Jocelin Donahue has become quite the horror staple in her diverse career, starring in the likes of projects like The House of the Devil (2009), I Trapped the Devil (2019), All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018), and Doctor Sleep (2019). I spoke to the actress about her latest project in Offseason about a woman who receives a mysterious letter from her mother's gravesite that has been vandalized. She returns to the isolated offshore island where her late mother is buried. When she arrives, she discovers the island is closing for the offseason with the bridges raised until spring, leaving her stranded. The longer she stays, the more she realizes there are a lot of dark forces at work in the area she'll have to contend with to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Donahue was pitched the idea of Offseason by writer and director Mickey Keating, who she was familiar with his previous work selling the idea of her character Marie's "waking nightmare." "[Mickey] had worked together already with Mac Fisken, our super talented DP, and Eric Fleischman, his producer," she said. "They really set the tone for a really playful yet professional environment. Mickey really has this joy and exuberance that he brings to filmmaking, and that's kind of infectious for everybody else. We also were shooting in Florida, and a lot of us came from Los Angeles, but then there were also some local crew members there, too. So there was kind of a great mix of scrappy and excited people working to make this independent film."
When it comes to what Keating wanted to capture, Donahue broke down the film's psychological aspects. "Mickey had talked about a couple of touchpoints for his inspirations, including some southern Gothic short stories," she said. "I kind of noticed the Lovecraftian vibe as well. There's just this weird, kind of surreal nightmare. It was really interesting to think about how to play like the dawning of this realization that what seems impossible is now you must believe it. So that was an interesting thing to play, kind of just realizing what deep water she was in. So that was something I was thinking about. I just saw Marie kind of dealing with this bombshell of a family secret that gets revealed after her mom had passed away and having to deal with that. That was very emotional."
Nothing really bothered Donahue about filming Offseason, but that doesn't mean it was without its own potential hazards. "I got to do so much in this movie, I had kind of a monologue cut straight to camera, I had a lot of running, but I used to run cross-country in high school, so that prepared me well," she said. "We had some really cool set pieces that were oners all one shot of moving through the museum or the fisherman's house. So those are all very fun. I don't know really what was tough. I remember the only time that I felt scared for real as an actor was kind of running through the fog where I couldn't see where I was going. So there was a few times at night where I was like running full speed on the pavement and just worried that I would fall on my face, but otherwise, it was all fun."
Donahue credits her costars and being able to feed off their respective energies. "There are such great actors on this film and people that I really admire and respect and have always wanted to work with," she said. "So one cool thing about Marie as a character is that she's fielding all these different energies from these different characters and that I felt that with the actors too and how they worked. With Joe Swanberg, our relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend is kind of already tense and not on good footing when we arrive there. So that was fun to play with the relationship dynamic, then with Melora Walters, who is just such a powerhouse; she was just such a generous and present costar. I loved working on scenes with her, and you had some really emotional work. With Richard Brake, who is such a commanding presence, it was amazing to kind of face-off with him and with Jeremy [Gardner], who's another great independent filmmaker and a great actor. It was very fun to kind of bounce off the different energies of these characters and different actors." RLJE Films and Shudder's Offseason comes to select theaters, on-demand and digital on March 11.