After a violent domestic argument which results in the loss of their unborn baby, firefighter Chris Conley (Christian Oliver) and his wife Maggie (Rachel Marie Lewis) leave the hustle and bustle of the city for a new life in the country. But their idyllic, isolated new home has its own dark secrets and the couple's hopes for a fresh start seem doomed from the moment they move in. This is House of Good and Evil, an eerie and disturbing new thriller directed by David Mun from a script by Blu de Golyer. STARBURST Magazine spoke to the movie's rising star Rachel Marie Lewis about her break-out performance as the tortured Maggie...
STARBURST: Before we talk about the movie, can you tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to become an actor?
Rachel Marie Lewis: Well, I definitely started from scratch. I had a single mother who really loved the arts and would take us to the theatre and read us a lot of books. My twin brother and I were actually not allowed to watch a lot of TV, but I fell in love with stories told or read to us from an early age, I think. Then when I started seeing them brought to life, both on stage and screen, I caught the acting bug as they say, and began working hard towards getting into a good college. That goal is what turned me into a good student in school - so I think my Mom was pretty grateful for that!!
Who would you say are your influences or whose work do you especially admire?
Oh boy there are so many. Recently I’ve been so inspired by Amy Adams, Viola Davis, and Jessica Chastain. They’ve played such a great variety of roles, work so hard, and on top of that seem like really grounded, awesome people. And growing up? Well, Meryl Streep. And still today, Meryl. I was so blown away the first time I saw Sophie’s Choice, and then I told myself that I must watch all of her other movies too. She’s just so fantastic.
Is it true that you have a rather unusual connection with Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan?
HAHAHA yes! It was my first job out of college - though not an acting job. I was just trying to get some set experience at the time, and was looked at to be Natalie Portman's full-time stand in. They saw me three times, I didn’t get the job, but then was randomly pulled to do special effects and make-up testing. I got to meet and work a bit with Darren which was fun, and then make-up artist Mike Marino decided to mold my legs for Winona Ryder’s hospital scene…you know the cut-up legs when Nina pulls the blanket back? Those are mine!!
Moving on to House of Good and Evil, how did you become involved in the project and what were your first impressions when you read the script?
I sought out Blu (de Golyer). I was running around LA without representation at the time and was having a very hard time getting into any doors. I saw the breakdown and knew I was right for it so I contacted him directly and asked to read. He forwarded me to casting, I auditioned, and got the part. And my first impressions? Well, I definitely saw it as a psychology case and more of a psychological thriller than horror. Maggie’s psychological journey interested me, and lured me in.
Your character in the film, Maggie, comes across at first as a weak and somewhat dominated character, very much a victim, but as the film progresses she becomes stronger and more in control. It’s unusual to find such a strong female role in a feature movie; was this aspect of the character and the story something which excited and/or appealed to you particularly?
I will answer the second part of your question first - yes! Especially because you don’t see as many central female roles (though many are speaking up about it now which is great!), I was very eager to take this one. That said, and coming back to the first part of your question - I don’t necessarily see Maggie, as “strong.” She is certainly a victim, and without giving too much away, I would say she conquers some demons in her own way, but she is quite broken, and from beginning to the end, grieving really. Again, can’t elaborate as much as I want on that without spoilers! But I will say that I found studying the stages of grief very helpful.
So how would you describe the character of Maggie?
It’s certainly easy to see her as a victim from the very beginning, but Christian and I always saw Maggie and Chris as a struggling couple who love each other and want desperately to start over. Tragedy strikes, so they are then coping with that too. The tragedy has put their marriage on the line, and they’ve moved out to this home to try and rise above it, start fresh and hopefully let it go. Then - and again I can’t say too much - the unexpected throws Maggie for a loop and she’s left pretty much alone to deal with it…without any closure and in a completely isolated environment.
Your character is in virtually every scene in the movie. How intense did you find the shooting schedule and how did you prepare for a role which required you to pretty much drive the entire narrative?
