People are often fearful of the unknown, including such debatable topics as spirituality, the meaning of life and what happens to us after we die. Everyone also questions how they should react when our lives are threatened, and are faced with obstacles and forced to make changes that they don't know how to make. The new drama Things I Don't Understand, which was written and directed by second time filmmaker David Spaltro, courageously looks at the difficult topics that people are often afraid to approach.
Things I Don't Understand follows grad student Violet Kubelick, played by Molly Ryman, who's studying near-death experiences. She withdraws from her life after a failed suicide attempt. Her life continues to unravel when she and her two roommates face financial difficulties. To make herself feel better, Violet forms a bond with Sara, portrayed by Grace Folsom, the terminally ill girl she's interviewing for her thesis.
Folsom generously took the time to sit down in a café in New York City to discuss what attracted her to the role of Sara. The actress, who's making her feature film debut in Things I Don't Understand, which shot for 20 days in Brooklyn last spring, also spoke about how she prepared for the role, and what it was like working with Ryman and Spaltro.
Question (Q): You play Sara, a terminally ill patient who is looking for a last connection, in Things I Don't Understand. What was it about the character that convinced you to take the role?
Grace Folsom (GF): I think Sara's a strong character. It's a sad thing when children become ill. It's one of those things that you think's never going to happen to you or your family. When it does, it's devastating.
I admired that part of her, that she had to mature so quickly, and she had to become her own caregiver. She was abandoned by everyone around her and who ever knew her. I admired her strength and majority. I think the way she handles it is really interesting. I was really attracted to the conflict within her. Just dealing with something that big at that young of an age is terrible and admirable.
Q: How did you get into Sara's mindset? How did you prepare for the role?
GF: I researched a lot of aspects of the illness she has, Osteosarcoma-the stages you would go through, the medicine you would be on, and the side effects. A lot of the work was recreating the memories of not only the illness, but how her family, friends and boyfriend reacted.
Sara's mother decides that she's not going to come back and see her daughter anymore in the hospice she's living in. I recreated that in my mind. Her boyfriend kept pushing her away. He decides that he's not coming back, either. Violet is the one person who stays. So for me, I think the big preparation was recreating the memories of the toll the illness has taken on her.
Q: Violet is obsessed with dying and the possibility of an afterlife. Why do you feel people are so curious about the supernatural, and what happens to us after we die?
GF: I think that people, in a sense, want to know about the unknown. It drives everything in the world-science, religion, art. People want to know. There's a curiosity, whether on a small scale or a large scale, of what happens. It's scary, because we have no information about what goes on after death. It all comes down to what we believe is going to happen, because that's all there is.
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