[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Cindy Busby takes a break from Hallmark Saturday night with Lifetime’s The Killer Downstairs, a thriller that co-stars fellow Hallmarkie Marcus Rosner in the story of a woman, Alison, who quickly learns her basement tenant, James, is not at all who he seems (the title is a big clue). I spoke with Busby this morning about the movie and a couple of upcoming projects that will show her fans a completely different side.
This film came Busby’s way last summer, shortly after she completed Marrying Mr. Darcy. She was drawn to the project because it was something different, and was thrilled when it paired her with old friend Rosner. “My agent called me and said there was a script floating around and to take a read. I read it and immediately wanted to do it because it was completely different from something I’d done in a while and I completely connected with the character,” she says.
“It was so amazing when [Rosner] got the part. We worked together in The Secret Circle seven years ago. It was his first on-camera role. We’ve known each other through the business for quite some time. It was nice to work with a familiar face so closely. I love the guy. He’s such a cool dude and so talented and it just makes it so easy.”
Busby understands the tropes of the women-in-peril stories and she, Rosner, and director and co-writer (with Adam Hussein), Tony Dean Smith worked out their approach beforehand. “Marcus and I got together with [Tony], who I’m obsessed with. He’s so talented. One of the lost giving, responsive, really gentle directors I’ve worked with. He made this movie look so kickass. I was so proud of it [after watching it]. He did such a great job,” she shares.
“Before we started shooting, we all went to lunch and talked about the script and took all of our concerns and discussed how we could make it great and not fall into all the traps [of] the victim who’s in denial and oblivious to everything going on. We wanted to make sure Alison wasn’t an idiot and make [James] a really likable person.”
“These things really do happen and it’s a small step out of time and you fall under this veil of a person’s personality and that’s what gets your attention, first and foremost. They don’t present as a killer. We wanted to show that he had two sides to him and that’s why she fell for him. He was giving her all the right answers and that love and attention in a world where it can be difficult for a woman and he was giving her that respect.”
“We didn’t want him to come off as creepy. We wanted to make him really understanding. We thought that was important to bring up in the story and I think we did a really good job. I don’t think Alison comes off a ditz in the story and I’m really proud of that . I know that’s easily done, and we were really conscious not to do that. And it really worked out.”
“We wanted to make sure we had enough possible people who could [be the killer to raise doubt within the story that it’s James]. It makes it easier for us to understand why nobody questions him. We all have experiences where there’s the latchy guy and the weird boss.”
“The movie is very in the now. It’s quite relevant at the moment [about] how easily we find ourselves in the situations we never thought we would and then we [ask], ‘How did this happen?’ You want to keep a job or you want to be nice and you need money—and you find yourself doing [and accepting] things you didn’t think you’d ever do.”
“I think that’s an important message to put out there. It’s a tough situation. You do what you have to do to survive and it’s unfortunate it has to be like that.”
There are a few significant stunt scenes toward the final act, and Busby credits the stunt team with the heavy lifting. “We’re lucky enough that we didn’t have to do the stair falling. I got to work with one of my best friends, Lisa Chandler, who’s an incredible stuntwoman and actress,” she explains. “We were lucky enough to get her. It’s always fun when you get to do a little bit of action [and fight scenes].”
“I loved the entire movie. Sometimes when you’re shooting, you worry about how it’s going to look in the end. The last scene was late at night and it had been a long day and we were freezing and were pressed for time. In the end, the angles we got and the shots we did and the lighting worked out perfectly. It was perfectly executed.”
“Any scenes I had with Donna Benedicto, who plays Sarah, [were great.] She’s such a talented human being and she makes it so easy to work off of her. I found those scenes to be so fun and lighthearted, which was a really nice contrast. The scene where she sleeps over and we’re whispering going down the stairs was a lot of fun. Any time I worked with Donna or Marcus was a blast and always behind the scenes were a big laugh.”
Busby recently wrapped one of Lifetime’s upcoming V.C. Andrews adaptions, Web of Dreams, which will air Saturday, August 24th, and she loved the experience. “To be part of a well-known series and to enter that world was a dream come true. As complex and psychologically messed up as this story can be, I really got attached to the role of Jillian,” she shares.
“It takes place in the 1950s She lives in a world, where…what happens when a woman needs to survive and can’t get what she wants [because woman don’t get what they want in the 50s], but how does she still get to do that? That was the complex aspect to show that.”
“I feel like I’ve been able to create these characters of these strong women who are weak in a lot of ways and really strong in a lot of ways and we overcompensate through our actions. They may come off as a villain or evil or manipulative, but we all do things to survive and that’s why I love that character.”
“Everybody is so talented. I haven’t been this excited about a project in a very long time. I’m so stoked for everyone to see this. It’s such a gift to be part of that series.”
Busby also has another thriller, The Wrong Stepmother, in which she plays the titular role, coming soon. [Update 07/05/19 — it airs tonight on Lifetime Movie Network.] “I can’t give too much away This character, along the lines of Jillian Tatterton, is a real piece of work. You’ll finally get to see Cindy Busby in a whole new light, which I’m so excited about,” she laughs.
“That’s what acting is about. I love every single character I’ve ever played because it’s an extension of myself through the story I’ve been given. It’s really so nice to exercise that in different stories and not play the same thing. It’s nice to show everybody a different side.”
Photos courtesy of Lifetime Television and CW Seed.
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