Michelle Nolden. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you haven’t been watching enough TV and film. Nolden is both an amazing talent and a dear friend who has been a part of every project you can think imaginable. Hailing from Brantford, Ontario, Nolden’s filmography list is long and extensive. From that movie that we studied in film class, Men with Brooms, to Dr. Dawn Bell on Saving Hope, her roles are both colourful and unique. Prisoner X is her latest project, and I am glad I got a chance to reconnect and chat about it.
Prisoner X makes its theatrical debut at the Carlton Cinema on April 15th. While the Friday night show with cast Q&A is sold out, there are tickets available for Saturday’s shows with Q&A with the cast. The film will also open at Landmark 24 Cinemas in Whitby and Landmark 24 Cinemas in Kanata.
1. It’s great to see you back on the big screen, that too with a pretty complex character. Tell us a little about Carmen Reese and how you came about the role.
I really loved the script. I found the premise to be incredibly engaging. I liked that the pacing was a bit slower – more like an old school sci-fi film – without the special effects but more about the character development, the relationships between the characters and the twisting plot. Carmen is a strong, intelligent but deeply vulnerable woman and I am always drawn to the dichotomy that this presents – it leaves so many places to go and so many ways to layer the character.
2. There is an insane science behind interrogation techniques, and the behavioral aspects of communicating with another person when looking for answers. What resources did you leverage to learn about these techniques when you were getting ready to play your character?
That’s a very good question. I would say the most interesting, from an acting perspective, is the body language that the other character uses and being mindful to constantly be aware of this during a scene. The fun of course is when this changes from take to take. What I found particularly interesting about Carmen and interrogations as a whole is not just the information that you want to receive but also the information that you want or do not want to reveal. This doubles the pressure and makes it a real cat and mouse game.
3. Everything about this film is right on the edge: the budget, the timeline for filming, the tight-knit but small production cast. Tell us a little bit about filming this project, especially with a single location being the majority of the film.
Firstly, I was incredibly impressed with how Gaurav and Avi were able to do so much with so little. I would say that this was a labour of love on so many levels and the wonderful thing about shooting with these types of constraints is that everybody wants to be there. This makes for a great atmosphere and energy out of the gate. It also means that it is everyone’s responsibility to be prepared and to come with options and constructive ideas. I am hugely appreciative of efficiency so I love this environment. I think with regard to our location, it was actually perfect. We shot in the Cinespace basements and I believe that 13 of our 15 days were there. It was the middle of an insanely cold winter and this, the dampness and the general claustrophobia of being in the same place informed what it would it would be like to be in an air-locked facility 2 metres underground. For me personally it really helped the claustrophobia, mind mess and slow descent that Carmen experienced. I love when where we are shooting supports the sensory experience that we are supposed to be having as actors.
4. The talk of terrorism and its portrayal on film/TV hits home with many people in various different ways. What can individuals expect from the story and the characters of the film?
I think what makes this film so resonant is the fact that in many ways our world is in a state of fear and paranoia. I think that when we make decisions from this place and with out perspective, we are opening ourselves up to the very thing that transpires in Prisoner X. This idea and the ultimate fascination with time travel makes the magical “what if” of this film particularly powerful. I think the audience can expect that the ideas behind this film – and originally the novella – will stick with them and promote some very lively discussion. That is the hope of every filmmaker but with Prisoner X, I really do find these “possibilities” to be so fascinating.
5. What are some of your favourite moments bringing this film to life, and seeing it sail through the film circuit and finally get its theatrical release?
I think with any film that is a labour of love, there is a certain level of investment that goes above and beyond. I really believe in Gaurav as a filmmaker, Avi and Robyn as creative and “make it happen” type producers, and my happiness is particularly for them with the success of the film. We had many emerging crew and cast as well as many seasoned professionals, and I always find that dynamic (although challenging at times) to be refreshing and fulfilling. My favourite moments? That’s a tough one – the action stuff because I love stunt type stuff. I loved the dichotomy of Carmen’s dialogue; the fact that she barely speaks but that when she does she comes out with these mouthfuls of dialogue. I always have a blast working with Julian Richings and Jim Codrington, so it was like getting to hang out with good friends. It was also great to work with actors that I hadn’t before: Damon, Romano, Nigel, Gianpaolo, Jessica. I loved shooting that running scene out in the woods because it was a spectacularly beautiful location and the sunshine felt so good after days in the bunker. I had fun. I’m grateful for the entire process.