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Interview: Actress Rachel G. Fox on Dream House

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This past weekend saw the theatrical release of Dream House, a mystery/thriller directed by Jim Sheridan and featuring actress Rachel G. Fox in a supporting role. Fox recently was more than happy to discuss via email her role in the film, as well as her work on the ABC Family series Melissa & Joey.

Not every actress can say they’ve acted alongside Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts in a movie, and as revealed in our discussion, Fox clearly enjoyed playing Watts’ daughter. Many families desire to own the ideal home, and in Dream House, the Atentons (Craig and Weisz) think they have found theirs. But soon the family discover their home was the scene of a murder and that their lives may be in danger as well. Fox plays a member of the Patterson family, who live next door to the Atentons. On the social media front, fans of Fox will be pleased to learn, as of last week, she has joined Tumblr. My thanks to Fox for her time and thoughts.

What was the audition experience like for Dream House, did you have to audition for director Jim Sheridan? Can you talk about what it was like to work with an award-winning director like Sheridan? 

The audition process for Dream House started with me sending in a tape to the casting director in New York, through my agent. There were thousands of tapes submitted and the director, Jim Sheridan, chose two girls to meet with in a director session. I didn’t know it was just two of us until I arrived at the director session! At the time, I had heard of Sheridan, but I did not know fully about his work so I researched about him and learned about his projects (Brothers, In America) and his stature.

The director session with Sheridan was unlike any other producer or director session I’ve ever done. It was a wonderful, magical right brain session where Sheridan changed lines, thoughts, emotions, and ideas constantly as I read or improved or whatever he had requested I do for the casting director, producers, and him in the room. You can imagine the euphoria I felt when I learned that I booked the role of Chloe Patterson so I could then have the opportunity to work with Sheridan, a man so many people consider a directing genius.

To work with Sheridan is an actor’s and an artist’s dream. He is so involved in every single part and piece of a script and film. He dissects each piece of words, feelings, and emotions that go along with the script. I think a script is a change-able document for him, an outline that keeps him moving towards an esthetic swirl of high energy and emotion that shows on any Sheridan-directed films. Every day on the set of Dream House, there was a set schedule, but every day on the set of Dream House we followed no rules. Sheridan allows for a constant creation and re-creation through a huge amount of interaction between him and the actors. We met many times over the Dream House script and during the meetings, Sheridan seemed to pierce right into our (the actor’s) souls.

Honestly, working with Sheridan is unlike anything I’ve ever done and I will never forget the experience. I absolutely would love to work with Sheridan on a film in the future.

What was the most challenging and/or enjoyable aspect of playing the daughter of Naomi Watts’ character?

The most challenging aspect of playing Naomi Watts’ daughter is the barely-existing-pressure to play a troubled teenager who, on the one hand is distant from her mother, but on the other hand, is still connected enough so the film audience believes and knows that Chloe Patterson (Rachel G. Fox) is Ann Patterson’s (Watts’) daughter.

The most enjoyable aspect of playing Watts’ daughter is the experience of working with Miss Naomi, absorbing her peaceful and polished approach to her work. Working with Miss Naomi, I never felt stressed or uncomfortable, but always moved to be at the top of my intensity and focus in a correct and peaceful way.

Were you a fan of mystery/thriller films before joining the cast of Dream House?

I love some mystery/thriller films and shriek at the thought of seeing other ones. Some of my favorite psychological thriller films are the more mental ones like Rear Window, Donnie Darko, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and The Bad Seed. Ones I don’t think I could see are like The Silence of the Lambs and those films that are too terribly violent.

Based on that distinction, I think Dream House will be on the Top 10 Best Mystery/Psychological Thriller lists.

How hard is it to juggle your work in theatrical films and television shows, on top of all else in the busy life of a teenager?

There are times when it is hard to juggle everything. Getting schoolwork done, hanging out with friends, spending time with my family, playing sports, and all that is very important. Working on the set, recording music, reading scripts, meeting with directors and producers, attending events, is all very important as well. The thing that I do to juggle it and live every moment to the fullest is that I focus on who I am, the gifts I’ve been given, and what I’m born to do. Keeping those things in my focus, I choose what I’m going to do and do it in the biggest and best way I can at that moment. I do not over-plan or over-think. I just don’t ever lose sight of love, passion, and peace and I work, not to accomplish it, but to live it every second I can.

