Feed is a real labor of love for Troian Bellisario, who wrote, produced and plays the lead role in the intense film about a young woman named Olivia (Bellisario) who, along with her twin brother Matthew (Tom Felton), was born into a world of privilege that expects success and their futures shine bright. When unexpected tragedy tears them apart, Olivia must learn how to survive without her other half, which will test just how far she’s willing to go to not break their bond.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Troian Bellisario talked about what made her want to explore her own past struggle with an eating disorder in this way, how she wanted to delve into the subject in her first script, the support and feedback she got from friends and family, how the finished film compared to what she envisioned, and wanting to eventually direct a feature. She also talked about the seven seasons she spent on the TV series Pretty Little Liars and what she’ll take from that experience, as well as her excitement over being a part of the upcoming Richard Linklater film Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: How did you decide to tell this story in this way, and explore your own feelings and past with an eating disorder within this?
TROIAN BELLISARIO: Oftentimes, people have a lot of false ideas about what it means to struggle with an eating disorder, and I really wanted to try to find a way to convey a narrative that would challenge people’s expectations of what they think of anorexia or an eating disorder, and what they think it looks like or feels like for the person going through it. Where that came from, for me, was to get people who had never struggled with this to empathize, and a huge part of that was personifying the disease in a character that you knew and trusted and loved from the beginning. You saw why Olivia loved her brother Matt, so if she was going to hear him say these things to her, she was gonna follow his orders and trust that he had her best interests at heart. In the end, when she discovered that it wasn’t her brother and really she was hearing this disease speaking to her, I thought it would be a hopefully more effective way to try to communicate that.
It’s such an interesting and different way to handle the subject matter because people often just focus on the disease and not on the human side of it.
BELLISARIO: Yeah. I’m really grateful that you brought that up because, to me, a lot of people just kept on saying, “Oh, you know what you’re doing is dangerous, so why don’t you just eat?” What I was trying to convey to a lot of people is that there’s a large portion of your eating disorder that’s a way of dealing with something deeper. It’s a coping mechanism, and you have coping mechanisms in your life because they work. That was a tough thing for me. I wanted to convey that, particularly with Olivia in the beginning of her engagement with the disease. It’s helping her do everything that she needs to do. It’s helping her avoid the grieving process of losing her brother. It’s helping her maintain this perfect exterior and fulfill everybody’s expectations of her and go to college. It’s helping her in a lot of ways. And then, inevitably, what it’s going to do is get out of control and hurt her. That was really important for me to show not the positive side, but why it’s so seductive and why you get pulled in so deep.