Wicked Horror had the occasion to speak with the lovely Natasha Henstridge about her thrilling new film Home Invasion. We touched on what sets the film apart from the countless other home invasion films flooding the DVD and VOD market, why she’s drawn to strong characters, and we also got her thoughts on a Secret Circle revival.
Home Invasion tells the story of a well-to-do mother (Henstridge) whose home is burgled by a band of ruffians. Her only chance of saving her life and the life of her son is to discreetly work with a security specialist she has managed to make contact with using a VOIP phone connection.
Wicked Horror: I liked the film. But I didn’t know quite what to expect from it going in because there are so many generic, run-of-the-mill home invasion thrillers flooding the DVD and VOD markets. However, Home Invasion is really suspenseful and features compelling characters. How did you, David Tennant, and the rest of the creative team approach the film so as to make it stand out from the pack?
Natasha Henstridge: That’s so sweet. I’ll tell you one thing about David Tennant, who I hadn’t worked with before. He had a very, very strong vision and instead of just looking at it as another job and not really caring–you know everybody always wants to do a good job–but I think he was very dedicated to making the characters very specific. Even in terms of look. Even the invaders themselves and the choices of costumes that he came up with. He was digging deep into the characters and trying to add layers instead of ‘Woman in home. Protecting child. Break in happens’. And really just trying to come up with some layers there. I have to give a lot of credit to David for that. Just being a very visual director, too, I think he just had a really good eye for the look of the film. I didn’t feel that I looked so great in the movie, but I guess in a traumatic situation, you shouldn’t look good. But I thought the look of the film as a whole and the pictures–He’s just sort of very visual and I think that’s where some of the layering comes from. And I think as actors, we all try to find a little bit more depth to whatever it is we are doing. He and I certainly spoke about the film a lot and we sort of went back and forth about my son and if he was my biological son. [We questioned whether] I would have the same sort of needs and desires to take care of him if he wasn’t. And then we came up with the arc of him not being my biological son and that it was a little bit of a difficult situation, initially, and that kind of gave me an arc. There were some changes that were made leading up to shooting and that made it really interesting.
Henstridge: We barely crossed each other. I did some of the off camera work for him on one of the days, so we did actually meet. That was about the extent of our relationship, so I’m so glad to hear we had such wonderful chemistry together. [Laughs]
Wicked Horror: That actually leads into my next question: You are on the phone for a lot of the film. Which makes me curious, did you have someone off camera reading Jason Patrick’s lines to you, like a PA or script supervisor?
Henstridge: Yes. I did have to have somebody reading. And we did try it just with the script supervisor, initially. But doing an entire film on the phone, talking to somebody else, I think they soon realized they needed to bring in an actor, which was wonderful. They brought in a great actor and paid him to do all the off camera work for me. Those are just tough things to do, otherwise. Very difficult. Those are tough scenes to do and you need someone who’s not just phoning it in, so to speak. You need someone to give you a little bit of a performance, at least it helps.
Wicked Horror: That’s something I’m always curious about. In films like Buried where the character is on the phone the whole time, I’m always curious who they are actually talking to and how that impacts their performance.
Henstridge: Oftentimes you are sort of just stuck on the day because of time restraints or other actors are thrown around or call times or they just aren’t even there during the time. Like, Jason wasn’t even in Canada when I was shooting the entire movie, basically. So, oftentimes, you will be working with just the script supervisor or somebody that volunteers. Anyone that sort of volunteers to read the lines to you. But it always makes a difference if somebody’s giving you something to work with. And in a film where you’re on the phone primarily, it’s definitely worth requesting an actual actor.
Wicked Horror: I feel like I’ve seen you take on a lot of roles where you play a strong, powerful character. Do you find yourself consciously gravitating towards roles like that?
