Hot off her role as Doctor Carol Marcus in last year’s science fiction reboot Star Trek Into Darkness, actress Alice Eve’s latest lead role in director Tze Chon’s Neo-Noir thriller Cold Comes the Night finds her fighting less to save the world and more to save her own life. The film, shot in the dreariness of the Catskill Mountains in rural New York, is centered on Chloe, a motel owner and single mother who struggles for survival against a nearly-blind Slavic career criminal, Topo (played by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston), who holds her hostage in an effort to retrieve money from a crooked cop (played by Logan Marshall-Green). And as is the norm for most noir thrillers, the setting soon devolves into a shit-show where Chloe’s strength to overthrow her offenders is signified by her love for her child (Ursula Parker), her will to survive and her resistance towards oppression. With the film exploring socially-conscious themes such as poverty and gender, we spoke to Alice Eve about these thematic issues, as well as her extensive research for the role of Chloe and the strength of women in Hollywood.
I feel as though Chloe’s character taps into the social struggles of single parents, especially women, who live below poverty level. Did you feel as though the film addresses this issue of class to some degree?
Yes, without a doubt. That’s one of the main themes of the film. And one of the main points of interest for me was the fact that Chloe was a single mother and she has no one to rely on or fall back on and she had only had herself to fight for her child, and that’s a very difficult scenario for a woman.
What did the research for this role entail?
I went around the motels and I cleaned them with the women who run these motels in the Catskills and a lot of them were single mothers who were running these places on their own with no one to protect them and encountering dangerous situations. I spoke to a lot to people from the area and spent a lot of time there.
Do you think weather in the Catskills helped in creating the dark atmosphere of the film?
The Catskills were definitely almost empty feeling, and cold. Hurricane Sandy came through there while we were there. And we were staying in a motel and shooting in a motel and there were definite parallels with the story and our lives.
With dark and dreary weather often affecting a person’s mood, did the weather affect you at all?
Being a Londoner I suppose I have a high resistance to seasonal affective disorder, or weather-induced illnesses, because we have the grayest, wettest climate. And though it doesn’t get as cold as it does on the East Coast, it definitely is a pretty dreary climate. I think the isolation definitely affected me. I guess I’m quite an urban person. I love the countryside, but I like to live in an urban environment and maybe that affected me a little bit.
You’re role, as Chloe, is of a woman trying to survive during incredible circumstances, where do you think Chloe drew from in order to fight back her offenders? And where did you, as an actress, draw from in order to create that angst and will to survive?
I used a lot of my imagination to understand a woman like Chloe who has a disadvantage in life in a way that I’ve not, and has very little support in a way that I don’t. So I both drew from experience from talking to people and hearing their stories, but also from the times in my life when I’ve been very alone or felt very depleted. So it was a combination of memory and imagination.
You really submerged yourself in this role.
Oh yeah. The story is in place for a reason and the story can carry you quite far as an actor. You really do align yourself with the character you’re playing and understand their situation because you feel like you’re in it. You don’t have to have lived everything. To play a heroin addict, you don’t have to have been a heroin addict. You can enter the headspace with time and focus. But there’s also an element of knowing situations that people go through and knowing that these things are real in the world that can help your imaginative process.
Speaking of characters and playing a role, were you a fan of Breaking Bad prior to working with Bryan Cranston?
Yes, I absolutely was. It was great to work with him. He was very dedicated and very gentlemanly.
I heard he’s kind of crazy on set; that he tends to play pranks and whatnot.
He was pretty up for a little joke between takes and he’s a fun dude. He keeps the tempo up and he keeps it light and he knows it takes work; he’s dedicated. He’s there and he gives it. I think he’s a pretty awesome man.
Breaking Bad was definitely a high octane show, but having seen ATM [a 2012 thriller co-starring Eve] a few months ago it seems as though you like roles that involve high energy situations as well. Why?
I guess you’re right. I guess I’m drawn to women who are powerful in their way, whatever way that may be. Wherever they derive their source of strength I think I’m drawn to that, and I guess those women both have that in common.
What’s interesting is that Tze Chon’s first film centered on a strong female lead, which I think is wonderful. And it’s nice to see him writing a strong female protagonist in his film again and that there are roles like this available in Hollywood.
They’re definitely available. There are lots of strong women in Hollywood and there are lots of roles that reflect that.
What did you think of Tze’s directing style?
He was great. He was very immersive and very present and he was there when I needed him. He knew what he wanted – which is kind of a bonus with a director.
Is it hard to come across director’s who know what they want?
I’ve run into scenarios where the director isn’t as prepared as they could be. But having someone who’s written the script as well as directs the film – and I’ve worked with Neil LeBute before as well who’s also an auteur writer and director – means that they have a unique position in which they view the project from and I think that’s the case with Tze.
How about good scripts? Are those hard to come across as well?
Yeah, I read like lots of scripts and just like anything in life you’ll read five articles and one of them will be interesting to you. So the ratio is not 100 percent, but when you find one that’s interesting you definitely go after it.
What do look for in a role?
I think I’m looking for something I haven’t explored yet, a feel that the script is offering me an opportunity to understand a different psychology or different world or something I haven’t explored.
All in all, when you look back on the roles you’ve played thus far, did you feel that Chloe’s character was the most challenging? That it offered you a different perspective?
Yeah! Creatively, you feel very fulfilled after doing something that’s a challenge, especially if you get through it and you complete it. It is hugely rewarding.