Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
March 31, 2020

In the horror/thriller Sea Fever, socially withdrawn scientist Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) begrudgingly ventures out on a fishing trawler to further her studies on deep sea animal behavior. But while on the open waters off the coast of Ireland, the boat is attacked by a mysterious, leviathanesque creature, with members of the crew developing a gruesomely lethal infection in the wake of the encounter. As the disease runs its course, those aboard are forced to make a difficult choice: remain isolated and face certain doom, or return to land and risk contaminating the general population.

In a case of uncanny timing, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted shortly after we screened this cautionary tale of personal responsibility. With everyday life in the real world grinding to a halt and citizens around the globe quarantining themselves to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the ethical and ecological dilemmas addressed by Sea Fever have become remarkably topical and prescient.

Adapting to the unprecedented shutdown of theaters and the implementation of social distancing measures, Sea Fever got innovative with its debut, offering audiences the ability to stream both the film's premiere and a subsequent Q&A with the cast and crew. Stars Hermione Corfield, Connie Nielsen, and Dougray Scott, and writer/director Neasa Hardiman all joined fans online in a virtual panel where they answered questions from the safety of their respective homes.

Earlier, we had the opportunity to speak with Hermione in support of her role in Sea Fever. In this exclusive interview, she talks about the making of the movie, from her initial reading of the script to the diving training that was required for her onscreen physicality. She also reflects on the positive experiences she has enjoyed as part of the Star Wars universe, and looks ahead to a trio of upcoming projects.

Sea Fever is available on VOD/digital, including YouTube, Amazon, and Google Play, and is now streaming on Hulu. You're frequently required to travel for filming, but are you currently safe and sheltered at home?

HERMIONE: Yes. I was actually in LA and I got one of the last flights home. That was quite surreal, because I kind of underestimated how serious it was going to get, in terms of lockdown. So I was a bit blase about it, and then suddenly, I have a message saying, "These are the last flights home." So I was like, "All right then, let's get on it!" So yes, now I am home, and I've ended up going back to where I grew up, to be here a bit.

You're definitely not alone--I think most people underestimated how quickly things would escalate. And now that we're living in a quarantined world, Sea Fever seems eerily timely with its concept of self-isolation to protect the community. Obviously, Neasa Hardiman had these ideas before the current pandemic, so what sort of initial discussions did you have with her about the film's themes?

Originally, when I first read the script, what I took from it was definitely a theme of responsibility, and what it means to speak up and be the one that goes against the crowd and says, "No, this is something we should be paying attention to." And that was primarily related to environmental factors for me, as well as what it means to be the one voice speaking out. And I think that at the time, you know, this wasn't going on, so it was about protecting this rare species of the creature, but then also protecting the human race. And obviously, that now is incredibly relevant--the responsibility of the individual and what it means to protect other people by isolating yourself, and perhaps sacrificing yourself. And I think it's fascinating putting it on a boat in that respect, because they have one choice, and that is to stay on water or to go home. And to stay on water means running out of food and running out of water. So obviously it's a heightened version of what people are experiencing now, but it's definitely incredibly current--that understanding of what it means to be personally responsible, and personally responsible for everyone around you.

How much of the film was actually shot on location on the open water?

We shot the exterior shots, where you can see I'm on the top deck, on a boat. And below deck, where we opened it where you could see out into sea, we were also on a boat then. And any of the moments where we're bringing in the fish, that was all on a boat. So quite a bit. And any point you see me standing on deck looking out to sea, again, that's all on a boat. So we did all of those at the beginning of the shoot, and then we moved in the studio, and they built the exact replica of the interior of a boat, so every measurement was an exact match to the internal measurements of the boat we had been on, so it was still claustrophobic...It did feel like you were in a confined space, which was great.

Did you adapt well to such close quarters?

You know, I think if we had been on a boat the whole time below deck, in that confined space, I would have had a sense of humor failure, mainly because of the sea legs aspect. [laughs] But I think that in the studio, I didn't mind the confined space. I actually really enjoyed it. It created a real sense of "everyone together," and we all had to be aware of each other in terms of how we used space. So it really felt like a play at times. We all got incredibly close, and it ended up being a really fun space, and a challenge to use in terms of how much room there was to move around.

