In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, actress Emily Tyra talks about the compelling drama behind her survival thriller, Harpoon. Find out what happens when rivalries, dark secrets, and sexual tension threaten to tear three best friends apart.
Three friends find themselves stranded on a yacht in the middle of the ocean desperate for survival. With plenty of alcohol and very little food and water, emotions run high and their delusions become a reality. As the days stretch on and death seems inevitable, their terrifying truths float to the surface.
With Harpoon now on VOD and Blu-ray, Emily Tyra discusses her role as Sasha, developing the chemistry with Christopher Gray and Munro Chambers, and her upcoming project. Check out our review of Harpoon as we head on over to the actor’s studio to talk about the craft of character-building.
Villain Media: How did you become involved in the project?
Emily Tyra: Rob Grant, the writer/director, had seen my work and felt I was right for Sasha. They sent the script over. I gave it a read and I thought it was really compelling, and really unique. I decided to join the team; that’s basically it.
VM: Sasha is my favorite among the three, alongside Richard (Gray) and Jonah (Chambers). Sasha is feisty, conniving, and vindictive; all these things at once. Tell me what interested you about the role?
ET: As a female actor, I’m looking for female roles that are commanding in a way. This one is not on the surface. She’s in the classic girlfriend role in the beginning. And then, as you figure out the triangle, it twists and she gains power. You start rooting for her. I was interested in the relationship these three have. None of them would exist without each other. Sasha being the only female in this trio felt like an interesting role for me psychologically. This was a fun thing to play!
VM: Harpoon takes place entirely on a boat. As someone who enjoys the theatre, the movie has a play-like vibe. Tell me about working with Christopher Gray and Munro Chambers in this type of setting.
ET: We got really lucky in our schedule. We had time to rehearse everything before we got onto the set. We had three or four days, just the three of us, with Rob, in a hotel in Calgary. We were going through the scenes, all the physicality, and figuring out how the scenes would play best. When you have a feature length movie, with three people in one setting, you want to make sure you’re constantly creating tension together. You want to make sure people are interested. That’s a difficult thing to do. The way that it’s written is very much like a play. We rehearsed it like play, in its space and in real-time. I think this is what made it work on-screen; when we got on set and the cameras were rolling.
VM: Sasha gradually looks ill as the movie progresses.
ET: [Laughs] Yeah!
VM: [Laughs] Tell me how the makeup aided your performance.
ET: We had to track how many days we were supposed to be on the boat. As we were shooting, tracking for continuity, we were gradually more and more decrepit. The three of us had a transformation.
Fortunately and unfortunately, we shot most of the interior scenes, where things really get gnarly, on a soundstage in Calgary in January. Usually I would be up before the sun. I went to work around 5 or 6am. I would be working till the sun went down. Up north, it goes down around 4pm. Honestly, it made my job easier. I didn’t see the light of day for a few weeks there! [Laughs]
I can physically get into roles. With this one, I would get up extra early, and run a couple miles on a treadmill before going in, to feel that exhaustion, to feel that hunger. To feel all those things, you have to be invested. You have to look around sand say, “I want to eat my friend!” [Laughs]
VM: Brett Gelman plays the role of The Narrator. Gelman’s narration is very in tune to your performance. Did you know beforehand your performance had to be in sync with the narration?
ET: Brett came in at the end of postproduction. We knew there was narration. In the original script, the narration was quite different. I think Rob was tweaking and toying with it. He was figuring out how it would work best to serve the movie, throughout our process, and in postproduction as well. The idea of the voice was changed a bit. At one point, they had a couple of other names they were interested in.
We premiered at Rotterdam. Right before then, they needed to lock someone in to do the narration. Brett agreed to come onboard. I think he worked so perfectly! He is so talented, so funny! It’s absolutely perfect narration for the movie! I loved watching it for the first time and hearing his voice!
VM: How did Harpoon change you as an artist?
ET: I’m used to doing these type of strong, stoic roles, where the female characters are torn down in the process of an arc. You start to see their cracks in their body and watch them decay. This one was a rapid, full decay process! In this short period of time, she gets ripped down. To do it the context of a feature film, but have it feel so much like a theatrical performance, was really unique, challenging, and fun for me. There were several scenes in the movie that were like 5 to 6 pages. We would just run through them, take after take after take. It did feel like we were putting on a performance on set. It’s really unusual when you’re working on camera. You do it in pieces, in different angles. You don’t really play something from start to finish. For me, I think it made each of us feel on set like we were growing as actors. We had the opportunity to sink our teeth into a dramatic moment that was serval pages long. We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that in any other context, unless it was a play. [Laughs]
VM: How can the readers of Villain Media find your movie?
ET: I believe it’s streaming on 12 platforms. You can purchase or rent on Amazon Video. You can watch on iTunes. I know Arrow Video is streaming it in Canada. It’s available all over the place. You can also DVD it if you’re one of those people! Watch it forever! [Laughs]
VM: What are you working on now?
ET: I’m currently working on a play. I’m doing a musical; quite different. I’m in Washington D.C. doing a new production of A Chorus Line. I’m flexing a very different muscle. I’m doing a lot of singing and dancing! I’m doing the show out here till January, and then I’ll head back to LA.
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]
Harpoon is now available on VOD and Blu-ray.