She’s best known for her role on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning comedy series Will & Grace. Now Debra Messing plays the accomplished and determined police detective Rosemary Vick tackling the case of a missing teenaged girl, in Columbia Pictures’ riveting suspense thriller Searching – the winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
In the film, after David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter, Margot, goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace his daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.
For Messing’s Detective Vick, determined and objective in her goal to solve the mystery of Margot’s disappearance, creating the various layers of her motivations were critical to her performance. “I’m a single, working mother of a boy, so I immediately identified with the basic facts of her life,” she explains.
In telling the story, the filmmakers use a screen-based language of storytelling that authentically depicts the way we interact today and explores the reality of a modern parent/child connection in the Internet age.
“I was incredibly intrigued. It literally was unlike any film script I had ever read before. The whole thing that makes this movie so original and exciting and forward-thinking is this really thrilling to approach to storytelling in a completely new way,” Messing explains. “Even reading the script was a different experience, and that’s what excited me – it was obvious that [director] Aneesh Chaganty was so clear in his storytelling and the kind of film he wanted to make. At first it was a big leap of faith, but on set there was always a sense of ‘this is how we are going to make this work,’ with room for tinkering if we needed to. There was always a sense of discovery.”
In a bit of life imitating art, the digital video communication that becomes another visual platform in the movie became the conduit of her research.
“I thought research was really important because I didn’t have any idea about what a missing persons detective job is, really. And so, I was able to speak with two detectives from Los Angeles, via Facetime with them simultaneously. It was wonderful, they were very patient with me, going over everything from what is the protocol as soon as you get the call to going in front of public, speaking about the case and what’s expected of that; the dynamics between a victim’s family and the detective,” Messing recalls.
While her preparation for the part followed a traditional path, filming it was anything but conventional. It also allowed for truer to life experience than typical movie blocking and shooting could have even approximated.
“My first day on set was, I think, the most shocking, because I had a scene with John and I never was in the same room as him. It was incredible. I was in one room with the laptop and the GoPro right on laptop. And he was on the other side of the house with his own laptop and his own GoPro. And we were able to actually do this scene in real time with a video link simultaneously, as we would in real life. There was something so organic, so real about it. In normal filmmaking, you shoot one side and angle or angles and then you move the cameras and lights around and do the same thing from the other side. Everything that was happening with both of us was being recorded and that was really interesting,” Messing concludes.
In Philippine cinemas September 19, Searching is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.