Nicky Whelan faces life or death in ‘Maneater’

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Nicky Whelan shines as survivor Jessie in the shark attack horror, Maneater.

Written and directed by Justin Lee (The Most Dangerous Game), Maneater stars Nicky (Hall Pass) along with Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer) with Jeff Fahey (“Lost”) and Shane West (A Walk to Remember).

Synopsis: What better place to drown your sorrows than an idyllic island paradise? That was the idea when Jessie’s friends convinced her to not let a broken engagement stand in the way of enjoying her prepaid honeymoon. Their sorrows weren’t the only thing going to drown on their trip especially with a man-eating shark swimming just below the surface.

Check out our interview with Nicky!

What was it about Maneater that drew you to the project?

Nicky: There’s this thing about shark movies where it just seems to be like every couple years shark movies come out and they’re always so adventurous and everyone has their own take on how to make a shark movie, you know, and I got an opportunity to be a part of one. It’s about this kickass chick who starts out pretty broken and then ends up taking on the shark by the end of the movie, it’s kind of super adventurous. She’s a bit ballsy and it just felt like something I wanted to go on and see what I could do with it. So I jumped in. Literally.

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
Why do you think they’re so popular? 

Nicky: You know, it’s funny, I think, maybe it’s because Jaws really set the standard for shark movies and they did something so spectacular with that movie that people have been fascinated ever since about what’s under the water, the unknown, you know, there’s something so scary about that. But I don’t know. With like Shark Week and all these shark things that come out, there is a big following for it. I don’t know if it’s the way it makes people feel, people love to be scared. But I don’t know, they’ve just got this massive following and it’s interesting how, you know, whether it’s a really extremely silly shark movie or a really seriously like, very realistic shark movie, people love to go see shark movies. It’s just they’re thing.

So, how do you feel about shark movies?

Nicky: I was a huge fan of Jaws growing up. You know, I’m an Aussie, so I grew up in water, you know, just the whole shark thing. I’ve loved them, actually. And it’s funny, I was just talking about this a minute ago, I think it’s called The Shallows, the one with Blake Lively, do you remember? 

Yeah, it’s The Shallows.

Nicky: The Shallows. My god, I love that movie. I love her and I love that movie. That’s a badass kind of role and it’s just her and the shark in the entire movie and you were just, you know, on the edge of your seat that entire time.They’re always really scary. I’m scared of all sorts of horror movies just in general, by the way, like I’ll jump up and down, run out of there and come in and scream and, you know, make such a fuss. Even though I’ve been in horror movies, I still get scared watching them. I’m a bit of a chicken to be honest with you.

(L-R) Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan and Trace Adkins as Harlan Burke in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
I was really surprised to see Trace Atkins in this movie. I just wasn’t expecting it. And you both have some really awesome scenes toward the end. What was it like working with him?

Nicky: He’s such a badass. Truly. I mean, he’s the top of his field in the music world and then, you know, I see this happen a lot where these amazing people in their field step into the acting world and they’re so disciplined and so good, and they work so hard. And Trace, in general, has an incredible presence about him, you know, he’s super tall and is kind of a badass old school dude, so he’s perfect for this movie. Like, he comes in and saves the day. He’s a man of very few words, he doesn’t need to say a lot because he just carries this energy about him. So, you know, he lost his daughter, obviously, in the movie, and I think he sort of feels a little bit of that toward my character in the end. He lost his daughter and I’ve lost all my friends and my fiancé in a very short period of time, and that’s very traumatic. So, we kind of bonded. And you know that moment on the boat where he hands me the drink? I don’t even think that was in the script. I think he just did that. I feel like that’s something Trace would do in real life. I love that they got him on board to play this role, because he looks like the kind of dude that will save the day with such a chill vibe about it. You know what I mean?

And your character plays a huge part in that too, as the distraction. What was it like getting to see Jessie transform from being very sad and broken to being the hero?

Nicky: You never know how movies are going to pan out or how they’re going to be edited and stuff. So you kind of hope that there’s an arc or that you can sort of see that come through. And she does start out in that full brokenhearted, like emptiness and all her friends are all around her, trying to lift her. But nothing’s lifting her. And then she gets thrown into this severe life or death situation which requires her to snap out of it. And really, you know, she gets struck with death and torment and it really leaves her with no choice other than life or death. And by the end of it, she’s lost everything, so let’s just dive in and take this shark head on, you know what I mean? Which is very ballsy. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t think you’d see me doing that in my real life at all. But she’s got nothing to lose at that point. 

(L-R) Shane West as Will Coulter and Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

And to be honest with you, filming in those conditions, you know, in the water, the choppy water and the limited days and a small budget independent film, I mean, we’re all being pushed to our limits in making this movie. And you could feel that in the process of doing it. I mean, I was out of breath and exhausted at the end of each day and it kind of pushed me and I had to really psych myself up to get in that water. It was no joke, and we’re using a mechanical shark for a lot of it. The real exhaustion that came with each of those scenes, especially the ones at the end there, hopefully come through because, yeah they kicked my ass.

Yeah, that’s awesome. It all paid off though. What are you most excited for people to see when they watch this movie?

Nicky: Like we mentioned earlier, people love to come out and just see a shark movie. And this is again, another storyline with a specific way of showing a shark going after people and this sort of thing. So I’m just anxious to see how people take this particular story on and I hope people appreciate how much time we had. And there is a CGI shark used in a lot of the movie but if you look carefully, a lot of the time we were using a real mechanical shark. And that hasn’t been done, people don’t advise doing that because it is such a challenge. So I think, you know, movie goers, and people that love Jaws, will come along and see that and sort of maybe appreciate a few of those moments and sort of see that old school filmmaking, which was a real challenge, but also a great process to be a part of. So, I hope people see that and kind of set it aside from these other movies where CGI is used the entire time, you know?

Oh, for sure. Yeah, just paying homage to Jaws, I saw so many instances of that, and it was great. 

Nicky: I love that, thank you. Yeah, it’s no joke making a shark movie, especially in 18 days. We had a blast, but it definitely kicked everybody’s ass in a very good way.

If fans want to connect with you or support you, how do you prefer they do that? Do you have social media or a website?

Nicky: I just have an old school Instagram. I don’t really use my Twitter much. I’ve got Facebook but Instagram would be the go-to which is just my name @nickywhelan. I do most of my promotion there and I talk about stuff there. I post about life, style, blah, blah, blah… IG is the way to go.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add about Maneater before I let you go?

Nicky: I hope people go out and see it on the 26th and enjoy it and get a bit of a rush out of it. 

Nicky Whelan as Jessie Quilan in the thriller, MANEATER, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.
Saban Films will release Maneater in theaters and on Demand and Digital August 26.