AnnaSophia Robb has been acting for sixteen of her twenty six years, making this thoughtful and self-effacing actress a veteran before she reaches thirty. Featuring in everything from Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory through to The Way Way Back alongside Sam Rockwell and Steve Carrell, her career has been shaped by considered choices. In conversation she is eloquent, engaging and open. For Quibi’s horrific psychological thriller The Expecting she delves into a darker place, guided by revered director Mary Harron. In the run up to release AnnaSophia discussed her involvement in this project with Martin Carr and what made it so unique. Check out the interview here…
What were the character elements straight off the page which helped you identify with Emma?
Part of the reason why I was attracted to this character is because I had a lot of empathy for her situation on this tremendous journey, but didn’t necessarily completely identify with her personally. I was really excited about the changes she goes through both physically and emotionally, which gave me a broad range to explore over the course of these episodes. From the first frame through to its conclusion Emma really undergoes a genuine transformation.
Considering the genre and director what research did you undertake prior to shooting?
I actually watched a lot of birthing videos alongside an Amazon show called One Borne Every Minute. Then I obviously watched American Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby and a lot of other reference films in preparation. However, in terms of personal research I watched a lot of documentaries involving women having babies.
That sounds glorious I’ll be honest.
If you haven’t seen it or been present at a birth I highly recommend it, because the whole thing is extremely emotional. I would watch it every night before bed and get wrapped up in how exciting everything was that happens.
In terms of the director how important was Mary’s (Harron) involvement for you?
Mary is definitely one of the reasons I wanted to do this because she is so iconic, such an artist and auteur. It was a real privilege working with her because we worked very intimately on the script, on individual scenes and this was a very intense production. So we developed this short hand together and I trusted her to share that journey, because this was a pretty vulnerable film at times but she was really sensitive. It was fun to create not only this horror film but also combine elements of a psychological thriller in there, which enabled us to really crack this story and performance together.
What did the initial creative conversations between you both focus on?
Initially we went just through the script before travelling up to Boston. She would come over to my house or I would go over to her apartment, then just go page by page, scene by scene talking it through and making sure we had similar intentions. Rory Culkin also lives close by as well and came over to work on scenes, which is one of the nice things about living in New York for work in terms of making collaboration easier. The thing is so much happens in such a short amount of time with this film and our shooting schedule was so tight, that we would just take the train up to Boston and go over things on the journey. Where is she on this psychological journey, what is she seeing or believe to be true; that sort of thing.
I think audiences will find certain scenes to be quite harrowing, was there anything during the shoot that challenged you personally?
There were a lot of things which were challenging. I would say probably the hardest week we had was over seven days of night shoots during winter in a wood. To be honest I think it was just hard for the crew generally, because your cold and it’s wet plus you are filming all night. Over the course of that week it was just arduous both physically and emotionally which breaks you down. So when we were finished with that I was really happy.
To what extent do you think Emma is a victim of circumstance?
It’s an interesting question because a lot of things happen to her. I think what is interesting is that she is a victim of circumstance, but she doesn’t act like one. She grows up in this sleepy town, we know she has family trauma and becomes pregnant by mistake. Yet Emma survives which is something Mary and I talked about a lot. She gets thrown into all these situations but doesn’t really know what to believe. What she does know is survival and what she will do is protect herself, which is a self-awareness you don’t often see in terms of character.
The Expecting is dark and brooding throughout, what did you do as a cast and crew to keep things light?
I think we definitely shared a joke or two at times. Everyone becomes close especially on intimate sets like that, where you are working every day together combined with the long hours. That crew was closer than most because they had all worked together on multiple projects, making it a pretty tightknit group as they were all from the Boston area. They had developed this shorthand which made them very efficient and it felt like an indie movie, so we had very little time to light or set up, which meant them knowing each other really helped. For an actor it was fun stepping into that environment which ran so smoothly.
Looking more broadly at the industry, how has production alongside COVID changed you personally?
For starters I was supposed to do a show in March which should be airing already, but we haven’t even begun filming so there’s that. It is obviously affecting people all over the world while this situation is difficult to fathom on a personal level as well. Ultimately though I miss working, being on set with everyone and getting paid obviously plus having a purpose. It is a really communal experience so I feel for all the crews who are waiting to restart production, because this not something you can do remotely. Ultimately the filming itself needs to happen safely so everyone is working on that.
In light of these changes what are your key considerations you weigh up before signing onto any project?
They have changed because I have been acting for a long time and started as child. My mum and dad created this environment where I was never forced me to act, but felt privileged that I was able to do it. Which is an approach which has stuck with me, because as a kid I was able to decide whether to stay in school, or decide on how much a story deserved to be told. Now I feel the same way especially in 2020, when all of us have spent a lot of time quarantined just watching shows and entertaining ourselves, which in turn has shaped the way we see things. So I think it is really important to choose projects that bring to light different issues we are dealing with. That could be interpreted as comedy or action or something else, but they need to be thoughtful projects which represent our concerns.
Can you describe for me your perfect Sunday afternoon?
On my perfect Sunday I would have to wake up early, even though I’m not a morning person, but this is in an ideal world. So in that case I would wake up at 6am, read and drink tea then probably go for a walk before heading to church and getting some doughnuts that sort of thing. Then probably go to a park filled with puppies and maybe catch a movie.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to Flickering Myth today and take care.
The Expecting is available to stream in weekly episodes exclusively on Quibi from October 5th.