The Lifetime original movie An Amish Murder, directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal and based on the novel Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo, tells the story of a woman (Neve Campbell) who grew up Amish and, after returning to her small hometown as its Chief of Police, must solve a string of horrible murders. The film also stars Christian Campbell, Noam Jenkins, C. Thomas Howell and IronE Singleton.
During this recent interview to discuss the film that she stars in and executive produced, actress Neve Campbell talked about how Lifetime approached her with the project, what she knew about the Amish lifestyle prior to filming, how she approached playing this character, acting with her brother, Christian, and the possibility that this could turn into a TV show. She also talked about her desire to continue producing, balancing motherhood with work, doing a guest spot on Grey’s Anatomy, the chances that Scream 5 will ever happen, where she’d like her career to go next, and her thoughts on social media. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Question: How did you come to this project, and how much did you know about the Amish lifestyle before signing on?
NEVE CAMPBELL: Lifetime actually approached me with the project. I think they had had it for a little while. I’m not sure how they came to the decision of me, but I was flattered. I thought it was an intriguing concept. I’ve always been interested in the Amish lifestyle. I think it’s so foreign to how most of us life, so it’s intriguing to most people. I was definitely interested in learning more about them. Coming from Canada, we had the Mennonite communities living near us. I grew up in a town called Guelph, and next door to Guelph was another town with a lot of Mennonites, and I would see them at the Farmer’s Markets. I remember, as a child, being really intrigued and curious about the idea that they lived without electricity and they lived without cars, and I was also fascinated by their faith and their community and their kindness. I remember them being really nice. My uncle actually built a house by hand, without electric tools. He’s crazy and a wonderful artist, and he decided to build a house in the old Amish way. The Mennonite teenagers from the nearby community had their parents send them over to my uncle to learn the old ways from him. So, I heard some stories from him and knew a little bit about the community, but not a great deal. It was an interesting thing to take on.
Were there any differences in shooting a TV movie, compared to the big screen movies you usually do?
CAMPBELL: It wasn’t extremely different. I’ve jumped between television, film and theater, my entire career, so there were no surprises. It was a decent budget, so there weren’t really very big sacrifices made. I think we had a really great cast. I got to work with my brother, which was wonderful. There wasn’t a vast difference between doing a feature and doing this.
How did you approach playing this character?
CAMPBELL: With every character that you take on, you create a history, in your own way. You pick it up off the page, in the best way that you can, and things are added, on a daily basis, as you work with your fellow actors and see what they find, and how you communicate and work together. We found some decent energies between the characters, and that was good fun. I also looked at the book and at the story that we were telling. That was the most important thing. And then, I would use my imagination, as to how it is to live in that way, and brought that to the character.
Did you base your character on anyone, in particular?
CAMPBELL: No. The character was based on a book, called Sworn to Silence, so she had already been created, fairly strongly. I didn’t base it on anyone that I know. It was really just about understanding her history and realizing that this is a person who lives with one energy in one world and another energy in another world. Her upbringing was very different from her life now, and that was a great challenge to play. The idea that you can live in such an innocent and different way, and then get flung into what we consider to be normal society would be very shocking. So, there was a lot of stuff to play with, with the character.
How was it to get to act with your brother, Christian?
CAMPBELL: It was great fun! This was the first time we’ve played brother and sister, and that was very interesting. But, I love working with Christian. He’s really talented. It was a real coup for us to be able to work together on this project.
Is there still a plan to possibly turn this into a series?
CAMPBELL: It is a possibility. I’m having discussions with Lifetime about it. I think this has really good potential. It’s an interesting character and an interesting concept. I’ve definitely been talking to them about the fact that I want to know that there’s somewhere to go with it. I want to know that there’s enough there, within this community and within this concept, that we can tell years worth of stories. So, I haven’t decided completely yet, but there are discussions happening.
So, you’d like to return to doing a TV show then?
CAMPBELL: If I do a TV show again, I would definitely want it to be cable because I’m a mom. I did a network show for a long time and it takes up your entire life. I’m not willing to do that with Caspian. So, if I do something, I want it to be interesting, intriguing and different, but not take up all of my time, 10 months of the year. That’s what I would be looking for.
Since you’re also producing now, do you look at possible projects with an eye on that possibility, as well?
