ATTEND THE SCREENING -- FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24TH
Jennifer Zhang – Writer/Producer
(credited as Lala Hensely in the film)
What did you do to prepare to play a mentally-disturbed teen?
First and foremost, I did not let myself approach the character with the idea that she was “mentally disturbed”. To this day I do not and will not see Sarah as such. When we meet her in the film, she has been pushed to an emotional limit. Her way of processing and reacting to people is the way it is because she has had to have her guard up for most of her life. She was always an easy target for other kids to pick on, and when you are consistently told you are crazy and even treated like it by your own parents, it’s eventually going to wear on you and turn you into an introvert. With any character there is always the process of creating a background so as to answer the questions about why this person is the way they are when the audience first meets them. While my fellow cast members partook in rehearsals, I isolated myself, just as Sarah would, and studied the script, looking for anything that helped me get to know her. Once a back-story was created, there was a wonderful month of pre-production that allowed for the right pieces of the puzzle to sink in and the ill-fitting ones to be discarded. As this happened, mannerisms developed on their own from posture, twitches, ways of speaking, etc. When shooting began I continued to separate myself from the rest of the cast (which was quite hard as they are all so lovely), making each encounter with them in front of the camera freshly awkward.
Why are independent films so important for actors today, both A-list celebrities and actors who are just starting out?
I’m making a huge generalization here, but independent films have a different kind of appreciation for subtleties. The typically lower budget allows for a story to be told in a simple way, without effects that can sometimes take away the relatable aspects of a film.
What was the process of being cast in "Dead Inside?"
I walked out of the first audition near tears because I thought I had completely failed. When I got the email saying otherwise I was ecstatic at my second chance. I did not see the full script at all before being cast so my concept of Sarah as a “loner” was definitely nothing compared to how I see her now, but I followed a feeling of emptiness and with the wonderful direction of our director, was able to take it to the next level.
What was your favorite part of playing Sarah in the film?
This was the most challenging part I have ever taken on but by far the most fun. As the film goes on she starts to find her strength, though still staying very awkward in comparison to the other teens. Finding this medium was definitely my favorite part as her power in silence intensified. This role was such an incredible experience that I am certainly grateful for.
Do you have any advice for those actors who are just starting out?
This is a strange question for me to answer because I too, am still in the beginning stages of my career. The first piece of advice I would have to give is to not let the process of working your way up weigh on you. Go to every audition you get and do whatever you have to do to get a solid reel together as casting directors are more likely to look at you with one. Some won’t even give you a chance if you don’t have one. Get good headshots that not only actually look like you but that also represent who you are and what you have to give to the world of entertainment. Give everything you have to every project you are involved in. People will remember you, either in a good or bad light, and not only does feedback get around quickly, but being able to work with someone again is always a good incentive. Stay humble, and remember that if you get to the point where you are on set, you are getting an opportunity to do what you love.