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Want to scare 'The River' star Leslie Hope? Just add water


February 21, 2012|By Curt Wagner | RedEye

So it’s a pretty new idea that people like me were tromping around in there. And I lived there with the Huaorani Tribe for about a week. I can’t say I’m an expert on the Amazon, but I did have a little experience of living with those people in that area. I went on a monkey hunt and thank God had to leave the next day, so I didn’t have to, as a guest of honor, eat boiled monkey. But I did help carry it back and I helped make the—it’s sort of like a cheap chow—fermented yucca root for this party they were having the next day. I pounded all the yucca root and just basically lived with them as they would for the week.

That’s fascinating.
An awesome trip actually. It literally quite changed my life and my perspective on things.

Did that experience help you decide to take this job?
Well, I think that experience helped make me a good choice for this job, do you know what I mean? That it was a good match of ideas. I’ve also made a documentary on Cambodia. I went there about five or six years ago. I was there as a tourist and then went back to make this documentary about the street-living kids there. So the notion of making a documentary or traveling sort of on a lower scale, not as a high-end traveler, and to be running a small crew, and that all made sense to me, the practicality of that made sense to me.

And then the emotional storyline of being crazy in love with your husband and doing anything to find him, that made sense to me. And I have, in real life, a son who is almost 19, and I have a son in the show. And my son and I get along great, but I understood what it would be to be at odds. I know what it is to not agree with your son, so all these sort of emotional elements made sense to me.

There’s a lot of tension between Tess and Lincoln, like in the first episode he blames Tess for breaking up the family and making the dad go off on his own or whatever.
Yes. And more of that is revealed. I think one of the reasons that I think the show works and that is done is our first little foray into this. And one of the things that really also kills me about this show is, besides the scare-the-crap-out-of-you stuff that happens every week, which is amazing, the emotional arcs of these characters stay fulfilled and keep turning and twisting. And Bruce Greenwood actually said something I thought was so right, that the further we get into the Amazon, the more mysterious the characters become, and more and more secrets get revealed between them.

And you realize that everybody’s got something on everybody else in that cast of characters, and everybody is holding a secret, at least one on the people you wouldn’t expect. So it doesn’t stay ordinary, those relationships; they also I think sort of need taking change as we continue on the show.

How challenging was filming on the boat?
The reality of a lot of people in a small space [was challenging]; you can’t go anywhere. We shot the pilot in Puerto Rico and the series itself in Hawaii. Hawaii and Puerto Rico are both extraordinarily beautiful places with amazing landscape. But the reality of shooting on a boat there is it’s hot, it’s humid, there are bugs, there’s nowhere to go, you’re kind of trapped. So luckily, for us anyway, we had a great, great crew, but for the actors, we were lucky that we all got along so well because I think somebody would have ended up murdered.

Was the documentary style filming, with all the cameras around you, a challenge at all, or did you find that to make things much easier?
To me, to have all the cameras around as an actor, was really liberating because first off, you never had to stop the flow of things to have glamour lighting or sort of special beauty stuff. You didn’t have to worry about that, which I love, that we didn’t have to deal with that. And I also love that you had to be on all the time, sort of like doing a play; that just because you weren’t speaking or you weren’t in a formal part of the scene didn’t mean you weren’t being photographed. There were cameras everywhere, 17 cameras at any time that could be going. So I liked that, that you had to stay always on. I thought it was great for the performances. It kept everybody kind of jacked up and it kept me connected to the material.

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