Despite taking a cross country flight from California to New York and then getting caught in Brooklyn traffic, Stephanie Pearson still managed to find time to chat with AiPT! On a Saturday. Unsurprisingly, Pearson (whose credits include Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Insidious: Chapter Two) has a busy week ahead of her. While taking in a view of Manhattan, Pearson talked about her two new films, what kinds of characters she likes to play, and living to get beat up.
AiPT!: How would you describe Recovery?
Stephanie Pearson: Recovery is a story about survival in the most primal form. When there are people at the very end of the road, it’s like you have nowhere to go but either to let go, or push through all of the pain and trauma and suffering that you’ve been through to sprout back up at the top to make the choice to survive or let go. I think that’s with a lot of these characters, you either see them push through, or kind of lose it and go towards insanity and say, “Well, there’s nothing else to live for.”
I feel like my character Ronnie was at a crossroads where she was ready to give up and then found something to live for and fight for, bringing her back to her history of being in the military and having a purpose in life.
AiPT!: What attracted you to the script?
Pearson: I love deep and layered characters, and Ronnie kind of had that. And there was a lot of ways that I considered playing her. I worked with director John Liang on that a lot.
I think that the thing that drew me to her was the backstory that I was able to create and the pain that then brought her to change from, someone not giving any fucks to then being the one who wants to give the most fucks. She wants to save everyone, with no reason for her. She could have just let it all go, and yet she becomes the hero in this.
AiPT!: The role of Ronnie asked a lot of you in various ways. How did you prepare for it?
Pearson: We did a lot of rehearsals with the cast. All of my cast mates were really, really talented. I had such a good time working with them, and super lucky that all of them just were exceptional actors.
We did a ton stunt training. We probably trained two weeks. All of the fight scenes were choreographed by Ken Arata, who is a stunt coordinator in Los Angeles. And then just worked on getting fit with the entire cast, and then staging things out.
We shot at an abandoned kindergarten school and turned that into a rehab. We were there just long days, long nights. Living in that environment every day helped us get into characters, and get into the action and rehearsing on set. We had a really a good time, just kind of being on lockdown together.
AiPT!: Recovery takes place in one building. What was it like filming in one setting?
Pearson: Yeah. It was great. It was really, like I said, that lockdown mode kept us all a little bit in that rehab mindset of like we can’t really go anywhere. Working on a personal level was great. Some of those girls are now my best friends. For the story and for our characters, it was good to kind of challenge ourselves to focus on just that pinpoint location, that one place. So it was really cool.
Actually when we were shooting there our shoot got threatened because there was some forest fires that were happening really just right in the hills above where we were at, in the Pasadena area. So there were a couple days that we thought that we were going to have to stop production, or that the set might even get burnt down. It was pretty treacherous, and when we were there as well we were worried that we were going to lose it all, and have no set to come back to. We got very lucky that every thing was safe and fine.
AiPT!: That’s a real life terror along with the story that’s going on.
Pearson: Totally. Then also it was that dry hot Southern California October. It was right before Halloween, so every thing was a perfect storm of this feeling, these emotions, this location, the atmosphere added to the location for us. And every day we would go on set, for like a week straight that fire was burning, and so drive to set early in the morning, sun just barely coming up and seeing that little glint of fire on the hill there and wondering, “Well, is today going to be our last day?”
AiPT!: Did you pattern Ronnie after any characters from other movies or even anyone in real life?
Pearson: I did a lot of research on not only the opioid crisis and epidemic, but reading in-depth interviews of actual addicts, and then no one in particular, but a melting pot of the research that I did and seeing how war veterans and looking at how they react when they re-acclimate into society which is usually hard to come back and try to re-establish when you’re living 24/7 on call, on duty, be ready. There’s a speech in there when I’m talking to my doctor played by Hope Quattrocki and I say nothing means anything now that I’m back here. And drugs is the only thing that gives me a purpose in life. When we were shooting that, and we read the script, I was like, “Wow, this is so relevant and there is this opioid crisis and epidemic and drug problem that’s creeping into society.” Unfortunately since we shot, it’s become more apparent, worse, or just more of a forefront topic that people are realizing is a serious problem in America.
