Zelda Williams: For me, acting is a profession

Actress Zelda Williams discusses her experience portraying Janice Hooker in the movie Girl in the Box.

Words by Elaine Xu

The movie Girl in the Box chronicles the kidnapping of 20-year-old Colleen Stan in 1977, and her subsequent imprisonment in a box by Cameron Hooker (played by Zane Holtz). The film re-enactment of Stan's real-life ordeal has Addison Timlin acting as the protagonist Colleen Stan and Zelda Williams as Janice Hooker, Cameron Hooker's wife and an accomplice in the abduction of Stan.

Image credit: Crime + Investigation

Williams admits that she was not familiar with the case prior to the filming and recounts her first impression of Stan's story as a mix of "horror, fascination, empathy and awe at her survival." As a character, Janice Hooker is "complicated, a woman simultaneously complacent and complicit in a very dark decision" but Williams clarifies that she is not "a super villain in a comic book movie."

The case was before her time -- Williams was born in 1989 -- but one of the challenges was finding information about Janice Hooker, who had been placed in witness protection after receiving full immunity in return for testifying against her husband. "Truthfully, she's the person least discussed in the history of this case and certainly wasn't the focus of much of the press coverage." She describes Janice Hooker as a "complex, dark bridge between the humanized, innocent victim and the psychotic villain in the script."

Image credit: Crime + Investigation

To Williams, acting is a profession and she enjoys the portrayal of characters "who fall into a moral grey area." In order to flesh out her characters, she adds 'pieces' of herself in her acting but she emphasizes that they are not reflection of her as a person. She is also adamant about not taking her characters 'home' with her. Bringing 'work' home will ensure that you face a mental mob, she says. "I showed up to set every day, and I tried to put myself in [Janice's] shoes, tried to understand why a human would make the choices she made."

By creating a distance between her real life and the reel character, she prevents these darker characters that she plays from molding or affecting her reality. However, she shares that Stan's story did affect her as a person and as a woman. "When depravity like this is exposed, these cases have always swept entire nations... Hearing about any woman in distress, knowing that so many people are [sic] out there are being held against their will as we speak, will always affect me." The silver lining is that, in this particular case, there was a happy ending for Stan because Janice Hooker later helped her to escape.

A two-part documentary about the kidnapping, Colleen Stan: The Girl in the Box, will air on Crime + Investigation (StarHub TV Channel 403) at 9pm on 17 December 2016. Repeat telecasts are on 21 December at 8.05pm and 23 December at 9.55pm.

Edits on 21 December: Amendments were made to include details on the repeat telecasts and to differentiate between the two-part documentary and the movie.

 

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