Both Sea Fever and your previous thriller Rust Creek required physical scenes in the water. Are you comfortable with diving, swimming, and being generally submerged?

Rust Creek, we were properly going into the river there, so it was up to, like, the waist, but I didn't have to do any diving or any kind of PADI training. But for Sea Fever, once I got there, in the evenings, I would do scuba diving training in Dublin--it was a swimming center, but they had a special dive pool. So I'd already got my first PADI when I did King Arthur, and then I had to kind of do it again, and a bit more, for Sea Fever. So I did train, so I understood how to dive properly and move in the water. But I used to swim quite a lot when I was younger, I used to train. So I am used to swimming, but diving was sort of a new thing for me, which I really enjoyed.

You've had the fortune of being in a lot of fun movies--thrillers, action, science fiction, and fantasy. Are these all genres you loved growing up, or did you come to embrace them more through the roles you've gotten?

I've always enjoyed thrillers and those sorts of films, but I think it's always [about] kind of chasing a role, or finding an interesting role or a director that you particularly want to work with. I've been lucky in that I started off doing lots of these big action films intermittently throughout my career, and I've always enjoyed those films and it's in a universe I've been interested in. But I guess it's always [about] which roles, which directors come along, and then you kind of make your decision.

I love that your character Tallie Lintra in The Last Jedi is adored by fans. How do you feel about having played a role that has made such an impact in such a short amount of screentime?

I was amazed. I was so taken aback by the response, it was so lovely. I went to the Chicago Star Wars celebration, and people came along with T-shirts saying "Tallie Lives" and gave me action figures, and it was just so lovely. And I think you really feel like you're part of the universe immediately when you get that kind of response. And it kind of carries on, you know, and it's really heartwarming. [laughs]

One of the perks of a production like that must be getting to play with all of the props and sets. Between Tallie's ship and the replica of the boat for Sea Fever, were you eager to jump in and mess around with as many controls and gadgets as possible?

Yeah, I get very curious. Walking into the engine room that they built for Sea Fever was really, really amazing, because it was so detailed and so beautifully done. And also, Siobhan, the character, when she walks in there, she immediately finds the water system fascinating, and starts checking out and working out how it's made and all that sort of thing. And I think I do definitely do that. I mean, when so much time and effort's obviously gone into these amazing prop pieces or sets--they're so beautiful and so intricate--it's really exciting playing in that world.

You mentioned learning to dive for Sea Fever. What other skills did you have to learn for your upcoming films Born a King and The Misfits?

For Born a King, I had to ride a horse. That was exciting, and I had to do quite a lot in a short amount of time, and do it sidesaddle as well, because back in the day, they would be riding sidesaddle in skirts. So learning to ride sidesaddle at quite a pace was a whole new skill set. And then for Misfits, I also had to ride a camel along the sand dunes, which was fun. [laughs]

Wait...Now I'm super curious: were there similarities between riding a horse and a camel, or were they two wildly different experiences for you?

I mean, I've seen a camel gallop, but I didn't gallop on the camel. But we were walking along some quite steep sand dunes. They've got their sea feet, so they feel quite steady, whereas a horse, I feel like...I don't know, sidesaddle definitely felt a little bit more precarious--like, trotting on a horse [versus] on a camel that was not going at much of a pace. I think probably it's easier to ride a camel than a horse sidesaddle decently. [laughs]

I was already looking forward to the movies, but now I'm going to specifically check out your riding. Are there any other upcoming projects we should be keeping on our radar?

I've got a TV show coming out in May, [but] currently because of what's going on, I don't know what the plan is for that right now. But that hopefully will be coming out in the States as well. I don't have all of the information yet, but it's called We Hunt Together, and it's a cat-and-mouse crime thriller about a policeman/policewoman duo going after a girl I play, who befriends an ex-child soldier seeking asylum in the UK. And she ends up forming a relationship with him and becoming quite a manipulative force, and encourages him to do things that he maybe didn't really want to do, and commit crimes. So that's next, I just don't know where it's going quite yet.

Well, here's hoping things start to get back to normal over the coming weeks and months. Thank you for your time today, Hermione, and stay safe, stay healthy!

You too...Thanks so much!

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