Struggling to truly understand the equally powerful and painful emotions that drive distinctly different personalities to commit deceptive and at-times destructive acts towards themselves and those around them can be a harrowing process. When those clashingly diverse personalities are living within the same person, that battle can be even more difficult to overcome. But actress Katie Cassidy enthrallingly showcased the strong willpower her character, Suki, drew on in the new independent thriller, ‘The Scribbler,’ to overcome the conflicting personalities within her. The film, which was directed by John Suits and written by Daniel Schaffer, who based the script on his own graphical novel of same name, grippingly showcases Suki battling her Dissociative Identity Disorder, in an effort to regain control of her actions and true personality.
‘The Scribbler,’ which was released today in theaters and on VOD and iTunes, follows Suki, a traumatized young woman who has multiple personalities, one of which is the title character. In order to help cure her illness, her doctor (Billy Campbell) has developed a technique known as The Siamese Burn. The machine is designed to destroy his patient’s extraneous personalities, until only her true identity is intact. But during the treatment, Suki continuously asks such essential questions as, which personality represents her true character, and if she’s willing to readjust to having one normal personality that fits into modern society and culture.
As Suki contemplates going through with the seemingly harrowing treatment, she moves into Juniper Tower. She refers to the halfway house as a place for the mentally and socially inept who want to try to heal and reintegrate back into society. But the other residents, including Alice (Michelle Trachtenberg), a perplexing but treacherous woman who hides behind Goth clothing; Cleo (Gina Gershon), who sports a cobra around her neck; and Hogan (Garret Dillahunt), the tower’s only man, who has had sex with many of the women living there; refer to it as the Suicide Suites. The name comes from the fact that several woman have recently jumped to the deaths from their apartments’ windows.
Suki’s confusing time of trying to cure herself of her Dissociative identity disorder with The Siamese Burn, while her fellow inhabitants are dying, is told through flashbacks, as she’s sitting in an interrogation room. The police officer interviewing the conflicted young woman, Moss (Michael Imperioli), thinks she’s actually the one who killed the other women. However, the psychiatrist working in on the interrogation, Silk (Eliza Dushku), isn’t as convinced as the officer. So she tries to find a plausible way to prove that Suki really is suffering from the illness, and that people aren’t always responsible for their actions when they’re struggling with illnesses.
Cassidy generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘The Scribbler’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to the role of Suki because not only had she never played a character like her before, but she also felt the most passionate about the story than any other script she received at the time; how she researched Dissociative Identity Disorder before she began filming, in an effort to better understand the motivations of Suki and her alter personalities; and how she prefers to sit down with her co-stars and talk about their characters’ backstories and relationships, instead of rehearsing dialogue, on her films and television series, including her current show, ‘Arrow,’ to better build their work relationships.
ShockYa (SY)L You play Suki in the new thriller film, ‘The Scribbler.’ What was it about the character, as well as the script, that convinced you to take on the role?
Katie Cassidy (KC): Well, she was a character who I have never played before. I remember when I was reading the script, I could hear her voice. I hadn’t read anything during the period when I got the script that I felt as passionate about, and I felt connected to her.
I was looking for a challenge, and this certainly was one. I just loved everything about her. Playing someone who has multiple personality disorder was certainly challenging, but it was another thing I could learn about. It was a really great experience.
SY: How did you prepare for the role overall, particularly in developing Suki’s struggle with her illness and her multiple personalities? Did you do any research into her illness before you began filming?
KC: Oh yes, I did a ton of research. I sat down with a woman who had multiple personality disorder. I actually watched her transition, when she split into her alters. I really paid attention to that, because it wasn’t anything dramatic or big; it was very fluid and subtle. I definitely wanted to bring that to Suki. I didn’t want it to be over-the-top in any way.
After doing script analysis, I developed seven different characters, and did seven different backstories for each one of the alters that live inside her. On screen, you actually only see three, but you can hear the voices of all seven. It was definitely a lot of work, but it was so much fun, and I enjoyed every moment of it. So on the day when you’re on set, you let all of that go, and trust yourself, so you can be present in the moment.
SY: Was it a difficult transition to go back and forth between Suki’s different personalities, particularly the three who you showed on screen, while you were shooting?
KC: I guess it was difficult. But I didn’t think that much about it, because I didn’t want to get in my head. I just tried to trust myself, and that ended up working out. Once I started to transition in front of people on set, it became easier every time.
