Whether she’s playing a brassy Hollywood starlet in Californication, a young nun in crisis in Little Sister, or an artist hungry for connection in the new arthouse horror thriller Like Me, Addison Timlin is an actor who disappears seamlessly into her roles. From the thoughtful construction of the character’s look to the finely tuned frequency of their energy, Timlin can be sneakily stealth as she moves from character to character.
In Like Me, Timlin plays Kiya, a lonely, reckless artist who broadcasts her art-project-via-crime-spree on social media, starting with a self-filmed convenience store robbery that goes viral, earning her the attention but not the connection she’s desperate for. From there, Kiya’s internet-famous journey earns her a YouTube troll and takes her along the coast, where she pushes the boundaries of her art and morality with the help of a kidnapped, paint-huffing loner played by genre staple Larry Fessenden. Debut director Robert Mockler infuses the film with bravura aesthetic, an avant-garde assault on the senses that turns Kiya’s lunatic art-spree into a topsy-turvy trip down the rabbit hole.
With Like Me now playing in theaters, I recently hopped on the phone to chat with Timlin about the film. She talked about the art incorporated into Mockler’s unconventional script, creating Kiya’s physicality.
This is movie is pretty far out and almost like a video art installation at moments; it has a really distinct and creative visual flourish. And I’m curious, how much of that flourish was evident in the script when you got it?
TIMLIN: It was pretty evident in the script when I got it. The way that Robert had written the script was that he had links to visual references throughout the whole thing. So that was one way that made it easy for me to digest in the broader scope of what his palette was looking like, and what he was trying to make. Visual symbolism of certain elements, and it seemed like he had certain sizzle reels almost for different parts of the film. Different montage feelings, or different colors. I also have to say that from when I read that script, compared to what we made, it’s really so different. The narrative seems quite different, and I think Kiya changed quite a bit, and I think there was more of a blend of reality and that kind of surrealism. Initially, I think it was leaning towards a more hyper version of itself, if you can believe that. But I did have a pretty good idea what I was getting myself into, but mostly after I met Robert and we talked about it. But I knew right away that I wanted to do the movie, because there was a lot that wasn’t on the page, but the thing that was on the page was a lot of loneliness, and that was what drew me to Kiya and the project itself I think.
She’s a really fascinating character, and you get to go to a lot of interesting places with her. What were some of the complexities in her that you were excited to explore?
TIMLIN: Well, I think that she is really lonely and I think she’s really angry and I think that she was living in a world that she didn’t know how to fit into. I mostly think she’s an artist, and I think that a lot of … That’s what art is, is channeling your perspective to the world and your pain to the world, and I think that the kind of stuff she was doing and what she was making was really reflective. I think she was trying to hold a mirror up to her generation and her peers, and was fascinated by the attention it got her, and how that was her feeling of connection in the world. But it was all rooted in this thing that she thinks. That’s the root and the heart of it. That she wasn’t fond of who she was as a person.
You’re an actor who I don’t always recognize right away, which is definitely a compliment. It takes me a minute to realize that I’ve seen you in a bunch of stuff before, and that happened again with this film. What was your process in developing Kiya’s look?
TIMLIN: Well, thank you by the way. I’m really flattered by that and the way that a character looks is always a really big part of how they come to life for me. When I met Robert, I had platinum blonde hair and it was long. That stage in my life didn’t last so long, but it was platinum and chopped off for a significant period of time, and I think that that was kind of what we thought was going to be who she was a little bit, but then it kinda became more interesting I think for me to … There’s the implication that someone with platinum blonde hair is someone that’s really doing it. You know what I mean? It takes a lot of maintenance, so then I kind of wanted to get rid of that element of it, and I also had gone from doing this movie, Submission, and then I did Little Sister right afterwards, and Little Sister … She needed to look the way she looked. Then it was kind of easier for Robert and I to talk about. We both pulled the same image from the internet with the same picture of Winona Ryder. I sent it to him, and he was like, “Oh, that’s the picture I’ve had on my desktop all week.”
So it kind of lined up that way, as my look had changed and we were supposed to shoot the film in the summer and then we shot it in the winter, and so to kind of keep her in more of a darker realm, and also I wanted it to be a hair color and style that didn’t require any maintenance, because I didn’t think that was what she was about. That’s kinda how we got there. And I also think that we dressed her in a lot of oversized clothes and all this stuff. I think that sexuality was for her something incredibly foreign and a real part that she was putting on, and the real childlike nature of how we made her look and how that’s who she really was. I think we did pretty good job. I thought our costume designer was great, and we all had a pretty similar idea of what we were doing.
A lot of the tension in the film comes from exploring that sexuality, and also other strange versions of power dynamics and unexpected power shifts. How did you enjoy digging into that element as a performer?
TIMLIN: I really loved that element of that character and how she’s exercising power over people that could very easily have power over her. I think men specifically, and I think it’s rooted in a lot of things and I feel like a lot of women are living in that world a little bit. I think that the idea that she’s using her body for sexuality in that first scene with Marshall, and then also, it’s looming all this threat over him because the way that she’s presenting herself — it’s illegal what he’s about to do and she’s filming it, and it’s that kind of … The threat that that has over him is really intense, and I thought it was a really interesting way to get that across, the way that that scene happened. And also, forcing him down this road in this absolutely, insanely aggressive way, but really just being this tiny, tiny person.
So yeah, that was really interesting for me, and also when I’m talking about her anger, I think that is a pretty fundamental part of Kya. I think that that comes from abandonment and loneliness, and we don’t really reveal anything of where she’s coming from or where she’s going, but the fabric of the character for me was how much pain she was in. And I think pain translates to anger more often than not. So when it comes to Burt, I think he’s a triggering presence and I think that her anger is so gigantic that the way that the movie ends is kind of like a catharsis in some way, but it was also something that she — That’s the element of her life that’s just not curated at all. And she doesn’t have control over it, and I think everything else is incredibly curated.