Interview With Liesl Ahlers, Star of ‘Triggered’ (2020)

I was recently able to speak with Triggered star Liesl Ahlers about her role in the new film. Triggered makes its North American debut on November 6, 2020 via On Demand and Digital and was directed by Alastair Orr (House on Willow Street 2016). Read our review of the film here.

PopHorror: I loved Triggered! I thought you were great; I thought everyone was great! It was really just a fun and original movie, a different take on the whole “let’s a play game” thing, like the Saw genre. It was totally different and extremely gory and I loved it. But, what can you tell us about the film?

Liesl Ahlers: I’m so happy you loved it! You don’t know how happy this is making me feel. Thank you so much! We set out to make something that obviously would make people feel like it’s so much fun to watch, and it’s also light and kind of funny. And that’s what I would say about Triggered, but I think the concept is so original. I love the whole strapped in vests and friends—or supposedly friends—are being pitted against each other, wherein Saw, we see strangers who wake up in a room. I thought that was very clever.

I think the writer, David D. Jones, did a fantastic job with the concept. I was so excited when I first read the script. But I just knew I wanted to play Erin; I love that character. I think she’s so fascinating. I think she’s mysterious. I was just so drawn to her. I think she’s fantastic.

What I really like about this film is it might feel to the viewer like they’re in a video game. It’s more like, “Who’s going to die next?” I think that’s fun, because my friends are all like, “Are people just going to die? Is it super traumatic? Are we going to be so disturbed?” I was like, “Maybe you’ll be disturbed by the gore.” But apart from that, you’re just going to be like, “That was fun. He’s dying. Okay, next.”

PopHorror: That’s kind of how I felt watching it. It really was like watching a video game, like who has the highest score. It was crazy. Did you film in a forest or was it on a soundstage?

Liesl Ahlers: No, I wish it were on soundstage. It was in an actual forest; we were sliding around in the mud. We were supposed to shoot for 17 days, and that’s not a lot of time. But then we could only shoot in 11 days because it started raining. People were sliding around in the mud, someone got injured…. it was insane. We were tripping over tree trunks, covered in bugs. When I would get to the hotel to wash my hair at night, there’d be like pieces of tree and bugs coming out of my hair. I’d be like, “Oh, okay.” It was very real, but I think that adds to it. I hope that it translates to the film in a way, just how real it was for us. Obviously as actors, it helps you a lot when you’re actually in the woods. And we only did nine shoots.

PopHorror: It looked great! The one part I was always interested in when watching it was: how did you react being off-camera knowing there was a fake bomb strapped to you? Did it just feel weird?

Liesl Ahlers: (laughs) Yeah, I didn’t even think about that. But you are aware there’s this vest around you because it’s kind of tight around you. But that’s a cool thought. No, I never even thought like, “What if this was like a real bomb?” I think to me it was just like… the thing that I was thinking that kind of freaked me out was, “What if you knew you only had a certain amount of time and then you know you would die?” Like whether it was through exploding… and I personally get freaked out the most when people are chasing me. I usually just stand still and I’m like, “You can catch me. It’s fine.” I hate the concept of someone chasing me in the dark, so at some point, it’s me and Rian in one scene where Kato is out to try and find us to kill us. To me, was just so creepy. It’s just so scary. So yeah, I hate the concept of someone chasing me, and just the whole idea of you only having a certain amount of time.

PopHorror: Yeah, that was definitely something that messed me up watching it. It was like, “I have this much time left to live? I have to kill someone right now!”

Liesl Ahlers: I love that that was your reaction, because I think that is what the film tries to get from people. How would you react? Would you kill your friends? And I love that you said that, because I think we all want to say, “No, I’d never do that. I’d rather explode, I’m a nice person.” But when you’re actually in that situation, I think that’s what the film shows. People are willing to kill their spouses—or without giving too much away—people are willing to kill their friends.

PopHorror: You can get more friends. It’s okay.

Liesl Ahlers: (laughs) Who cares?

PopHorror: How did you get this role? What was the audition process like?

Liesl Ahlers: That was so much fun! So I’ve always been a fan of Alastair; he’s a South African director. He made this film, House on Willow Street, and I happened to watch it on random Saturday night. I saw it was directed by a South African director. I was so impressed. I just thought it was so amazing. And then he contacted me, like, “Hey listen. We’re making a film. I’d like to consider you for the character Erin.” So when I read the script, I was like, “Definitely! I definitely want to play Erin. And I’m definitely onboard.”

So I had to send in a self-tape. I had a lot of fun with it. I filled this spray can with red food coloring and water. For different scene variations, I’d spray myself with like blood and water to look all sweaty. And afterwards, they were like, “Why did you do that?” I thought I was a genius. I took brown makeup, and I put some dirt on my face. I had the best time. I don’t know that got me the part? I think, not really, but I had such a great time, because I just knew I wanted to be part of a film that’s so fast paced and that’s going to keep people on the edge of their seat. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something that awesome?

PopHorror: You took it above and beyond with your audition tape with the fake blood and dirt.

Liesl Ahlers: I feel like you have to have fun with this. Any actor would know, if you don’t find a way to just have some much fun, you’re going to get bored or depressed or something.

PopHorror: Exactly. A couple days ago, I was looking at your website. I noticed that you’re also a singer/songwriter, and you have your own clothing line. So, what came first? The acting, the songwriting, or the clothing line?

Liesl Ahlers: Thank you so much for doing research! That really means a lot to me. So, I studied acting at the Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts. I did that immediately after high school. And then when I returned, I signed up and got an agent, but then I realized I’m just waiting for the phone to ring basically. So I was like, “No, I have to do something creative.” I need to keep myself busy, so that when I go into an audition, I’m not like, “Give me the role, please!”

My mom taught me how to sew, which is really cool. That’s how I started my clothing label on a really cheap sewing machine. I think it’s actually made for children, but I launched a whole line with that one. And singing was something that I’ve just always liked doing. During quarantine now, I just realized that I really like songwriting. I wouldn’t be a musician, but I love to write for other musicians. That’s something that really speaks to me creatively.

PopHorror: Who are your favorite singers?

Liesl Ahlers: Oh wow! I have so many, and they’re so different. My favorite band is The National. I love Matt Berninger. He’s the lead singer of that band. I love Halsey; I love The Weekend and Post-Malone. I’m such a fan of The Weeknd. I don’t know if that’s a cliché. I think he’s just so underrated. He’s like Michael Jackson, basically. He’s like the new Michael Jackson.

PopHorror: Any final words on the film that you would like to add? And where can people find you on social media?

Liesl Ahlers: So I’m basically just active on Instagram, it’s @i.am.liesl. I have a website where it can link you to my clothing label. About the film… please go watch it. Let me know if you find me on social media. Let me know what you think of the film. I would really like to know. It’s a low budget film; it’s made in South Africa with an all South African cast and crew.  To us, it was such a passion project and something we were so excited to do. So we’d love to hear if you had fun watching it.

PopHorror: It definitely hit on all the marks, and I really enjoyed it. Thank you for joining me today.

Liesl Ahlers: It was so much fun! Thank you so much for having me!

Watch Triggered right here!

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