Elisabeth Röhm on Directing Anne Heche’s Final Film — ‘She Was a True Advocate’

Considered one of Anne Heche‘s remaining performances is in Lifetime‘s Lady in Room 13. Premiering September 17, the TV film is inspired by precise occasions, exploring the darkish underworld of the $150-billion-dollar human trafficking industry in the US.

Heche stars as Janie and Larissa Dias stars as her daughter, Grace, a recovering addicted who developed an opioid addition after her physician prescribed them for a sports activities injury at a really younger age. Grace is making an attempt to show her life round after three stints in rehab. With the assistance and assist of her mom, she will get a job at her household’s restaurant. However her previous continues to hang-out her when her good friend coerces her into assembly her former love interest and drug vendor, Richie (Max Montesi). When she learns it was all an elaborate plot to promote her into intercourse trafficking, Grace fights for her life to interrupt freed from the motel she’s imprisoned in.

Janie refuses to imagine Grace relapsed and is the one as soon as satisfied her daughter is in peril. She begins a high-stakes hunt to search out Grace. Stopping at nothing, Janie discovers the darkish world of human trafficking and the stunning statistics about its widespread victims and its sudden accomplices.

Heche died of a extreme mind harm sustained in a automobile crash in Los Angeles, California, on Friday, August 5. The Emmy-winning actor was legally pronounced lifeless on August 12 and was taken off of life assist on August 15.

Right here, director Elisabeth Röhm (director of Lady within the Basement and Switched Earlier than Delivery) shares what it was like on set with Heche, why this story wanted to be informed, and extra.

This can be a slightly heavy story from begin to end. Why did you are feeling it was vital to inform?

Elisabeth Röhm: It by no means ceases to amaze me the statistics round human trafficking. Anne had even mentioned this many occasions, as did all people within the forged, together with Lifetime, that this story must be informed sufficiently. It’s a $150 billion trade, and there are survivors at this time going by way of their very own journey.

Telling not solely a complete story, but in addition making a behind the headlines, form of connective tissue to this non-profit, Polaris, to create extra consciousness and put a highlight as regards to human trafficking was actually the drumbeat of the set on daily basis. And it actually was particularly for Anne, as a result of she was not a survivor of human trafficking, however of abuse. It was deeply private to all of us.

Larissa Dias in Lifetime's 'Girl in Room 13'


Are you able to increase extra on the partnership with Polaris with this mission?

So we did a PSA, and we’re going to proceed the narrative. We’ve an occasion in New York with Veronica Beer to buy and sip, and so they’re going to make a donation to Polaris. We’re going proceed the dialog with Polaris within the months to come back on the subject of human trafficking, as a result of they proceed to attach victims and survivors, acquire knowledge, and actually assist create understanding and proceed the struggle in opposition to human trafficking in a really efficient method. We’re behind them 100%.

Even with Lady within the Basement and Switched Earlier than Delivery, my two different films with them, it’s not simply concerning the film. It’s concerning the motion. It’s concerning the continued assist to the difficulty. And as you in all probability are conscious of, they’ve a platform referred to as Cease Violence In opposition to Ladies that they proceed to actually give attention to and inform actually tough tales, however with very particular functions behind it, not simply the movie itself.

Along with the intercourse trafficking narrative on this story, there’s an enormous stigma round drug habit. Grace is making an attempt to show her life round whereas in restoration from her opioid habit, however the second she goes lacking, so many individuals in her life simply assume she relapsed once more. What had been you aiming to focus on with that?

I believe the actual level we wished to get throughout was that we might all be victims, particularly weak youth, each feminine and male. Grace’s scenario — very insecure and having emotions of low self-worth, the love-bombing from Richie — it actually will get to her. And so we simply wish to proceed to attract consideration. All of us might, particularly younger folks, fall prey to being victimized in a myriad of how. However particularly on the subject of human trafficking, it’s often someone . They’ve set you up for it, and also you trusting the flawed individual turns into part of the narrative of Lady in Room 13.