SY: The thriller is based on the graphic novel of same name by Daniel Schaffer, who also penned the movie’s screenplay. Were you familiar with the graphic novel before you began filming, and if so, did you refer to it while you were shooting the movie? Does acting in an adaptation influence the way you portray your character?
KC: I wasn’t aware of the graphic novel, and didn’t read it before I read the script. But once I read the script, I absolutely went to get the graphic novel and read it. (Source material) definitely does have a huge influence on the way I portray a character. You want to give the graphic novel or comic book, and their fans, justice. You want to make the fans happy.
SY: What was your working relationship with the thriller’s director, John Suits, like as you were making the movie? Did you collaborate with him as you were developing Suki’s personality and backstory?
KC: Absolutely, it’s all a collaboration. We were on the same page, and he trusted me, so he let me do my thing after day one. He saw that I really jumped into this, and had an opinion about her, including such details as the way she held a pen. He let me go with it, which is awesome.
SY: ‘The Scribbler’ features a diverse supporting cast, including Michelle Trachtenberg, Michael Imperioli, Gina Gershon, Eliza Dushku and Billy Campbell. Where you able to have any rehearsal time with your co-stars before you began shooting, to develop your characters’ relationships?
KC: I don’t really like rehearsals, but there was a table read. I don’t like rehearsing, because you don’t want anything to get stale, and you want things to be alive in the moment. If you do something brilliant in rehearsals, it can get spoiled, because you didn’t capture it on film.
Obviously, on the day when you’re shooting, there is a rehearsal to run through the scene once before you actually film it. That way you can make sure everyone’s on the same page.
But I prefer to sit down with the other actors and talk about the backstories, if that’s how they work. For example, on ‘Arrow,’ Paul Blackthorne plays the father of my character, Laurel. He and I actually work the same way. So we sat down before we started shooting and did a ton of backstory work. As we continue shooting, more information comes out. So we continuously talk and try to justify why certain things happen, and figure out where things are now.
So I prefer to do, rather than rehearsing the dialogue. If you do the backstory, all the dialogue and movement should come out naturally.
SY: Speaking of the fact that you’re currently starring on ‘Arrow,’ and you have also starred on several other television shows throughout your career, how does acting on television compare and contrast to making films? Do you take a different approach when working in both mediums?
KC: My craft is always evolving and changing. I always like going to classes and studying and learning. As of right now and where I am in my craft, I approach television the same way I approach films. But at the same time, when you’re making films, it’s slightly different. With independent films, it’s slightly more real, but I still approach them the same way.
SY: Speaking of making indies, ‘The Scribbler’ was shot independently. Does making a film independently influence the creativity on the set, or the way you approach your roles, including Suki?
KC: Yes, making films independently means you creatively do have more control. But it also means you’re making the film quickly; you don’t have the same amount of time that you do when you’re making a feature film for Sony or Universal. On those films, I’m sure they have far more time. (laughs) But when you’re shooting television and independent movies, yes, everything is done really quickly, and you have to be prepared.
SY: ‘The Scribbler’ was shot on location in Los Angeles, with the Linda Vista Community Hospital standing in for the Juniper Tower. What was the experience like of filming the movie on location?
KC: It was great, because I really got to live in the space, and take it in everyday. Having almost lived in the locations helps me as an actor. It was shot in Los Angeles, and my entire family lives there. (‘Arrow’ is primarily filmed in Vancouver, where Cassidy spends most of her time while filming the series.) I sent them all an email before I started shooting, just to say, “I’m going to be off the radar for a bit, because I’m shooting this movie.” I didn’t want to get distracted, and they were all very understanding and sweet about it.
SY: With all the research and preparation you do to get into your characters’ mindsets, what’s the process of walking away from a role, particularly a dark one like Suki, after you’ve finished filming?
KC: It’s definitely a wind-down. I don’t think it’s even just for a character like that-it’s for anything that I’m shooting. It takes me about two weeks to decompress and relax. That’s why they say television is really tough, because we shoot 10 months of the year. It’s not that I can’t relax. But for me as a person, knowing that I have work coming up, I like to make sure that I prepare in every way that I can. (laughs) During my hiatus (from ‘Arrow’), it takes me about a week or two to wind down, decompress and relax, and get prepared to tackle other things and change my head space.
Written by: Karen Benardello