Supernatural forces targeting unsuspecting, innocent American families and the homes they live in has proven to be successful for the producers of such recent films as ‘Paranormal Activity,’ ‘Insidious’ and ‘Sinister.’ Their latest supernatural thriller to push the emotional limits of relatable households is the upcoming sci-fi horror thriller ‘Dark Skies,’ which was written and directed by Scott Stewart. Having previous experience in the horror genre with such films as ‘Priest’ and Legion,’ the filmmaker is promising another edge of your seat thriller that will make audiences question if they really know what’s happening with their relatives.
‘Dark Skies,’ which is set to be released in New York theaters on Friday, follows a young family, headed by husband and wife Daniel and Lacey Barret (Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell), who are living in the suburbs. As the two observe an escalating series of disturbing events involving their sons, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett), their safe and peaceful home quickly unravels. When it becomes clear to the family and their friends, including the Jessop family, that the Barrets are being targeted by an unimaginably terrifying and deadly force, Daniel and Lacey take matters in their own hands to solve the mystery of what is after their family.
Actress Annie Thurman, who plays Shelly Jessop in the supernatural thriller, generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Dark Skies’ over the phone. Among other things, the actress discussed what attracted her to the role of Shelly; how she had positive working experiences with her co-stars, including Russell and Goyo, and Stewart while filming the supernatural thriller; and how her experience shooting ‘Dark Skies’ differed from shooting her break-out role as Tribute 9 in last year’s hit sci-fi action adventure ‘The Hunger Games.’
Question (Q): You portray Shelly Jessop in the upcoming supernatural horror thriller ‘Dark Skies.’ What was it about the character and the script overall that convinced you to take on the role?
Annie Thurman (AT): Well, Shelly is just like every other girl. She’s trying to find her place in the world. She’s a teenager, and has her first love interest. So I liked that she got to experience all these things with him. She’s also realizing who she is, and likes her best friend. So it was a really cool experience to be able to play her.
Q: Speaking of Shelly liking her best friend, Shelly is the confidant of Jesse Barrett, played by Dakota Goyo, one of the children targeted by the aliens in the film. What was your working relationship with Dakota like while you were filming the movie?
AT: Oh, he was really great to work with. He’s really sweet, but really quiet, but I got him out of his shell. He’s really professional. He’s a great co-star.
Q: Keri Russell plays the film’s lead character, Jesse’s mother Lacy, who tries to protect her children from the alien invasion. Did you have the opportunity to act with Keri at all while you were shooting ‘Dark Skies,’ and if so, what was it like working with her?
AT: I did get to work with Kerri a few times. She was really sweet, and was like a mom. She would always say hi to me when I came onto set, and the way she would talk to me, it was like she knew me for a very long time. She was very sweet. I enjoyed working with her, as well.
Q: How did you become involved in ‘Dark Skies’-did you have to audition for the role of Shelly, or were you approached by director Scott Stewart?
AT: I had to audition. I went back to my home in Tennessee, and I got a call-back. So I had to fly back out to L.A. on short notice, but it ended up paying off. A few days later, they told me I had gotten the role.
Q: Besides helming the film, Scott also wrote the screenplay for ‘Dark Skies.’ What was your working relationship with Scott like on the set? Since he both penned and directed the film, did you work with Scott to develop the character of Shelly?
AT: He was really, really cool to work with, because he really had an idea of where the film was going to go. He really helped me figure out who Shelley was. But since I’m a teenage girl, and my character’s a teenage girl, he sort of left it to me to figure out what she would wear and the way she would act and feel. All of that was up to me.
Q: Several of the producers of ‘Dark Skies,’ including Jason Blum, Jeanette Brill and Bailey Conway, previously worked on the hit supernatural horror films ‘Paranormal Activity,’ ‘Insidious’ and ‘Sinister.’ Did you see those films before you signed onto appear in ‘Dark Skies?’
AT: I didn’t, because I’m not a big horror film person. I can’t stand the kind of stuff that makes me not fall asleep at night. ‘Dark Skies’ was different for me, because it’s more of a supernatural thriller. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Q: You made your feature film debut as Cora in the 2011 horror thriller ‘Falls the Shadow.’ Why do you enjoy working on the horror thriller genre overall?
AT: I think it’s really fun to work on supernatural films because it’s so different when you’re watching it being filmed, and then when you actually see it on screen. You get to see how everything is being filmed, what they used to make it look so real. So those are really fun to film.
Q: How did your experience on ‘Dark Skies’ compare to your experience on ‘Falls the Shadow?’ how do you think you’ve grown as an actress since your first film?
AT: I definitely realized that my point-of-view on movies was not exactly the real point-of-view. I thought that when I got to set, I had to be perfect with my lines, and I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was completely wrong. Everyone was so sweet and stumbling over lines and having fun, so it was a completely different experience than I was expecting. It was really fun.
Q: Have you seen the final cut of the movie yet, and if so, what was your reaction to the film?
AT: Yes, I saw the final cut of the movie about two weeks ago, I believe. It was really good and thrilling. It definitely kept me and my mom on the edge of our seats. It was really, really thrilling.
Q: Why should movie fans who don’t really like horror genre should see this movie? Are there any elements of the film that people who don’t like horror will like?
AT: Yes, I definitely think people should see this movie. I’m not a horror fan at all. When I read the script, I really liked it. It’s cool because it’s a thriller, so it’s not really nightmarish or totally scary. It’s an on the edge of your seat film. So I encourage people who aren’t horror fans to go out and see how you like it.
Q: How did you get into Shelly’s mindset-did you do any research before you began filming?
AT: I didn’t. I just kind of looked back on my life. She’s my age, so we’ve gone through the same experiences. We’re really like the same character, so it was really easy to tap into her mind.
Q: Your role as Shelley in ‘Dark Skies’ comes after you appeared as Tribute 9 in last year’s hit film adaptation of ‘The Hunger Games.’ How did your experience on the sci-fi action adventure compare to your involvement on the supernatural thriller?
AT: Well, they were completely different. ‘The Hunger Games’ was a lot bigger. There were a ton of actors and extras. There were 24 of us (tributes) in one room, in front of the same camera at the same time. On ‘Dark Skies,’ I wasn’t riding around on chariots. (laughs) So they definitely had their big differences. But ‘The Hunger Games’ was great, and it was an awesome experience to be in the movie that was based on your favorite book. It was a blast.
Q: So you read ‘The Hunger Games’ novel before you appeared in the movie? How much knowledge did you have of the story before you auditioned?
AT: I was actually reading the book on my way down to Atlanta to audition for the movie. So by the time I finished the book, it was time for my audition. I was terrified to audition, because I knew what I was auditioning for. So I did know the material before I started the whole process. But it was really fun.
Q: In the future, would you like to continue with the bigger budget action films, like ‘The Hunger Games,’ or would you prefer to do smaller budget, supernatural thrillers, like ‘Dark Skies?’
AT: I would love to do action, because I think that would be a blast. But I would also like to do some relaxed, feel good movies.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss?
AT: I do. Just last month, I finished a Hallmark television movie (‘The Santa Switch’), which was really fun. It will be coming out in November of this year, just in time for Christmas.