If there’s one thing that’s plagued Saoirse Ronan her entire life, it’s people mispronouncing her name. For those wondering, she says, “I pronounce it Sir-sha like inertia.” It’s one of the only things she has in common with her character Leia in Lifetime’s new eerie film Stockholm, Pennsylvania.
Leia, a young girl who was kidnapped at age 4 and raised by her captor Ben (Jason Isaacs) as a daughter, has gone through life unaware of the outside world, her real family, and even her real name (it’s actually LeeAnn). The unusual premise, which drops the viewer off right when Leia is returned to her biological parents Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and Glen (David Warshofsky), gave the kidnap victim story an unusual twist that’s unlike most stories in the same category, including Lifetime’s recent success Cleveland Abduction.
“It’s not your typical kidnap victim story, and it doesn’t focus on the actual act of kidnapping a kid,” Ronan, 21, explains to Us Weekly. “It’s about [her] relationship [with Ben], and it’s about her relationship with her mother and how both relationships have kind of affected each other. With her relationship with Ben in particular, I didn’t treat it as someone who was keeping me captive, but just someone who was my complete world and meant everything to Leia.”
Since there were few stories in which the kidnapped child was not victimized, but rather loved, Ronan relied on director Nikole Beckwith, who came up with the plot organically.
“Nikole had everything figured out in her head,” the Oscar nominee says. “She was pretty clear on who these people were. Around that time there were a lot of cases that were coming out of the woodwork of women who had gone missing 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and I just assumed that it was inspired by all of those stories. But she didn’t do any research on these people at all. It was very much from her own imagination.”
Ronan had to embody a scared, mistrusting young woman, who had no recollection of the parents who had spent more than a decade searching for her. Leia’s distance from her mother, causes Marcy to reach disturbing levels of insanity, more off-putting than her treatment from her captor Ben.
“Thankfully, I come from a normal enough background and I have a sane mother, but Cynthia is supposed to represent this secure figure in her life, and she just becomes more and more manic and more and more obsessive and paranoid, almost psychotic by the end,” Ronan adds. “And that creeps me out more because a mother is supposed to be secure and your kind of anchor. She played it so well. There was boiled rage and frustration inside of her that she couldn’t let out because she everything had to be nice and perfect and the way it should have been when Leia was 3 years old.”
Both Nixon and Isaacs earned Critics Choice Awards nods for their performances. It marks a new level of filmmaking for the network, which recently boasted Orange Is the New Black star Taryn Manning in the lead role for the gritty, ripped-from-the-headlines Cleveland Abduction. Ronan was excited to tackle a role so complex.
“It was a fascinating thing to sink your teeth into because it wasn’t the bad guy versus the poor innocent little victim girl,” she said of her character. “Ultimately he was the one who had taken the life she was supposed to have away from her and sort of deceived her in some ways when it came to the actual reality outside, but they had such a mutual love for each other and such a tight bond. It was nice to play that.”
To do so, she had to pull off an American accent very different from her thick Irish one. Weaving in and out of different dialects is a talent Ronan has been mastering her entire life.
“Accents have always been a big part of how I communicate,” she says. “My dad’s an actor as well and my mom’s a nutter, as we say in Ireland, and the three of us when we have fun and have a bit of banter, we always dip in and out of different accents. I think I just naturally pick up on different sounds, and I like to know where people are from. It really helps for you to figure out who this person is. You can really tell a lot about how a person speaks or sounds.”
One particular accent she’d like to try out?
“I would love to do SNL so much,” she gushes. “I feel like once you’ve done SNL you’ve kind of made it. My absolute dream would be to go on SNL and do The Californians. I do [that accent] all the time. As long as Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen are in it, I’m happy. That’s the dream. If I can make it there, I can retire after that.”
Stockholm, Pennsylvania airs Saturday, May 9 at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.
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