Ashley Judd Talks Pandemic Thriller Movie

May 10, 2024 - Movies

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Lazareth star Ashley Judd about the tense thriller. Directed and written by Alec Tibaldi, the film also stars Sarah Pidgeon, Katie Douglas, Edward Balaban, and Asher Angel. The Vertical release is out in select theaters and on demand starting today.

“Following the death of their parents, Lee (Ashley Judd) adopts her nieces, Imogen (Katie Douglas) and Maeve (Sarah Pidgeon), and raises them in a remote cabin as a deadly pandemic rages on around them. For over 10 years, the girls are raised to never leave the woods, avoid any and all interaction with outsiders, and ultimately rely on Lee as their only connection to the outside world. Lee has convinced the girls this is the key to survival in what is now an infectious and violent world. But when Imogen and Maeve discover an injured man in the nearby woods, Lee’s absolute control begins to disintegrate as their faith in her, and everything they’ve ever known, begins to unravel,” says the synopsis.

Tyler Treese: Your character is taking care of her two orphaned nieces. How was it establishing that family dynamic with Katie Douglas and Sarah Pidgeon? Because you’re clearly trying to shield them from this post-apocalyptic world, but they also want to see things and have more freedom.

Ashley Judd: I like how you just get to the heart of the matter, Tyler. I was besotted with Katie Douglas and Sarah Pigeon. The moment we met, I lived in a tiny home, complete with a compost toilet on the set because our set was a nature reserve in Oregon. I invited them to my tiny home and we just lit some candles and sat cross-legged on the floor. I was like, “Look, I’ve got some hen wings, and they are open, and if you wanna come under, I would love to have you. It’s an invitation, it’s not a demand.” Fortunately, they just really appreciated us circling up together as we women so often are. As my friend Gloria Steinem says, we are linked, not ranked. So we just fell into a wonderful sense of community and fellowship right away. I wanted to make sure that they were getting their per diem and they felt comfortable speaking directly to a producer and didn’t feel fear about, “Oh, I’ll be disliked or be labeled difficult.” So we had our on-screen relationship, but we had a really neat off-screen relationship too.

That’s incredible. I think you can see that in the film and that that’s awesome that you’re able to do that for them. What do you find most rewarding about working with these younger actresses who are really coming into their own as performers?

Well, top of mind is they’re so talented. They’re so gifted. I mean natural, human, alive, rich, full, very moment-to-moment. I just got to see Sarah Pidgeon last night in her sensational play, Stereophonic, the hit of Broadway, the most nominations ever in Broadway history for a play. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She’s so memorable in her performance.

And to really address your question. I didn’t have that kind of an older actor in my life when I was coming up in the nineties, you know, and I think that some things might have been different, and I believe some things might have been better for me if I’d known to reach out to a Michelle Pfeiffer or an Annette Bening. Some of the sexual harassment at the hands of men that I experienced could have been averted. If someone had said to me, “No, Ashley, business meetings don’t take place in bars on Sunday nights. He is coming onto you, and he is married. He is not asking you to go to one of the restaurants on a Tuesday afternoon. That’s the ‘Hollywood, let’s do lunch circuit places.’” I didn’t know those things, and no women talked to me. I don’t think we talked to each other at all back then. We sure do now.


This film has a very intense opening. You have to shoot an infected person to protect the family. What did you like most about that introduction? It really sets the tone of the film.

Well there are parts of it I didn’t like — harming somebody. I really did like giving her food because food is scarce. You even see in a scene after that, and this is part of what appealed to me about Alec Tibaldi’s inventive script. It’s so quirky and original. We collectively vote to ration our food for the upcoming winter, and I decide when this stranger approaches us begging for help, that I will share some of our scant resources with her. That part I liked.

There’s a twist near the end. I won’t go into spoilers, but you have this great scene in the truck where you’re discussing character choices. How was it just filming that because that’s such a key character moment?

Yeah, playing with Sarah Pigeon is just incredible. Her performance was so emotionally rich and full and we were just really present for each other, and Alec wrote beautiful words. It was just a pleasure. It was a real joy.

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