Lifetime is taking on Ann Rule’s true crime collection and starting off with Sleeping With Danger, which airs Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. The Lifetime movie follows flight attendant Grace Tanner, played by Elisabeth Röhm, who falls quickly into a passionate love affair with Paul Carter, played by Antonio Cupo. Grace’s dream man quickly becomes a nightmare as his jealous rage ends in a brutal attack. Grace is able to escape and decides to work with police to bring Paul to justice.
HollywoodLife talked with Elisabeth about taking on the role of Grace. She admitted there was an “added sense of responsibility” with this role since she was playing a real-life woman. Elisabeth also discussed filming those intense scenes with her co-stars and how she was “inspired” by Big Little Lies.
What stood out about the role of Grace in Sleeping with Danger that made you really want to be a part of this film?
Elisabeth Röhm: I think stories of abuse are not told often enough. I think domestic violence isn’t really looked at enough. One of the many things I love about doing projects with Lifetime is that they’re ripped from the headlines dedication, and again, this is based upon the Ann Rule anthology of true crime stories. This is a real woman’s life. This happened to a real person, and I think the idea of portraying a real person in her journey has an added sense of responsibility. When this woman got away from her abuser, she dedicated her life to helping other women in her position. I think as an actress, that’s how I felt. I felt dedicated to telling her story with as much bravery and integrity as possible, so that hopefully any woman that’s at home in this situation or something similar to it feels encouraged to be brave and know that there’s a better tomorrow. That’s why we tell true stories so that we can we can make stronger, better, more positive impacts in our life.
This is a very intense role. How did you get into the mindset of a woman who was abused in the way that Grace was?
Elisabeth Röhm: You’ve got to have a great team. You’ve got to have an awesome production company [with] Lifetime and you’ve got to have great producing partners, Manu Boyer and Kim Raver, who is one of the stars of Grey’s Anatomy, and she’s our dear friend. Antonio Cupo is amazing. We just all sort of held each other’s hands and took a deep breath and dove right in. I think you just have to go big or go home. Because you have to tell the story with that type of grit and that type of vulnerability. There was such discomfort when we would shoot those scenes. But that was essential because, otherwise, you’re telling a very safe version of that story, which isn’t compelling. You’ve got to really go to that darker place of what abuse looks and feels like. I guess being the woman who endures the abuse in the story I think just gave everybody permission to really go big and to shoot the scenes with a lot of authenticity. Antonio was so supportive, and I was supportive of him. I was very inspired by Big Little Lies and seeing what they had achieved as actors together. Everything is a team effort and Alexander Skarsgard and Nicole Kidman obviously had a lot of trust with each other. I think that’s what Antonio and I tried to achieve. We really tried to have as much trust between each other as possible. In particular, during those scenes, we really held a very sacred space for each other and gave each other the permission to go to a very dark place together. I’m grateful to him that he was able to go there with me.
Your character is based on a real person, did you get to speak to her?
Elisabeth Röhm: I didn’t but I watched a documentary about her life. I felt a really big sense of responsibility to tell the story with as much bravery as possible because it was not fictitious. It was truly based on one woman and her horrifying experience. She dedicated her life even after she escaped and built her anonymity and a new life. She dedicated her time to working with the police to track him down before he could hurt another woman or potentially kill another woman. I felt that when we do play true life characters, there’s an added sense of responsibility that you hope that when they see it, they feel that you handled what they went through with integrity and with bravery. I hope when she sees it she feels like I portrayed her honestly.
You must also feel some pressure since you’re taking on a real person.
Elisabeth Röhm: Absolutely. Also, you’re thinking about other people that may be going through this. I want to say that I know with a lot of people quarantining right now and so forth, there’s been a lot of rise in domestic violence, so I want to encourage people to take care of themselves and take those brave steps to get out of an abusive relationship. I felt very responsible to portraying it in a real way, so that if you were a woman or man in a situation that felt similar to this, that you saw yourself reflected in these characters and that it had an impact.