I didn’t feel threatened. It kind of opened up the possibility for that to be a real experience.
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What was it like shooting in the Desert?

Fry: It was quite beautiful. Very dry. Since I’m Australian, it was a foreign landscape that I couldn’t really connect with. It was quite eerie.

What can you tell us about Cleveland?

Fry: We’re expecting to film that soon. It’s a great script. Each person in the story goes through some transformation. They get to a point in their life where they’re finally doing what they want to do. It starts with them being stuck and then they each go through these crises. My character is the whimsical person who just moved to New York and she’s wondering about her career.

 

Interview with Radha Mitchell on The Darkness

Radha-Mitchell
Radha-Mitchell

A versatile talent with a broad body of work, Radha Mitchell began her career in Australia. She quickly took center stage in the critically acclaimed indies, High Art and Love and Other Catastrophes. Her major film work includes starring roles in Pitch Black, Man on Fire, Finding Neverland and the action blockbuster London Has Fallen.

In the supernatural thriller, The Darkness, Mitchell plays wife and mother Bronny Taylor who returns home from a Grand Canyon vacation with husband Peter (Kevin Bacon). The family innocently brings home a supernatural force that preys on their own fears and vulnerabilities, consuming their lives with terrifying consequences. In this one-on-one interview, Mitchell reveals the challenges she faced in bringing her complex character to life.

Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell
Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell

What attracted you to the role of Bronny?

Radha Mitchell: I was attracted to the script. And to the prospect of working with Greg McLean with whom I worked previously on Rogue. I also wanted to get “one degree” close to Kevin Bacon (laughs). In terms of the story, I liked the possibility that we were going to do some work on the fantasy of the American family, and to examine what’s really going on, to realistically look at the shadow side of things.

Radha Mitchell
Radha Mitchell

What previous roles or personal experiences did you draw from to bring Bronny to life?

Mitchell: I spent a bit of time researching a family who had a young schizophrenic girl. I looked into the difficulty they had in reconciling and keeping their family united. They had to separate her from her little brother, living in a separate apartment. They wanted to protect the child that they loved, yet they were slightly intimidated and afraid of the child. I thought that was very psychologically interesting as a premise for the genre. I liked the simplicity of the story and that it kind of gets under your skin. The plot’s not incredibly complicated but the mood is quite subtle and very difficult to define.

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In a broader sense, do you think the film speaks to the many diverse aspects of a marital relationship?

Mitchell: I think we have all these clichés about the role of women as wives and the problems of teenage girls, especially in America. A lot of children are being diagnosed with autism. Maybe this is the paranoia of our society. We’re unable to connect. I think the film says that if you face your demons, you can move through your own paranoia and drama.

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What challenges did you face in developing Bronny, who is a flawed character, yet in some ways, heroic and sympathetic?

Mitchell: She just had to deal with so much repetition. Even as an actor, it was a bit tedious. That was her prison and we had to show it. Her life’s about doing the laundry and dealing with her kids, who are in their own reality. And even to her husband who drifted off to being a workaholic and his infidelity. Then trying to find her strength, her power in that dynamic. She’s also the person that tries to hold them together. So what was tedious about her life was to act that out, to show the prison that she had to escape from.

What was it like shooting in the desert?

Mitchell: We shot not too far from outside Los Angeles. It was about a three-hour drive. It’s pretty magical, the kind of landscapes that are near us. We don’t celebrate the desert in the same way you do. Lots of people here take that drive to the desert to escape on the weekends. In Australia, we have the kookiest people living in the desert.

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Had you done some background reading about Native American mythology before doing this film?

Mitchell: Not really. I’m sure the story is accurate or Greg (McLean) would not have put it in the film. I found it quite interesting to work with animals. We had wolves, crows and rattlesnakes on set. On most days, it was quite exciting because you never know how these creatures are going to react. But there’s an elegance and a mystery to them, especially with wolves.

The film’s paranormal advisor said you were being followed around the house by a ghost. What was that like?

Mitchell: I forgot about that (laughs). You’re right. That was kind of annoying. The advisor said she was a friendly ghost, who was living in that house. That was the advisor’s reality, his job. He was also reading people’s auras.

What can you tell us about The Shack?

Mitchell: The Shack is going to be a very special film. It’s based on a novel that sold 20 million copies, so the book adds its own momentum to the film. I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve only seen a bit of it in the looping sessions. Octavia Spencer will be playing God. Sam Worthington will be this man in glasses. It has a really interesting cast and kind of reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life. I think audiences will be happy with this film.