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Wendell Pierce: Stress is weaponized in TV thriller 'Don't Hang Up'

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Wendell Pierce can now be seen in the TV thriller, "Don't Hang Up." Photo courtesy of Bounce&nbsp
Wendell Pierce can now be seen in the TV thriller, "Don't Hang Up." Photo courtesy of Bounce 

NEW YORK, March 20 (UPI) -- The Wire and Jack Ryan star Wendell Pierce says he thinks viewers will relate to his new action-thriller, Don't Hang Up, because its core story centers on a parent's worst nightmare - a child in peril.

Debuting Sunday on Bounce, the TV movie is loosely based on true events and follows Chris Daniels (Pierce), a happily married college science professor as his life is turned upside down by a phone call from a man who says he kidnapped Chris' 20-year-old daughter, Sarah (Eden Cupid), and will kill her unless Chris cleans out his bank accounts and hands over his family's life savings.

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Blinded by the fear of losing his only child, Chris completes the tasks demanded of him, frustrated at every turn by traffic jams, limited bank business hours, money withdrawal regulations and difficult-to-navigate wire-transfer machines.

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"The stress is weaponized to make sure that he becomes vulnerable, and once he becomes vulnerable he becomes manipulated," Pierce told UPI about Chris, a character the actor described as "an everyman."

"My nightmare in the film is a nightmare that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," he said.

"As any parent would know, that would be the worst to go through. To know that it is a real experience, I hope it is a cautionary tale for folks where they learn something from it, where they say, 'OK. This is out here. This is something that is really happening.'"

The villains keep Chris on the phone for almost a day, preventing him from alerting the authorities or letting his confused wife, Tracy (Lauren Holly,) know where he is and what horrors he is facing.

"The criminals who do this really know human behavior. They know how to break down people -- at their strongest moments when everything is going well for them - to the point where they are susceptible to extortion," Pierce said.

Chris' analytical nature grounds him and helps him collect information about the men with whom he is dealing for hours on the phone during his ordeal.

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"He knows how to troubleshoot and break down a problem scientifically," Pierce said. "That's the struggle that he has - trying to keep his emotions out of it and, at the same time, investigate what is happening to him to make sure that he figures out the best way to get his daughter. That is the scientist in him."

The details Chris gleans from the questions he asks his daughter's captors are no comfort and make no sense while he panics and attempts to keep a cool head through grief and sleep deprivation, but the answers about who and where they are become essential when the furious father is later able to turn the tables on his foes.

"It's something that I normally don't get to do, so it was really fun to sink my teeth into it," Pierce said of his rare role in this type of psychological action-thriller. "It is a celebration of the love of a parent who would do anything to save their child."

The always-in-demand actor filmed Don't Hang Up after his stint on the fantasy series, The Watch, and in-between seasons of the action-drama, Jack Ryan.

"In 2020, we had enough time not to work and now that work is coming back, I want to take advantage of it," he said, referring to how millions of people were forced to stay home from their jobs in recent years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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As The Wire marks its 20th anniversary this year, Pierce said he is proud that the crime drama's authenticity and humanity still are being appreciated and enjoyed and that viewers too young to watch it during its initial run are now binging it with their parents.

"It's one of the best pieces of art in our modern time," he declared.

"It was a visual novel with some of the best writing, some of the best directing and some of the best acting, definitely, for sure," he added. "It is something classy that 20 years later still speaks to people."

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