Split: Jessica Sula Talks About Working With M. Night Shyamalan, James McAvoy and Reuniting With Haley Lu Richardson

– by Gig Patta

M. Night Shyamalan has returned to his roots with an original psychological thriller Split. The film delves into a complex mind of a schizophrenic man who transforms into multiple personalities. He kidnaps three young woman and tortures them psychologically, but there is something much more dastardly and despicable planned for his victims.

Split is available this week on Blu-ray and DVD, featuring an alternate ending, deleted scenes, and special look into the The Making of Split, The Many Faces of James McAvoy and The Filmmaker’s Eye: M. Night Shyamalan.

The film stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula.

LRM had an exclusive phone interview with Jessica Sula last week to discuss her participation in this awesome project. She talked about the magic behind M. Night Shyamalan, watching James McAvoy transform into different people and reuniting with her co-star Haley Lu Richardson from Recovery Road.

Split is currently available on Digital HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand today from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Read the full transcript below.

LRM: Split is one of my favorite movies of this year. I saw it in the theaters and LOVED it!

Jessica Sula: Wonderful. That’s awesome.

LRM: I wanted to know at which point you found you got to work with M. Night Shyamalan.

Jessica Sula: [Chuckles] I found out at the audition. Do you mean on the realization that I got to work with M. Night Shyamalan? It was pretty cool. It happened numerous times on set for all of us.

We got it with the role breakdown and the audition from the agent. It did said it was M. Night Shyamalan and what it was all about. We initially knew nothing. The first time I came in contact with the script was when I was told I had the part. I had to sign the contract to [get that script].

LRM: Were there a lot of secrets kept from you when you got the script? Did they only gave you a part of the script in order to keep the twist a secret? Or did they give you the whole script?

Jessica Sula: No, they were actually pretty good. They gave us the whole script. There were some things planned and mapped out in his mind. If you ask him a question on why he would go down this particular road, then you’ll get ten or twenty answers. I’m sure when they watched the movie, there were little touches here and there that you don’t know about.

It was all good. We got the script only after we signed the non-disclosure and knew that we definitely had the part.

LRM: Was it hard for you to keep the secret?

Jessica Sula: Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I was pretty okay [with the secret]. A lot of people volunteered themselves on not wanting to know. It’s about not knowing the twist. That’s the whole point. The whole M. Night Shyamalan twist is the whole reason why one would want to go to the movies.

I think a lot of people wanted to see this movie the old fashion way. They wanted to find out on their own.

LRM: So, what was your reaction to the M. Night Shyamalan’s twist when you read the script? Did you expect that at all?

Jessica Sula: No, I [didn’t expect it] as a read it in a very short time. I kept wanting to turn the page. [Laughs] No one could really expect that. It wasn’t anything that it would come to mind. You would just be thinking, “Oh, man. How are we going to do this?”

I was just excited that James [McAvoy] had to go on a big journey here. It was very unexpected.

LRM: I think half the fun about M. Night Shyamalan movies is trying to guess on what the twist may actually be. When you were reading the script—what twist you were guessing it was going to be?

Jessica Sula: I didn’t actually guess anything. When you are first reading a script, you are trying to be as opened to anything as possible. I was reading it like, “Oh, man!” I’ve never read anything or seen any movie that was like this. I think that was sort of what was popping in my mind. There wasn’t really need to second guess an M. Night Shyamalan film. Now, I wonder if the other girls did.

LRM: How was it with working M. Night Shyamalan in your opinion?

Jessica Sula: It was really nice to have him as a director. It was really challenging on some days and it was fun on other days. It just becomes your normal job. For this [film], there was a lot of energy to went into it that become intense at some point. It required plenty of stamina.

You just wanted to do a good job for yourself and with everyone around you.

LRM: Talk a little more about your character. Give us more a background about the character, Marcia.

Jessica Sula: I would say Marcia is that type of girl, who never really had anything traumatic happened to her before in her life. You would go through your teenage problems, but Marcia is a good student, popular and from a balanced home. This is something she would never had imagined for herself to be in this type of situation.

