UK actress Shannon Tarbet currently stars in the indie film Love is Blind, playing a young woman named Bess who, due to a psychological block, cannot see her own mother (Chloe Sevigny) and believes she is dead. In an effort to cure the girl, her father (Matthew Broderick) sends her to a psychiatrist who pairs her with a suicidal client named Russell (Aidan Turner), whom she also cannot see, in the hopes that the experiment benefits both patients.
The project is Tarbet’s first time carrying a film entirely on her shoulders. The actress has previously appeared in films like Collette, the British mini-series Relik and this past season on the TV series Killing Eve. She spoke to Casting Networks about her experience on the film, as well as what it was like to be part of a cultural phenomenon like Killing Eve.
What was your audition process like for Love is Blind?
It initially started with a Skype conversation between myself and one of the directors, Monty Whitebloom, who was in NY at the time. But when he and Andy Delaney, our other director, were in London, we met for coffee. We discussed the script some more, and were all equally excited and invested in Bess’ story. Considering I hadn’t had much film experience at that point, and I certainly hadn’t led a film before, they asked me to put a few scenes of my choice on tape.
How was that for you?
Auditioning is a very intimidating process. Having gone for coffee first before putting anything on tape alleviated a lot of pressure. By that point, we already were on the same wavelength. I knew everyone’s approach and what they wanted from the role. Usually you kind of second guess everything when you’re putting yourself on tape because you’re not even in the room with the casting director giving you notes. It was great to have had the opportunity to discuss the role first in a non-pressurized environment.
What were the scenes you chose to showcase?
My main scene that I chose was the scene where Bess was in her red dress and she’s in the tub with Russell next to her (whom she cannot see) and she’s talking out loud. Both roles are having their monologues at that point and she is exploring the idea of this invisible therapy doll, committing to this experimental therapy process, and talking about how she’s feeling. That was the main reason why I chose that scene.
As a relative newcomer, what do you learn by working with veterans like Chloe Sevigny and Matthew Broderick?
We had rehearsals prior to filming. We had about a week’s worth of going through scenes and that’s when I really got to go inside their thought processes. When they were discussing the scenes, they were discussing what was working for them, what was not working for them. It was really nice to see them have discussions with the director and see how invested they were in their roles and the way they approached the roles. I felt very lucky that I got to see such great actors’ processes because it’s a very intimate thing. You let it influence your own process.
This past season of Killing Eve, you played Amber Peel, the sister of a possible murderous tech guru Aaron Peel. Fans of the show may remember the Peel siblings at the awkward family dinner that quickly turned violent when Villanelle (Jodie Comer) showed up. What was it like working one of the most talked-about shows currently on the air?
On that show, there are a lot of women that you’re working with and a lot of women that are being listened to and validated. It was really great to be in a positive environment like that. I’m also a massive fan of that type of genre, so it was something I was always very keen to do but never thought I’d have the opportunity. When I got the part, I literally couldn’t believe it. I almost hung up on my agent, like, no, no, you’re lying. It was such an uplifting-towards-women type of work environment.
Tell us about your audition for the part of Amber.
I went in and they hadn’t yet decided on the accent for Amber. We were playing around with all sorts of things in the audition room, and getting very excited at the possibilities with her. Like, how friendly we wanted to make her, or how much we wanted her to seem untrusting or unnerving, or did we just want the audience to feel for her. We collaborated in the room together – myself, the director, producers, casting director and it was really great. Then the following week, I was offered the role. I didn’t even get a recall. I was thrown by the whole thing, to be honest. But it was another really positive audition process.
Do you think Amber will ever be back?
The role was just for that particular season, I’m afraid. The storyline, especially after Aaron Peel met his demise, has trailed away. I’ve seen online that there are fans of the show who really liked the relationship between Villanelle and Amber. I’m secretly hoping that one day, they’ll bring Amber back to have a romantic relationship with Villanelle. That would just be the cherry on the cake.
What advice do you have for up and coming actors who may be new to the audition process?
I had the experience recently where my anxiety flared up quite badly before an audition. I hadn’t had that happen before. There are many facets that you can give advice about the auditioning process. I want to concentrate on mental health and how anxiety or nervousness can flare up in these situations. For me on that day when it happened, I went in to the room and was very honest with everyone, considering mental health is becoming more acknowledged, and safer to speak about. I mentioned it to the casting director and the producers in the room.
How did they react?
They were very kind and immediately that alleviated a lot of pressure for me. Because you always think, ‘Oh God, I have to be on my A-Game here.’ You think that these people you’re auditioning for are superhuman and you feel like you can only provide your best for them. But they understand that we’re all human and it’s okay to just say, ‘Hey I’m struggling a bit today but I’m trying my best.’ Not every room is going to respond in the most positive way about that, but I was lucky that in that room, they completely understood, alleviated a lot of pressure and were very kind about the whole situation. My anxiety was a lot less intimidating at that point, which was great.