Kiernan Shipka voices Ali in "Treat." Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Kiernan Shipka said her podcast movie, Treat, available Monday, challenged her to perform a role with only her voice.
The 21-year-old actor had performed voice work on Nickelodeon's The Legend of Korra and Disney's Sofia the First, but Treat had no animated images to accompany her performance.
"It's a different kind of performance entirely," Shipka told UPI in a Zoom interview. "You're digging really deep because all you've got is your voice."
Treat is a 90-minute narrative story from podcast company Cadence13's new division, C13Features. Shipka stars as Ali, a high school girl who notices something off about her mother.
In Treat, Ali uncovers a story about the Piper, an evil force bent on revenge on her town's parents. Ali must keep herself and her brother safe when she can't turn to any adults for help.
Ali encounters monsters and describes them to the listener in her narration. Shipka said conveying the horrific magnitude of the creatures required her to imagine how horrible they appeared based on their description in the script.
"The main thing that I aimed to do was not only describe them, but also describe them with a sense of disgust and wonder and confusion and thrill," Shipka said.
She said she created a backstory for Ali, as she would for a live-action character. Shipka did not wish to reveal the history that is not evident in Treat.
"I wanted to make sure that her childhood felt real and visceral to me, even if no one else could know about it," Shipka said.
Ali uncovers a secret in her town that involves her parents and explains why her father left them. Shipka said she focused on Ali's emotional struggle as the horror story unfolds.
"I think that her growing up in this very idyllic town, but also dealing with a deep sense of abandonment, definitely was the main struggle in her life," Shipka said. "The deep hurt and confusion that she felt, and lack of clarity, is what I wanted to tap into more than anything."
Shipka said she recorded Treat over five days in a studio in New York City. Although sound effects and her co-stars' voices were added later, Shipka said the descriptions in the script helped her get into character.
"There's something about having it on the page just to see the descriptors," Shipka said. "That was very helpful for me just because I wanted to know the world that I was living in, since I wasn't necessarily living in it."
Shipka was 7 when she joined the cast of Mad Men as Don and Betty Draper's daughter, Sally. She was 15 when the show concluded.
Three years later, Shipka played a teenage witch in Netflix's series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She said the audio-only Treat allowed her to play one last high school role as she enters her 20s.
"I'm certainly growing out of the teen look slowly but surely," Shipka said. "Someone like Ali, who is not a typical teen, and very mature, wise beyond her years, felt really nice to do."
Shipka will reprise her role as Sabrina in a Dec. 7 episode of Riverdale, and hopes that will give her an opportunity to continue playing Sabrina.
"Hopefully, that's her first bop into town of many," Shipka said. "It was great to play the character again. It had been two years."
Netflix cancelled Chilling Adventures during its third season. Shipka said that while filming the final episode, she and the crew did not know whether they were making the series finale.
"Also, a pandemic happened three weeks after we wrapped," she said. "I wasn't ready to say goodbye."
Shipka said the Riverdale episode will not resolve all the loose threads from the series. Shipka said she hopes she will have more opportunities to continue the story of Sabrina.
"It leaves some doors open," Shipka said. "I think there's definitely still probably going to be a lot of unanswered questions, but ones that could be answered eventually. Fans will be happy, I hope."
Treat is available on all podcast platforms.