Courageously stepping out of your comfort zone as you ponder the next stage in your life, and fearlessly embarking on a bold new journey in an effort to uncover who you truly are, is a difficult but necessary process everyone must take in order to remain faithful to their ideals. Writer-director-producer Julius Onah, who was born in Nigeria and now lives in New York City, grippingly pursued his dream of making his first feature film with the independent crime thriller, ‘The Girl Is in Trouble,’ which enthralling reflects aspects of his own life. In the process, he perfectly cast Alicja Bachleda as the movie’s female lead, who much like the actress, fearlessly moved from Europe to New York City to pursue her passion of performing.

‘The Girl Is in Trouble,’ which opens in theaters and on VOD tomorrow, follows August (Columbus Short), an unemployed DJ who’s struggling to survive in New York City’s Lower East Side after he was disowned by his Nigerian immigrant parents. While he’s desperately searching for another job, after he was deceitfully replaced by one of his rival DJs at a local bar, and is attempting to find a way to make money to stay in his apartment, he’s contacted by a woman he met at the bar a few weeks earlier. The woman, a Swedish immigrant named Signe (Bachleda) who moved to New York to pursue her music career, calls August as a last resort for help. After she was turned away by her ex-boyfriend, who she used to live with, as well as several of her friends and acquaintances that she has seemingly misled, he agrees to meet her at the bar.

Seeing her tattered clothing and frazzled personality that night, August agrees to let Signe stay with him. But the next morning he becomes wary of her intentions, as he wakes up to see her taking money from his wallet. As a way to make the struggling musician realize he feels used, he takes her phone, and in the process, accidentally uncovers footage she shot the night before. In the video, he recognizes a local drug dealer, Jesus (Kareem Savinon), as the son of an infamous billionaire, Nicholas (Jesse Spencer), is smothering him to death. Jesus’ revenge-driven brother, Angel (Wilmer Vilderrama), then unexpectedly shows up at August’s apartment, asking the DJ if he knows where his missing brother has gone. As a result, August and Signe must figure out how to not only avoid retaliation from the distraught Angel, who’s determinedly seeking vengeance for his brother, but also the otherwise feeble Nicholas, who’s suddenly unwavering in his mission to stop Signe from turning him into the police.

Bachleda generously took the time recently to talk about playing Signe in ‘The Girl Is in Trouble’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to play the struggling anti-hero in the crime thriller, as she related to the character’s determination and courage to move to New York from Europe to pursue her artistic dream, and showing how Signe contended with her disappointments of not being able to fulfill that passion; how she not only appreciated how as a writer and director, Onah had a very specific vision of what he wanted the film to entail, but also always listened to the actors’ suggestions; and how when she takes on every new character, she emerges into the character completely, whether that means performing her own stunts, or singing a song, like she did as Signe in her latest drama.

ShockYa (SY): You play Signe in the new crime drama, ‘The Girl Is in Trouble.’ What attracted you not only to the character, but also the script and project overall?

Alicja Bachleda (AB): I feel very strongly about New York City. My first adventure in America was in New York, after I left Poland to attend school in New York. It’s an incredible and fantastic town, but it can also be challenging at times to make a film there. But the city plays a character in the film, which I found to be very interesting.

My character, Signe, is just like me, in that she traveled from her home country-Sweden, in her case-to New York to fulfill her dreams of being a musician, in her story. But New York greeted her with disappointments and challenges. Fulfilling her dreams there wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be.

For me, New York was fantastic, but after awhile, I needed a bit of space. It was very demanding, and the rhythm of the town is so fast, if you’re not running with it, you might be left behind. I managed to survive, but in Signe’s case, she couldn’t really remain on the surface; she got lost in the whole process. So Signe’s story is close to my heart, and I could sympathize with a character who pursues her dreams, and is brave enough to leave everything behind. But in her case, her dreams didn’t go as she thought they would.

SY: Speaking of New York, the thriller was set and shot in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. What was the process of filming the thriller on location?

AB: Well, I love going back to New York every now and then, so that was a great experience. Like I said, New York is a very vivid and strong character in the movie, which was helpful. While we were filming, I was a new mom, as my son was only a year old. I brought him with me to New York for the shoot.

I decided to stay in the West Village over Brooklyn, because of how much I love the location. But of course, the apartment that was offered to me in the West Village was no comparison to the one in Brooklyn. It was small and on the fifth floor, and there weren’t any elevators. Plus, summer in New York can be very hot. So it was a challenge for me to climb the stairs with my little son everyday, but that was the price I paid for being in an area that I love.

Now I rarely visit New York, as I live in L.A. So now when I go to New York, it’s a full excitement, as I love everything about it. I love to walk the streets, which you can’t really do in L.A. as much. I love being able to walk around the corner to go to a cafe, and you can become a local there.

