Action thriller Never Let Go is now available on demand so we sat down with actress Angela Dixon to discuss her role in the film.
How did you first get into acting?
It all began at a very young age. I had always wanted to be an actor growing up but I didn’t really think that it could be more than a dream. Then, at the age of 16, I played the part of Barbara Allen in ‘Dark of the Moon’ at college and it appeared that I had some talent. At that point it started to become a reality for me. I studied drama at college, University and finally I went to drama school. So all in all I studied drama and acting for 6 years. Although the real learning starts when you are actually on the job.
What first attracted you to the film Never Let Go?
Most actresses would kill for a role like Lisa Brennan! For a start she drives the film. It is still all too rare to have the opportunity as a woman to play the main lead role. On top of that Lisa is a complex character who has a journey laced with almost insurmountable obstacles. That’s gold dust for any actor.
Did you bring any of your own personality or experiences into the character?
You are the material from which you create so I think it is inevitable that you will use facets of your own personality. I certainly use my own experiences to try and give depth, nuance and truth to any character I work on. For Lisa I literally sifted through my emotions, past experiences and psyche to map on to her reality. For a long time we were inseparable – even after I had finished shooting.
It is a very physical role where you are constantly running, climbing and fighting in the heat. What sort of training did you do in preparation for the role?
I love being physically active and have always been fit so playing Lisa was a wonderful opportunity to combine two major loves in my life. Because I did all my own fights and stunts I needed to be in peak physical condition. As soon as I knew about the film, 9 months before, I upped my training – around 10+ hours a week. Nearer the shoot I was doing 2-3 hours a day of running, weights, boxing and combat. I was very lucky to have the support and expertise of 3 key people; Steve Cole, my personal trainer, who got me in shape, Liz Robson my physio who kept on mending me as I broke a lot and Paige Walker who trained my voice with forensic precision – I was in as much pain practicing the American accent as I was pumping iron.
What character preparation did you do to portray a mother whose child has been abducted?
It was really important to me to do justice to the emotions a mother would go through if her child had been taken. So I used a substitution from my own life for my missing daughter. However, it wasn’t that easy. I thought I had found the perfect person but when I conjured them up they weren’t producing the right emotions for me. I then went through key important people in my life but when I thought about my brother, I literally fell to the floor and sobbed uncontrollably. I had found my Sophie. The sequence I played through my head of seeing my brother kidnapped was beyond painful and it drove me throughout the film. I replayed it moments before action during all the chase scenes. It was very powerful.
I know you did your own stunts in the film. Did you have any moments where you thought, maybe you should have used a stunt double?
Not at all – I loved doing my own stunts although admittedly it wasn’t always easy. One of the biggest challenges was that I’m not great with heights. I also seemed to be much better at climbing up than I was at getting down. One time in the Medina I got stuck on a roof and didn’t feel confident that I could make the gaping gap between myself and the ladder. I had to ask people to stand in strategic positions so they could catch me if I fell. Meanwhile a crowd was massing to watch what this strange bloodied blonde woman was doing on the rooftop in the first place. When I had to jump off a building and from one to another, I have to admit I was scared. I couldn’t jump as myself. I could only jump when I was Lisa and I knew I had to jump to save my daughter. That motivation short-circuited my brain’s flight directive and re-wired it to her fight. Howard always jumped first so I knew that it was possible and let’s face it after he had done it I had no choice!
What was the hardest part of the film to shoot?
The hardest part of the shoot for me was the heartbreak of low budget filming when you don’t have the resource to transform the story as written to the story on screen. People would be amazed how this film was made. We shot punishingly long shoot days – I think the longest was from 7am to 3am the next day. We had a tiny crew and we had lots of external factors that sometimes made it impossible to shoot how and what we wanted. It could be anything from the police threatening to shut us down, local people upset at our presence and having to flee a location swiftly followed by police or it could be the lack of availability of local actors for me to work with. Scenes were cut, compromises were made left right and center and still Howard Ford managed to pull it out of the bag. It was nothing short of miraculous.
What was it like working with Howard J. Ford?
Working with Howard was the most incredible experience, he is a filmic alchemist and the nicest man in the business. It was wonderful watching him create in the conditions I’ve just described. There was an intrinsic trust, respect and care in his direction which really enabled me to create freely under these extreme circumstances. This was guerilla filming, tense, on the edge and spontaneous. I needed to be on my mettle.
Do you have any other projects you are working on?
I have literally just wrapped an amazing Indie sci-fi action film called ‘Black Site’ by Tom Paton [Pandorica, Redwood] where I play the head of an Alien deportation unit. She’s a sarcastic, no messing boss lady which is such fun to play. I am currently filming ‘Homeless Ashes’ a British indie feature film created and starring Marc Zammit, with Jason Flemyng, Lew Temple and Madalina Bellariu Ion. This time I am playing an abused wife and mother of a boy who runs away from home. A very different project but again great to play. I love my job.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to get into film as an actor or actress?
If it’s not essential for you to act, don’t do it, there’s a lot of heartache, sacrifice and rejection. If you must act then apply to the top 5 drama schools and keep trying until you get in. They open doors. If you can’t get into drama school, don’t give up – find other ways. Regardless of your route, be resilient, be pro-active and build networks of people within the industry who you respect and like. And remember, networking is not about what you can get from others it’s about what you can do for others. Be generous.