If you are into thrillers, the fall season is always fun for new releases in that genre. One such film is Time Now, written and directed by Spencer King, from Dark Star Pictures. After finishing its run at the Austin Film Festival, it will be available in theaters and for On Demand viewing in North America on October 26. Time Now focuses on the pivotal encounters of family and friends following the death of Jenny’s (Eleanor Lambert) twin brother Victor (Sebastian Beacon). As Jenny gets deeper into Victor’s world, circumstances begin to take a darker turn.
During a rehearsal break at the New York Theater Festival, actress Eleanor Lambert hopped on a conference call with me. Together we took a closer look at her character, Jenny, and what audiences can learn from the film’s themes of family and grief. Lambert is the daughter of acclaimed actors Diane Lane and Christopher Lambert.
What’s a role you’ve done that you look back on with great memories?
I would say this role for Time Now, [which] I consider my first proper role. Spencer was kind enough to ask me to portray Jenny, who I look back on with fond memories because she is so different from me. At least internally, she is about as opposite as it can get! She’s not super emotive, [whereas] I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m very responsive.
Getting in her head was really intense. It was a very interesting exercise in delineating what Eleanor the actor knows is going on and then Jenny, who is running from herself and her experiences.
What’s essential for your acting toolkit?
The number one thing I’ve learned is to be fully present. That requires other tools, which is your homework: knowing your lines and how your character is feeling. You need to trust that you’ve done the homework, it’s landed in your gut, and now you can let go to be present in the moment. That presence with other actors and the activity you’re engaged in, as opposed to focusing on outcomes, is what will allow you to be authentic.
I liked in Time Now that you get slice of life details every so often. We find out that Jenny likes reading Agatha Christie. What are you reading these days?
I love Octavia Butler. She was a visionary writer. I’m reading the Parables [series]. I’m really looking forward to her short stories next.
When you’re working on a thriller, is it a challenge to modulate the amount of tension in a scene?
This role was my first proper role. At this moment in my life, I was about six months into my first year of acting training. In the Meisner technique, the first year of training is untraining more than anything. It’s deconditioning your responses so you are true to your actual inner experience, as opposed to when we walk through life, we don’t necessarily get to be totally truthful all the time. We operate in a social structure, downloading things from culture and our parents on “how to behave.”
For this inner tension, what I’ve learned is that if something is written in the script, my job is to justify that. If I point a gun, that needs to make sense and have a trajectory. I trace it back to where the tension begins to build, because you don’t want to be at 10 the whole time.
The audience gains an understanding of the family and Victor’s life through Jenny’s eyes. What else was interesting to you about your portrayal of Jenny?
What I was drawn to—what Spencer, our writer-director, captured so well—was the multitude of responses that people have to trauma. Jenny is our protagonist who leads us through the lives of lots of other people. We see how diverse people can be as [they] respond to this one tragedy. We have characters who dive into work, others who implode under the pressure, and others who lash out. [We can] understand the nuances of how people deal with loss.
Jenny is not a cookie-cutter, perfect protagonist. We don’t like everything about her. She’s weird and out of adjustment with the world in these situations she finds herself in or puts herself in. The way she responds is different than anyone else, which goes for real life, too.
There are rough edges to these family relationships, especially between Jenny and her mother. What did you like about exploring that with your co-star, Claudia Black?
Claudia is my fairy godmother. I’m so grateful she is a lifelong friend now. Claudia gave me some of my most freeing acting experiences to date, because she’s a master of the craft. She was so real. I think back to several moments in the car and the bookstore where I got to practice that presence. To be around somebody who is that giving and present, you can’t help but meet them where they’re at. I was lucky to explore my character with Claudia by my side. Before we even started filming, Claudia, Spencer, and I had lots of pre-production conversations to understand our characters.
Were there memorable days on set for you?
Yes, the shooting in the car with Claudia was early on in the shoot. Our sweet DP Sean [Mouton] was hiding and crouching in the back of our two-door car. He was so dedicated. Everybody on our cast and crew was 10 out of 10. On a set like that, it was more grassroots where we were all being creative together and we hung out in the best possible way.
At the final 20 percent of the movie, we were at the toughest and most intense scenes. We shot all of those in one day. It was 25 degrees! I was in a tiny see-through green dress. I remember being so cold, shaking onscreen, hoping it just doesn’t translate to me freezing. You show up, you do the work, and you stay focused. Keep the hand warmers and jacket ready. I know that’s not about the technical side [of acting], but it was a lesson.
What would you like audiences to take away?
We need to remember to be gentle and have compassion for ourselves and others. We need to take our well-being seriously. A lot of times we are told that some very natural human emotions are bad or negative. That trains us to shove them down until they come out in horrific ways, as this story portrays. We’re at a point where people are recognizing generational and demographical trauma that others may not understand. Negative emotions are part of our human experience. We have to be willing and ready to face them. Not everyone gets the chance to grieve, because they are in survival mode. We need that space to grieve.