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Nicky Whelan, Cassi Thompson and Jordin Sparks discuss 'Left Behind'

Left Behind stars Nicky Whelan, Cassi Thompson and Jordin Sparks all took some time to share their experiences of having been involved with this movie.  Here's what they had to say to INFLUX Magazine!

INFLUX MAGAZINE:  What drew you to the project?

Cassi Thompson:  Well, when I read the script it was just as Vic said it was: very much character-driven, which is something you don’t really see that often in a movie that does have so much action involved. It also is a very strong female character, which there unfortunately aren’t that many of, nowadays. So, when I read it, I honestly thought I would never book it because I’m not a big A-Lister name. I have been working for a long time but I just assumed I would never get this opportunity. Still, I put a lot of work in, and I sent in tapes, and then I auditioned. Luckily, they gave me a chance to be a part of something that was one of, really, the most memorable times of my life. I had always wanted to do a film like this. And, it was great. Vic was great. Nicolas Cage was great. All the producers were amazing.

When they say it was a dream team, it really was on all ends. It’s very rare that you get to work for producers that you love so much and a director that allows you to be so free, and, and Vic and I have become really close. I just did another film with him. He’s just one of those directors that you want them on set because they do allow you to be free. They allow you to experience your character and let you really be the actor that you want to be. But, they’re also there with all the support, and trust, and he was just amazing. Everybody was really amazing to work with.

INFLUX MAGAZINE:  What was the overall experience like?

Cassi Thompson I took away a lot of friendships from this film and I feel like I grew a lot as an actor, working with someone like Nicolas Cage. That’s something that so many young actors don’t get a chance to do. And, his professionalism and his talent really kind of changes you. Experiences like that I think change you always for the better. And I also luckily got to do pretty much all of my own stunts on the film. At one point (laughing), Vic had me climb like this 400’ bridge. So, I free-climbed the 400’ bridge and was on top with a helicopter kind of circling me with a camera and that was amazing. That’s something that I probably will never get to do again. So, that was very memorable.

INFLUX MAGAZINE:  What can you tell us about your character?

Cassi ThompsonWell, in the beginning, you quickly learn that “Chloe” doesn’t really have any kind of spiritual beliefs at all and her family, growing up, didn’t have any kind of faith, didn’t go to church, and wasn’t really involved with the Christian faith whatsoever. Then, her mom found her faith and it threw a wedge into the family and pushed Chloe away. Any conversations she did have with her mom were always centered around faith and her believe in God and Chloe needs to really, you know, get in tune with that and kind of was warning her of what is coming.

Chloe just saw it as more nagging and felt like she kind of lost her mom in a way, I think. And, that pushed her to separate from not only her mom, but her whole family. So in the beginning of the film, I think that’s kind of her main struggle as she’s coming home for her her dad’s prized birthday party and then learns that he’s been called off to work. Then, she’s stuck with a one on one interaction with her mom, which is uncomfortable. Very shortly into the film, the rapture hits and obviously when that happens, Chloe’s struggles shift dramatically and become a lot more real, and become a lot more intense. But, I think the thing that’s so beautiful about Chloe and so beautiful about the way she’s written is that, no matter if it is the beginning, the middle or the end, her struggles always circle around her family.

And, you can tell how much she does love her family. I think that that was my favorite thing about her.  You can really watch her struggle through so much with losing her mom and then, you know feeling like she’s just lost her whole world.

Cassi Thompson:  I think one of the most interesting things for me is that our team did such an amazing job of creating these sets and situations of the world being in ruins. And for me, as a human being, Cassi Thomson, I know the world’s fine, and I know that everything’s ok, but you’re really kind of sucked into these sets that you’re put on and there’s this specific scene in a hospital and in the nursery section where all of the babies are kept. You know all of children, when the rapture hit, they’re all taken off the Earth. So when Chloe finds herself in this nursery, all the babies have been gone and you can just see the remnants of these children and for me that was such a crazy experience and such an eye-opening experience and it really was bone-chilling in a sense. To be put in these situations where it did feel real for that instant. it was very interesting to, to be a part of something, like that.

Nicky Whelan:  Absolutely. Usually, as Cassi mentioned, when I read the script it is a very character-driven script as well as extremely action-packed. But the particular thing here is that you don’t really know a lot about Hattie when she comes in, and she’s quite (laughing) promiscuous. We had this fabulous opening scene and immediately off the bat from seeing Hattie, you think that there’s something going on with her and “Ray”. I think Hattie seems to be, at the beginning, a very basic character that’s quite immersed in the world of being an air hostess. She loves her job, that’s all she knows, you know. She sort of dresses up for work, it’s a whole production and obviously she’s got something going on, or hopes to have something going on with the captain, played by Nicolas Cage. I think the beautiful thing about this character is, you know, you want to hate her. She’s sort of going against the all the rules.

It’s clearly obvious why she doesn’t get taken, in the Rapture. However, Vic and I did discuss making this character as human as possible in the sense that, throughout the movie the rapture occurs and we’re on a plane and you don’t think much of her. Then she becomes quite real and quite human and and hopefully quite likeable by the end of the movie, when you see how she decides to deal with things that happen on the plane. You know, she finds out, I don't know if I’m allowed to say this, but she finds out that Nicolas is married and so she has been betrayed by someone that she’s planning on spending some time with and hopefully developing a relationship with. The world’s half-ending in a sense. And, she’s in a plane so there’s a lot taking place and she’s got to keep that as human as possible.