AiPT!: Ronnie has a hard shell when she first gets to rehab. She goes through a lot of emotions during the movie, and as you mentioned from, goes from giving no fucks to giving a lot of fucks at the end. What scene did you think was the most difficult?
Pearson: Most difficult? Gosh. The end, the final scene, and I don’t want too give to much away, but I think the final scene because we shot the film in chronological order, we knew that it was close to the end of shooting and we had all become so close, and this feeling that was it for not only our characters, but then also us as a film family was hard, and also because that scene is so emotional. The emotion you see on camera, were actually coming out of us: were actually pretty true. So, yeah, kind of the final moments there in the film, probably the hardest for me.
AiPT!: That is a very powerful scene. So filming in chronological I can imagine that made it especially difficult.
Pearson: Yeah. And then also every day the fight scenes, it’s like as soon as your bruises are healed, we’re going to do another fight scene, you’re going to get your ass kicked again. I think I had bruises everywhere. But we had a couple of really good stunt doubles as well who helped us with that. I mean that’s what we live for as actors, like, “Oh, that hurt.” “All right, let’s do it again. Harder. Better.”
AiPT!: This isn’t so much a question, but I was looking through your film history, and along with Recovery you starred in Methadone. It seems to me like you would be perfect for a Trainspotting remake.
Pearson: Ooh, yes. I would love that: a Trainspotting Three. Yeah, Methadone, I’m actually out here in Brooklyn right now for the Brooklyn Film Festival, so the film is screening this Tuesday; actually the same day that Recovery comes out, so it’s a big week for me.
Methadone is a story about just living in Los Angeles, when you’re first there, you’re trying every thing, and trying not to die: being like party kids; it’s like 13 Reasons Why, meets Party Monster. And we’ve got a couple of incredible cast members there, my co-star, Arisce Wanzer, is a trans-actress and model, but even though she’s a trans-actress, the subject wasn’t touched in the story, trying to make visibility just for the LGBTQ community more normalized.
AiPT!: That’s really cool. June is Pride Month and a movie I always think of is Mulholland Drive. The story never overtly says they’re lesbians; they are just two people in love. I always liked that about the movie.
Pearson: Yeah. Thank you. That’s what we were trying to do there.
AiPT!: Your resume includes credits in movies, but you’ve also done some television. Which do you prefer?
Pearson: I prefer film, just because there is a full circle story usually. I like to work on the arc of my characters and see how can I go from the beginning to the end and change that person, or fill in the blank in between there.
I try and bring a lot of either depth or backstory or my own personal life into my characters. TV, is a little more stable and steady if you’re coming from a working actors point of view, but I think that films really speak to me.
AiPT!: We talked about Methadone and this being a big week for you, what other projects are you working on?
Pearson: I have a film that is coming out towards the end of the year, called Psychosynthesis. That was a film directed by Noam Kroll: super talented writer, director. That’s a slow burn thriller about a woman who gets a heart transplant, and then slowly starts to take on the characteristics of the donor, not necessarily the good traits.
That one I’m really proud of. Should be in some festivals in the Fall, not sure, but we’ll see. Keep an eye on that. It’s kind of this thriller, slight horror genre, that I keep finding myself in and I’ve grown to love it, because there’s so much detail and dark burning emotion in these thrillers. That’s another one that I’ll be in that’s coming out this year.
AiPT!: Were you a fan of thrillers and horrors growing up, or is it just something you’ve fallen into lately?
Pearson:: When I was younger I wasn’t a huge horror fan. I always figure: well, I’m going go see a movie, or watch something at my house, when I’m by myself, it’s not going to be something that’s going to scare me, keep me up all night. And when I worked on it and became respectful of the genre and kind of seen the in’s and out’s and how many different horror genres fall under that category.
Yeah, I’m a huge, huge horror fan now. Love anything that scares me. My boyfriend he’s like, “Find something that’s not scary, or have to do with someone getting murdered?” “No.”
So I’ve become a huge fan, and try and keep up on that: see all the new films, and just like to see what’s going on with that, because as an actor, there’s so many film projects that are happening with horror, and I think they’re really inventive and creative. I think the genre has blended and changed even over the past 10 years. So yeah, I’m a big fan, and that kind of started when I worked on Insidious, with James Wan. We had a good time doing that, and I got bitten by the horror bug back then.