You asked for it, you got it: another “Harper’s Island” interview, this time with the young lady who played Madison, the creepiest little girl on the island. Rest assured, however, that it’s a testament to Cassandra Sawtell’s acting abilities that she was able to pull off her role on the series. I spoke with her this afternoon, and she couldn’t have been more pleasant, and she even managed to surprise me with an upcoming film appearance of hers that isn’t mentioned within her IMDb listing…and, wow, what a high-profile film it is!
Stay tuned for…
Cassandra Sawtell: Hi, Will, it’s Cassandra!
Premium Hollywood: Hello! How are you?
CS: Good, thanks! How are you?
PH: I’m great! It’s a pleasure to talk to you.
CS: Thank you!
PH: I had some readers who wanted me to see if I could get up with you to ask you about your experiences on “Harper’s Island.” So how did you come to be on the show in the first place? Was it a typical audition, or did somebody know you and ask for you?
CS: It was just a typical audition.
PH: What did they have you read? I know that, in the case of some of the actors, what they read ended up being something that didn’t actually appear in the show.
CS: I actually don’t remember…but I was definitely auditioning for the role of Madison! (Laughs)
PH: So how did you approach the character of Madison? Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has emphasized your sweetness, but they also said, “She was really creepy!”
CS: (Laughs) Well, I kind of took the sweet-and-creepy from…I’ve watched a lot of scary movies, and so I’ve seen how some of these other children are acting so that everyone thinks they’re so sweet, but then they can turn in a flash.
PH: Did you find it challenging to do that yourself?
CS: Not really, no!
PH: What’s your favorite of the scary movies that you’ve seen?
CS: So far, my favorite that I’ve seen is a movie called “The Uninvited.” I thought that was really good!
PH: Who was your favorite person to work with on the show? You had scenes with just about every actor on the series.
CS: I really liked working with everyone, but I especially liked the producers, Karim Zreik and Dan Shotz.
PH: Were you around anyone when they got their call from Karim to say that their final episode was coming up?
CS: No, actually, I was usually the last to find out!
PH: I know that many of the cast sat around and tried to figure out how their character could be the killer. Did you ever consider that Madison might have been the one?
CS: I did! Everyone else was considering it, so, y’know, I felt like I should, too!
PH: At what point did you find out for sure that you weren’t going to be the killer, and that you were going to make it to the end?
CS: Not until I got the final script.
PH: So there was never any hint from the producers that you were going to survive? Or were you in suspense, too?
CS: I was in suspense just like everybody else!
PH: Others had trouble with the outdoor scenes. Were they a struggle for you, too?
CS: No. I live in Vancouver, so I’m used to all of the weather! (Laughs)
PH: Was there any scene that was rough for you to film?
CS: There was one scene that was at 3 o’clock in the morning. That one was a little tough for me!
PH: Which scene was that?
CS: It was…well, it wasn’t one of the really important scenes. It was just when Abby was heading off with Henry and Trish to her dad’s house, and everyone else was heading down to the dock.
PH: You worked on an episode of “Blood Ties,” which starred Gina Holden, who played your mother on “Harper’s Island.” Did you work with her then?
PH: Oh, well. I just noticed the coincidence and thought I’d ask. So when you first got to the show, how did they treat you on the set? You were the only child actor on the series, I believe.
CS: Yeah. They treated me really well, though. They were all really nice, but it was still business, so we’d laugh a lot, and then it was back to work!
PH: How was it working with Gina and David (Lewis)? Did you feel like you had a semi-parental relationship with them?
CS: Yeah, she was really nice, and quite protective of me. It was really fun working with her. She was quite funny!
PH: I understand that you’ve had thought of writing a screenplay yourself. Is that correct?
CS: Yeah, for a little bit, I wanted to be. I enjoy literature, so I wanted to be a screenwriter and an author for a little bit, but so far, every time I try to write something, I get bored with it. (Laughs)
PH: Well, you’ve still got time. So what are you working on right now?
CS: I’m just doing auditions. And enjoying the summer!
PH: Excellent. So do you go to a regular school, or have you done the on-set schooling?
CS: Well, I go to just a regular public school when I’m not filming, and then when I am filming, they get a tutor to make up for the school I’m missing.
PH: Since this was such a secretive show, was it weird not knowing very far in advance what you were going to have to play?
CS: It was really weird. Every week, my mom and I would fight over who would get to read the latest script!
PH: Did she have any concerns about you playing on a show that had as much graphic violence as “Harper’s Island” did? I mean, it was pretty graphic for network TV, anyway.
CS: I don’t really think so. I don’t think she did. I don’t really get nightmares anymore, so I think that kind of solved the “should I be watching a scary show” thing.
PH: Plus, like you said, you already have an enjoyment for scary movies, anyway.
CS: Yeah! (Laughs)
PH: What would you say was your favorite episode of “Harper’s Island”?
CS: I think it was the episode where Cal and Chloe died. I think that was Episode 11…? That was my favorite episode, I think.
PH: What was it that you liked the best?
CS: Well, their death, which was quite good. But I just thought it was a very entertaining episode.
PH: You provided a lot of red herrings during the series, where you’d say things that were apparently true, and then the next week, you’d say, “Actually, that wasn’t true.” Which of those things surprised you the most?
CS: I actually was pretty sure that the sheriff was the killer! And I was surprised when it turned out that my mother had been threatened.
PH: So what do you plan to do in the future? Is acting something you want to continue into adulthood, or are you planning to do it for awhile and then go to college?
CS: I plan to do it into adulthood, but I also want to go to university.
PH: Have you thought about what you want to study?
CS: Well, I wouldn’t mind being an actor-slash-writer, or something along those lines.
PH: Gotta get past that boredom, though.
CS: Uh, yeah! (Laughs)
PH: Well, Cassandra, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. I just wanted to talk to you for a few minutes about your experiences, and it sounds like you had a good time.
CS: Oh, thank you very much!
PH: I’ll look forward to seeing you in other shows.
CS: Well, you can look for me in “(The Imaginarium of) Doctor Parnassus.”
PH: Oh, wow, I didn’t realize that you were in that. Did you get to work with Heath Ledger at all?
CS: Unfortunately, he died just a week before I was about to start working on it. But I got to work with Colin Farrell!
PH: There are a lot worse people you could work with.
CS: Yeah! (Laughs)
PH: How was he to work with?
CS: Oh, he was fantastic. He was very nice and caring.
PH: And how was Terry Gilliam?
CS: Oh, he’s a lot of fun! He’s really funny, and he’s great to work with.
PH: Have you watched him in “Monty Python” yet?
CS: No, I haven’t!
PH: I highly recommend it.
CS: Okay! “Monty Python.” Got it!
PH: Your parents may want you to be a little bit older, but probably not much older. Well, thank you very much, Cassandra, and, again, it was great talking to you.
CS: It was great talking to you, too. Thank you very much! Good-bye!