Azura Skye has been acting professionally for nearly twenty-five years. She first gained notoriety in her role on the WB series Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane. She would go on to appear in such movies as 28 Days, Red Dragon, and Bandits, as well as television series such as Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Horror Story, and Charmed.
She can currently be seen starring in the new domestic thriller, The Swerve. Azura portrays Holly, a neglected wife, and mother whose dark secrets are exposed when an unwanted intruder spins her life out of control forever. We spoke to Azura about her performance in the film. You can watch our interview or read it in its entirety below.
How did you get involved in the project?
The filmmaker [Dean Kapsalis] sent me the script. There was some interest in me. They didn’t just offer it to me by any means, but they were interested. So, they sent it and I liked it very much. I loved the character. I think I got back to them within a day. We arranged for a Skype call back in the days of Skype and had a great talk, though they still had to go through their process. About a month went by and I hadn’t heard anything, so I offered to make a tape to make a little audition. I asked if I’d like me to do that, and they said, “Sure if you’d like to.” It ended up going my way.
Did you do any research for the role?
I wouldn’t use the word research necessarily. This was a role that I found I really couldn’t go to any external sources for sure. You really had to go inside.
You’ve been in the industry for a little while now, but this was Dean’s first feature film. What was it like to work with a first-time director?
It was a lovely experience. We had a really nice rapport. I definitely took a gamble. He had done a couple of short films that I had seen that I was really impressed with, so, I felt like I was in good hands. Plus, he had written this incredible character, which was just such a gift.
When we first meet Holly Hughes, she’s almost broken, but the events in the film kind of put her over the edge. We’re given a bit of a backstory within the context of the film, but did you and Dean provide any further backstory for her at all?
No, not really, not beyond what you see in the film. But what was really interesting in terms of the way we shot this, which I had never done before, was that we shot this film almost entirely in sequence is really unheard of. It was really helpful and informative to my emotional escalation. We truly did start on the first day with scene one and page one. So, that was hugely helpful to me in terms of backstory, and I was so appreciative of it.
How much were you able to pull from your own experiences?
Well, I’m not a wife or a mother, but I certainly drew from wives and mothers that I know. The role of wife and mother is such a huge one and oftentimes a thankless one is taken for granted. I think if everyone treated their mothers with a little bit more care and kindness, then everyone would be a lot happier.
I’m curious if Dean mentioned any inspiration for the character in the writing process.
Well, he talked about women that he had grown up with whose plights weren’t really obvious to him until he was much older. When you’re a kid, all the adults around you do their best to shield you from all the bad stuff going on. And it’s not until you get older and you find out that what they were dealing with, all the harrowing things. You get some perspective.
But in terms of that invisible person, that was a huge component of the character. I think that’s something that a lot of people experience, “I’m here in this room talking to you, but I don’t feel like anyone really sees me. I don’t feel like anyone’s really hearing me and listening to me.” I feel like that’s how she feels going through her life, as this invisible person. The only time I feel like she truly feels she is being seen is when she’s in the classroom. Holly’s a high school English teacher, and I felt like that was the only time that she felt like she was listened to and really seen. A little place where she could shine right as a person again.
Without giving anything away, to the point where it may be inappropriate.
That was a very interesting element of that situation. Without giving too much away, that attraction and that relationship, more than anything, is just someone who actually sees her and recognizes her and thinks she’s amazing and thinks she’s beautiful. She’s just felt so invisible for so long that that recognition is so powerful.
I feel this might have been emotionally draining – this role. Are you able to walk away from the character between takes?
I always walk away from my characters immediately. They cut and then the character is gone. I always have to come right back to being me, even between takes. I’m not someone who stays in character at all. That’s not by choice. That’s just naturally the way I work. And I’m very grateful for it because she would have been a tough one to take home. You talked about those emotionally arduous scenes, and I think people always think that they’re draining, and I certainly understand that. But I actually find them to be quite exhilarating and energizing. They can be very cathartic. if there’s anything you have going on that’s stuck in there that maybe you didn’t even know it was there, when you get to do a scene like that, it just all kind of gets cleared out.
I imagine that there’s got to be a level of therapy to it for sure.
Yeah, very cathartic. It’s not dissimilar to an exorcism of sorts.
You’ve been acting for over twenty years now. This is an incredible role. Have you found the roles that you’ve seen that you either played or have seen changed since your career began? As far as what you’re being offered or what you’re auditioning for, if you’re still auditioning.
I do still audition. I do it from home now. No complaints there. I started when I was so young. I did my first job when I was 15. I’m going on almost twenty-five years in the business. But it’s been interesting growing up in it. Obviously, at that point, I was very much the kid, and now oftentimes, I’m one of the older people on set. So, that’s been an interesting journey. I feel very grateful to have been in it so long.
What kind of roles do you generally gravitate toward?
I like roles that are well-written, regardless of the character, I like saying good words, and that’s always most important. But the more complex, layered, interesting roles, the better. It’s not every day you get a role like Holly. This is definitely the role of a lifetime, in complete seriousness. It’s the best role that I have ever gotten. I don’t know that I’ll ever get a role that’s this good again.
So, it’s all downhill from here.
Right, it’s all downhill from here (laughing). I hope not.
Do you like to rehearse? Especially with the short production, was there was a rehearsal time for you guys?
There was a little bit of rehearsal. And by that, I mean on the day right before we shot, we’d just run through a bit of quick rehearsal. There wasn’t any rehearsal prior to shooting, which is unusual. I do like rehearsal, but not too much. I like that freshness. I find that after I’ve said it too many times, it starts to sound like I said it too many times. But, I always like to rehearse on camera because you never know if you might get something good.
How did Dean feel about stepping away from what’s written on the script?
I don’t think we deviated from the script at all. No, I don’t think there was any improv. It was pretty much all on the page.
Is that how you prefer to work?
It’s always different. Sometimes, if something comes up on the day, in the moment, and you want to add something, that can be nice. But sometimes there’s no need. That’s what I found here. What was on the page was perfectly sufficient.
I found it interesting that the film crosses genres. It’s definitely a drama, but there are some elements of horror to it as well. Is that something you’re generally drawn to? You’ve done everything across the board in your career, from sitcoms to something like this. So, I’m just curious as to what kind of genre you like to work in.
Well, I did like the sort of cross-genre thing that this film had. It’s funny because a lot of people are referring to it as a horror film, and I never thought of it as a horror film when we were doing it, even though there are some very horrific elements to it. The final act certainly goes off the rails in a very horrific way. I always thought of it as more a dramatic thriller, a domestic thriller. But it’s interesting that it’s sort of getting more of a horror buzz. I like that because I find that most times, the most terrifying things in life are those domestic situations. They’re not the CGI monsters.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
I hope this film is a reminder to people that you never really know what’s going on with someone, so don’t assume. Whether that’s the person standing next to you at the grocery market or even maybe members of your household who live with you. You never really know what’s going on with someone. So, treat each other with care and kindness, and patience.
You can watch our entire conversation with Azura below. The Swerve is available to watch on Amazon Prime or VOD.