Jamie-Lynn Sigler stars in Chad Feehan's upcoming thriller about a hotel sequestered in purgatory
The movie follows Paul and Adrienne (Josh Stewart and Jamie-Lynn Sigler), a young couple traveling between Texas and Los Angeles for a wedding. Tired and feeling amorous, they check into the somewhat creepy, very desolate, but eternally stylish Roy's Motel and Cafe. As if preserved in time, the motel proves to be a strange and surreal place where the guests are forced to confront the secrets that they keep from the world and from each other.
We recently caught up with Jamie-Lynn to chat with her about this thriller, which opens today at the IFC Center in New York, and will be available on VOD this weekend. Here is our conversation:
There is a scene in the film where Adrienne's boyfriend Paul gets sick after eating some cherry pie. Be honest with me, how could anyone stay with a guy who pukes on a toilet seat, then shuts the lid and doesn't clean it up? Whether its in a hotel or not?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: I think that is where the real questions started turning in her head, for sure. I think they were past recognizing things like that, at that particular point in the story. She was so freaked out with whatever was happening, that was the furthest thing from her mind. I would like to think that in some break we didn't get to see on film, that he cleaned it up. Or something...
That was pretty gross...
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: That is pretty gross. Throwing up cherry pie and not cleaning up after your self is very gross.
Adrienne is an interesting character in that she is completely unaware of everything else going on around her at this hotel. Did you find that you had to shut yourself off from the rest of the script and just concentrate on your particular aspect of the story?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: She is the audience, in a way. I read through the script a couple of times, and then I really concentrated on her world. Usually, you want to read through the whole script constantly, and be aware of where you are in terms of the arcs, and the acts. But this was really about her reality. Which, we don't even know if it is a reality or not. She is so unaware of everything except for Paul. She knows what she feels. You needed to keep that aspect to have that level of confusion. And frustration. When you finally see what is going on, you have an understanding for Paul. But when you don't see it, you obviously see that it is pretty frustrating.
I personally think your character is interesting in that she is basically a configuration of Paul's guilt and imagination. Or how he would imagine Adrienne in a dream. Did you have to look at the character differently when considering this aspect of the storyline?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: No. We always tried to keep it as if everything was real. Because you never want the audience asking, "Is this real? Or is this his imagination?" For the audience's ride, you want to be respectful of that. You want them to really be questioning what is going on at all times.
Josh Stewart is such an intense actor. How was it for you interacting with him in those scenes where he is being extremely difficult? Did you guys develop a good give and take before the cameras started rolling?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: We had only read together once. Then we did a read through. Our first day of really working together was our sex scene. It was sort of awkward and weird. But it did break the ice. That was Chad Feehan's game plan. He did that on purpose. He wanted us to start with that, because he wanted it to be clumsy. And he wanted it to be real. He thought that we would have a deeper connection, having started with that. It was an interesting move, and Josh and I were kind of confused by that. But it definitely worked. You know, Josh is amazing. It was interesting, though. Being in the middle of nowhere, and being with this limited crew. You would think it would be dark and depressing the whole time. But we had Journey blasting between each take. And we tried to keep it as light as possible. But as soon as the camera was ready, Josh Stewart and I had our own process of getting into it. It was awesome to have that process, because of the level of commitment you have to have. He was definitely inspiring in that. We helped each other a lot. Its good for an actor. It's definitely a muscle that I haven't worked. It was a great process. It was hard. We had no cell service. There was no connection to the outside world where we were. This was every day. Not until we all got home, which was an hour away from set every night. We were really in this together. It was great.
Chad is a first time director. When he has you do the sex scene right off the bat, and you are questioning that decision, what did he do to make you feel comfortable? And make you think, "Okay, this is the right guy for this movie, and what we are trying to accomplish"?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: Chad had this way about him, where he literally looked at me and said, "Do you trust me?" and I said, "Yes, I have to." You can't not trust your director. You have to fake it to make it, even if you don't. Or try as hard as you can. I said, "Yeah, I do." After that, everything seemed more right, and we had this deeper connection. I trusted him whole-heartedly the entire time after that. Especially because he was right.
You were stuck out at this desolate hotel for the duration of the shoot. Did that help play into the ideas and themes we see in the film regarding your character?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: Oh, my god! Yes. Totally. It helped with everything we needed. In being creeped out. In being scared. I have a bug phobia, and there were some of the largest insects I have ever seen in my life on that shoot. It definitely helped with my paranoia, completely.
Where was this film shot at?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: We were in the desert outside of Palm Springs, on Route 66. No cell service. It was crazy. But our cast and crew were so awesome. I laughed a lot on set, believe it or not. We had a lot of good times. There were a lot of glasses of beer and wine at the end of each evening.