I had some fun times with my co-stars while we were in New York, as we decided to go out. I hadn’t been able to do that in awhile back then, and we had a fantastic time together. I spent quite a while in New York, as I attended school there, and then lived there for another year, enjoying what the city had to offer. So it was fun to go back and get a little fix for the next couple of years. (laughs)

SY: Speaking of your co-stars, what was the process of working with Columbus Short, who played August, the main character Signe interacted with throughout the film, as well as your other co-stars?

AB: Well, we had a lot of fun, especially Columbus and I. We spent some time together after filming wrapped, as well as on our free days. On the very last day of this shoot, we did our best to finish our scenes as soon as possible. Of course we wanted to make them right, but we wanted to go to the U.S. Open. So we combined work with a lot of fun. We also had some fun times out with Wilmer Valderrama, as well as some people from the crew. The guys of course liked to show off. So being able to also have fun together off of the set was fantastic.

SY: What was the process of filming ‘The Girl Is in Trouble’ independently?

AB: Well, it was interesting, because in New York, you either have a lot of money to shoot, or you don’t. If you do have the money, you can block a street off and have everything under control. If you’re making an independent film, you do your best to make it all look great, and make everything work.

There were moments where we all felt as though we really had to focus and collaborate to achieve that final effect we wanted. It was an interesting experience, but that process makes you feel more involved, especially when we all had to compromise to get the final result that we all wanted.

SY: What was your experience like working with the thriller’s co-writer and director, Julius Onah?

AB: Julius was a pleasure to work with. He had a very specific vision of what he wanted, especially since he wrote the script. When I first met with him, I could tell he really lived the story, and understands every character. I don’t know how much he’s open about it, but I think there was something autobiographical about the main character. So he felt very close to Columbus’ character, as well as the Signe character, who he probably remembered from his own experiences.

Julius is a very calm and kind person. It’s always great to work with a director who always listens to your suggestions, and collaborates on your common vision. That’s very helpful when you’re an actress. It’s nice when a director has their own clear vision, but is also willing to accommodate the actors’ ideas about their characters.

SY: What was the process of relating to Signe’s mindset while you were filming?

AB: Well, Signe’s Swedish in the film, and I knew nothing about the language before the film. Julius connected me with a friend of his from Sweden. She helped me out a little bit by recording the lines in Swedish, and then I would listen to the lines. I also met her a few times, and she helped me with my questions and concerns.

Then when I arrived in New York, I found out that Julius wanted me to be bleach blonde, which we didn’t necessarily agree on before I arrived. It was a miscommunication between us. I tried to convince him that not every Swedish girl is bleach blonde, but he said that was his vision. So there was a compromise about how blonde I would dye my hair.

Another thing that was important to me was that Signe sings in the film. There’s a scene in which she actually performs on stage. One of Julius’ friends wrote the song, and she was going to perform it, as well. But when he said I would just be pretending to sing, I really begged him to reconsider. I do have experience singing, as I was a singer in my home country. So I really feel strongly that when I’m playing a character, I really want to embrace her as much as I can.

So Julius gave me a shot, and said, “Let me listen to you sing.” So I went to the studio and recorded the song. That was a little bit uncomfortable, because the original performance was great. Since she wrote the song, she really felt it when she sang it. So I tried to do my best as well, and Julius said it did work. So my voice did make it into the film, so I was happy and relieved.

SY: How important and beneficial is it to you as an actress to perform your own stunts and physicality in action driven crime thrillers like ‘The Girl Is in Trouble?’

AB: Well, when I play a character, I try to emerge into that character completely. So I try to do as many physical activities for the character as I can, and that the producers will allow me to do. I’ve made a couple of films where I had to jump off a cliff, or swim in very cold water for an extended period of time.

If the director tells me that the effect looks better if I do it myself, then I’ll do it myself. Even if they tell me that you won’t be able to tell later if a stunt person does it for me, I still want to perform the stunts myself. With ‘The Girl Is in Trouble,’ there weren’t that many stunts, so it felt more organic to be in every single scene.

SY: Speaking of producers, Spike Lee served as an executive producer on the crime thriller. What was the experience of working with him like on the film?

AB: Spike came to the set for a party scene. So it was very chaotic, and there were a lot of extras in this dark location. So it wasn’t the perfect location to talk to him, but it was great to meet him. We’re very happy that he supports the film and Julius, and he believes in this story so much that he publicly add his name to the project. So we’re all very happy about his involvement, and we were all happy to meet him.

Interview Alicja Bachleda Talks The Girl Is in Trouble (Exclusive)

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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