Paradise Highway: Hala Finley on Film's Dark Nature & Juliette Binoche

Hala Finley is always looking for new challenges to tackle, from light-hearted sitcoms like CBS' Man with a Plan to the more serious with dark subject matter such as human trafficking like her latest film Paradise Highway. Finley plays Leila, a girl who's an unwilling participant in a smuggling operation, and bonds with a reluctant female trucker Sally (Juliette Binoche). Following an exchange-gone-wrong, the two find themselves on the run and in danger, trying to escape their pursuers. Finley talked to Bleeding Cool about working with writer-director Anna Gutto, who made her theatrical debut, and her co-star Binoche.

Paradise Highway: Hala Finley on Film's Dark Nature & Juliette Binoche
Hala Finley in Paradise Highway (2022). Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Bleeding Cool: What interested you about Paradise Highway?
Hala Finley: I loved the script. It was absolutely amazing. Leila's journey portraying a real-life issue is what intrigued me the most.

BC: What was it like working with Anna?
Finley: Anna is such an amazing director. We also bonded almost immediately. We also talked about how to keep Leila real, like her accent. I've studied many people from Mississippi since that's where she's from. They have a really strong accent, so I wanted to make sure Leila did as well. Anna was absolutely amazing to work with, and I really hope I get to work with her again.

Paradise Highway: Hala Finley on Film's Dark Nature & Juliette Binoche
Hala Finley as Leila and Juliette Binoche as Sally in Paradise Highway. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate

BC: Given the film's dark subject matter itself of trafficking, was there anything that you did to prep yourself that helped you get into your role?
Finley: I spent three weeks immersing myself in Leila's world. I wanted to ensure I represented a real person going through what she experienced. I watched a lot of documentaries about trafficking and survivor stories. I just kept digging into Leila's past because I wanted to look at how someone from her upbringing would deal with that situation.

Paradise Highway: Dir Anna Gutto on Crime Drama & Theatrical Debut

BC: How do you describe working with your more experienced co-stars on set?
Finley: I love working with Juliette, and I learned from [my co-stars'] example how professional and serious they were about their own roles. I spent most of the time on set diving deeper into my role. Juliette was so amazing and fun to work with; she even kind of felt like a mother figure to me. On set, she always ensured I was okay and protected me. We grew a really close bond, which was also important for the film because Lila and Sally have such a special connection.

Lionsgate's Paradise Highway, which also stars Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo, Veronica Ferres, Cameron Monaghan, and Christine Seidel, is currently in theaters, digital, and on-demand.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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