In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, actress Madeline Zima talks about her unforgettable performance as Chloe Clarke in the must-see medical thriller, Painkillers. Discover the nightmarish journey Chloe Clarke (Zima) finds herself in from the suspenseful feature from Title Media and Lone Suspect.
After a terrible car crash in which his son dies, brilliant surgeon John Clarke (Adam Huss), tormented by guilt, becomes prey to an unbearable physical pain. While his marriage to Chloe (Zima) starts to disintegrate, John soon finds out that the only thing that can ease his pain is the taste of human blood. When he encounters Herb Morris (Grant Bowler), a man who claims he can help him get his life back, John embarks upon a nightmarish journey through which he will either have to come to terms with his pain…or become a monster.
Now available to watch on Video On Demand, Madeline Zima opens up about embracing her character in Painkillers, creating the on-screen chemistry with co-star Adam Huss, and working with director Roxy Shih. Make sure to check out our review as we walk into the actor’s studio and discuss the craft behind her character arc.
Villain Media: Tell me how you became involved with Painkillers.
Madeline Zima: I had a meeting with Roxy [Shih] and Luke [Barnett] — all the people involved with making the movie. We all liked each other a lot. I’m like, “These crazy kids! I want to make a movie with them!” [Laughs]
I said I’d like to do it. They picked me out from the other ladies they had also met with. It worked out! I got to do it! I was very grateful for the opportunity!
VM: I loved how your performance captured how Chloe is a struggling housewife, a tragic figure, and a grieving mother. What interested you about the role?
MZ: Everybody has those darker moments in their life. What interested me about the film was that I loved the analogy of using a vampire movie to explore addiction, how we deal with trauma. The blood serves as a symbol for the painkillers we use to block our emotions, block how we deal with those emotions and face them head-on. As someone who has an emotional life, and having to be vulnerable so much for my work, I resonated with that ability to step into a resilience of feelings and hide from them.
VM: Tell me about working with director Roxy Shih.
MZ: She’s a wonderful, very unique person! She cared so much about performance. She was so invested in the story. It was really wonderful working with her. She gives a hundred and fifty percent! [Laughs] She’s great, really great!
VM: I’m glad you mentioned being vulnerable before. Because Chloe has such an emotional roller-coaster ride in the story, tell me about hitting your acting choices and how much guidance Roxy [Shih] gave you.
MZ: I’ve lost people in my life. I’ve had friends pass away. It’s not the same thing as losing a child. In order to prepare, I used my dog, which is the closest thing I have to a child. Part of the way I prepared, I would watch videos of dog rescues. That’s how I got into a sad and depressed state. There are videos of people finding dogs all mangled and neglected. You can’t watch them and not ball your eyes out! That was my shortcut to getting to a place of grieving and tremendous sadness.
Roxy was an incredible supporter. Anything you need to get to emotionally, it doesn’t matter what it is, that was something I relied on for this particular role. But for other roles, it’s different. I’m not married and I don’t have children. I had to use more of my imagination for this character than I’ve had in the past.
VM: Tell me about creating the chemistry with Adam Huss, who plays John Clarke.
MZ: Adam and I actually did another movie together. It never came out. We were both people trying to find things meaningful to us. I respect him as an actor. He’s very generous and kind. I hope he respects me! The work that you put in, when you have to go through heavy emotions with another person, you build a sense of respect and gratitude for them that translates over on-screen. He’s a lovely person to work with. So it was easy to have chemistry with him.
VM: Adam Huss brings something physical to the role, the shaking. As a viewer, the shaking comes across as scary. The shaking feels like a symbolic metaphor for junkies and withdrawal. Tell me about reacting to his performance during filming.
MZ: It definitely is! That’s one of my favorite things about the movie. It really does explore that. [Adam] was physically exhausted at the end of the day, from all the painful tension and contractions he gave himself. It was easy to be there and react to what he was giving. He’s such a generous actor. Just watching him, it was painful to look at. You can visibly feel his pain.
VM: How did Painkillers change you as an artist?
MZ: I feel like I’m always the same as an artist. I’m just happy to be there and working. I’m happy to be part of a team, part of a collaborative effort to tell the best story that you can. I was so grateful to be working with a female director. I feel it’s important and part of the reason the film has the uniqueness that it does. Roxy is a unique storyteller.
I’m more committed to telling stories that I believe in. It’s not about how I changed but what I got from the experience; a continued dedication to telling stories that are different. We need them right now. We’re in a very strange time in humanity. Our stories are what make sense in this crazy world; so we need them.
VM: How can readers find your movie?
MZ: I messed up! I did not prepare that way! I feel terrible! [Laughs] You can find it on streaming platforms. I heard at one point it was going to be on Hulu. It’s available online now. People can find it wherever they want.
VM: What are you working on now?
MZ: I just finished the first draft of a feature film that I wrote. This past year, I wrote and directed my first short film. It went to a bunch of film festivals. I made it with my sisters. The next thing I will be making is a short film or web series at some point this year.
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]