Isabelle Zufferey Boulton had always dreamed of being an action hero. Trained in boxing and multiple forms of martial arts, she loved action movies and idolized Demi Moore's portrayal of the title heroine in "G.I. Jane." But Boulton doubted that her demure image would convince casting directors. "So far I've kind of played it safe," she says, because of "all the reactions I got from casting directors: 'Oh, she's so soft, she's so gentle, angelic.' Because I don't have that tough exterior, I haven't been submitting as much for those kinds of roles."
After graduating from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting's two-year conservatory program in June, the nonunion actor spent every morning on BackStage.com searching the latest casting calls. In February, she submitted herself for Hine's Park Productions' "Unspoken Ties," a short mystery film.
Yet when she received a copy of the script to prepare for her audition, Boulton was surprised to discover that the unnamed lead role of a female telepath, described as "kindhearted and earthy" with an "athletic physique" in the casting notice, was also a mind-reading assassin. She grew nervous, remembering that she had never been an obvious fit for violent parts. "This is something the teachers were very persistent on, trying to be more violent, more brutal, meaner," recalls Boulton of her training, "because I was perceived as being very gentle."
At the audition, Boulton discussed her martial-arts training and her experience with what she calls a "vocabulary of violence," as well as how the script's themes resonated with her personally. Despite her insecurities, she was cast, partly for her resemblance to the actor playing the telepath's brother. Writer Carlos J. Benitez says that because he and director Vincent Daly were running out of time, they "took a chance and relied primarily on the look of the actors, their experience, and their commitment to the project. Isabelle's headshots were key to isolating her as a possible candidate for the part."
To understand her character's experience with family betrayal, abandonment, and desensitization to violence and brutality, Boulton researched topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder and even put herself through her own physical training routine. She also gained a new experience when she provided additional voiceover work for the film.
"Originally her character was intended to be more cold and one-dimensional," Benitez says. "But she brought new layers to the character, which enriched the plotline. We welcomed this new interpretation of the character and decided to adopt it. She was able to provide us with range and a true actor's resolve to give the director what he wanted out of the character."
Now Boulton is more confident in submitting herself for the action roles she's always wanted. "Being cast as the female lead in 'Unspoken Ties' made my dream come true," she says, "and I even got to handle a prop gun!"
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