“Apostasy” opens a window on the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, written and directed by Daniel Kokotajlo who was raised in the Jehovah’s Witnesses community himself. It’s one of those films that shed a light on topics that are not much talk about and that usually stirs various reactions from the public. The film was rightfully praised by both critics and audience, with a breakthrough performance by Molly Wright that landed her a BIFA nomination as Most Promising Newcomer.
Molly plays Alex, a young woman that strikes for her deep belief and as Molly said, “she comes across as quiet, shy and introverted, which she is, but there’s strength underneath that.” The movie is made of deafening silences and small gestures and gazes that say more than a thousand words.
We met Molly in London and it was beautiful to listen to her talking about this brilliant movie, the difficulties of it, the preparation and her future projects, which have to be, first of all, real and raw.
First of all, congratulations on the BIFA and BAFTA Nominations. How did you react when you found out?
I was so overwhelmed and in complete disbelief, especially being put in a category with all the other nominees. It was so mind-blowing. Just to be able to go was amazing, I was so pleased.
You were amazing in “Apostasy,” I loved it. “Apostasy” is also definitely a movie that will make people talk, what reaction did you expect from the audience?
It was such a low budget thing and we – me and Dan and Marcie – were all quite new and kind of at the beginning of our careers. So, I don’t think that anything was ever expected of it and everything that came from it has been a pleasant surprise. Obviously, it was always going to have a bit of backlash, like everything. I think there were a couple of negative comments, but that’s something to be expected particularly when the subject is something that hasn’t had that much exposure.
We asked the same question to your Co-star, Robert Emms, and he told us the same thing: that it’s good to awake the audience to speak about something nobody speaks about.
Speaking of which, how was working with Robert and how did you work together on the scenes that Alex and Steven share? Especially the physicality of them?
Oh, we had such a good time! I had formed great friendships with Sacha and Robert, and we all got on so well so that really helped. When it came round to filming the scenes we were all open to talking about it and Robert is amazing. It’s hard not to do a good scene with somebody who is so great.
Daniel, being a Jehovah’s Witness himself, how did he help you to face your character?
He was insanely helpful. Any sort of doubt or question that we had, he was always on hand to answer and make sure that what we were doing was accurate. Obviously, we did a lot of research, but sometimes things would come up on set or even with the physicality of these characters. Sometimes we did something quite modern, like a roll of the eyes, and he was there to remind us that that wouldn’t work.
This was helpful in playing Alex in particular because she hasn’t been out in the real world as much as her sister due to her condition. So, I think it was extremely helpful to have him, he was a fountain of knowledge.
“I don’t think that anything was ever expected of it and everything that came from it has been a pleasant surprise.”
How did you work personally on your character?
I read the Bible, and I just tried to study as much as I could. Obviously, Alex has sixteen years on me, for learning and knowing all kind of things, and I only had a couple of months. But in that time, I tried to get as close as I could to know as much as she knows. And then, of course, everything about her condition.
I think that’s the biggest challenge because I went into it not knowing anything about that community, as most people don’t. But yes, it was fascinating.
What aspect of the film did you find most challenging?
I think that was the most challenging thing – not knowing anything about the Jehovah’s Witnesses community and diving into it especially when the information out there is either horrendously negative or it’s from the Jehovah’s Witnesses community. There wasn’t really much out there which is why Daniel came in so handy – in the film, I think you can see that it shows the religion in a pretty balanced light.
In some scenes, the silence is almost deafening. How did you work on that? From the audience part, sometimes, you feel quite overwhelmed by it, which is quite strange. But it was beautiful.
Yeah, I think a lot of people said that. But I think that it is part of the realism that Daniel was hoping to capture. It’s not all music and dialogues. It was kind of the naturalistic approach I guess. It was real.
How would you describe Alex in a few words?
I admire Alex in a lot of ways because she believes so deeply. And as it turns out, she would die for it at 18, and I don’t think that many 18-year-olds would give their life for faith. I think she’s great in many ways. She comes across as quiet, shy and introverted, which she is, but there’s strength underneath that. She’s so sure of what she believes in.
I admire Alex in a lot of ways because she believes so deeply.”
What was the most fun and enjoyable time while shooting “Apostasy”?
Sacha and I had probably more fun than we should’ve had, so many of those times. We laughed a lot!
What does acting mean to you?
It’s my whole life. I am incredibly lucky to be doing it, and I hope to continue doing it for as long as possible. I love it, and it’s great.
What kind of stories do you dream to tell?
Real ones. The thing I love about “Apostasy” is that it’s a story nobody knows about. There’s not much exposure on Jehovah’s Witnesses, so to inform people – I think that is the most important thing that TV and Film can do. And to continue doing it would be amazing.
The last movie you’ve watched that made you want to scream at the screen, like “Apostasy” did for us?
I watched “Call Me By Your Name” last year, and I could not stop thinking about it for so long. I even bought the DVD. I haven’t bought a DVD in years, and yet I felt like I needed it.
“The thing I love about ‘Apostasy’ is that it’s a story nobody knows about.”
Have you read the book?
No, I haven’t.
I feel like it’s weird if you read the book after you’ve watched the film, you should probably do it the other way around.
And what’s your happy place?
My home, with my family.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project is to keep working and keep trying as many different things as possible and getting the opportunity to do so with different people. Every project is a dream project.
What are your next projects?
I start filming “The A Word” series 3 in May, and I have another independent film coming up the next year or the year after, which I’m really excited about.