In the upcoming independent drama film Runt, a group of teenagers living in Southern California are forced to navigate the perilous waters of high school and daily life, while also battling each other amid high tempers and heated emotions. On more than one occasion, bad decisions are made, leading to incredibly tragic results that can be uncomfortable for the audience.
Actress Nicole Elizabeth Berger stars in the film and recently spoke with PopCulture.com about the "challenges" of depicting sexual assault on-screen, as well as the importance of her character, Cecily, maintaining "dignity" through the harrowing experience. Please note: The following interview contains discussions of sexual assault that may be uncomfortable for some readers.
"There's one thing in particular, the sexual assault scene, that I think defines Cecily's character in the film," she explained, opting not to go too in depth into the specifics of the scene. "But what was really more important was how she dealt with it."
Berger went on to say, "As I prepared for the scene I wanted to try and find the middle ground. I had to find a way to avoid being at the extreme. I mean I could've had a blase attitude, but I walked away from the assault not willing to lose my dignity."
Regarding her preparation for the scene, Berger says that "before filming," she "worked extensively" with her acting mentor.
"She helped guide me through the acting challenges of living through sexual assault, as the implications were even more great considering that Cecily is a teenager," Berger said.
A New York City native, Berger is a 16-year-old actress who has starred in a number of film projects, such as The Longest Week — with Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, and Billy Crudup — and The Place of No Words, opposite Eric Christian Olsen.
Berger's co-star in Runt is the beloved late actor Cameron Boyce, who passed away in 2019, not long after completing his work on the film. Speaking about her time with him, Berger said, "From the first time I read the script I knew this was going to be a dramatic story about the challenges faced by teenagers. I knew Cameron as this bright new star, or at least I thought I knew him. But I really got to know him on set, and I saw him transition into a part that requires him focused and serious in character."
She continued: "He was dedicated and committed and would occasionally take breaks by shooting hoops in the basketball court here at set. Cameron was charismatic and genuine, and he didn't have a big ego. He wasn't self-absorbed, and he wanted to be treated like everyone else."
Runt is directed by William Coakley, from a script by himself, along with Armand Constantine and Christian van Gregg. In addition to Berger and Boyce, the film also stars Brianna Hildebrand, Jason Patric, Tichina Arnold, Aramis Knight and Mitch Silpa.
The film recently held its premiere at the 2020 Mammoth Film Festival and is currently scheduled to have its official release on July 31.