Two women form an unlikely connection when a depressed gas station clerk, Sam (Jolene Purdy) receives a call from Emily (Midori Francis), a nearly blind woman who is running from her murderous ex in the woods. Emily must survive the ordeal with Sam being her eyes from afar using video call.
To celebrate the release of the film, I chatted with star Jolene Purdy preparing for her role, Donnie Darko, horror movies, and more!
PopHorror: I loved Unseen. It was so much fun. I went in totally blind and it blew me away so I’m super excited to speak with you!
Jolene Purdy: So you were like Emily coming into, pretty much.
PopHorror: Yes, I walked right into that!
Jolene Purdy: Yeah, you did!
PopHorror: What intrigued you about the script and made you want to be a part of the project?
Jolene Purdy: In real life I have some anxieties, so I related to my character. But no, I really loved the girl boss bond that was happening between Emily and Sam, and honestly, I really, really wanted to sign on once I met Yoko. This is her feature debut directing, and meeting her, she is just so smart. And the vision and the clarity that she gave to the project. She got me really pumped and excited to play.
PopHorror: That’s awesome! I liked the girl boss part as well, and I loved the friendship that they formed. I spoke to Yoko earlier today, and I told her what I really liked about it was that they had a friendship on top of the trauma, and the violence. If you can’t get a friendship out of that, what’s the point of putting your life on the line for someone you don’t know?
Jolene Purdy: Yeah! How can you trust someone with your life and not build some kind of relationship out of it. And I feel like that’s what Midori and I did too on set. When she was shooting her stuff, I was on the side giving her my lines, so we really worked together and just over time, actually built that bond. I feel like even in the table read that did before we even met each other, afterwards we both called each other and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m fired! I’m terrible,” “No, you’re amazing!” We both just bonded really quickly.
PopHorror: I was wondering how separate it was, considering that while you guys shared scenes, you weren’t in the same location together. I was wondering how close you were while filming.
Jolene Purdy: Well, I will tell you. I was hiding in bushes screaming out my lines so that Midori could have her lines. I was screaming them, trying to keep the tone of what my character would be doing on the other set. But yeah, I really had this vision of me sipping a latte at like Video Village with a mic saying my lines to her with an earpiece. I don’t know why but that was my vision. That was not reality. Reality was New Orleans in February in the forest. I did not pack well. Thankfully wardrobe gave me a lot of warm clothes to be ducking into bushes with.
PopHorror: This film deals with a lot of sensitive themes like depression, suicide, and domestic violence. How did you prepare for your role?
Jolene Purdy: I had a baby! I had postpartum depression so I’m pretty familiar with just how that feels like, like the weight of just feeling hopeless like there’s no end. Even at the most joyous point in my life, just knowing what that felt like. It was nice to tap into again honestly, to see how far I’ve come since then. And I just generally have anxiety but don’t we all? That’s just life now, right?
PopHorror: Yes, it is. Congratulations on the baby!
Jolene Purdy: Thank you!
PopHorror: I don’t see a lot of horror on your resume, except you are a part of everyone’s favorite, Donnie Darko. I wanted to know if you were a horror fan before?
Jolene Purdy: I am a scaredy cat, so not quite a horror fan, but my first date with my husband was Dead Silence, that ventriloquist movie.
PopHorror: I love that!
Jolene Purdy: I feel like I’ve been drawn to for some reason. I have this bucket list as an actor, and a horror film is on it. I just want to have blood dumped on me. Didn’t quite there, but you know. We’ll work our way up.
PopHorror: I think you’re drawn to it because that’s where you got your start. People will argue if Donnie Darko is a horror film. I think it is, or at least horror adjacent so that’s probably why you get drawn into it.
Jolene Purdy: I just want to tell you first, “Chut up!” I feel like that’s what everyone wants me to say. I had this amazing conversation with Jake Gyllenhaal on my wrap day, where he actually changed my view on what movie making is. He said, “You have to think about how you’re going to make the audience feel. There could be someone in the audience that is being bullied, and they’ll have someone that they can identify with. You’re going to have someone that was a bully, and they’ll see what their actions have done.” It made me realize the impact that cinema really does have.
PopHorror: That is amazing. I agree 100%. I was talking to Yoko earlier about myself not being the conventional body type. I had read another interview that she did where she said how important it was for body identity and diversity. Being a woman, and with depression like you said, you don’t know who you’re going to reach with that, but it’s good to see people on screen portraying what I’m feeling myself. I don’t always get that, and I appreciate that a lot. That’s some great advice he gave you.
Jolene Purdy: Me too. I honestly thought this character was going to go to a thin Kristen Stewart person, so I didn’t think I had a shot. I love that Yoko is so out of the box. She’s bringing a lot of color into the world, and just opening people’s eyes.
PopHorror: I’m excited to see what she has coming up. And speaking of coming up, what is up next for you?
Jolene Purdy: Speaking of body diversity, I worked on this film with another feature directorial debut, Claire Ayoub. It’s called Empire Waist. I actually worked on it with Missi Pyle, so Missi Pyle and I worked on it together. There’re some debuts from younger actresses. It talks about adolescence, growing up, body positivity, sexuality. It just really covers the most diverse of people that you could possibly think of, and I love the message of heart, and self-acceptance, and strength through high school. The most challenging years, you know?
PopHorror: I will definitely be keeping my eye out for that. Just one last question for you today. What is your favorite scary movie?
Jolene Purdy: Okay. I did a TV show called Under the Dome, and Stephen King wrote the book. He was actually there when we were working on it, so I was able to go up to him, and tell him, “Thanks for scaring the shit out of me with It.” It is probably my most classic, terrifying movie that I don’t ever want to watch again, probably.
Thank you so much to Jolene for taking the time to speak with us. Unseen is now available on digital and On Demand!