At your website, you discussed working on ABC Family’s Melissa & Joey: “Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence are amazing actors and comedians, and have dead-on comedic timing. I am learning from them every single second I’m on their set.” How has working with that cast helped educate you?

Thank you for your amazing research and finding that quote that I said on my website!

The cast of Melissa & Joey is amazing. I could not have dreamed of working anywhere better! It is one of the best shows on TV and the Melissa & Joey ratings going through the roof is the evidence.

When I watch Joey Lawrence work, I see him take a line or a scene and, with the ease and happiness of someone who is doing exactly what they’re born to be doing, he changes each take each time, to work it into a funnier or edgier or better place than it was the time before. He’s never trying too much or too little, he just delivers good, better, best, bester, and so on. Each time the comedic timing is dead-on and as funny or as important as it should be. The editors of Melissa & Joey must be in a quandary when he or she is trying to choose Lawrence’s takes to put into each episode because each take is more amazing than the last one.

Melissa Joan Hart has a similar energy to Joey Lawrence. Miss Melissa never holds back and is completely confident in her funniness all of the time. I learn from her to notice every single detail but make it look like she’s not paying attention to every single detail. She projects brilliantly on screen because she has a brilliance around her, a happiness and energy that never goes away, and she moves at lightning speed. Working with her, I’m learning to let go and be completely brave and trust my instincts.

Taylor Spreitler has a very confident and grounded way of working so that I never doubt that she is Lennox Scanlon and I never doubt that she will bring the right mix of comedy to each scene. I learn from Taylor that every line isn’t comedic and that being comfortable setting up others or making something comedic that wasn’t necessarily written to be so is important to each episode, just as being outright funny on each the lines that are written that way.

Nick Robinson uses so many different talents to deliver his work to portray Ryder Scanlon on Melissa & Joey. I learn from Nick Robinson to pick up on different nuances in a scene, then to use my voice and cadence and body language to enrich each scene. In an episode called “Do As I Say, Not As I Did,” for example, Nick says something like “in the middle of that seat you assigned me…” he uses his voice and other gifts to say it in such a fitting and funny way. Another example is in the episode called “Going the Distance,” when Nick and I are sitting on the porch and he asks if he can bring something, and I say “Yes, yogurt-covered pretzels,” and then Nick reacts saying, “Okay, great. What?” Once again using his voice, cadence, and body language to make his delivery rich and funny and just right.

Can you single out one or two of your favorite Melissa & Joey episodes, or scenes with actor Nick Robinson that you got to be part of?

My favorite Melissa & Joey scene that I’ve been in with Nick Robinson is the porch scene in the episode called “Going the Distance.” I love the porch scene with Nick because it shows the dimensions and depth of Ryder’s and Holly’s relationship, including Holly’s very domineering behavior (“Do you mind, I’m trying to play Angry Birds?”); it shows a bit of sexual attraction/tension (“Should I, ah, you know, bring something?”), and it shows sweetness between Holly and Ryder sitting on the porch with his arm around her.

In addition to acting, you are also a talented rhythm guitar player—are there any musical projects on the horizon for you?

Thank you! I love singing and playing guitar. Even though I play guitar every day—I keep a black acoustic Ibanez in the car—I can’t spend the immense amount of time that I need to, to move more quickly forward with music, so I am forced to be patient in growing my musical career. For me the end goal with music is to create it and take it on tour worldwide. My band, Magnitude, and I have just created and recorded our first of many songs. The song is called “Black Operation” (check it out on YouTube…. Search “Magnitude” “Black Operation”). We have done several local gigs and play rock music by greats such as Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, My Chemical Romance, and Muse. We’re unusual for our age because we don’t play any pop and we focus on great rock music, covering it , and creating new, young fresh sounds. It’s a matter of just a little bit of time before we emerge, but check back with me often because we will.

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About Tim O'Shea