SHEILA VAND TALKS HER BREAKOUT ROLE, GOOD VS EVIL, AND THE REAL ROBIN WILLIAMS
The star of the indie-gem A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Sheila Vand, was kind enough to sit down with me to discuss her new project, human nature, and working with Robin Williams. She was a treat.
Modern Horrors: How did you get started in film? Were you generally a fan of horror? Or was this just a project that you believed in and wanted to be a part of?
Sheila Vand: I’m not like a horror connoisseur. I do enjoy horror movies. I came on board with this film because I knew Ana Lily, the filmmaker before, and we had worked on a couple of smaller things. I really like the worlds that she creates and I thought it would be fun to play a character that’s supernatural. I’ve never done that before so that was more of what drew me to it. But of course, I reveled in all of the “badassery” and the murdering.
MH: You see a lot of different personality traits in the girl, with the way that you played her did you feel that she was inherently good? What do you think her motivation was, or what was your emotional state while playing her?
SV: I think she rides that line between good and evil. I feel that the movie as a whole sort of explores that moral grey. I know that Lily never wanted us to never be on one side or the other. It raises a question more than it gives you an answer to what is good and what is evil. For me the reality is we all have both of those qualities inside of us and that darkness is humanness. I think we all have something about us that can feel like a curse sometimes. I think we all have our inner demons, for her its being a vampire. It’s an extreme version of it but we all have something dark about us that were all trying to push away or are just dealing with. I think that’s what it was that made the film universal, and why so many people are connecting to it.
MH: We never get much history about the girl, but her clothing and taste in music kind of suggest maybe being “turned” in the 80s perhaps. Was that a mindset that you brought into playing her?
SV: The girl is 187 years old and turned when she was about 19 so it was well before the 80s actually. There’s a whole backstory that Lily, the filmmaker, made. I showed up to Lily’s house one day, and we would have these lengthy conversations about the character. I would go over there to listen to music and watch movies and talk about the girl and one of the times that I went she had this huge timeline of the girl’s history. Everything from how she turned and everything she went through as a vampire before the movie even begins. So we did have that all mapped out and she actually turned — I can’t do the math off the top of my head but there was a whole period of time that she actually left Iran. She comes back to Iran at some point and in the 70s when all of the political turmoil was happening and all of the killing was happening. In the wake of all that violence she goes on a killing spree. And she was a very different girl than the girl you see in AGWHAN and the girl who ends up in Bad City. She kind of gets disgusted with herself because she completely indulges that part of her so that’s the era when she was going out all the time and going to concerts. Lily would send me videos of Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in the 70s and say “you were at this concert.” That’s sort of what spawned the whole comic book series. She had all the backstory thought up that didn’t make it in the film. She had all this material that she wanted to share; these pieces of the girls past life. So let’s get that prequel, man.
MH: You’ve had several arcs on television, do you have any kind of preference as far as the day to day of working on television vs film, do you prefer one over the other?
SV: It really just depends on the project and the role. I’m doing a TV show for the first time right now actually, I’ve done some guest spots but State of Affairs is my first time as a regular and the process is a little more athletic (on TV). You have to have more endurance and stamina because you are digging into this character and this world over the course of 13 episodes rather than a 3 week process, which is the length of most indie films. So yeah, it’s a different game but the process is the same. Preparing for the role is exactly the same for me and when working on the material, I treat them exactly the same way. I suppose it’s easier to immerse yourself in a film because it’s a shorter time span and you also know the whole arc. Even now, I don’t know in the next episode where my character’s going in the show. There’s a lot of people involved with TV. It’s like a big machine that you are kind of whirling around in. I’ve mostly done indie films and it’s a really intimate process.
MH: You did some work on Broadway too didn’t you? Including with Robin Williams. Is working with him everything that you dream it is?
SV: Yeah I did. It’s everything you imagine it to be. It’s everything you want it to be. He is such a legendary person and when you watch him work you really understand why he was the legend that he was. I remember after the first day of rehearsal I was like, “Oh. You don’t just become Robin Williams.” There’s just something about him. He worked harder than anyone I knew. He was such a risk taker. He would try every different choice in rehearsals and he would do it right in front of all of us. He was so fearless about taking risks. I just learned so much from him I was so honored that I got to know him.
MH: That’s awesome to hear that he really was like that because he seems so loving and hard working.
SV: It really is. You never know, with a name that big, what are they going to be like. Are they going to be that person that I kind of grew up with? He really was. He was just so generous and had a huge heart, and really shared himself with everyone.
MH: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has already seen success and upon its national release seems like it will open a lot of doors for your career. In a perfect world is there a story you would like to tell, or a group of filmmakers that you would want to work with?
SV: There’s a lot of filmmakers that I am dying to work with. I really want to do more genre stuff. I am mostly interested in art-house type stuff. My favorite films are the films that feel like dreams. I want to do more of those. I want to get lost in worlds that are far away from the one that we live in. I’m hoping that this will start to pave the way for more of that to come into my life.