Monday, 10 February 2020

Behind The Grudge: Tap Into The Heart of Horror - An Interview with Actress Tara Westwood

We are super excited to welcome such a wonderful and talented guest, who was gracious enough to give such an in-depth and insightful interview for us. She has nearly 20 years of experience acting in television and cinema. 

She has appeared on TV shows such as CSI: Miami, Ugly Betty, Blue Bloods, Unforgettable, and Law & Order: SVU, just to name a few! Most recently she starred in the hit horror film The Grudge, which will be available on Digital/Blu Ray this April. 

Please welcome to the Into The Script family, Tara Westwood!!

1. When did you realize you wanted to be an actress and what advice would you give someone who aspires to work in the TV & Film Industry, but feels like it might be an unrealistic goal?

Photo by Noel Sutherland and makeup by Bobby Spielman.

I think when I was very young and watched Kramer VS Kramer, was when the seed of wanting to become an actress started. I went back to my room that night and just started making little monologues in my bed. 

That went on for many years until I finally went into a two year program for acting in NYC with Maggie Flanigan at The William Esper Studio. To be honest, I act because every morning I wake up and I have to, I love it so much, but when asked if I would ‘recommend’ it, this business, to anyone? I hate to say that I have a strong NO for that answer. 

Photo by Noel Sutherland and makeup by Bobby Spielman.

That said, if someone has true passion for it, and must do it, then I say yes and strongly suggest a proper acting program to get the foundation of what is needed and to work on your craft before getting out there auditioning etc. 

I always think people should work other jobs too so that they don’t feel that financial pressure. Then art shows; plays, movies, reading books etc, all of that fills your ‘toolbelt’ of life experiences, which helps this job. 

2. Your most recent role was as Fiona Landers in The Grudge, a much anticipated addition to the Grudge franchise. What was it that drew you to the role of Fiona, and how did it feel to become a part of the Grudge legacy? 

I absolutely loved becoming a part of the (Sam Raimi produced), Grudge legacy! 

For starters I love horror movies, but to be able to work with our director Nic Pesce and the incredible cast we had, was a major draw. Andrea Riseborough, Demi├ín Bichir, Lin Shaye, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Jackie Weaver, Frankie Faison, William Sadler etc… these are actors that I have always admired and because my character crosses story lines, I had the wonderful opportunity of working with them all. 

Plus when I read the script, I cried twice and could see that it was a very mature, layered story about some real adult issues, not just crazy “horror” and I loved that.

3. It’s fair to say that taking a role such as Fiona must have been demanding both physically and emotionally, in particular when filming the family massacre scene. What is something that remains a constant for you, when it comes to your preparation for a role? 

With director Nicolas Pesce on the set of The Grudge.

I love these questions, I feel like they are so respectful of the process and acting! 

In the movie (I don’t want to give it all away here), but I do something absolutely terrible to my daughter and yes, that was an incredibly emotionally difficult scene to shoot. In the version that hit the theaters, you see it for a few seconds but in reality, we filmed it for hours. 

One of our crew members who was a new father couldn’t even watch it. I believe that there will be more on the Blu-ray version as there are some extra scenes that will be on that. Finding the truth and reality in every character that I play is imperative and even in those moments when we as actors don’t like or respect what they are doing, we have to justify it and find the good in it. 

Lin Shaye & Tara Westwood in 'The Grudge'

I remember years ago being in Maggie’s Class and her saying that if we were ever cast in a part playing someone we hated, like Hitler (who obviously an actor would not respect, nor ever want to be), we had to find something redeeming in them. 

Everyone in class said that there was nothing redeeming about him and she said that if you play him, you have to come from a place of truly believing that what you are doing, is best for your people. 

That you (your character I obviously mean!), would do anything for your countrymen and then play it from the truth of that. 

While filming The Grudge, in that scene with my daughter, I remembered those words of wisdom when I had to justify how a mother could do that... 

4. Spoiler Warning for our readers! Your role in the film is revealed to be a literal rebirth of the grudge curse, and handing over the torch so to speak. 

The theme of powerful single-mothers trying to do right by their families (suffering terrible consequences by doing so) is clear throughout the film. When choosing scripts, do you feel that the theme is an important factor when choosing your next project, or is it the character that draws you to become a part of the storytelling?

The Grudge does have very different versions in it of motherhood and we all liked that about it. Like I said, the different storylines in the film were a huge draw for me in this particular movie, so the theme of what comes from a film is a pull when choosing what I’d like to do, but it ultimately is about what my character experiences and if I feel that I can bring something to that. 

I’m currently working on a movie about assisted suicide and that for example is a subject that I believe is an incredibly important one for us to be talking about. 

Having watched my father be in so much pain at the end of his life, as soon as I saw what this movie was about, I wanted to audition for it. 

5. Is there any piece of advice you have received in regards to working in the film industry that you have found to be invaluable? And would you mind sharing with us?

Photo by Noel Sutherland and makeup by Bobby Spielman.

Working in the film industry is definitely, obviously different from being on stage. In TV and film, the camera catches EVERYTHING and I’ve been told to work on stillness. 

I think it’s valuable for people starting off to film themselves doing scenes (that you can find online or write yourself), and then really dissect what works and what doesn’t. If you look too far from the camera when your character is thinking or having a moment for example, we the audience won’t catch that because your eyes are too distant. 

There are those technical aspects of TV and film that can really help a performance. I coach actors for auditions and I always tell them to watch great shows like Succession because the acting is SO good in that. In the silent moments, the characters aren’t speaking, but they are responding with just their eyes and faces and it’s a great example of what a camera catches and how we as actors need to naturally fill those moments fully. 

To be very specific, in season 1, episode 3, watch the scene between Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox, when Jeremy’s character Kendall goes to see his dad, hoping he will be proud of all he’s done. In 30 seconds, we see Kendall go from being excited, to scared, to being a hurt little 4 year old boy who can’t make his daddy happy and it’s all in Jeremy Strong’s face and eyes. 

Ok, that was a long answer but I’m so passionate about acting and that’s what I think is important for working in film, like you asked... Having those very STILL, yet emotionally filled moments. That and just work! 

Years ago my friend Stephen Adly Guirgis told me (when I was trying to decide about taking a small role), that if you do your job well, work begets work, so work!!

Kevin  Wilde is a Feature Writer at Into The Script and a Screenwriter who has a passion for everything horror. 

Though he does currently have projects in the works in a wide range of genres. His horror short, Out of Body, was the winner of the Ink2screen screenwriting competition. 

It is safe to say you can expect big things in the near future from Kevin, many of which will have you sleeping with the lights on.

You can find Kevin on Instagram and Facebook.

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