It was a journey that Vic and I discussed and we went on together. And, as Cassi also mentioned, Vic gave us a great deal of freedom on set to sort of play it how we would. I remember the very first thing I had to shoot was me coming in hysterical and losing my mind. It was quite a challenge because there was nothing to build from or anywhere to go from and we really had to be careful with Hattie. I don’t know, I hadn't read the books before I had started filming. I wasn’t familiar with this story. I just read this cool action-packed movie with great cast in it, and then sort of learned more about it as I got more involved.

INFLUX MAGAZINE:  Was there any familiarity with the novels?

Jordin Sparks:  When I was younger, all the 'Left Behind' books came out and then they released a teen series of the books for the younger kids that couldn’t read 500 page books fast enough. So, I read this teen series growing up and I just remember being so affected by the thought of ‘wow, what if my closest friends just disappeared one day? What if they just weren’t here? Or my closest family members’ or you know, anything like that and it was just really interesting and as a kid that’s definitely very scary. When you read the bible and you take those things to be truth, you know it is definitely something that you can think of and go ‘wow, that, that could actually happen.’ That was a lot of my motivation for being in the movie.

In the beginning, you know the plane is where the book starts. And there’s a whole other story after that, so it’s really fun to be able to see these characters that you might not have been introduced to in the actual books because you’re exploring the people that are on the plane. You’re figuring out their fears, how scared they are, what they’re going through. ‘What would happen if that happened to me on the plane that I was just on.’ You kind of start to put yourself in those situations.

This is a character that might not be in the book, but she’s got a valid part. Shasta is a mother and her backstory is that she’s getting on the plane with her daughter, trying to take her daughter to a safer place. In her head, that’s what she thinks she’s doing. She’s trying to take her away because of what she’s going through with her ex-husband. She’s just very weary of everybody on the plane. feel like she kind of thinks everything is a conspiracy, that everyone’s out to get her, and she wakes up after taking a nap and her daughter’s gone. It was really interesting for me because I’ve never played a mother before and I don’t have kids myself. The actress who played my little girl was absolutely incredible, she’s so cute.

I was trying to equate it to who would I just be completely devastated, shocked, to see isn’t there anymore. Not because they left of their own accord, but because they were taken. It was very interesting to have to reach deep-down. I remember at one point we were shooting my scene and I was so overwhelmed and nervous because I kept forgetting my lines when we were rehearsing. Everybody was so great trying to calm me down, but I was so nervous because my character was literally in hysterics. She’s sobbing because she thinks that everybody has been a part of it and aren’t telling her and I remember being so deep into that scene that I could not stop myself and bring myself out of that base for about 20 minutes after the scene was shot. I grew so much as a person in how I was relating to her, how I wasn’t like her, you know and just being in the situation with all the amazing actors on the plane in the first class cabin, I will say. It was just a very interesting and amazing experience to be able to dive that deep into a character.

INFLUX MAGAZINE:  How was this experience as an actor?

Jordin Sparks:  Being able to be in something that’s more action-thriller, you know scary, edge of your seat, is so exciting for me because I have been in a couple films. It’s been so amazing to be able to work on this side of my artistry, and on this craft of being an actor and getting into this world. And with my other characters I was definitely a lot more like them. With Sparkle, it was literally like we were the same person, just put in different time eras and you know, go with different things in terms of family.

But, I really felt like I related to her a lot on all levels. So, I don’t want to say it was easy but it was definitely simpler to be able to walk into her shoes than it was to walk in to Shasta’s. So, it was very interesting, it was fun. And I felt very supported by everyone who was in this scene with me. Because it was all of us who were in the first-class cabin, I think besides Nicolas and Cassi, because she’s on the ground kicking butt, making sure everybody’s safe, looking for her brother. So it was nice to feel supported in that way when I was just so unsure if I could project what I was trying to project.

Nicky WhelanI’ve always been so grateful for the roles I’ve booked over the years. I’ve predominately done comedy always and only over the last year, obviously being a part of Chosen, and now being in Matador, I’m starting to do sort of more of those dramatic roles. I still think, even though it’s quite a serious story and it’s very dramatic, I liked being able to make Hattie a little bit comical. It’s a little bit comical at the start. It sort of makes you smile. I think we need a few comic reliefs, a few smiles throughout the movie. And a lot of the characters actually on the plane bring that to the movie.

But in particular, you know, I love to be a part of anything action and when you’ve got Vic Armstrong on board, you know things are going to blow up, it’s going to be hot, it’s going to be rad (laughing). So, you know, as an actress to be a part and work with these particular people. And obviously of course getting to work alongside Nicolas Cage, he was someone you grow up watching your whole life so, you know, when you’re picking characters and things like that, a lot of the time, it’s not until you get to the set do you really realize how you’re going to handle and understand this character and until you get around the energy of other people, and actors, and the director, and really feel out this process. It’s something I’d never done before and the circumstances are so extreme it’s interesting to see what you come up with as an actor on the spot.

INFLUX MAGAZINE:  Jordin, how do you think your fan base will respond to the movie?

Jordin Sparks:  I think the great thing is, because of the people that they have brought into the film, they have the ability to have people from all over come in and see the movie, whether they are believers or non-believers or agnostic – it doesn’t matter. I’m excited for my fans to come in and see it as well because, whether they know of the story of the rapture from the Bible, or they’ve watched the show The Leftovers, I think everybody can relate to imagining, ‘what if somebody that I loved wasn’t around anymore, in an instant?’ And it can definitely happen, whether it is through, you know being taken up in the Rapture or a tragic accident. Life isn’t promised to us here - tomorrow is not promised and I think everybody can relate to that, so it’s going to be really cool to see all the different types of people that come in to see this film and for everybody to just be able to start a conversation afterwards. I’m excited to maybe gain some fans from other people that come and see the movie as well.

 

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