I think she is also quite young and naïve. Poor Marcia. All of these circumstances had really challenged her and pushed her to really come out of her shell. I can imagine that she was a little bit shy at some times. [Chuckles]

LRM: So when you were working on this production, how was it working on the confinement of a very, very small set? I can imagine that you were only working in one or two rooms?

Jessica Sula: Yes, we were. There were the technical challenges of having so many people in one space. We were dealing with your character and your emotions towards a high intensity environment.

There was one particular scene in which I was trying to escape. There was just a lot of crew in the room with me. It was hot. Everyone was trying to focus on getting that shot down. I’m trying to deal with Marcia’s desperation trying to get out.

It all worked out. I think having that spatial challenges helped us figure out on where everything was going to go. It helped create with the atmosphere of the film.

LRM: So what did you suppose was the most difficult thing you had to do on this project?

Jessica Sula: Honestly, I would say the whole thing was pretty challenging. It was trying to get that balance of the believable stages of fear that a human would go through. That could be hard just on the energy and emotional challenges. It’s what the character has to go through and returning to it every single day. It’s the same space every single day. It can be very draining. You would have to move through that.

We had a great crew. We had a lot of support. James was a pure joy to work with. That certainly helped.

I would say the whole thing was pretty challenging to me. The balance that your character is afraid and to have her to show some courage at the same time. There was all of that went into it. The whole thing was just fantastic. It’s all very challenging.

LRM: Speaking of James, since you were able to work with him extensively, what was going through your head when James was portraying his acting ability by going through all these different personalities in front of your eyes?

Jessica Sula: Sometimes I couldn’t believe I was witnessing it. It only makes you realize on why you wanted to do acting. It is so amazing. He is just so cool and calm. It’s like he had everything prepped and seems to be himself. When the cameras start rolling, he would instantly be this other person and the other people.

It was a very surreal moment. One that you wouldn’t believe you fully witness, but you realize on “that’s why I wanted to do this.” I love to watch other people on their acting and their process. He managed to be and bring each character to life.

LRM: When I was watching the movie, I noticed that you had an immediate connection with Haley Lu Richardson. I just found out that you worked with her before.

Jessica Sula: Yeah, I did. [Laughs] That’s so funny. It all happened with serendipity. It just ended up happening. We worked together for a while on this show called Recovery Road. We got really close. After filming this one scene [on the show], I said, “I really don’t care, but I want to be working with you again.”

A month later she was calling me up. She said, “Jess, I think we’re both going to be in the same film.” [Laughs] It’s like having a sister with you. And that helps a lot for what we were doing. It’s always fun to be exploring other places with a friend. We were together and it’s always nice when we get to hang out. It’s just what we needed after that long day at work.

I think it really helped with both Marcia and Claire. It really helped for the both of us of having that connection before. You didn’t feel like you had to try anything.

LRM: It really shows on film. I really have to admit that.

Jessica Sula: That’s great! I’m so happy that you got that. It’s all genuinely our friendship. [Laughs]

LRM: Let me start wrapping this up. Could you talk about any future project you may have?

Jessica Sula: At the moment, I have an independent film that will be going to Tribeca called The Lovers with Tracy Letts and Debra Winger. It’s directed by Azazel Jacobs. It’s really exciting and just saw the screening of that.

I will also have a Netflix series that will be coming out in the winter called Godless.

LRM: One last question, out of all of James’ characters he portrayed in the film…..which personality was your favorite?

Jessica Sula: Oh, I do have to say it’s Hedwig. [Laughs] It’s definitely Hedwig. He’s very quotable. I quote him from time-to-time. I love it on how he says “et cetera” and when he said “I ate a hot dog.” [Laughs] It was the most unnerving. James does definitely become this little kid. You want to hug him and play with him. [Laughs] Although, he’s really not. It’s definitely Hedwig.

LRM: Great answer. Thank you very much with this conversation.

Jessica Sula: Thank you for the talk. Cheers!

Split is currently available on Digital HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand today from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Source: Exclusive to LRM

Film, Interviews, LRM Exclusives Split, Jessica Sula