Taylor Schilling: 'Dear Edward' is a 'heart-forward' story of tragedy, resilience

Colin O’Brien and Taylor Schilling's "Dear Edward" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
Colin O’Brien and Taylor Schilling's "Dear Edward" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Orange is the New Black alum Taylor Schilling says she signed on to star in the plane-crash drama, Dear Edward, because she knew Friday Night Lights and Parenthood writer-producer Jason Katims would tell the story in a sensitive and relatable way.

"I am a fan of Jason Katims' gentle, heart-forward sensibility," Schilling told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "He makes a kind offering in his work."


The adaptation of Ann Napolitano's best-selling novel, Dear Edward, premieres Friday on Apple TV+ It follows the title 12-year-old, played by Colin O'Brien, who is the only survivor of a commercial airliner disaster.

Schilling plays Edward's Aunt Lacey, a woman tormented by pregnancy loss who wants nothing more than to be a mother. When Edward's parents and big brother die in the crash, Lacey takes in Edward.

"I was really compelled by the idea of transformation through loss and surrendering to a new reality after an idea of what one thinks life is goes away," Schilling said.


The actress said it is "excruciating" for Lacey to finally become a mother figure this way, while she is mourning the type of motherhood she dreamed of and mourning the death of her sister, brother-in-law and nephew.

"That was such an interesting circumstance to put a person into and so hard," she said.

"I think so many people can relate to feeling between a rock and a hard place, particularly over the past few years. That's really where Lacey finds herself. But she is freaking resilient and she keeps trying. I was so inspired by that."

Schilling pointed to a scene in which it is clear Lacey has decided to focus on loving and raising Edward.

"She eventually decides to take down this crib for her child that she can't have and choose to be present to the life that is in front of her," the actress said.

"I think that is just a beautiful metaphor for what so many people are dealing with. I found it incredibly courageous and heartening," Schilling added.

"She's able to say: 'I am letting go. I'm surrendering. I'm allowing my life to change course and be different than what it's supposed to be.' Everyone has to do that at some point or another."


Edward is newcomer O'Brien's first major screen role.

"I like playing characters that have similar characteristics to me because i can relate to them, but I also like doing ones that give me a challenge," O'Brien said. "Edward was easy to relate to in a lot of ways. He's such a sweet, sensitive kid."

His relationship with his aunt is understandably fraught with heartbreak and tension at the onset of the story.

"When he is faced with a challenge, he leans into denial and kind of pushes Lacey away in the story and I loved the arc and how Edward learns to accept Lacey's offerings," O'Brien said.

"It's not so much her trying to make him feel comfortable. It's more she's trying to help him when she is going through a lot, too. I thought that was really beautiful."

Given the intense subject matter at the heart of the show, Schilling and O'Brien looked out for each other, ensuring they felt safe while exploring the depths of their characters' grief.

"Taylor, off-camera was so easy to trust and very collaborative and friendly," O'Brien said.

"She's a really easy person to connect to," he added. "She helped me take a step back and take a broader view of things. She is like a second point of view for me."


Schilling praised her co-star for bringing dimension to his character that was not even in their scripts.

"One of the things that I love about Colin, as an actor, is that he is able to think on his feet," she said.

"I experienced him as bringing things to the moment that I don't even know if you knew you were going to be bringing, but there is a lot that was far beyond the page that was just from Colin's ability to be present and that is a real gift."

Edward's new life with his aunt includes a friendship with Shay (Eva Ariel Binder,) the girl who lives next door.

"Edward likes that Shay isn't fake with him. She doesn't try to control him or baby him," O'Brien said.

"Lacey has gone through a lot and she is trying to hold on and control things. But that is what makes Edward resent her. He has to find someone else in his life to talk to and that's how he connects with Shay."

The actor said he read the book after he finished shooting the series because he didn't want to confuse the two versions, which aren't exactly the same.

"Both of them are just so beautiful," O'Brien said. "I love both of them. There are a couple of story lines that are in the series, but weren't in the book that I think shows the different ways that humans deal with grief."


Schilling said she thought scenes in which Lacey and the family members of the other dead passengers meet in a bereavement group are particularly effective.

"The writers really found the nucleus of what each person was going through," she said.

"It was also really nice to be in a circle with other people. ... If somebody was having a big experience, we were all able to be there supporting [each other]."

The 10-episode series co-stars Connie Britton, Amy Forsyth, Ivan Shaw and Maxwell Jenkins.

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