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


February 21, 2012|By Curt Wagner | RedEye

I also loved the fact that—it’s evident in the pilot but more evident as the show goes on—that everyone of us picks up the camera at some point. So the footage that you’re seeing in the show sometime is actually what the actors have shot. And it’s a different experience as an actor when you’re playing to a camera that’s being held by another actor as opposed to playing to a camera held by a crew member. You just relate in a different way when the person behind the camera is actually somebody that’s in the scene with you. So I found that to be really great and fun and, like I said, liberating. That stays throughout the show, and I was really happy to be able to work like that.

Would the actors do more improv and go off script because of the odd filming style?
No, we were very tight to the script. But I think what starts to happen is your physical behavior becomes a little more free than it might normally be under a so-called “regular show.” It just allows you the freedom of movement that you don’t typically have. But no, we didn’t go off script, it was just more about geography of the actual place we were shooting.

Does it make shooting go faster?
That’s an interesting question. You’d think, right? I think it probably makes the shooting smoother but the editing process longer, because there’s so much footage to go through. We moved at a good clip but there are still the practical concerns of putting a camera in an actor’s hand and sort of working stuff out. You still kind of have of rehearse the beat, and generally what’s going to happen emotionally in the scene.

The paranormal stuff, are you into that kind of story?
I never saw a frame of “Paranormal Activity.” Apparently those films do pretty well, huh? It’s not particularly my genre; I don’t know that much about it. But obviously, they’re hugely successful. And now that I’ve seen our show, I get why. I mean there’s something immediate, and in my opinion more real, when the camera is in the hands of the people that you’re following. And that’s, I think, used very effectively in our show.

Well, it’s scary.
Yeah, it’s scary, right? One of my bosses—I think it was Michael Green—said that perhaps the difference between a successful movie like that and a successful series is you just get a longer time to invest in the characters. So that’s a big part of what they’re trying to do with “The River,” is use all these elements to make the show scary. But what really makes it scary, we hope, is that you’re scared for those people. You know enough about them to know that it matters if something happens to them as opposed to perhaps in more traditional horror movies where you can peg from the get-go who’s going to get killed. You know who the types are. It’s the girl who goes upstairs, right, and she’s usually a cheerleader? Don’t do it.

So we’re trying not to fall into that with our show. And because it’s a series, you just have time to get to know these characters better. And as I said, one of the things that I think also becomes scary is the behavior of those characters and what they know but they’re not sharing.

When you guys are acting with the paranormal stuff happening, does the director have to really explain that since nothing’s there obviously?
I think, for me anyway, the challenge of doing that stuff when—you’re right, nothing’s there—is you just have to take a leap of faith that ultimately something will be there, which is to say sound or music, or the story’s going to thread in such a way so you don’t feel like such a complete jerk when you’re screaming your head off for nothing. It seems to me the only way to do this stuff is to go big or go home. You can’t scream quietly, right? You can’t be terrified for your life in a sort of appropriate way. Your nose runs, you scream, you sweat, your hair looks shitty, you make weird faces, all this stuff happens when you’re terrified.

So I think we all just sort of made a pledge that we were going to go big in hopefully the best sense. So sometimes I felt a bit like I was doing an opera, but I don’t think you can do it any other way. I don’t think there’s a pretty way to be terrified or there’s a sensible way to be running for your life. You just do it.

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