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Q&A: Actors Robin McLeavy (“THE LOVED ONES”) and George Shevtsov talk ghost story “BACKTRACK”

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As Adrien Brody investigates the spectres of his past in BACKTRACK, Robin McLeavy (the memorably deranged villain of THE LOVED ONES) and George Shevtsov play key roles in uncovering the dark secrets. They discuss their work on the film in this exclusive FANGORIA interview.

BACKTRACK, out today in select theaters from Saban Films and also available on DirecTV, follows Brody’s psychologist Peter Bower as he returns to the small Australian town where he spent his childhood, and confronts the ghosts and guilt he left behind. McLeavy plays Henning, a local policewoman who helps him on his journey, and veteran actor Shevtsov is Peter’s father, who holds the key to unlocking the past traumas (see review here). Written and directed by Michael Petroni (who talks about the film here), BACKTRACK gives both thesps strong and distinctive parts to portray; Fango spoke to them after the movie’s world premiere at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

FANGORIA: Robin, BACKTRACK offered you a very different role from your obsessed high-school girl in THE LOVED ONES. Did you enjoy switching gears within the horror genre?

ROBIN McLEAVY: It was interesting having to restrain myself [laughs], because I like to be extroverted and a little wild, and I get a lot of joy from doing that. Because BACKTRACK has a tone and a tension to it that relies on the performances being very particular, and I was playing a police officer, I had a very specific set of rules to conduct myself by. So it was interesting being on the other side of the horror, and it was a great experience.

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FANG: George, how did you find inspiration for your part as Peter’s father?

GEORGE SHEVTSOV: Well, it started with the text. What I found myself doing was waking up in the morning, having a cup of coffee, and I’d sit out on my balcony and kind of meditate on the text, on each scene, and slowly read it over and over again. And things would leap out at me, extraordinary things! The text revealed itself, the character revealed himself and all the mysteries revealed themselves, and then the next step was, why is he speaking like this? And then I would suddenly realize, with his whole background with the police, he has a very specific way of talking to people. I just had revelation after revelation after revelation every morning. It was an exciting piece to prepare, and then we would go on set and new things were happening every day. There was always another discovery.

FANG: Robin, Michael Petroni mentioned that you did some pretty in-depth research to play a cop.

McLEAVY: Yeah, I can’t take on a role in a profession without knowing everything about it; otherwise, I get nervous that I’m going to screw it up. So I went and sat with Mike’s friend for several hours, and I drilled him. I went into a police station in Sydney and spoke to a lot of people there, and investigated the different kinds of officers there were. I found that there were some gentler ones and then the really heavy-handed, by-the-book ones, and I thought it would be interesting to go with a more gentle approach, because I felt that would suit the film.

FANG: Could you each talk about working with Adrien Brody?

McLEAVY: The first rehearsal I had with Adrien, he was preparing his Australian accent, and it was quite remarkable to watch him work with us and listen to our dialects, and try to adapt into a very different-sounding tone. He had to wrap his head around our culture very quickly, though he had worked in Australia before, on THE THIN RED LINE. It was lovely working with his vulnerability; that was probably the most striking thing I found working opposite him. As Michael said, he has such an internal world, yet he’s so wide-open to play opposite.

But then, on the other hand, my character gets kind of shirty with him, and has a low tolerance for his melancholy, I suppose [laughs]. There was a day on set when I kind of snapped out of it, and he stayed really present with me, because he was really in that internal space, and I needed that. Playing a police officer, I needed answers from him, so that was fun to get inside.

SHEVTSOV: You know, working with great, great actors brings out the best side of you. There’s something about bouncing off this enormous presence and being right there with him that somehow, in its own way, lifts you up. It’s a true joy to be there in that moment.

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McLEAVY: It was a joy—and it’s also an art, I think, to sometimes resist that as well. You know, he’s an A-lister and he’s got a great body of work, but to be able to also step back from that, and meet him at a place that’s completely unique to our movie—it’s a real gift to be able to meet in that place.

SHEVTSOV: You never got the sense that you were working with an A-lister; he was just another actor on the set. You never felt anything else from him.

FANG: Petroni said that one of your key locations, a converted former psychiatric ward, was allegedly haunted…

McLEAVY: I’m really sensitive to all that stuff, so every time we worked on that set, I would get creeped out. George and I had a big interrogation scene there, in the vicar’s house on that property, and it was very creepy.

FANG: You were so committed in your LOVED ONES part; was it difficult to get out of that headspace when the film was done?

McLEAVY: It was very difficult, yeah [laughs]. I developed an eye twitch, I started smoking, and I became fascinated with blood. Whenever I’d see blood, I would kind of admire it; I was aesthetically obsessed with how beautiful it was. It was very disturbing for all my friends and family!

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About the author
Michael Gingold

Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.

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