'River' Star Leslie Hope Previews The Terror
Horror is coming to television in a big way with tonight's premiere of ABC's The River, which plays like the perfect blend of Paranormal Activity and Anaconda (a movie that has earned cult classic status in recent years ... much to J.Lo's chagrin).
And the timing couldn't have been better since American Horror Story's success has conditioned audiences to expect serious scares from the small screen -- but because of AHS' December finale, our shocks have been in short supply. Thankfully The River does not disappoint in that department.
To find out what you can expect from the show, in addition to thrills and chills, I caught up with series star Leslie Hope (director of the hilarious short Gay Keith) to find out what attracted her to the series, how filming forced her to confront her biggest fear and what season two of this eight-episode series might look like!
Insider.com: What attracted you to The River?
Leslie Hope: I hate to sound so self serving, but I don't feel like I have seen anything that incorporates all these elements before on television. At the core of it to me is ultimately about these characters. But the freaks and scares of this show are off the charts. And I like so much that they are working with elements that you can't quite see. So it's more about what's around the corner. What you can't see. What you hear but can't reach. All that stuff -- and it just gets better.
Insider: It's like a Hitchcock thing. What you don't see is so much scarier than what you do see!
Leslie: Exactly. We were talking about [director Roman] Polanski too. Because of the nature of the conceit of the show, we aren't necessarily performing for the camera. I just saw some episodes yesterday where I know we shot stuff and didn't see it in the episode, but I know it's in there. It's just going so fast that you'll have to pause and rewind. You're gonna keep saying, "What was that?!?"
Insider: From a story standpoint, what appealed to you?
Leslie: This character made sense to me. It's not that far from my own self. I've definitely made films and traveled. And I definitely understood this idea of big love. What would you do for big love? How far would you go? That's what really appealed to me. I think that's not just romantic but I think it's really interesting watching what people would do.
Insider: The success of any horror-tinged project lies in the audience understanding why these characters stay in the haunted house, or open that basement door or keep walking in the dark even after they've been given a million reasons why they shouldn't. Do you think The River accomplishes that?
Leslie: I hope so [laughs]. If I have done my job properly then I think you understand my character's desperate need to keep going. The fact that everybody goes with her ... well, that's their problem [laughs]. My job is to keep moving towards my husband and I think there reaches a point that she gets so far it's almost like she can't go back and it distorts her own reality.
Insider: Let's talk about that -- with the show's limited 8 episode run, should fans expect resolution or is this really just the beginning?
Leslie: Both. The more you know, the more mysterious these characters become. They are irrevocably changed by the events that happened in these eight episodes. But outside of that, I think if our show was just a scare week, it couldn't sustain itself. But I feel like what's gonna make it work is that each episode shows a different character's story, which opens up their psyche. Everybody is confronted with their phobias and fears during this first season -- and without totally blowing it, how Emmet [Bruce Greenwood's character, who has disappeared in the pilot] is changed by these experiences is what we will get to see in a potential season two.
Insider: You mentioned that the characters are confronted with their worst fears. What is yours?
Leslie: I can't tell you how afraid I am of water. And I couldn’t tell my bosses either. Also cockroaches. I can deal with a spider, tarantulas, snakes, frogs, no problem -- but it's their antennas and the water. I shared my secret with Thomas Kretschmann when we shot the pilot and in [the second hour of tonight's episode], my character almost drowns, so I had to be yanked backwards into water by my ankles. I will never forget laying there in this mud as we got ready to shoot the scene and I couldn't stop crying and shaking. I was as terrified of drowning as I was being fired.
Insider: So when we watch tonight, the look of terror on your face is real. That's not acting?
Leslie: Real. That would be correct. In that moment, it really was a documentary [laughs].
The River premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC.