Outlander's Lauren Lyle takes centre stage in new thriller Mercy Falls

lauren lyle, nicolette mckeown, mercy falls
Lauren Lyle takes centre stage in Mercy FallsMagic Monkey Films

Lauren Lyle has become well-known to TV fans for her supporting role as Marsali MacKimmie Fraser in Outlander and, most recently, as the titular detective in Karen Pirie.

Now, however, she's moving into film, and fans can watch her on the big screen as she takes centre stage in the tense thriller Mercy Falls.

Mercy Falls – now available to watch in UK cinemas ahead of a digital release from November 9 – sees Lyle play Rhona, who heads into the Scottish wilderness in search of a long-lost family cabin with her close group of friends.

However, Rhona's quest soon turns into a nightmare when a fatal accident leads to a murder, and a brutal fight for survival ensues.

To mark its release, Digital Spy sat down with Lauren Lyle to discuss her preparation for the role, delving into the horror genre, putting Scotland on the map... and Stevie Nicks.

When the role came about, were you particularly looking for more movie roles or was it just a case of right project, right time?

Lauren Lyle: I was looking for movie roles. We filmed it almost two years ago and I had just finished filming Karen Pirie at the time, which is like a bit of a break in terms of a big leading role and having your own show. So I'd done quite a lot of TV and, at that point, I thought I needed to think about what else I'd like to do.

Me and my agent talked about how we wanted to do theatre or film and push for that, but theatre is such a hard one when it comes to finding the right moment to do it and having the right play, and there's just never as much on. Whereas movies started to come to me a little bit and this one was one of the first ones that came in, and it just looked like loads of fun.

I really liked the idea of doing loads of stunts and the thrill of it, being a bit of a thriller. It just looked like a good time and that was kind of the main thing. The option to be an executive producer for the first time was also quite cool. I was just kind of in a phase where I really, really wanted to learn a new side of things and have a bit more responsibility and work on something singular.

lauren lyle, mercy falls
Magic Monkey Films

Being your first leading role in a film, did you feel any pressure going into it, or do you think being the lead on Karen Pirie prepared you a little bit?

Because I'd just shot Karen Pirie, I think I was sort of in the mode of, 'It's quite nice being the lead all the time'. So I was fine. It was a much smaller shoot. Indie filmmaking and the nature of it is a much smaller budget, there's less resources, and it's not as intimidating a set to be on.

But also, with it being indie filmmaking and executive producing, you have a lot more of a voice. So I had a lot more of a say in terms of how the set ran and that was quite cool. So I didn't feel too daunted by it at all.

Was there anything you learnt from Mercy Falls that you'll take into your next film role?

Yes, patience. I would say I had learned patience in terms of making a film on a shoestring and having to improvise as well. You have to improvise new ways of working, like maybe we had to shoot a different scene that day instead because something had come up. You don't have the same ability to just add on an extra shoot date at the end, so you'd have to make it work and learn lines quickly and work as a team.

There's quite a few cast members who hadn't done a lot before, so navigating that and creatively working with them was really cool. It was cool to do some stunt stuff too. It was good fun to learn the choreography of that. I used to be a dancer and a gymnast and I haven't exercised those muscles in a while, so to use that was brilliant.

mercy falls
Magic Monkey Films

Speaking of the stunt work, your character Rhona and Carla really get into it at the end of the movie. What was the preparation like for those fight scenes?

We choreographed the whole thing. We did lots of that. It's funny because you can choreograph as much as you want in a room, and we did it in this little room where the table was the rock that we would end up up against or something. But you had to be really aware that, actually, we would be shooting in a cave.

We were literally in a cave on top of a mountain in Scotland at three in the morning in minus-three-degree weather. I almost got hypothermia. We had to stop the shoot on the final day because I was so close to getting hypothermia, and then we had to go back a month later to finish the shoot because it was so cold and so intense.

We were going to ask if shooting on location in the Scottish Highlands brought back any Outlander flashbacks, but it sounds like they were probably two very different experiences.

You're always freezing cold on Outlander, but you've got layers of skirts on and they always find little hideaway places to stuff heat packs, or a hot water bottle gets run to you. On [Mercy Falls] we literally had a portaloo at the top of one of the mountains and that was kind of it.

We couldn't get cars up so you couldn't take a load of stuff, so it was a bit of a mad one at times. We would get jumpers on and off and then you'd just have to go again. But then you kind of warm up doing all the stunts and then, of course, you get cold quite quickly again.

mercy falls
Magic Monkey Films

This film reminded us of Calibre, which is also about a trip gone wrong in the Scottish highlands. Preparing for this role, were there any particular films that you were told to watch, or that you wanted to watch yourself in order to get into that mindset?

Cabin in the Woods is quite literally a reference, which I really enjoyed. I've gotten really into horror recently. I feel like the older I get the more I need to feel something when I watch a film, and with horror you're kind of forced into that.

I've watched movies like X and Pearl and Barbarian, which are all f**ked. Like the most crazy films, but I loved them. I absolutely loved them. So I've just gotten right into horror and I think that was also a bit of an appeal.

But you think it's actually going to be great, and then you're covered in blood and it's freezing cold and sticky most of the time. So it's actually not that sexy.

Is horror something you'd like to do more of then?

I would love to do something a bit like Barbarian, where it's almost a comedy as well. Or an A24 film like Hereditary. They're so scary but also really funny and have great stories. I would love to do something like that on a big scale.

You mentioned earlier that some of the cast members on Mercy Falls hadn't done much before, but Gilly Gilchrist plays Rhona's dad and you share a brief scene together. You also shared a couple of scenes together in Outlander and he plays a detective in Karen Pirie. Was it nice to have a familiar face on set?

He's brilliant. I think they just needed a dad and they asked him if he would do it. So he came on and I remember being like, 'Oh my God, now you're my dad, you were a detective before'.

We didn't actually really do too much together on Outlander, but we saw each other around all the time. So he's probably someone I've worked with most intermittently without meaning to, but it's been great.

It's funny that, when you're in Scotland. I think Scotland has been put on the map a little bit more in the last few years. Ireland is having a huge moment and has really taken off, so I hope Scotland is going that way. I feel like you start meeting a lot of the same people on different things because there's not as many of us around, so it's really nice.

mercy falls
Magic Monkey Films

Peter Capaldi said something similar about Scotland being put on the map at the BAFTAS earlier this year. Jack Lowden also mentioned you as a Scottish actress to watch out for after the awards.

I didn't know Jack and then he saw me on Vigil. He and Saoirse Ronan have a production company together, and they asked me to be in their recent film called The Outrun. So we worked together on that and that's how we got to know each other.

So he's been very kind, he's been really cool. I saw that interview he did when he said my name as one to watch, so I'm a fan of Jack.

What are you hoping viewers get from Mercy Falls when they see it?

Just a bit of fun. A bit of silly fun. I think sometimes movies are made to just entertain and to sort of escape and have a bit of a thrill. It doesn't always have to be the biggest, most serious situation, so I just hope they enjoy having a bit of fun with it.

Are there any particular roles you'd like to take on in the future?

I'd really like to play a rock star. I'd really love to play someone that was in a band so I was forced to learn an instrument. I diddle on the guitar, but my boyfriend is an amazing musician and half my friends are amazing musicians, and I wish I could just do it.

I used to have really long hair and used to say I could play Stevie Nicks. I looked like her and my hair looked like hers at the time. So I thought if I could play Stevie Nicks in a biopic, that would be amazing. Or something a bit like that. Something cool.

Mercy Falls is in UK cinemas now and arrives on digital on November 9.

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