CAMPBELL: Absolutely! I’ve produced a couple of times before this. I did a project for my brother, a long time ago. I also produced Robert Altman’s second to last film, The Company, which I created. This project wasn’t my idea. Lifetime came to me with it. But, I definitely found it to be very interesting. I like being hands-on. I’m very lucky to be in a position where people trust me to do that sometimes. As an actor, often you can feel like a pawn. So, to have some say in the creative process and in the product that you’re making is a really wonderful thing. I do hope to continue doing that.
As someone who has been in the business for a bit of time now, do you still get nervous when you step onto a set like Grey’s Anatomy, that’s already such an established family, or does it all just feel like old hat for you?
CAMPBELL: Oh, my gosh, it was terrifying! Being a guest star on something is one of the scariest things you can do because everybody does know each other so well and they do have such a great history and they know how they work together. It’s like going to a school where everyone knows one another, and you’re stepping in for the first day. It’s nerve-wracking. But, everyone was really great. They were very generous and very welcoming. I feel confident, as an actor, but as an artist, you just get nervous, no matter what. There’s always something that’s going to make you have butterflies, a little bit. But, it was still a fun experience.
Did you have fun reuniting with Patrick Dempsey, having done a Scream movie together?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, it was really fun! I hadn’t seen him since Scream, so it had been at least a decade. He’s a great guy. They’ve been on that show for nine years, so they definitely know what they’re doing. It was fun to be around a group who have been working together for so long.
Any chance of there being a Scream 5?
CAMPBELL: We’ll see. I’m not sure they’re going to make it, to be honest. If that were to come up again and they were to approach me, I’d have a chat with them about it.
What’s it been like to balance motherhood with work now?
CAMPBELL: It hasn’t been that difficult. Having a newborn is challenging, in the sense that you don’t get a lot of sleep. Otherwise, it hasn’t been that bad. The biggest challenge is when we shot the film because I was five months pregnant. Dealing with some of those scenes and dealing with the cold was an interesting challenge. But, I’m absolutely loving being a mother. Caspian is a beautiful little soul, and we’re madly in love. Anything that’s exhausting is well worthwhile because it’s a beautiful experience. The work has not been too overwhelming, at the moment, so I’ve been lucky.
How has becoming a mother changed you?
CAMPBELL: I’m not sure. I feel as though I’ve just come into my own. Any woman has a little bit of nervousness about whether they’re capable of raising a child, and I’m really glad I waited until the age that I’m at. I feel very confident with him. I feel very comfortable with what we’re doing and the decisions that we’re making. It’s a beautiful experience. It does make other things far less important, and I think that’s a great thing.
What are you hoping to do next, with your career?
CAMPBELL: There’s always lots ahead, hopefully. We’ll see. The industry has changed, a great deal. I lived in England for eight years, and now I’m back here. I’m lucky enough to have three different passports, so I have the opportunity to work in Europe, in Canada and in America. I just hope to continue to be able to do that.
How do you feel the industry has changed, and where do you see yourself fitting into it now?
CAMPBELL: It’s definitely more challenging when you want to create pieces. It’s obviously still possible, but because there’s far less money in the industry now, even the projects that I made with Robert Altman, 10 years ago, would be virtually impossible to get made today, unfortunately. Most of the casting comes down to box office draw or the money crunchers and financiers. It’s no longer so much about the creative process. Fewer casting people are actually getting to cast projects, these days. They have to look to the money people to make the decision, and I think that’s unfortunate. But, I don’t think it’s impossible. It’s just more challenging. I’m lucky to be able to work in different countries, and I’m lucky to be able to work in television, film and theater. As long as I keep my feet in all of them, then I’ll be able to continue working. But, I’m just trying to navigate it as best as I can, as most people are. You have to accept that there are changes and shifts, and be open to doing smaller roles or more character roles. Sometimes those can be more interesting roles. So, although it’s more challenging, it can be fruitful in certain ways, as well.
Would you ever consider getting involved with any social media websites?
CAMPBELL: I’m not that interested, at the moment. I think there were 11 Twitter sites claiming to be me, and I had to have those removed. I know that there can be a real advantage to social media. I haven’t wrapped my head around it yet. That doesn’t mean I won’t, but at the moment, I’m just enjoying my life, enjoying the work that I’m doing, and enjoying being a mom. I have enjoyed my privacy, as much as I’m capable of having in the limelight, for a long time. I’m not sure yet about stepping that closely into people knowing more about me.
An Amish Murder premieres on Lifetime on January 6, 2013.