Deborah Ann Woll has dedicated over a decade of her career to genre television but now she’s ready for a break.
The actress made her name as the vampire Jessica in True Blood, from 2008 to 2014, then a year later took on the role of Karen Page in Netflix series Daredevil, The Defenders and The Punisher, but with the streaming service cancelling its Marvel productions she’s been looking for new avenues to walk down.
“I’m definitely looking for work but I did two really cool genre series back to back,” Woll tells Yahoo Movies UK. “I did ten to eleven years of TV which means your schedule is constantly closed and I had to forgo some older dreams. I kind of see unemployment as an opportunity.”
Theatre is one opportunity that the actress would like to explore now that she’s no longer filming these shows but she’s also up for doing more films. That’s why we’re talking to her about Escape Room, a new horror film inspired by the popular adventure game experience.
The movie sees six strangers, including Woll’s army vet Amanda, sign up to compete in a mysterious escape room with a $10,000 prize only to find that their lives are on the line in this sadistic version of the game.
It’s probably one of the most physical roles the actress has played and it is one of the rare movies that positions a woman as arguably the strongest, most agile person in the room.
“We more often see men in action roles in entertainment but of course, there are women who do this stuff in the world so it is interesting to see the less common take,” Woll explains.
Her character Amanda almost takes on a Lara Croft persona as she tries to survive the evermore dangerous situations her group is thrown into, but the actress very much wanted to get across the struggle this would have been for any person – no matter their military training background.
“I wanted to be very clear that this stuff was hard,” she explains, “a lot of times in action movies you see people just breeze through this acrobatic stuff. This is a woman who was trained ten years ago, but she’s literally just been frozen five minutes before so her muscles are tight and ache, and she’s scared so it was important to me that it did not look easy.
“It was important that she looked tough and strong but that every move was hard,” Woll adds. “that was the fun storytelling of it for me.”
Her character isn’t just a former soldier, she’s someone who was wounded in battle and still dealing with the post-traumatic stress it caused. The actress admits that her own experience of panic attacks helped get into character but it was important that she spoke to veterans and visited “open access message boards specifically with people with PTSD” in order to fully understand Amanda.
“I found interesting people who were anonymous so were more candid,” Woll recalls. “I did find a little resistance from some but it was hard because people are really struggling, and obviously one performance cannot represent what everyone is going through, so I took what I learned and mixed it with my imagination.
“I do have some experience with panic attacks and things like that so I could use some of that to inform my performance.”
Like Final Destination and Saw, Escape Room could be a franchise movie and given how common that trajectory is in the horror genre it could soon be a reality.
“I say this from a Dungeons & Dragons perspective, an ongoing campaign of people continuing to adventure,” Woll says. “What I like about the ending is that it’s proactive. That’s a unique way to go so I think there’s room to continue especially if you allow the characters to evolve like that.”
So what’s next for the actress? She’s written a new campaign for Dungeons & Dragons but when season two of The Punisher went to air on Netflix, she said it might be the last time fans see Karen Page in action.
Woll had spoken to co-star Jon Bernthal the night before our interview and according to her he said “they were pitching ideas and talking about” a third season, but that doesn’t mean she’s getting her hopes up.
“These decisions are so far above my head, all I know is that we haven’t heard anything and it’s probably healthier for me to walk off and say goodbye and thank you than hold out hope and wait forever,” she says. “I’m so appreciative to all the fans who are so upset, I am feeling it right now too.
“For me, the saddest thing is leaving the people I work with,” she adds, referring to Daredevil. “I won’t get to see Matt Murdock again or work with Charlie Cox. They are the same person, technically, but those are two separate losses.”
Escape Room is in cinemas this Friday 1 February.