By Bianca Garner
One of the best thrillers we’ve seen this year has been “Sea Fever“, which took us by surprise in terms of how timely the film’s subject matter is and a superb performance by the film’s leading actress Hermione Corfield. You may recognise the name, Corfield has been popping up in all sorts of films from the likes of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015) to “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” (2017). She is an actor who knows her stuff, studying English literature at UCL and a method acting course at Lee Strasberg in New York.
In Neasa Hardiman‘s creepy creature feature/psychological thriller “Sea Fever” Corfield plays Siobhán, a young marine biology student who must save the day when she comes across a strange creature lurking in the deep depths of the ocean. Siobhán is a fascinating and complex character who isn’t exactly the most likeable person you’ll come across but in Corfield’s more than capable hands, she manages to capture what makes this character so unique and different to anything else we’ve seen before on the big screen.
Bianca Garner managed to catch up with Hermione to talk about how she became involved in the project, the challenges she faced getting into the mindset of the character and what Siobhán would be doing to tackle COVID-19.
Sea Fever feels like such a timely film, I fully enjoyed it and your wonderful performance. How did you become involved with the project and what drew you to this character?
Hermione: I hadn’t really seen a character before that leaned so heavily into the scientific method and that way of thinking, she goes against everyone else in order to express what she thinks is right and what the right course of action is. She wasn’t a character that you would necessarily deem an archetypal hero, she’s not hugely likeable or warm when you first meet her which I found very interesting. And, she felt very far from myself and like someone I hadn’t played before.
What I like about her is exactly what you said, she really isn’t your typical hero. She’s very direct and blunt with her approach and attitudes towards others. How did you get into the mindset of this character, were there any challenges and how did you work with the director to develop the character?
H: Neasa and I talked about how we perceived the character, and she recommended a few books as well. Siobhán isn’t neurotypical, she doesn’t think like everyone else so there was a challenge of understanding that and how her mind works, exploring what it is like to think in a very different and scientific-methodical way. It was a challenge to think that way because that’s not how I tend to see things or process them that way, so it was a real challenge diving into the mind of someone who was very different to my own.
And, we also looked into the idea of her wanting human connection although she does seem to struggle to form friendships and pick up on the neuroances between people; she does want these things, she wants what we all want and she’s not exempt from that: she wants friendship and love.
What I love about the character is that she uses her intelligence and resourcefulness to get out of the situation they all find themselves in. And, in a lot of ways she reminded me of Ripley from the Alien series and Sarah Connor from the Terminator series. Did you use those characters as influences or were there any other characters that assisted you on the basis of your performance?
H: It’s funny because I wasn’t aware of the similarities between Alien and Sea Fever until afterwards, and The Thing as well! With Ripley, I know people have said there are similarities between her and Siobhán but there are also lots of differences. Siobhán is an entirely new and different person and to me, she’s someone I hadn’t seen before so I took that angle on it and I didn’t draw from other characters I had seen in films.
I found out from my talk with Neasa that you did your own swimming in the film that’s so impressive.
H: When I first auditioned for the role Neasa did ask me via Skype how comfortable I was with swimming and I used to do it a lot when I was younger, I trained until my mid-teens but then I stopped. So, I’m a very strong swimmer, and that did play a part in the film so it meant I could enjoy all the diving and physical aspects of the role.
There are some really tense and emotional scenes throughout the film, but because of how Siobhán is, we never see her breakdown or crack under pressure. What was your process in capturing this emotional response from a character who doesn’t show her emotions?
H: What we see on screen is an extraordinary circumstance that she’s never been in before so it was about striking that balance. She’s also the only one that can look at things rationally in moments of panic when Jack’s character’s eyes explode everyone else’s reaction is shock but Sibohan’s reaction is one of practicality, she immediately thinks ‘they’re in his eyes’ and she’s working out the next step and constantly thinking of the answer of ‘what to do next’.
There are those moments where she does break down and less the stress permeates through, and that was the challenging part because we have the problem-solving part of her meeting the panic side of her. When people are turning on each other, and when they’re turning to religion and prayer, that’s when Siobhán turns to science and fact. It was a real balance and contrast.
I can imagine that there were all sorts of challenges with this kind of shoot, are you able to discuss anything specific?
H: I really enjoyed the shoot, we shot the external scenes on an actual boat but for the internal scenes below deck we shot on a set. However, it did still have this sense of claustrophobia and this confined space. We were all confined together and it felt like the set for a play, we became so used to that space and how we were going to use it. I actually really enjoyed it as a scenario and a space to work in. The only thing that was a challenge was being on the actual sea and getting off the boat at the end of the day and feeling like you were unable to stand still for a single second and have the occasional feeling of seasickness.
What has been the reaction from the audience to the film?
H: Well, the reactions from reviews which have been mostly from Glasgow, Fright Fest, TIFF, Dublin and Brooklyn are what I have mostly been exposed to. What I have been glad to hear is that lots of people have said about the character of Siobhán is that she doesn’t come across as your archetypal hero without coming across as this immoral ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ type of character. I mean that’s all credit to Neasa, she’s created someone that isn’t a stereotype. People have mentioned how dream-like the film is, which it is. It’s not exactly a horror but an eco-thriller which I really think it is. It doesn’t feel like what you would expect a creature feature to be exactly.
What do you think Siobhán would be doing in this current coronavirus outbreak?
H: I think she would be trying to be at the forefront, she would be alone in a lab and self-isolating, with as much information as she could possibly obtain. She would try and problem-solve in order to find some sort of solution. I wish I had the actual scientific knowledge she does!