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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).