NEW YORK, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Jessica Sutton describes her new movie, Rogue, as "mayhem with message."
Directed by M.J. Bassett from a screenplay she penned with her daughter, Isabel, Rogue follows ex-Marine Samantha (Megan Fox) as she leads a team of mercenaries in Africa to rescue the governor's teen daughter Asilia (Sutton) and two classmates. They had been kidnapped by men who also raise lions for nefarious reasons.
With a cast that includes the younger Bassett, Philip Winchester, Greg Kriek, Brandon Auret, Calli Taylor and Sisanda Henna, the film is available on video-on-demand platforms, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.
"It's Megan Fox with a man-eating lion, but if that doesn't do it for you, then the message of the film that resonates is shedding awareness about the lion-tanning industry in Africa, in which lions are bred in captivity purely to be butchered for their parts and sold to rich foreigners," Sutton told UPI in a recent phone interview. "It's disgusting and it needs to stop."
When the South African actress is considering a role, sometimes it is the script that entices her, other times it is the character. The main appeal of Rogue was the chance to work with Bassett again. The two previously collaborated on the film Inside Man: Most Wanted and an episode of Sutton's TV show, Motherland: Fort Salem.
The experiences taught Sutton that Bassett was the kind of director who gives cast members direction, and then trusts them to take it from there.
"She pitched me this epic, action-packed adventure set in Africa, and I just said 'yes' before I'd even seen the script," Sutton said. "She is so formidable. She is one of my favorite artists and people to work with."
Bassett also tailor-made the character of Asilia for Sutton, enabling her to use her natural accent.
"That was really exciting. I really felt the heartbeat of the character. She goes through this great arc of being this scared, helpless victim to join the fight. Some people just stay the victim. They'll just accept, and I just love the fact that she got some steel at the end," the actress said.
Although Sutton relishes playing strong characters, she doesn't find them easy to come by.
"It's awesome to have these three-dimensional characters," said The Kissing Booth alum. "At the beginning of my career, I was often reading for parts that were like 'woman at the door' or 'love interest.' There's no fleshing out there."
Camaraderie, sleep and yoga were key to Sutton surviving the film's insane pace and grueling night shoots of Rogue.
"There are not a lot of breathing periods in the film," she said. "It's just go, go, go! There's explosions and there's attacks. You're either being mauled by some wild animal or you are being shot at by people. It's just total chaos."
While she often finds it difficult not to second-guess her performance when viewing the finished product of something on which she has worked, Sutton said she was proud of Rogue and actually able to enjoy and experience it as an audience member.
"It just totally absorbed me. I think that just is the masterful filmmaking of M.J. and an incredible cast and crew and, by the end of the film, my parents and I were crying. We were really moved," she added. "It's been one of those meaningful projects for me, being that it was shot on my home turf in South Africa."
Next up for Sutton is filming Season 2 of Motherland in Vancouver.
"I'll be going back into the character of Tally Craven and being a warrior-witch. I am trading in the school girl uniform and going back into my own military gear," she laughed.
After months of isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the actress can't wait to work with people in person again.
"It's been such a crazy time and I've pretty much reached my screen saturation level. I find myself just wanting to throw my phone away," she said, noting she has been reading a lot of books to escape from reality in recent months.
"I'm so ready for a tactile experience, not one that is just virtually oriented. Yes, please, people! It's going to be an adventure going back to film because there is going to be strict protocol. It's going to be a whole new way of shooting. I'm just so excited to go back to my craft."