Actor Rebecca Hazlewood, who stole our hearts in NBC’s groundbreaking sitcom Outsourced opens up about her latest role as a victim of terrorism in Ghalib Shiraz’s harrowing short Embrace and making real connections…
INDULGE: Embrace is the first film dramatization of the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 and just won the Best Director Award at the IFFCA festival (2015). What attracted you to it?
REBECCA: Ghalib (Director) had talked to me about Embrace from when it was just a spark of an idea in his heart, so I already had a vision of the film. The original script is written as part of a feature, so there’s this complex back story inspired by true events. Also, I’d worked with Ghalib and Brandon Cox (DP) on The Ode so there was this sense of professional intimacy with us, and we had all agreed that we wanted to do this because the work before was so fulfilling, some of my best work for sure. And Brandon’s camera work is so beautiful and intimate, there’s a flow in the way that he works that Ghalib and I align with. So, when you have that creative trust and aesthetic with your DP and Director, you want to explore it at every opportunity. Plus the themes in the work appealed to me distinctly; tragedy, ethnicity, marriage, motherhood, sacrifice, survival, co dependence. For an actor the landscape was extremely rich.
INDULGE: Tell us about your character (Meera). When an earlier cut of Embrace was shown at the New York Indian Film Festival, your role inspired passionate debate and rave reviews in the Huffington Post.
REBECCA: She’s a mother, she’s a wife, she’s a daughter, but ultimately she’s a Mother. She’s a lioness. She goes from being a victim and potentially falling apart to making a difficult choice so that her child isn’t orphaned by the brutal terror attack. She makes the ultimate sacrifice and I have incredible respect for her.
INDULGE: How did you prepare for such a difficult role?
REBECCA: I was fortunate to have the back story in advance and I had the time to develop it and make Meera’s reality really solid by working out the finer details with Ghalib. I then focused on the fact that she’s a mother, that her own mother died young, that she’s in a successful mixed race marriage with a man that she loves, that she’s on a family vacation in the city she grew up in and always felt safe. Once I built that reality, I could then take it all away from her by applying the tragedy of the story, that created the character that you see. But I don’t see her as a victim. In my mind Meera makes a choice not to be victim. She’s so strong.
INDULGE: What was it like working on this project – especially considering it was shot in a single weekend!
REBECCA: Intense! I was actually so stressed during that time I felt like I was losing my mind, which I think went in favor for the character. I was exhausted from the schedule of filming Outsourced and dealing with a serious family illness and feeling really isolated from being away from home and handling the demands of a network TV show with very little support in my life at that time. So the tears of stress and exhaustion you see are very real. However, it was a joy having a platform in which to express that and there was just so much trust on set. All I remember was Ghalib saying “now just throw away the script, my love.” So I did. So much of what you see is actually from those improvised takes. I love that he used all of that.
INDULGE: What’s on the horizon for you?
REBECCA: I have 2 feature projects scheduled for 2017, one is sci-fi and in one I’ve been asked to play myself which will be an interesting challenge. Right now I’m in London taking a break and exploring the city.
INDULGE: Any thoughts on the world we live in today with the threat of terrorism and alienation?
REBECCA: I think it’s not enough for people to discuss these issues on social media. It seems like everyone’s perceptions are shrinking and it’s easy to just click away and ignore anyone who challenges our views. It’s extremely vital to consider and try to understand the reality of someone who has the polar opposite experience and reality to yourself. We’re not going to evolve as a species unless we expand our perception.
Embrace staring Rebecca Hazelwood, Ajay Mehta, Randy Ryan is available on iTunes.
Embrace photos: Lara Solanki. Rebecca Hazlewood photo: Steve Keros.
— Kelly Fine