Continuing our two-parter interview with the ladies of Cell: The Web Series, DCTV Creator Daryn Strauss talks with its star, Jourdan Gibson, about unraveling the mystery of the creepy world within Cell.
DARYN: First of all, you are absolutely phenomenal in this series. What drew you to the role?
JOURDAN: That’s so nice of you to say, thank you! I’m glad you asked that. My draw to Sarah was stronger than any role I’ve encountered. I read the script before my audition, and I just fell in love with her. I have a great respect for her; she’s a survivor. She’s equal parts strength and vulnerability. There’s so much going on inside her and she guards her thoughts so closely. I wanted to bring her to life. I knew it would be an intense challenge and I desperately wanted that opportunity.
DARYN: Your character is in 13 emotionally demanding episodes. What was the shooting schedule like and how much rehearsal time do you guys get?
JOURDAN: We rehearsed some before the shoot, but my most valuable character development happened during conversations with Mark [Gardner] on set. He was the perfect director for me. His method was very socratic. He didn’t tell me his vision or order me to act in a certain way. He didn’t want to fill my head with his thoughts. He was very thoughtful and collaborative. He preferred that I made Sarah my own. From before he ever yelled ‘action’, we had a strong connection about this story and my character. He could always tell if I was unhappy with a take, or if I wasn’t in the emotional place I wanted to be in. He made sure I knew he was there to help me. I think all the actors felt this– cared for and protected. It was a remarkable experience. I’m so thankful for that.
DARYN: There are a whole bunch of twists in the series as your character, Sarah, tries to unravel who this group is that is holding her captive. Did you know the whole story arc when you started shooting?
JOURDAN: Kind of. I knew the general storyline, but Mark had a different plan regarding character back stories and qualities. As fans of the show know, Mark guards the script and future story lines very closely. As actors, we only knew what our characters knew. For example, I never knew personal details about ‘The Man’ or what his plans were for me. But, Kevin McCarthy, who plays ‘The Man’, knew his character’s personal details and motivations. I think keeping us in the dark was a smart move. As a result, our character’s confusion and distrust was honest.
DARYN: In Episode 9, we learn the two mysterious captives are two brilliant young minds that are being “re-trained” by an underground group lead by an enigmatic leader named “Michael” whom we never meet. In addition to being a fabulous actress, you are also an attorney AND have your MBA. How do you balance both sides of your brain?
JOURDAN: Both of my parents are well-rounded with varied interests, and they’re also equipped with the energy to pursue it all. I think my brother and I grew up watching them, and hearing that we could do whatever we wanted if we were willing to work hard enough. The one thing I’ve always been certain of is that I wanted to act. That’s never changed, in fact the desire has only intensified. But, I also realized I was drawn to entrepreneurship and business. I was never willing to put one goal aside for another. Fortunately, my different interests have had a positive effect on each other. I enjoy being an actress who knows a lot about entertainment law and film production. Balance is important, and most professionals I know of, whether in acting, law, or business are more successful because they utilize both sides of their brains and develop passions outside their main craft. I sure hope that’ll end up true for my life as well!
DARYN: 12 of the 13 episodes in Season 1 took place within the cell. We got our first look outside the cell in the season finale episode. Were you surprised that after all that, Sarah was locked in a basement in suburbia?!
JOURDAN: Yes! And, how creepy is that? When I read the script for the first time, I couldn’t read it fast enough to find out where she was and what happened next. It was devastating to discover, but I was also relieved that safety could be close by…until I turned the page and realized Mark Gardner’s mind is more twisted than any of us knew.
DARYN: Beth Chamberlin joined the cast in the Season Finale episode, and you got to go head to head with her. Literally! What was it like to finally work with another woman and to get to do a fight scene?
JOURDAN: I love Beth! What a warm, genuine person. I’m excited to act opposite her more in Season Two. Some of my favorite time with her was just hanging out on set. She was open and let me ask her a lot of questions about acting and her professional experiences. Actually, it was a bit odd at first, because we started rehearsing and shooting our intense scenes together before we really had a chance to meet. So, she was slapping me within our first two minutes together! It was so much fun. And I LOVE fight scenes. I wanted more! I’m hoping to kick some serious butt in Season 2, Beth’s included. Listening Mark?
DARYN: Some of the hardest acting work always comes during scenes with no dialogue to depend on. In Episode 13, not only are you briefly catatonic, but there is a long stretch of action where you literally have no dialogue because there are no more living characters to talk with. How did you work through those scenes?
JOURDAN: Acting in CELL was kind of a magical experience. I was given the opportunity to disappear inside this complicated character for hours at a time with no interruption from the real world. Plus, we had this beautiful set that actually felt as cold and creepy as it looked onscreen. Spending so much time in that environment played a large role in helping me get into Sarah’s mindset. Existing in that world allowed me to think about the unthinkable – what it would be like to be in Sarah’s situation. It’s painful to consider, but lives are taken and people disappear everyday. This role was a very minor opportunity to give those unspoken victims a voice, even when no words were spoken. When my character was alone or in a scene with no dialogue, focusing on her very real situation helped.
DARYN: Cell has quickly developed a huge following at a very exciting time in digital media. What has that experience been like for you?
JOURDAN: I’m so impressed with the fans of CELL and of all web content. They are loyal and so vocal in their support of quality online shows. I’m also in awe of the pioneers and content creators in the digital realm. They are talented, entrepreneurial and motivated, but they’re also humble. That’s refreshing to see. We’re each striving to find our way and make an impact as filmmakers and artists, so it’s beautiful to see a sector that’s collaborative and inclusive. This supportive mentality of digital media is healthy and will be what makes it rise to the top of this crazy entertainment industry. I’m thrilled to be even a small part of that.
DARYN: When should we expect to see Season 2? And I have to ask– Do we finally find out who Michael is and why he is so interested in Sarah?!
JOURDAN: I wish I knew more! I’ve gotten bits and pieces of storyline out of Mark, but that’s taken me over a year, and I’m still practically clueless! I swear that man sleeps with his laptop chained to his wrist. Or, maybe he doesn’t document any ideas. It’s possible that they’re all stored up in his brain and just before we shoot he’ll give us the lines? I don’t know. But I do know that CELL will twist and turn into the deep, dark world that exists inside Mark’s head. And, there will no doubt be surprises, heartache and blood along the way…with some kick ass fight scenes for Sarah. She’s due.
For more on Cell, click here.
For DCTV’s previous interview with Cell co-star Beth Chamberlin, click here.