Valerie Jane Parker shines as Lilly, a blind therapist in Voices. She embodies the film’s tagline “Don’t believe everything you hear.”
Synopsis: After visiting her father’s grave, Lilly and her mother are involved in a terrible car accident leaving Lilly orphaned and unable to see. In her youth, she struggles with her blindness and begins to hear voices. Unbeknownst to her they don’t belong to the living. After years of learning to cope, Lilly is now happily married with a baby on the way. Lilly soon discovers her unborn baby has become a vessel a second chance for souls stuck in limbo to be re-born. She only has until the baby’s first heartbeat to decide which soul will be re-born through her. Now the voices she heard in her youth have returned, clamoring for the chance to come back. Among the voices, she befriends the spirit of a little girl tied to a years-old cold case. Lilly finds herself in a desperate struggle with the girl’s murderers and the souls vying to be born again.
Voices is directed by producer / filmmaker Nathaniel Nuon, making his feature directorial debut after a few shorts & other projects previously. The screenplay is written by Nathaniel Nuon and Daniel Hathcock.
Check out my Q & A with Valerie- spoilers ahead!
What drew you to this project?
Valerie: I thought that the script was really interesting, that it was an interesting premise, a take that I never really heard before with her getting to choose the spirit of the baby, but I was really drawn to the project by Lilly’s spirit. It’s rare that you see a horror film, where the final girl, the lead character, has such a strong and positive spirit. She’s such a survivor, she loses their sight, she loses her parents at the very beginning of the film, all these horrible things happen and yet she stayed positive the whole time. It’s not toxic positivity, it’s a very genuine strength, and I found that really attractive, and a really beautiful thing to portray in a female character.
What do you think sets Voices apart from the rest of the horror films?
Valerie: Yeah, it’s not a traditional horror film. It plays out like a global but really when you think about it, it’s about a woman learning to overcome all of her obstacles and never stop hiding. The director was like, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted.’ And it has a lot more heart than most horror films, it actually has a message and a story, a hopeful message and story which I think is exactly what everybody needs right now, going through 2020 and all the crap we are still going through with COVID. I think that it’s wonderful to get the fun of the horror film scares and jumps, but with a message that at the end of the day, you feel hopeful, you feel a little uplifted.
Did you have any idea that Lilly was going to pick Madison?
Valerie: No, no I did not. Well, because you don’t realize that Madison- I mean, maybe you do when you’re watching, but reading it, I didn’t realize that Madison is dead. You do actually see her and she’s there, but I thought that that was a wonderful trick that who she picks is already there. And I think honestly that’s the case in life, sometimes we worry so much about choices when the obvious choice is right in front of us. We just didn’t notice the whole time.
If she didn’t pick Madison, who do you think she would have picked?
Valerie: Oh, that little boy, Diana’s little boy. The little boy at the stoplight who wants to help across the street. Diana is the psychic who lets her know what’s going on, that she has to choose the spirit of the baby. And I do think that there’s a sweetness and a connection there. I could see her taking that child home.
How did you prepare to play a blind character?
Valerie: I wanted to be really honest in that portrayal. So, I watched a lot of documentaries on people who’ve lost their sight, especially people who really start out seeing, and then lose their sight because it’s a different form of grieving and loss that you go through. I practiced with a walking cane for about a month, I went out and got blackout glasses and at first just learned by walking around my house with the cane and that’s difficult, it’s a lot of a lot of work. Then we’ll go out and eventually run errands with it, and you just notice how people treat you differently, notice how the world is different. I actually have a friend who’s blind, my friend Bobby, and he let me shadow him for a few days. We would go into coffee shops and go into the studio and we would just talk about his day to day experiences, you know, going to get coffee and things like that and getting places and he would teach me just practical things that you wouldn’t think about. He’s like ‘well, when I go to a restaurant, I don’t let my cane on the floor because it’s dirty and I’m gonna have to pick it up with my hands.’Things like that that you wouldn’t think about if you didn’t live it day in and day out, and getting to work one on one with him and talk to him about his experiences and him be so excited for me to share that was invaluable. That was really amazing.
What is something you learned through your preparation that really stuck with you?
Valerie: You learn to listen so much better when you are not relying on your eyesight. It is amazing the things we don’t listen for, not only do you listen to people better, but you listen to your environment more. As you’re walking down the street to hear cars coming, you don’t need to turn around and see them, you feel them. Same with people going by. I mean, it was just getting to be silent, and using my ears to see the world around me was actually such a beautiful gift. And something that I hope that I carried on after filming.
Was there any particular aspect of preparing to play Lilly that you really struggled with?
Valerie: The thing that I struggled the most with was just wanting to make sure that it was honest, because this is something that thousands of people deal with every single day and I didn’t want to cheapen their experience. I wanted to make sure that I was doing an honest portrayal.
So, there were actually three actresses who play Lilly at different stages throughout the film, did the three of you coordinate on how to play her?
Valerie: Yes and no, they went through a lot of that in casting. Casting took several months because of that, because they wanted to make sure that we actually did kind of match or already moved similarly and things like that. They brought me to set a few days early so that I could watch the footage of the previous Lillys and so they can meet me and they can kind of talk through basically what they’ve been doing. But it was really interesting because a lot of the choices I’d already made for her, I found out Jenna (Harvey), the teenager Lilly, was doing the exact same thing and we didn’t know. And same with Chloe (Romanski), who plays the younger one. It turned out we were already in sync. That was just fantastic casting.
The tagline for the movie is “don’t believe everything you hear.” What does that phrase mean to you?
Valerie: Question everything, go into it with your ears wide open.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about Voices?
Valerie: Everyone should watch it. it comes out [today] on-demand and in select theaters. I hope that they watch it, that they have a lot of fun, and that at the end of the day it’s also a blessing at the same time.
Voices is now playing in select US theaters + on VOD