Shay Mitchell’s new movie, The Possession of Hannah Grace, opened on Friday, November 30, and even from the trailer, it was clear that this thriller might even be scarier than the most nail-biting episode of Pretty Little Liars. It turns out that Shay herself dealt with her own share of demons while filming, and she recently opened up about how the movie affected her emotional state.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Shay explained that portraying Megan, a medical examiner who works the late shift at the morgue, took her “out of her comfort zone.” Shay went on to say: “Not only did she deal with anxiety and depression but I found myself feeling the same while shooting this movie because I was stressed out. I started to become similar to Megan in the same way she was going down a dark hole.”
Shay elaborated on some of those feelings while speaking with Collider in a November 29 interview, noting that she hadn’t experienced anxiety prior to filming Hannah Grace. “There was a lot of pressure,” the actor said. “What was I gonna do next? Can I carry a film of a completely different genre? I started to lose it a little bit, and I really started to second guess every single thing that I did. I had so many panic attacks, in those first three weeks of shooting, and it was only a four-week shoot.” The 31-year-old added that she didn’t even really recognize herself on screen when she watched the film back, explaining: “I don’t know if this character is seeping into who I am, or if I’m seeping into this character.”
The Possession of Hannah Grace follows Shay’s character, Meghan, as she has to examine the body of a woman who died after a botched exorcism. Much of the film takes place in a morgue (and there’s even scenes inside a morgue drawer), and that isolated location was part of the challenge for Shay. “I couldn’t get away,” she told Collider, adding: “We were staying in a motel that was five minutes away from the set…so we were really confined to a certain area and that played a huge part in my psyche. I wasn’t able to go home to the comforts of my own home and shake it off. There was no shaking it off.”
Shay isn’t alone in her experiences dealing with anxiety; according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. are affected by anxiety every year. And plenty of celebrities have also opened up about anxiety, from Zayn Malik to Emma Stone.
Fortunately, Shay has been able to turn to acts of self-care since returning to Los Angeles. “I…wrapped myself in a feather boa, and danced around a little bit, in the comforts of my own home,” she said. “And I watched kitten videos on YouTube.” As for what’s in store for the actor, Shay told Collider that she wants to continue to do movies with “a great story, with a really strong character. That’s what I gravitate towards.”
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