Interview : Teressa Liane on surviving “The Reef: Stalked”

“Black Water” and “The Reef” director Andrew Traucki returns with a follow-up to his 2010 shark thriller: “The Reef: Stalked”.

Teressa Liane (“The Vampire Diaries”, “Into the Badlands”) stars as Nic, a young Australian woman haunted by the murder of one of her siblings. With the support of her diving buddies and younger sister, she returns home and decides to conquer her trauma – only to find nature is far less accommodating.

We had the pleasure of speaking to Teressa about her experiences filming on the open water, the psychological elements of the film’s narrative and what creatures scare her most.

There’s quite a bit more meat to the characters in this film than your typical creature feature – not just fear of what could be in the ocean, but much more personal, domestic fears and trauma.

Yeah, definitely. When you hear “a shark genre film”, you assume a bunch of things that come with that. There is a fun element to that, and the jumpiness and all of those things, which is why I love watching them. But what I really loved about this script was the story of the women in the film, and the character that I play, Nic – everything that she’s carrying and struggling through. I think the way that she has to handle real life at the same time was definitely a draw.

As is pretty common with shooting this kind of movie, you’re trying to work with what you’re not seeing. So I imagine that kind of material must have helped with there being much more internal strife alongside the physical threat of a shark throughout the film.

I think having an actual story between the characters as well, and the girls and their friendship along with all the trauma that they’re carrying. Particularly with Nic and the way that she found her sister. That’s all stuff that we got to experience together, and so I think that really does lead us through the story in that way that we’re following what they’re going through together as well as this real, physical danger.

It must be quite difficult as an actor to have an unseen antagonist and have to draw out that performance of fear. Did you find it challenging given that you don’t exactly have a stuntman in a hockey mask chasing after you on set?

I think depending on the scene, it was different things that would help to inspire that fear. But we all pretty much commented on the way that your brain can so quickly go to that place just sitting in the water and looking out to this vast, open horizon. Just the possibility of there being something under the water; it’s crazy how quickly your imagination can go to that. Some of that fear didn’t necessarily need to be acted, I think just letting your imagination go is sometimes enough for that to really come through.

It’s definitely a universal fear, isn’t it? Even people who spend a lot of time in the water must have those kinds of thoughts creep in from time to time.

Yeah, if you spend enough time out there, it’s only a matter of time! [laughs]

I take it you shot fully on location – not a water tank in a studio lot kind of situation.

That’s right. It was about 98% – 99% shot out in the open ocean. We had a couple of additional little moments we had to grab later on as a pickup shoot, but the majority was actually out on location. That was one of the big reasons we needed to get physical training with kayaks, just to make sure we could get into our spot sometimes just for the technicality of the shot.

Whereabouts were you shooting?

We were filming in Bowen, Queensland. It’s this beautiful place right near the Whitsundays Islands. I’d never been there before, but now I just can’t wait to go back. It’s a magical, beautiful place.

It looked gorgeous.

It was really just one of those places where you get there and feel the natural energy of the place. Something about it calms you; it’s beautiful.

That must be a relief, since I imagine you spent a lot of hours in and out of the water. Was that difficult for you? I’m somewhat water-avoidant, so it would’ve been dicey.

I’ve always loved the water and the beach. It kind of comes with the territory of being in Australia, that’s basically how we spend summers. But being out on the water for eight to ten hours a day definitely starts to wear on you physically. Particularly for us being in the kayaks so long – it’s that rocking motion that really got a few of us. We had to sometimes take a step out just to try and rebalance ourselves. That was a bit of a challenge sometimes, just emotionally trying to find that grounding when you really don’t have actual stable ground. The water was a bit of a challenge sometimes.

Are you a shark-fearing person in general? I know it’s a generally universal and understandable fear, for good reason. But everybody has their own big fear – is that sharks for you?

It’s not the one that comes to mind, because it’s not a readily available thing. Honestly, I think of spiders before sharks. I’ve seen some pretty big ones like the Huntsman’s you can get out here, and they’re the size of a palm. So I think spiders are probably one of my biggest fears. As long as I stay out of the deepest waters, I think I’d be okay with sharks.

Are there any particular genres of film you’d like to dabble in or spend more time with?

I feel that everything I’m drawn to are things that are more in the imagination or fantasy world of things, but I’m really drawn to the action genre as well. I think there’s something in that; I just think I enjoy the physicality of a role like that. But I really love stuff that’s sci-fi, supernatural and comedy as well. That’s something that I might get a little more into down the road. But at the moment, it seems to be drama and thrillers where I’ve been working.

Is there anything in particular you’ve been working on that we should keep an eye out for?

At the moment, I’m pretty much just hanging out with friends and family. I’m taking the time for the right project to be the next thing that I do. So not really anything for a shout-out at the moment, but hopefully something exciting soon!

THE REEF: STALKED will be available in Theaters and will stream on Shudder July 29.

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Interview : Andrew Traucki on directing “The Reef: Stalked”