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Dominic Monaghan and Sarah Habel talk about their latest sci-fi/thriller “ATOMICA”!

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Safety inspector, Abby Dixon is sent to check on the communications outage at an underground, nuclear power plant. Once inside the facility, mysterious circumstances arise and Abby begins to question the sanity and identities of two men who claim to be employees of the plant.

ATOMICA, directed by Dagen Merrill (BENEATH), and starring Dominic Monaghan (THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY, TV series, LOST), Sarah Habel (HOSTEL: PART III, TV series, RIVERDALE), and Tom Sizemore (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, NATURAL BORN KILLERS), is the latest thriller from SyFy Films. This claustrophobic creeper, coming to select theaters March 17th and VOD and Digital HD on March 21st, is one not to be missed.

Before a special L.A. screening of ATOMICA, Sarah Habel and Dominic Monaghan took some time to out to give FANGORIA an inside look into the film.

FANGORIA: Can you talk a bit about the characters you play in ATOMICA?

SARAH HABEL:  Abby Dixon is trying her very, very best to do her very, very best, but she’s in a little bit over her head. She cares about the truth and she cares about doing the right thing and she’s in trouble because that is not possible in her current circumstances.  I was just so impressed with her resolve and I wanted a chance to try and play that. I think a lot of times female characters are given quirky, sort of charming or other tactics to make them successful. But she was bold and uncompromising in her drive which I found to be a huge challenge but also I feel like that it made me better to let that out.

DOMINIC MONAGHAN: I play someone who has deep, emotional problems. So that was something fun to explore. There’s no real basis, there’s no real template on how to play a guy like that because you don’t tend to know what it’s like to live underground for two years and not knowing any human beings. So, I played him like someone who’s been in solitary confinement for a while. And if you know anyone that’s been in solitary confinement for a while, they tend to lose their marbles a little bit. 

(L-R) Dominic Monaghan as Robinson, Tom Sizemore as Zek, and Sarah Habel as Abby in the sci-fi thriller film “ATOMICA” a Syfy Films release. Photo courtesy of Syfy Films.

FANGORIA: Was there any research or preparation necessary for you to bring these characters to life?

SARAH HABEL: There was a lot I didn’t know. All of her background is very technical and so I did my very best with that and I did my best to personalize that. Character wise, she’s so different from me, so for me to be so estranged and calculating, and on mission was a huge challenge. It played out really well in the circumstances I was working in with Dominic and having him try to push every button to get to me. His persistence made it so much more galvanizing for my purpose. It was just like, ok, I can’t give in, and I have to be strong. So, a lot of that kind of happened in the interaction with him.

DOMINIC MONAGHAN: I kinda isolated myself quite a bit. I was taking quiet a bit of time on my own because of the character I play; he’s on his own quiet a lot, he’s going through some pretty strange physical and emotional issues. And I never did the same take twice; I was always looking to do something different with each take. It was fun for me. I cut my hair really strangely; there’s massive bald patches in my head and I just shaved huge chunks off. So we did that.

FANGORIA: Any major challenges during production, acting or otherwise?

SARAH HABEL: The most challenging was maintaining that resolve in the face of the wild characters that I’m surrounded by. The location itself was kind of crazy and scary but that really just helped. It was this abandoned nuclear missile silo, three stories underground and it was always like 40 degrees and that was hard. I totally don’t like being cold but it was just so immersive it was hard to fight it.  

DOMINIC MONAGHAN: I liked the cold temperatures. I’m from Manchester, England where it rains nine months of the year, its freezing cold. But I think other people were struggling a little bit.  So, one of my biggest challenges was to try and not repeat myself. I wanted to play a purely wacky character, someone who you didn’t know if he was good or bad from one minute to the next. Could you trust him?  If you could trust him, then the next scene he does something untrustworthy. So the biggest challenge was for me was to constantly keep playing these big crazy changes in his mood but keep him believable enough that you realize he’s a real person. So, as long as we stuck to the lines and what we’re supposed to say, Dagen [Merrill] was just like, have some fun then, just play around. So, a lot of my little hand movements and head twitches and strange noises and stuff, that’s all just improv.

Image from the sci-fi thriller film “ATOMICA” a Syfy Films release. Photo courtesy of Syfy Films.

FANGORIA: How was the chemistry on set?

SARAH HABEL: It was amazing to have the opportunity to work with two people, with two completely different backgrounds and with such amazing points of view.  It was really enriching for me studying from them and watching their confidence and they’re bold choices, it gave me a lot. They set the bar really high and I can say I learned a lot from them.

DOMINIC MONAGHAN: They were great. I felt sorry for Sarah because she had to be so sensible in the process. Tom and I were going crazy and being weird and being freaky and she had to be the sensible one. But I really liked spending time with both of those guys off scene. Tom Sizemore has done some great films over the years. I think he’s a fine actor and I really like going into scenes with him. And with Sara, you know, she great too.

FANGORIA: Was there anything that really stood out for you during the production of ATOMICA?

DOMINIC MONAGHAN: We had a lot of strange creatures on set which works for me because I have an animal show, so I kind of liked it. But there were some resident bats in the film and a resident owl as well.  There’s a couple of scenes were you definitely see the bats and there’s at least one scene if not two where you can actually see the bats flying around. We just said if the bats come into the scene, just go with it.

SARAH HABEL: There’s a scene in the film where you see me walking down a long, cavernous, dark hallway and a bat, a real life bat flies right into my face. That was very startling. I’ll never forget that moment.

Sarah Habel as Abby in the sci-fi thriller film “ATOMICA” a Syfy Films release. Photo courtesy of Syfy Films.

FANGORIA: Is there a preference as far as acting in genre films, be it sci-fi, thriller, or horror?

SARAH HABEL: I love those genres. I love the avid audience and it’s always so amazing, but it’s different with horror.  When you’re shooting a horror film it’s like not scary at all. When you’re doing a sci-fi thriller like ATOMICA, you have to suspend the tension, it’s not like there are that many screams; it’s just a lot of scared looks. They’re different but if I had to choose I would go more with more of a thriller, more sci-fi.

DOMINIC MONAGHAN: It’s all just based on scripts for me. I never really think about counting out any particular genre. With ATOMICA, it’s just a great script. But there’s some great thrillers out there and there’s some great horror movies out there. Some of my favorite movies are in that genre.

Check out the trailer for the film below:

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Stay tuned here at FANGORIA.com for more on ATOMICA and Syfy Films!

About the author
Adam Lee Price
Adam Lee Price has an intense love of horror films and has since being a child. This love of horror has led him to focus on a career in writing films for the next generation of genre fans. Adam has recently completed writing his first feature length horror screenplay entitled THE MASQUERADE. Now, he looks forward to the next chapter of his life working alongside great writers in the horror industry and at FANGORIA Magazine.
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