Stephanie Beatriz On ‘The Light Of The Moon,’ Focusing On Survivors’ Stories, SXSW [VIDEO EXCLUSIVE]
The Light of the Moon, a new film directed by Jessica M. Thompson, tells the story of a young New York City woman, Bonnie, who is sexually assaulted by a stranger during an evening out with her friends. Though she tries to keep the assault hidden, the attempt at secrecy breaks down the trust and intimacy with her relationship with her long-term boyfriend. Stephanie Beatriz, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star who plays Bonnie, tells uInterview in an exclusive interview that one of the things that set this film apart from other movies about rape is that it focuses on the survivor’s story.
Stephanie Beatriz Video Interview
“The film is mostly about who you get to be after a traumatic event like that happens,” Beatriz told uInterview exclusively. “Are you just a rape survivor? How does it affect your relationships? How does it affect your life with your boyfriend? Do you tell your parents, do you tell everyone at work? How do you live in the world after something like that happens to you? I’ve just never seen a story that was so much about the survivor. Not just the act, but what happens after.”
Bonnie is a New Yorker who seems to be living a normal life. “She lives in Brooklyn, has a great job, she’s an architect. She has a boyfriend that’s kind of a good guy… [and] a great set of friends,” Beatriz said.
“One night she’s out, partying with her friends, like you do, she’s about three blocks from her apartment, and she’s attacked and raped,” she said.
One of Beatriz’s main motivations for taking part in this film was because it gave great attention on what the survivor had to deal with after the assault.
“I, unfortunately, have a lot of people in my life that are rape survivors,” the actress said. ” I have a really good friend who’s an incest survivor… she’s one of the main reasons I did want to be a part of this movie.”
“She said to me after she read the script, ‘I’ve never seen anybody tell my side of it. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m part of it, and it happened to me. Everyone talks about everything around it. The judicial system, or the act itself. But nobody talks about what it’s like for the victim,'” Beatriz said.
The actress thinks many films gloss over the survivor’s story, focusing instead on the assault itself, or the legal system surrounding it.
“I think part of the reason is, if you look at the ratio of women filmmakers and female writers in Hollywood, it’s not very high,” she said. “Jessica really wanted to tell this story from Bonnie’s point of view. She went so far as to make sure that our director for photography was also a woman.”
This choice proved to be pivotal in shooting the rape scene. “A lot of the times, the rape scenes in films are highly sexualized. And Jessica wanted nothing to do with that. She wanted this to be a traumatic, violent event. And I think she succeeded,” Beatriz said.
“I think the more women filmmakers we have, the more specifically female stories are going to be told and told in a really truthful and honest way,” she concluded.
The Light of the Moon opened in theaters on March 12, 2017, to wide acclaim.
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"Light of the Moon" is about a young woman named Bonnie, who not only like myself, living her best life. She lives in Brooklyn, has a great job, she's an architect. She has a boyfriend that's kind of a good guy, maybe not the right guy for her, great set of friends. One night she's out, partying with her friends, like you do, she's about three blocks from her apartment, and she's attacked and raped. And the film is mostly about who you get to be after a traumatic event like that happens. Are you just a rape survivor? How does it affect your relationships? How does it affect your life with your boyfriend? Do you tell your parents, do you tell everyone at work? How do you live in the world after something like that happens to you? I've just never seen a story that was so much about the survivor. Not just the act, but what happens after.
I unfortunately have a lot of people in my life that are rape survivors. In fact, during the shooting of the film, we had a lot of women on set, we were lucky enough to have a very high number of women working on our set. During the course of shooting, many times, there were PAs, people working on the set with us that would come up to myself, or Jessica Thompson, and say, "this happened to me. I've never talked about it before, I've never talked about it with my family. And watching you guys work through this film has made me want to own this part of myself that I didn't really want to before." And I have a really good friend who's an incest survivor, and who I have watched in the last four or five years move through the stages of being a survivor that Bonnie travels through the film. In fact, she's one of the main reasons I did want to be a part of this movie, because she said to me after she read the script, "I've never seen anybody tell my side of it. Sometimes I don't even feel like I'm part of it, and it happened to me. Everyone talks about everything around it. The judicial system, or the act itself. But nobody talks about what it's like for the victim."
I think part of the reason is, if you look at the ratio of women filmmakers and female writers in Hollywood, it's not very high. There are not that many films being made by women and Jessica really wanted to tell this story from Bonnie's point of view. She went so far as to make sure that our director for photography automacon was also a woman, because she wanted the gaze behind the camera, to -- for example, the rape scene. A lot of the times, the rape scenes in films are highly sexualized. And Jessica wanted nothing to do with that. She wanted this to be a traumatic, violent event. And I think she succeeded. In watching the film, there's nothing sexy about that scene at all. It's awful to watch. And there's not a sexualized gaze behind the camera. I think the more women filmmakers we have, the more specifically female stories are going to be told, and told in a really truthful and honest way. And it's not to say that men can't write for women -- men write for women beautifully, and women can write for men beautifully. But I think in this case, Jessica had had personal friends experience the same thing, and she badly wanted to tell their story, because it was something she had never seen before.
I looked at it as a great challenge. One of the biggest challenges I've come up against as an actor. It's not anything I've ever done before, it's not something I've lived through, so I wanted to try to access it as much as I could. I worked with a wonderful actor who played the role of the rapist, who was very sensitive, really loving person. We blocked out the scene as if it was a fight scene, which I'm pretty used to doing, because of my work on 'Brooklyn 99.' We had a closed set that day, everyone was very supportive, and made sure that I was comfortable at all times. But also, we had a real honesty shared between myself, the director, and the director of photography. So I think we just all trusted each other to try to make it look as real as possible, meant going to a deep dark place. Because acting is essentially playing pretend, real, real hard. So I just had to go there, just go there, and dip my toe into maybe what would be, I can't even imagine living through something like that. But if I hopefully portrayed it in a way that people can put themselves in that place and feel horror or empathy for her, then hopefully I did a good job, I don't know. I just sort of threw myself at it, I was scared to death, but I really tried hard. Because I kept thinking about all the women this has happened to, and I was like, I can't let them down.
Well my favorite story is actually, it's not like a funny story, it's just like a heart-warming. We were shooting the pilot, and when you're shooting the pilot, you don't know if it's going to be picked up or not, everyone's very hopeful. I think I had 200 dollars in my bank account at that point, and we had shot a few scenes, and it was late at night, maybe the third day of shooting, we didn't know each other very well, I was a big Lonely Island fan, so I was nervous to be around Andy. And myself, Melissa, Joe, and Andy were all sitting at Kraft services. We were waiting for them to set up lights or something, we had coffees and teas, it was kind of cold, we all started joking around and started talking about people we had dated, or weird experiences in college, and we were all sitting there, making each other laugh, and then Andy said, "I hope this goes, because you guys are really fun to hang out with. It would be fun to go to work with each other every day." And all of us looked at each other and were like, yeah, it would really be fun to go to work with each other every day. And we talk about that sometimes still, because it still is. We have group messages going, we're always making each other laugh, and we really care about each other. And I think it shows in the work that we create. Because we're sort of a tight work family in real life, we've become a tight work family on the show too. And I don't know, otherwise it's very heartwarming. I've never really done TV before, and we're all sitting out there. I remember thinking in my head, I was like, 'Andy Samberg,' was right there, and Joe Lo Truglio, and me.