Henstridge: I do love to play a strong woman. I’m not gonna deny that. I am drawn to those characters, for sure. But I think it’s a combination between me being drawn to those roles and those roles being drawn to me. I think that people probably see an aspect of me that is strong and I think in some ways, it seems like–it’s very hard to see a woman, for instance, that is playing a cop and taking down the bad guy and can’t hold a gun. If you just don’t believe it–and not every woman, no matter how great of an actor they are–they don’t always have the physicality for it or the confidence or whatever that is. That kind of commanding presence. And I think I’m lucky in some ways to have some of that, which I think has been very helpful for me in garnering those kinds of roles, at times. I’ve been very lucky in that way.
Wicked Horror: I have to commend you for that. I think it’s important to have strong female characters in cinema that young woman can look up to and be inspired by. I think it’s too often that Hollywood is eager to cast women as the damsel in distress. So, it’s great to see someone that isn’t willing to play the victim every time and wants to play an empowered female character.
Henstridge: This film, to be honest, is the most damsel in distress that I’ve done in a film in a long time. But she still has the strength and the courage to keep going and keep fighting–but in a very heightened sense and a very terrified state. So, still in some ways a very strong character, but certainly more of the damsel in distress than I’ve played in a long time.
Wicked Horror: I didn’t get damsel in distress, necessarily. I think anyone would have been distressed in that situation.
Henstridge: Fair enough. Thank you. It’s always a fine line because you have to be real on some level. I mean, how terrifying would it be to be in a situation like that? It was actually a tough movie to do because I perhaps don’t have the technique that some theater trained actors do, so you put yourself in those situations mentally. And you know, to think of having a child in a situation like that, it’s stressful. It really puts a lot of stress on you, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It was a stressful movie to shoot.
Wicked Horror: Speaking of the kinds of characters that you play, your character in Home Invasion really resonated with me. The way that you treat your stepson as your own and always put his needs before your own made Chloe very relatable. I’m curious how much of that was you just playing her as written and how much of it was you working with David Tennant to develop her and flesh her out?
Henstridge: Chloe’s son was written as her biological son, initially. At first when David came up with the whole stepson thing, I thought, ‘I don’t know’. You know? You’ve got that whole instinct thing so strong. Having a step child can be such a different thing, you know? Not necessarily, but it can be a very different thing. But then when he came up with the idea of having that very, not perfect relationship with him to begin with–a quite difficult relationship with him to begin with–that moves into something else, I thought that was a great idea which I was initially sort of hesitant to. We did spend some time thinking about that and talking about that. How much of it was written? You know, other than the lines on the page telling me what the actions are, you really create a lot of that yourself, what the dynamic will be, how close you’ll be, how protective you’ll be–a lot of that is created between the actor and the director, I guess. So, I guess it was co-created between the two of us, really. I worked with that actor, Liam [Dickinson], that entire time. Wonderful little actor. That’s another major question: How young do you go? How old do you go? How protective should you be? Will he be able to help her out if he’s too young? So, it was a bit of a process for sure.
Wicked Horror: I was a fan of you on The Secret Circle and I was disappointed when it got cancelled without getting to really wrap up the story line. I know it’s probably not likely to happen but if the opportunity to continue the series on another network or even make a feature film based on the property, would you be interested?
Henstridge: If I’m being really honest, and I will be, I thought my character–it wasn’t real fleshed out. It was tough. We were filming in Vancouver and I know they were trying to keep things easy in terms of flying in and flying out. So, there were a lot of scheduling issues and stuff. I found that the character wasn’t all that fleshed out in many ways and I got a little bit–it would have been interesting to see where it went. Let’s just put it that way. But, I got a little bored. I’m not gonna lie. I kept that crystal and what was going on? I was like, ‘What the heck is happening here’. You never know. You never know where things are gonna go. That’s for sure. But I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again.
Wicked Horror: I appreciate your honesty. That’s very refreshing.
Henstridge: The CW will love me for that, I’m sure. [Laughs]
Wicked Horror: It’s been such a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much for your time!
Henstridge: Thank you!