Unseen Stars Midori Francis and Jolene Purdy Dish on Their New Blumhouse Horror Movie
Mar 7, 2023
With a Blumhouse stamp on it, your film is usually off to a good start already. Remember those recent Jason Blum-backed projects like M3GAN and Sick? And now, enter Unseen, which is now available on demand and digital. Directed by Yoko Okumura in her feature debut, the somewhat simple storyline features a lot of split screens between our two protagonists. It’s nerve-wracking terror as we watch two women who form an unlikely connection following a violent kidnapping attempt. Sam (Jolene Purdy), a gas station clerk, receives a misdialed call from Emily (Midori Francis), who is running from her murderous ex-boyfriend in the woods. Having lost her glasses in her escape, Emily must rely on Sam’s eyes using the video call in order to survive.
We recently caught up with stars who dished on playing such unique characters caught in uniquely frightful circumstances. They also talk about their past TV shows and other projects in the works.
Midori Francis on Working ‘to the Bone’
MW: What was it about Unseen that first drew you to the project?
Midori Francis: I think that I was really excited to be put to work, you know? I was excited by how much I knew I would have to do, which is a funny thing. But I read the script, and I was like, “Oh wow, this is gonna require a lot of me physically, emotionally, mentally.” And I was at that point, at that time, where I was like, “Please, please let me work, work me to the bone”… I was so excited… I really love movies, like where it’s man or woman versus the elements. Like a Cast Away, even Wild with Reese Witherspoon, like how her journey comes from being outside. And I swear, I really had put that out there into my vision board, so to speak, where I was like, “I really would love to do like a wilderness movie.” And it came around, and it was so nice to be outside and not be on a soundstage, to have the trees and the water, and talk about not having to worry about a fourth wall. There was everything around me, and it was so easy to play, to pretend like you were a kid in the backyard. Now mind you, this was a very, very scary “pretend game.” It was awesome… and I was so excited. And as soon as I found out it was gonna be Yoko [Okumura directing], I had met her on a panel once, and I was so excited to see what she would do with it. And then Jolene Purdy, I think all my excitement was solidified into feeling really hopeful about the project because I knew what Jolene was capable of. I’ve seen her as a guest [star] on many amazing shows, doing many amazing, varied roles over the years. So I was just amped and ready to fly to New Orleans and do this thing.
Related: M3GAN Review: Blumhouse Horror Offering Will Make You Shriek & Laugh
MW: There’s a lot going on with your character Emily (fighting for her life, visually impaired). In getting ready to play her, did you go through any sort of special preparations?
Francis: Well, I got the job, and I was like, “Oh my God, it’s December, and I’ve been kind of cozy. And now I have about a month and a week to really get in shape.” Because I was aware that this is going to require a lot of physical stamina. I mean, there’s not a moment when Emily’s not fighting in some way physically. I pretty much just used that time to get in shape. I always run, but I started to get more into strength and weights and all of that… And then, I also have bad eyesight as a person… Without my contacts, I certainly can’t drive, I can’t really see things very well. So I started to, like, run around Central Park without my contacts in… And from a performance perspective, I knew I was gonna be in a state of fear the entire film, so I just wanted to make sure that that fear was very [authentic].
MW: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on, that you’d like to share about?
Francis: I am currently in the parking lot of the studio where we film Grey’s Anatomy… I’m finishing up the season. I think we still have like four or five more episodes to go. So we’re kind of in the final leg here. And then we’ll see what the future holds here. I would love to do another movie. I enjoy it so much. It’s so fun and creative.
MW: I love your character on The Sex Lives of College Girls. What’s it been like working on that show?
Francis: It’s been absolutely awesome. This is a show that I think is getting more and more viewers as time goes on… To be a part of something that means a lot to people, that entertains them, that they see themselves reflected in, it’s so awesome. And obviously, Mindy Kaling is so, so brilliant and talented and someone I’ve always wanted to work with. So being associated with her and our showrunner Justin Noble, who has kind of become like family by now, it’s awesome.
Jolene Purdy on Embracing Horror
MW: What was it about Unseen that first drew you to the project?
Jolene Purdy: I read the script for Unseen, and I felt really drawn to the bond between the two girls, trauma bonding, you know? And so that was what first really piqued my interest. Also, I’ve always wanted to do a horror movie. So I was like, “Yes. OK. Give me the script.” And then I did my read with [director] Yoko Okumura, this is her feature directorial debut. And when I met with Yoko, she made me think of things I hadn’t thought about with the character. She had such strong ideas, like, she painted the picture so clearly, that I was on board. I called my reps. I was like, “We gotta get this one. We got to do this one.”
MW: It’s a very intense movie, but it looks like the kind of project that would be fun to shoot. Was there a scene that you enjoyed shooting the most, or maybe something that was particularly challenging?
Purdy: Well, two things can be true at once. It can also be intense and fun, but my favorite intense and fun scene to do, I was actually in the woods with [co-star] Midori saying my lines. She was doing her coverage so that we could build the bond, so that we could have the timing, so that we could both have a say in how the scene was gonna go. So I remember tucking into the bushes in rainy New Orleans in February, screaming my lines while she’s scaling sand cliffs. And just being like, “What is happening? What is life right now?” And then also being in the gas station with [co-star] Missi Pyle spitting Skittles at me, but just so much fun and intense.
MW: What was it like working with Missi Pyle?
Purdy: Working with Missi Pyle is a dream. She will make you laugh on-camera and off-camera. And the hardest is not to laugh while you’re actually on camera. She just commits like I’ve never seen an actor commit, and she goes full force for it. We worked on a project together in November, so getting to work with her again, but in a more comedic way, was just incredible.
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MW: Are there other projects that you’re working on, that you’re excited about?
Purdy: I’m really excited about this film that’s coming out called Empire Waist. It’s another directorial debut from Claire Ayoub, it is a coming-of-age story of a plus-size teenager, and just the body diversity, the gender diversity, just the diversity overall of that movie is incredible. It’s about friends coming together and just being stronger together than alone.
MW: You play a gas station clerk in Unseen and also in an episode of Breaking Bad from years ago. What was it like working on that show?
Purdy: I love that you connected my gas station clerk in Unseen to my gas station clerk in Breaking Bad. I was waiting for someone to do that! Working on Breaking Bad was a whirlwind… Aaron Paul is lovely and very handsome. And I worked with Dean Norris again, so he made me cry in Breaking Bad, then I worked on Under the Dome with him, and he shot me and killed me there. So I’m not working with him again [laughs]. No, I’m just kidding! Breaking Bad was really fun. It was challenging, and I was drained by the end of the day, but it felt so good, kind of like Unseen. You know, at the end of every day, we were drained as actors in the best possible way.
MW: You had a great little role in the very first episode of The White Lotus. If there were an opportunity to return to the show, would you?
Purdy: If Mike White calls and says, “Would you like to come back and check into The White Lotus?” I would say “Yes. When and where? And I will be there.”
MW: My wife and I loved your performance on Orange Is the New Black. What was it like co-starring on that show?
Purdy: I was a huge fan of the show. And I came in on season 3. So I had binged both seasons, and when I first stepped foot on the set, I was trying to be nice. I was trying to be cool… Everyone was so kind and so welcoming. And then [my character] branded Taylor Schilling with a swastika. So you never know. Like, you sign up for a show, and you never know what you’re going to end up doing. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!”
Unseen is now available on demand and digital and will be available on MGM+ on May 19 from Blumhouse.
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