Did you have any run-ins with the gruesome cave crickets?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: What the Hell is a cave cricket?
It's a cross between a roach and a cricket.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: Oh, yeah! For sure. There was fucking everything there. I am not lying. I hate bugs. There was a moth the size of a bat. It was really intense. That did help with my paranoia. Because these things were everywhere. There were all kinds of bugs and rodents. Everything! Ugh!
Had you taken a lot of road trips prior to this movie? Have you stayed at a lot of these types of hotels?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: No. I have never taken a road trip. Unless you count Los Angeles to Vegas. And I would never stop at one of these hotels.
They are eerie. And this particular place certainly has that feeling on screen.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: It is eerie. And it was really there. This was a real motel. It is a light in the middle of nowhere. It seems like a saving grace. It seems like a safe place, because it's the only light in miles of darkness. But it could be the unsafest place for you. You never know. Even the people that were stopping by while we were shooting were creepy. It was weird.
Was the motel operating during the shoot?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: I don't think they could stay. No. The motel wasn't running any longer. It had been abandoned. It was a tourist stop. People would stop and take pictures. The same way they have the pictures of the couples you see in the movie. There were people who would actually stop and take those same photos.
That is cool. The story in Beneath the Dark takes some dark turns. What was your impression of the screenplay when you first read it, and how has your idea of it changed since seeing the completed film? Do you constantly get something new out of it?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: My initial feelings about it were that it wasn't going to fall into any of the cliché type of genre situations. Because I saw so much more for it. When I met Chad, and talked to him about the film, he eased all of my concerns. A lot of his inspirations came from other films. It was this question about whether you can change yourself, and if you can be redeemed for a past. Can you move on and reinvent yourself? Or are you always haunted by your past decisions? There were a lot of questions that were raised, that we see constantly. When we were making the film, and when we were watching the film. There were a lot of things that we talked about. It was on a much deeper level than it just being a horror-thriller, as some people like to call it. There are deeper emotions there. It's at a different level, and there are moral questions that Chad wanted to ask himself. And he wanted others to ask themselves, after they saw the film.
Were you aware of Chris Browning's storyline while you were shooting? Or was that something you came to only once you saw the film? And were you at all confused by it?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: I read his parts when I first read the script, but I distanced myself from anything I didn't need to be a part of. I thought he did a phenomenal job. It could have been played a lot of different ways, and Chris nailed it. Completely. He did a really great job. It is confusing when you don't know what is going on. But once you can piece everything together, you really do appreciate it.
I was a little confused at the beginning. I thought maybe I was watching Chris play twin brothers.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: Yeah.
Chris is as intense in his role as Josh. What was it like getting to watch him work on set? He amazed me in this film...
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: He is a regular guy, but on screen he is intense. Chad was adamant with me that Adrienne be the lightness in this film. He wanted her to be sunny, and smiling, and laughing. At first, I thought, "Here I am working with these guys who are very intense. They are dark, and interesting, and off beat." Chad was very adamant that Adrienne was not that. She was a symbol to us of Paul's new direction in life. Where he wanted to go. What he wanted to be a part of. What he hoped to be influenced by eventually. Working with them? You can get yourself lost in their performances. They are incredibly talented.
You bring up an interesting thought. Adrienne is like an angel in this story. What do you personally think about this ultimatum that is made at the end of the movie? This almost doesn't sound right. That if she is a pure sole, that she can still be captured and kept at this motel. Just like Chris' wife...
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: You'd like to say that Chris Browning's wife was not the most innocent of innocents. We're not going to feel for her the way we feel for Adrienne. With Paul, you want to side with him. And you want to support him. You always believe that he will do the right thing, and you hope he does. It's a good question. Can we get sacrificed for the choices that we make? Adrienne's choice was to trust Paul. Can she now fall victim to something because of that? It's all about the choices we make in life. We could be innocent, and bad things still happen to good people. She wanted to be with him. It would have been unfortunate for her, but luckily, he made the right decision about that at the end. Adrienne is the angel. She is the innocent person amongst all of this craziness.
The film really is about the secrets that we keep. What do you think audiences will pull away from the story?
Jamie-Lynn Sigler: Could we ever be redeemed for the choices we make? Could we ever reinvent ourselves? Paul was reformed. He was a good guy. You don't want to believe that he was capable of what he did. Neither did she. But it was the truth. There was a change that happened from that one choice that he made. You can make a choice and move on from it. But then, it affects someone else. In turn, that affects another person. And then another person. There is this whole wicked chain that can happen. We need too, at some point...Whether its karma, or whatever, we need to see it come around at some point. And we all need to pay for the choices that we make.