“Into the Deep” is a slick, good-looking thriller about slick, good-looking people behaving badly. Jess (Ella-Rae Smith) is a young woman who meets the handsome charmer, Ben (Matthew Daddario), and accompanies him to his boat one night, where they drink and flirt. The next morning, she wakes up and the boat is in the middle of the ocean. She unable to recall exactly what happened, but as they are about to head back to shore, an injured stranger, Lexie (out queer actress Jessica Alexander), comes aboard and makes some strong accusations against Ben. The dynamics quickly shift, and as truth and lies play out, each character struggles to maintain control — and stay alive.
Alexander spoke with Gay City News about her fun new film.
Lexie is both a hero and a villain at times. I liked her amorality, but she has a strong morality. What were your thoughts about her character?
I was drawn to Lexie pretty quickly. I love tough women, and woman who are hellbent on revenge. It’s fun to play around with that. Lexie has been through what a lot of young women have been through — some form of sexual harassment or assault. I know I have been a victim of that. All my female friends and some of my male friends have been through that as well. Up until recently, we haven’t seen women be brutish and tough and genuinely violent on screen. And if that is happening, they are usually beating up other women, so it was nice to have a go at beating up a guy.
Can you talk about working with your co-stars? You start out playing nice and then things get nasty. How did you calibrate things? Viewers don’t know who to trust or what to believe!
Our main thing was we didn’t want it to be easy to believe either one of them. When accusations fly around, you hope to trust the woman, but these crimes of sexual assault are like witchcraft. Back in the olden days, there is no witness other than those involved, and no way to tell who is telling the truth. It is scary for the truth to be twisted. We wanted to play on the horror aspect of that, and that Lexie is unstable. Because she acts so sporadically, it’s no wonder both Jess and the audience question her motives.
You get to play a game, flip, sip, or strip in the film, and it’s fun and seductive — you even get to kill Ella-Rae in the scene. Are you a big game player, or seductress?
Yeah. I never said no to a game of spin the bottle in school. I never do anything that goes over the line, but life is short; you won’t know unless you go. Lexie had a bit of a Katy Perry moment — I kissed a girl, and I liked it. The kiss was cute. It’s always fun when you get to kiss your friends in the context of the movie. It’s just so awkward, but there is also something comforting about it.
Both of the women appear nude in the film. Do you have thoughts about that? Because in one case it is purposeful, and another it is pleasurable.
There were discussions around the nudity and how much they would use. Lexie’s nude scene is under the male gaze, and she is using that to lure Ben in, and why I felt OK with that. She steps out of the shower and knows that he can see her. She doesn’t feel comfortable with him having his eyes on her, but this is how she can checkmate him on own game of chess. The film is about sexual assault, but it is a female empowerment movie.
Given the agency the female characters have at times, do you think the film is feminist?
You could call it a feminist movie, but it’s more complex than just being about two girls being really empowered together. In the female empowerment genre, you see these lovely relationships between women, but women are not always like that. We don’t always like each other. There is a lot of distrust and jealousy with girls, and that’s something we want to play on — that friend choosing the guy over us or believing their boyfriend instead of you. Jess wants this love with Ben to be so real she is willing to distrust Lexie.
You get to drag a body, and your body gets to be dragged. What can you say about the action and the physicality of the role? How much of the “stunts” did you get to do?
I did everything. I love to fight — not in real life — but fighting on screen makes me feel so powerful and strong. I like going to the gym and being the only girl in the weight section at 9 p.m. on a Friday. I like to be a bit ripped and know that if someone came at me on the street, I can fight them off.
You have a catfight with Ella-Rae and tangle with Matt. Can you talk about that?
I do love a good catfight. The action was super important because we wanted it to be believable that these girls can beat this guy or could overpower him. We went as much in with the action as we could. Matt was an absolute dick as his character, and he let me beat him up. He told me, “Hurt me. It’s not the first time I’ve been punched. Let’s make it look real.” I didn’t think about picking Matt up, but on the last take, I felt my back pop. I got injured, but it was worth it because it looked epic. He’s a big fella.
Can you talk about your survival skills? How would you fare if this was a real situation?
I think me and Lexie are not dissimilar. Ben would have looked a hell of a lot worse if I’d been on that boat. I’d fuck him up for sure.
“Into the Deep” | Directed by Kate Cox | Opening in Select Theaters, on Digital and on Demand August 26 | Distributed by Lionsgate.