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Kathleen Quinlan stars as the matriarch in a family with a dark secret

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'After'

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Examiner Dorri Olds caught up with Academy Award-nominee Kathleen Quinlan on Aug. 12, 2014 for a one-on-one interview. Quinlan stars in the mysterious and dark dramaAfter.” Quinlan plays Nora Valentino, a mother, and wife, in a troubled middle-class family in upstate New York.

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John Doman (“The Wire”) plays Nora’s husband Mitchell. Their eldest son Christian is played by rising star Pablo Schreiber (“Orange is the New Black,” “Law & Order SVU”). Christian is stressed out with the burden of trying to save his father's failing stone-cutting business. Writer Sabrina Gennarino, who based the characters on her own family, plays Nora’s daughter Maxine who is suffering with an identity crisis and relationship doubts. Youngest brother Nicky (Adam Scarimbolo) is a hot mess of addiction, irresponsibility and rage. He can’t stay out of fist fights. Diane Neal (“Law & Order SVU”) plays Aunt Kat who is struggling with emotions and alcoholism.

“After” is Gennarino’s first screenplay and Pieter Gaspersz’s second directing credit. William Steinkamp (“Tootsie,” “A Time to Kill,” “Scent of a Woman”) is the film’s experienced editor. The characters are well developed and the strength of the cast elevates the movie. While watching it the first time, you may feel that the ending snuck up on you and came out of nowhere. It is disappointing after the big mysterious buildup but, knowing that, it is fun to go back and watch it a second time looking for signs of what you might’ve missed.

Quinlan said she found the family’s situation plausible, “I think families carry out that type of denial every day and certainly it was plausible for the writer, Sabrina Gennarino, who interjected how her family might’ve reacted if the same thing happened to them. Sabrina said she felt a lot of pressure to tell the story the right way. My mother at the time of filming was suffering from dementia so I saw that type of disassociation firsthand. I know it’s not exactly the same but it’s similar. I do think that we all use some denial in our every day lives. Look at the world — it’s too much to take in all at once.”

Quinlan makes Nora seem annoyingly perfect until one powerful scene where she accidentally crushed a flower by stepping on it. She falls into her husband’s arms weeping. It is a poignant moment that shows the fragility of her character. It also makes plain how much Mitch wants to protect Nora from her emotions.

Doman, best known for a long list of television series including “The Wire,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and “Person of Interest,” was a good choice to play Mitch. Mitch has thrown up his hands at life and left his son Christian to deal with his debt and pick up the pieces. In one telling scene Mitch puffs on a cigar and bitterly rants about foreigners in America; forgetting as many do that all Americans came from somewhere else originally.

Quinlan spoke of the cast, “They’re all really dedicated actors. I was especially excited to work with John Doman from ‘The Wire,’ which is one of my favorite shows. It was so refreshing to work with people who were just about the work and not about their hair and makeup and clothes.”

Schreiber gives a solid performance as a man attempting to fix colossal dysfunction in his family. It is costing him any chance at peace of mind, while also chipping away at his relationship with his wife Molly (Mandy Gonzalez). But his morals, love for his family, and hard-work ethic make him too determined to walk away from it all.

Quinlan said Schreiber was wonderful to work with, “He and his wife were there with their little baby. He was always a hard worker but he also couldn’t wait to get back to see his wife and help with the baby. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to have a family and be a working actor and keep it all together. We get shipped out everywhere. I dragged my son all over the world until he was about eight or nine and then he didn’t want to go anymore. Pablo was lovely. I was shocked to see his role in “Orange is the New Black.” I was like, “Pablo, what are you doing?” [Laughs]

“After” was filmed in Rochester, New York. Quinlan said, “I got the script three days before and we started with the scene in the laundry room, which is towards the end of the film. That was a bit challenging but the director Pieter Gaspersz had a very strong vision and he was very passionate. He would ask me to try things but then he would give me my freedom and I always felt like he had my back. That doesn’t always happen.”

When asked about her favorite directors to work with Quinlan said, “Pieter is one and, you know, I’ve been pretty spoiled. Oliver Stone was wonderful to work with on “The Doors,” Ron Howard I absolutely loved [on “Apollo 13”] and George Lucas [“American Graffiti”]. Directors basically raised me.”

“After” is opening in select theaters this August. Now available on iTunes and Amazon.

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