It was my first role like this and it was tough - very long, long days that were very emotionally and physically draining. I prepared for the role by digging into some psychology studies, grief studies as I already mentioned, and tried to build the best arch and drive for Maggie as I could. I was also lucky to be able to rehearse with Christian and Dave Mun in LA a few times, which was great. Then on set I just tried to let it go and trust the work the best I could and be open to Dave’s vision. I listened to headphones a lot as music always tugs my heart strings and having to do some of those scenes take after take was not easy.
Marietta Marich, who stepped into the role when Tippi Hedren dropped out of the movie, gives a compelling performance as your neighbour Mrs Anderson. How was she to work with?
OH I LOVE HER SO MUCH! So much. From the moment I met her. She is the most loving, dear woman and so present to every moment. She has a WICKED sense of humor and some amazing stories to tell. We’ve stayed in touch.
There are a couple of scenes where you’re underwater or submerged for some time. Odd question but is the ability to hold your breath underwater one of your special skills???
HA well I never thought about that but maybe I should add it to my skill list! That water was so freezing cold that every second felt like an eternity.
How ‘hands on’ was David Mun as a director? Did he have defined ideas as to how Maggie should be played or developed or did he let you trust your instincts with your own interpretation of the character?
Dave and I have kind of a “stop copying me!” joke that’s been ongoing since we met. We just tended to see eye to eye on a lot of things through the process. We both had ideas and instincts about the character that were often on the same page. Of course, he threw in some wonderful suggestions on how to play certain scenes and from that came some great discoveries at times. He was so calm and articulate on set. If he was ever stressing on the inside, it was hard to tell because he handled himself in such a composed and kind manner.
What would you like audiences to ‘take away’ from the experience of watching the movie - beyond just having a good time?
I hope they see it as a character study more than a horror…. if they are going hoping for a slasher film, that’s not what this is.
The film is, refreshingly, not overly violent. What’s your own view on the subject of violence in the movies?
Well, there are some INCREDIBLE movies out there that also happen to be very violent . I guess I would say if it really serves the story and is necessary, then I am okay with it. I don’t like violence for violence’s sake, if that makes sense?
There’s a level of ambiguity in the storyline which gives the viewer plenty to ponder over. What do you think actually happens to Maggie, what is it that ‘tips her over the edge’?
Well, there are certainly a couple points - one main one - but that’s hard to answer without giving away the movie. I think once you know how it ends, then you go back and watch it, there are more subtleties to pick up on.
What can audiences look forward to seeing you in next; what’s in the can and what’s in the pipeline?
A couple irons in the fire I can’t talk about, but they can definitely look forward to Beacon Point, releasing late spring, early summer. It’s a feature I shot last summer with director Eric Blue and follows a group of hikers on the appalachian trail who stumble upon an ancient secret. I had a BLAST filming it. Was nice to be with an ensemble vs. solo like House of Good and Evil.
House of Good and Evil is very much an indie movie; is this an area you’d like to stay in? How does the idea of starring in a big budget Hollywood blockbuster appeal?
I would love to do both. I’m not opposed to either as long as I’m compelled by the material. It’s a hard thing for an actor starting out (as I am still very much in the early stages of this), as you don’t always have the luxury of choosing the greatest material. Going forward, I just want to be a part of good stories. That’s my dream, and my goal.
How important is it to you, as an actor, to play strong characters? Do you or are you inclined to actively seek out projects which challenge or stretch you as a performer?
Playing well developed characters is pretty important to me. And yes, growth and stretching are always important as well. I like being challenged.
Any particular roles or types of movie you hanker after playing?
I just loved period pieces growing up - like Jane Austin period pieces. Is it silly to say I’d like to be in one of those? I’m not going to lie, I love rom-coms too. No joke. And especially after House of Good and Evil and Beacon Point, I’d love to do something funny!
HOUSE OF GOOD AND EVIL is available on DVD in the UK on May 12th.
SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW OR ON TWITTER @STARBURST_MAG
Find your local STARBURST stockist HERE, or buy direct from us HERE. For our digital edition (available to read on your iOS, Android, Amazon, Windows 8, Samsung and/or Huawei device - all for just £1.99), visit MAGZTER DIGITAL NEWSSTAND.
FROM AROUND THE WEB: