Rachel Nichols kept busy doing more television work while still doing the occasional film starring in the critically-acclaimed shows like Amazon's The Man in the High Castle and DC's Titans on HBO Max. When the opportunity to work with director John Suits again for Breach, she couldn't pass it up. I spoke to the actress about her latest film, how the role of Chambers compares to her other sci-fi projects, the stunt work of an indie film to the mainstream, and her co-stars. "I had worked with John Suits, the director on another film before appropriately named Pandemic (2016)," she recalled. "We had a very low budget. It was me, Missi Pyle, and Mekhi Phifer and we made a great film. I loved working with John, so the draw for me with working with him again."
Nichols plays Chambers, the medical doctor of a space transport carrying a mix of military personnel and civilians on their way to a colony. When an alien threat gets smuggled on board, the crew is in a race against time to escape its influence and survive. "I've done things like (TV series) Continuum, Star Trek (2009), and to a certain extent G.I. Joe: [The Rise of Cobra] (2009) and done a lot of stuff that's sci-fi-ish and action," she said. "Playing a medical technician isn't something I have necessarily done before. It was an interesting role. I'm always up for anything as long as I can pronounce all the medical mumbo jumbo or scientific in this respect, mumbo jumbo. I have to learn what it means before I can say it and make sense. It was a fun role that I can sink my teeth into, so that's what I really look for."
When it came to comparing the stunt work of Breach with an action blockbuster like G.I. Joe, Nichols pointed out it ultimately comes down to the film's budget and if it can invest in anything that's more involved. "When I worked on G. I. Joe, Sienna Miller and I had six weeks of fight training before we even started," she said. "That's what a franchise would get you, which is way more preparation and way more ability to conduct massive fight scenes. It's just more time and resources. It is what you think it is. When working on Breach, we had to learn a lot of stuff on the day, and luckily, there weren't any massive fight scenes that required learning in advance like Sienna, and I had to for G. I. Joe. When you're doing a smaller budget film, there's no time for prep and practice beforehand. You have to have a great stunt coordinator [Van Ayasit], which we did. I worked with him before when we shot Pandemic. You have to have a great stunt coordinator, actors who will listen and doing stuff on the fly. It's a completely different experience."
One thing Nichols credits Suits on is how flexible he is on set. "John is very collaborative," she said. "It was one of the reasons why I wanted to work with him again. He's very smart. There's always can be a conversation about changing a line or asking about intention, and that's what's so appealing to work with. I've been very fortunate in the projects that I've been involved with. I rarely ever come against anyone who's rigidly against changing lines or anything like that. There was definitely some mobility there. It's always a dance. You're all working on this group together, figuring out what will make the best film. When a conversation about dialogue needs to be had, there's always room for movement." When it came to Nichol's co-stars Bruce Willis and Cody Kearsley, they had a charismatic charm and down-to-earth nature about them. "I never met either of them before," she said. "Cody's funny, goofy, great actor, and easy to be around. Bruce is hilarious, actually. I had a lovely time working with him. He's also got a pretty good sense of humor." Nichols recalled the time on set where Willis' antics forced production to take some drastic measures.
"He's Bruce Willis, and he can do what he wants," she said. "There were a couple of takes that went right off the rails, and it was really hard to keep a straight face. At one point, production had to hide all the pith helmets in the ship because Bruce kept putting them on during takes. They didn't want that, so they had to remove them from the set. Working with Bruce, who's a seasoned veteran and someone I've watched my entire life, was very interesting. I was pleasantly surprised that he was super nice in real life because you never know what you're going to get. He was calm and very cool." Saban Films' Breach, written by Edward Drake and Corey Large, also stars Large, Kassandra Clementi, Johnny Messner, Callan Mulvey, Timothy V. Murphy, Johann Urb, Raif Moeller, Angie Pack, and Thomas Jane. The film comes to theatres, on-demand, and digital on December 18.