SEARCHING Debra Messing on the Filming Challenges

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Searching is the new critically acclaimed thriller starring Star Trek’s John Cho and Will & Grace’s Debra Messing.  Messing talked about the movie and the challenges filming it.  Like Crazy Rich Asians, Searching is notable for being a mainstream Hollywood film with an Asian-American lead.

The Film

Cho plays a father desperately looking for his missing 16-year old daughter with the help of a police detective.  Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, Searching is presented almost exclusively through computer screens and smartphones.  Messing plays Detective Vick, who is searching for the young woman.  But she must also deal with the girl’s father, who grows more desperate by the hour.

The Appeal

Describing what about the project resonated with her, Messing said, “Well, first and foremost, I am a mother of a child.  And I immediately responded to the main story.  Nothing could be more horrific than your child going missing.  So, I realized that even though the device that Aneesh created, that had never been done in the history of cinema, that I couldn’t really connect with emotionally. But the story underneath it, that was a classic suspense thriller and that it was a very emotional story. And once I realized that if you took that device out, the story could stand on its own, then I felt like I felt comfortable about it.”

The Detective

When asked about preparation for the role, Messing said, “I played two years, a homicide detective, for two years on Mysteries of Laura and had done a lot of research into that.  And so, in terms of just the world of being a detective, how it affects family life, I had a good handle on that. I did research into the missing persons department, and specifically in California. And it was this just the statistics of how many kids under 17 go missing, how many are found, how many are runaways, how many remain cold cases forever. And that information was helpful for me to be a jumping off point.”

The Challenge

Because Searching is shown through computer screens and smartphones, Messing shot most of her scenes alone.  Adding to the difficulty, she also had to hold the camera.  Talking about this, Messing said, “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, for sure. The thing that it makes me want to go to a set every day, is not knowing what that magic is going to be onstage between me and the person that I’m acting with. And that was taken away. All I had was an empty screen and his voice in my ear. And so, it literally was, I was an island and it required that I imagine everything. And that was uncomfortable.”

Director/writer Aneesh Chaganty and Debra Messing on the set of Screen Gems’ SEARCHING. from Sony Pictures press site

She continued, “When I was running through the hall, I literally was holding the phone with the GoPro on it, running. And so, I had to think about the angles for them. And also act the scene which was, very, very high stakes. So, it felt like a lot of this whole film was kind of like that. Then of course my character has a whole other thing happening. So, trying to figure out how to do all of that at the same time, made it an unbelievable challenge and one that I am incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to slog through.” Detlef Schrempf Jersey