One thing we hope that we are able to draw consideration to is that it appears so unlikely that someone you like or know, somebody who’s love-bombing you or into you could possibly ever coordinate to promote you on the open marketplace for human trafficking. But it surely occurs rather a lot and constantly. It’s not nearly her drug habit — it’s about her vulnerability. She partied with him and actually fell sufferer to his love-bombing. So it’s an enormous a part of the story.

Grace is failed by those that might assist her at each flip, loads of occasions by girls. It’s actually heartbreaking to look at. Why was that vital to incorporate?

I do know that authorized precedent has been put in place at any location the place there are folks being held for legal exercise, they are going to be held chargeable for these crimes. I couldn’t be particular concerning the regulation and the way the regulation modified, but it surely did change round sure occasions. And this isn’t a real story, it’s inspired-by, so there’s an amalgamation of tales that we drew upon.

However sure, I believe that it’s true to say that there was authorized precedent put in place that if there are folks being held at a motel for human trafficking, the motel might be held accountable in the event that they flip a blind eye. [In Girl in Room 13, the motel owner] goes to learn financially, so she turns a blind eye and doesn’t assist. And people people might be held accountable.

Tragically, that is certainly one of Anne Heche’s remaining performances. What was it like working along with her on this? Are there any fond tales you’d prefer to share?

She had labored with Lifetime earlier than, so she was actually excited and pumped to be part of their Cease Violence In opposition to Ladies marketing campaign. She wished to get beneath [the story] in a extremely deep, private method and convey a efficiency that she wished an Emmy for on behalf of Lifetime and on behalf of stopping violence in opposition to girls. She was in it with each ounce of her soul. She was actually dedicated. Each single day, she would come to set and she or he would say, “We won’t stand for abuse. And we stand with Lifetime in that dedication to stopping violence in opposition to girls.”

She was a real advocate. She actually, genuinely wasn’t simply there to do a film or acquire a paycheck. She actually felt dedicated to the mission and drawing the highlight to tough matters like human trafficking.

Anne Heche in Lifetime's 'Girl in Room 13'


What about her efficiency stands out most to you? And what about Larissa’s?

I simply actually genuinely wished to encourage them to go all in and know that I’d defend them and so they wouldn’t give excessive performances. They might be grounded, simply uncooked and riveting. This mom deeply is aware of that her daughter is unsafe, and it doesn’t matter what she’s going to search out her. And because the clock is ticking, she is simply torn aside, and Anne actually, actually went there.

The identical factor with Larissa. Versus giving a efficiency of a lady in these circumstances, she went all the way in which to a spot the place it was as if she was in these circumstances. I’d simply actually wish to say thanks to each actresses — and Max Montesi for enjoying the villain — to actually belief me to go to a really darkish place to painting simply how evil this act is, what it means to a sufferer, and what it means to a mum or dad or a liked one who’s within the pursuit of discovering their liked one. I’m actually pleased with every of them. They’re so courageous as actors.

How did you retain the temper gentle on set whereas filming these tough scenes?

Effectively, I’ve to say once we had been on the motel, there weren’t loads of laughs. [Laughs] It wasn’t that gentle. It was fairly, fairly tense. And Lifetime films transfer in a short time. We shoot them in about 15 days.

Larissa Dias and Anne Heche in Lifetime's 'Girl in Room 13'


I knew Larissa Diaz from a earlier Lifetime film during which we each starred referred to as Household Photos. I met Justina Machado by way of that film as nicely and have executed different movies along with her. She occurred to know Anne, and she or he couldn’t have spoken extra extremely about her, and so I used to be actually excited to work with Anne. We had a connective tissue, having just a few different folks in frequent, and so we had been actually capable of be nice colleagues and allies for one another.

They had been all dedicated. We tried to search out our gentle moments once we might, but it surely was fairly heavy and intense.

What’s subsequent for you?

I’m going to be directing one other film for Lifetime quickly, and I’m going to be directing my first episode of community tv. I can’t but announce what that’s, however I’m enthusiastic about that. I’m additionally doing an Amazon film as an actor within the subsequent coming months.

Lady in Room 13, TV Film Premiere, Saturday, September 17, 8/7c, Lifetime

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