FOUND IN THE DARK
Texan Leven Rambin takes on the challenge of playing a former child abduction victim in a newTV thriller, writes W
hen Leven Rambin was cast as pivotal character Kick Lannigan in new TV thriller, Gone, the Texan-born actor had no inkling of the trauma ahead.
Abducted as a child by a psychopath who held her captive for five years, Lannigan’s fate came to insidiously permeate Rambin’s own life. “It was a very dark year for me,” she reveals, “not just playing the role but researching for it.
“I suffered constant nightmares about being kidnapped, my mum being kidnapped or my boyfriend being kidnapped.”
But the 27-year-old veteran of TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy,
True Detective and The Path says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“When I read the script, I knew immediately the role was meant for me. I felt very called to it,” she says.
“I just knew that I had to get the role, whatever it took.”
Rambin stars opposite Chris Noth, of Sex and the City and The Good Wife fame, who plays the FBI agent who rescues Lannigan and points her in a new direction. “Frank (Noth), a mentor and father figure, asks me to join the taskforce to help find missing children because I’m familiar with the inner workings of what kind of person would do that.”
To prepare herself and to counter the PTSD she suffered as a result of her experience, Lannigan trains herself to “become physically and emotionally strong through karate and (Israeli martial art) Krav Maga” and embarks on “extensive weapons training so she can feel safe again”.
Honing the on-camera authenticity between herself and Noth, which is so imperative to the project, was much less challenging.
“Once I tested with Chris I knew that this role was mine,” she says. “I love him and he loves me and that chemistry was just there.”
But was she apprehensive about testing with Noth, forever synonymous with his role as Sarah Jessica Parker’s on-off Sex and the City paramour? “Not particularly,” she smiles. “I wasn’t really nervous to meet him because I was just a casual fan of his and I never idolised that show. So I wasn’t super freaked out.”
Playing Lannigan, meanwhile, led her to make some unusual decisions.
“While I was shooting, there were a couple of days where I was really not myself. I was in a weird place and I called my friend and said, ‘Meet me at a tattoo shop’!” she recalls, shaking her head. “So, I got a bunch of piercings. I just felt that I had to because it was my way of taking out my angst on what I was going through. Plus, I felt like Kick would have done that. I think it worked for the character and it looked cool on screen, in my opinion.”
The 12-episode procedural drama, created by Matt Lopez ( Gothica) and based on Chelsea Cain’s novel, One Kick, inevitably provided Rambin with quite an education on the subjects of paedophilia and child pornography.
“It opened my eyes to a side of humanity that I didn’t really know existed, as far as what human beings are capable of doing to another human being. I guess I was naive.
“But the fact is, this is very real and true, you just don’t see it on the surface. You don’t see the darkness that does actually exist as you are walking around and living your life. But the truth is, somebody is living it.
“I can’t un-know the things that I know now. Gone is real-life horror and I find that I look at everything a little bit differently now as far as children and their safety, parents and adults and the way they interact.”
Rambin, who has also appeared in the big-budget Hunger Games and Percy Jackson franchises, began her career aged 13 on the soap, All My Children. Meanwhile, the legacy of the series has given her a new-found confidence in her own physical abilities. Does she feel she could defend herself in real life?
“Oh yeah,” she nods. “I think I could, definitely. Now that I’ve been trained in self-defence, my instincts would be more intelligent if something were to happen to me than to run screaming.” GONE, UNIVERSAL CHANNEL, FOXTEL PREMIERES ON SATURDAY
EYE-OPENER: Leven Rambin plays Kick Lannigan in the new series Gone; (inset) with co-stars Chris Noth, Andy Mientus and Danny Pino. Picture: Virginia Sherwood