Exclusive Interview: Jocelin Donahue Talks About Her Latest Film The Frontier

Jocelin Donahue is film and television actor who has earned high acclaim for her work over the past ten years, having roles in movies such as Insidious 2, Knight of Cups, Holidays, and more, and on TV in Lethal Weapon and StartUp. Her current film, The Frontier, is now available on VOD. Recently, we had the chance to ask her about the film and some thoughts on her career and the industry.

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Hello Miss Donahue. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I’d like to start with your latest film, The Frontier. Could you tell us a little bit about it and how you came to be involved in the project?

The Frontier is a 70’s neo-noir thriller set at a desert motel on Route 66.  Laine, a mysterious woman on the run from the law, stumbles upon a group of thieves who are hiding out at the motel, and schemes to steal the spoils of their latest heist. I auditioned for the part with the director, Oren Shai, and the producer, Dana Lustig.  I later found out that Oren had written the part with me in mind.

Well, you prove to be a great choice. Laine is such an interesting femme fatale, a woman of mystery that is a kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing. What drew you to her and how much freedom did you have in developing her on screen?

It’s true, Laine is a very opaque character.  We know conspicuously little about her.  She hardly says anything and we never know if she’s telling the truth.  Like a lot of con artists, she is a performer, a master of deception.  She puts on emotional costumes as she interacts with the other characters, manipulating them into doing what she wants.  With Luanne, she plays the victim of domestic violence; with Flynn, she plays the seductress and confidant; with Lee, she must show her strength.  It’s a real gift to be given a role like this, and a rare chance to play a female anti-hero who is tough, calculating, and defiant.  In our first meeting, Oren told me that his goal was to make a film about a woman who decides her own fate, who isn’t defined by men.

He was a terrific director because he new the character so well, yet was totally open to my ideas and collaboration.  Oren and his co-writer, Webb Wilcoxen, also wrote an in-depth backstory for Laine, which helped me understand and justify her conniving behavior.

I really enjoyed the style and setting of the film, a sort of retro-Noir throwback to classic drive-in films of the 70s. I especially liked the stillness and sense of atmosphere. What was it like fitting into that setting and slipping into the not-so-distant past?

I love the film’s aesthetic too!  Oren has great taste and such a sense of style and genre.  He’s a lover of cinema and pulp and that clearly comes through in The Frontier.  There is great artistry in the set design, wardrobe, and cinematography.  Every element helps to tell the story and immerse you in this world.  These elements also help me as an actor.

Jocelin Donahue
Jim Beaver and Jocelin Donahue in The Frontier, 2016

In the story, you come under the fragile wing of Luanne, played by Kelly Lynch. I found your relationship especially compelling, including that mesmerizing long shot of the two of in the car. Could you share with us a little of that experience working with her and maybe your thoughts on your on-screen relationship?

Kelly is a powerhouse and she does incredible work in The Frontier.  At first, Laine plays the sympathy card with Luanne and believes she has the upper hand.  But she comes to realize that Luanne is a bit unhinged and poses a real threat.  Without giving away too much, I have to say that our fight scene was one of my favorite days on set. I love working with stunt people and we had a great team on this film.

I want to say too, that I really enjoyed your work in last year’s Holidays, the horror anthology where you starred in a short piece entitled Father’s Day, which I wrote was the film’s standout story. I know that was last year, but could you share with us how that came about for you?

Thank you! Anthony Scott Burns, the writer and director of the piece, reached out to me about the role.  From our first meeting, I could tell what an intelligent and capable person he was.  He has a background in VFX, and I love the haunting and minimal sci-fi aesthetic of Father’s Day.  It’s a simple premise with deep themes.

Having also a role in 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2, are you drawn to the horror genre? 

I was very fortunate that my first lead role was in Ti West’s The House of the Devil.  That movie caught the attention of other filmmakers in the genre, including James Wan. Ti and James are great examples of horror filmmakers who focus on the psychological aspects of fear.  They create nuanced relationships and characters to heighten the audience’s connection to their plight.  Horror is a fun genre for actors because the stakes are always high.

Jocelin Donahue
Insidious: Chapter 2

We write extensively on the importance of women in film and feature many articles and interviews that showcase and promote women in the industry. As an actor working in both television and movies, what has your experience been like and how do you see your future in shaping change?

Interestingly, horror is a genre that has a lot of strong female leads.  While there has been a history of exploitation and victimization of female characters, I think that’s become distasteful and boring to modern audiences.  People would much rather root for a brave, resourceful heroine.  My goal is to find roles that reflect real women’s experiences and capabilities. I’m happy there’s a trend in independent film and new media towards representations of women that are complicated and diverse.

So what’s next for you? Could you tell us about any new or upcoming projects we might see you in?

Next year Dead Awake will be coming to theaters and VOD.  It’s a supernatural thriller that deals with the real-life phenomenon of sleep paralysis.  I play twins in the movie, which was an exciting new experience for me!  I also have a role in film called Browse starring Lucas Haas.  The script reminded me a bit of Black Mirror because it deals with paranoia, alienation, and the darker aspects of technology in our lives.

Our site focuses often on exploring moments in movies and discussing their impact on culture. Are there any movie moments or movies in general that you’d like to share that have had significant influence on you?

I’m a big fan of Gus Van Sant and I still remember when I first saw his film, Elephant about a school shooting in Oregon.  The long tracking shots, where the camera simply follows the characters through their environment really stuck with me.  Those shots underscored for me how powerful it can be to just watch a scene unfold, without edits or cuts. 


We want to thank Ms. Donahue for talking with us. Read our review of her current film, The Frontier, here, and Holidays, here. For more interviews, visit here.

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2 Comments

  1. The Vern December 8, 2016
    • David Duprey December 9, 2016