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Michelle Monaghan: 'I've really created four characters' in 'Echoes' twins

Michelle Monaghan plays twins in "Echoes." Photo courtesy of Netflix
1 of 5 | Michelle Monaghan plays twins in "Echoes." Photo courtesy of Netflix

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Michelle Monaghan said playing twins in Echoes, premiering Friday on Netflix, was really like creating four characters.

Monaghan portrays Leni and Gina, but also Leni impersonating Gina and Gina impersonating Leni.

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"I've really created four characters because there are different nuances when they've switched into each other's lives," Monaghan, 46, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"I don't know if people will pick up on it, but it was something I needed to creatively do because nobody can be exactly the same."

Leni and Gina have been sharing each others' lives since they were children. As adults, they plan a switch every year on their birthday.

Creating two characters was already double the work for Monaghan. Leni and Gina's ruse made it exponentially more complicated for Monaghan to keep track.

"I dropped a couple hundred bucks at Staples right as I started my prep period," Monaghan said. "I grabbed highlighters, Post-its and pens."

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In her preparation, Monaghan studied the physical, emotional and mental bonds that twins report sharing.

But adding to common bonds that twins achieve, Leni and Gina shared a trauma that motivated them to try switching places.

"I really looked at the foundational trauma of their mother's death and how it affected them respectively," Monaghan said. "They had different perspectives of her death and what her death meant."

Leni has a daughter with her husband, Jack (Matt Bomer). Leni also is having an affair with a childhood sweetheart, Dylan James (Jonathan Tucker).

Gina is a published author married to Charlie (Daniel Sunjata). When Leni stops answering Gina's messages, Gina plays Leni to find answers, but must be intimate with Jack and Dylan to do so.

"They do very deceiving things as a result of having endured a lot of trauma," Monaghan said. "That's how I justify some of their choices."

In scenes in which Leni and Gina appear, Monaghan worked with body double Adrian Eppley as her scene partner. When Monaghan played Leni, Eppley read Gina's dialogue, and vice versa.

"I was able to give her direction of what kind of performance I wanted to give on this particular side," Monaghan said. "She would give me something that would elicit the response that I needed."

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In past roles, Monaghan has portrayed a sexual harassment survivor in North Country and a private detective looking for a missing child in Gone Baby Gone. Action movies like the Mission: Impossible franchise also put Monaghan in intense situations, but Echoes required a new technical challenge.

Monaghan said the technology to blend her Leni and Gina performances into one scene was even more complicated than she expected. Monaghan had to coordinate with the cameras and execute specific timing on each side of the scene.

"It was really just mastering the technique of the camera and being able to deliver what I needed to to make it most impactful in the moment," Monaghan said.

Monaghan will be back on streaming in November with the film, Nanny, which premiered virtually at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Monaghan plays a wealthy New Yorker, who hires a Senegalese immigrant (Anna Diop) as her child's nanny.

"That was a very intense film to do," Monaghan said.

Monaghan said she had a Zoom meeting with writer-director Nikyatu Jusu after seeing Jusu's short film, Suicide by Sunlight. Monaghan agreed to play the supporting role in Jusu's feature film debut.

Amazon Studios and Blumhouse Productions bought Nanny at Sundance. The film also will be shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, and then in theaters Nov. 23 and on Prime Video on Dec. 16.

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"It's like the little film that could," Monaghan said. "It's going to have its little time in the sun -- and it couldn't be more deserving."

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