While many Boston-based films tend to focus on the rougher aspects of the city, Grace, a new indie movie starring Katie Cassidy and Tate Donovan, gives viewers a peek at different side of the Hub.
Directed by Bay State native Devin Adair, Grace recently made its U.S. premiere at the Boston Film Festival earlier this fall. The small budget flick forgoes the gangster-filled mayhem of blockbusters like The Departed or The Town, and instead tells the story of an acclaimed author named Charlie Ellison (Donovan) who gets his world turned upside down when his agent (Matthew Lillard) sends him a feisty new assistant named Dawn (Cassidy). Insatiable actress Debby Ryan also stars in Grace.
Katie Cassidy, Tate Donovan talk Grace
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According to Donovan, Charlie is a "crazy genius writer" who comes from "old, east coast money," but has become a recluse over the years and is traumatized by his strict, abusive upbringing. Hailing from the other side of the tracks, the scrappy Dawn is working through her own issues as well and dreams of becoming an author, eventually finding a mentor of sorts in Charlie. Meanwhile, Donovan's character is inspired by Dawn to write a new novel, which will hopefully clear up his financial woes.
Adair, who first came up with the story while attending high school at Phillips Academy Andover, was overjoyed to get the chance to film Grace in the Boston area, as well as premiere the film in her hometown. The first-time director notes that the story is an "homage to all the young women who really wanted to be recognized for their talent and the struggle that is for young women today."
"It is the weirdest destiny thing to have shot this movie in Boston and now to premiere it in Boston," says Adair. "It’s the most special thing that could happen."
Both Donovan and Cassidy were thrilled to get the chance to shoot in and around the Hub, although the filming process was a bit harder on the Arrow star. Cassidy had to balance working on the hit CW superhero series with Grace, often flying back and forth between sets in Vancouver and Boston.
"I was literally not sleeping, kind of a mess, but it actually worked. I don’t know how," admits Cassidy. "I think it worked for the character. I’m surprised I didn’t look 20,000 times worse than I felt because it was a lot of work. But it was worth it for me."
Despite the many sleepless nights, Cassidy loved the story of Grace, as it portrays a hard-working, no nonsense woman who's just trying to get her foot in the door.
"She just doesn’t give a f—k," says Cassidy. "She just wants to have her voice be heard."
"[Charlie] heard her and he allowed her to have a voice," she adds. "With this movie, I love that Charlie gives her that. He gives her a voice and listens to her. I think as a woman, sometimes that can be frustrating. We don’t feel heard."
Donovan acknowledges that there are a lot of obstacles that get in the way of women trying to find their seat at the table in the "old white guy world" that dominates nearly every industry, whether it's publishing or Hollywood. That's why he was excited to work on a project that both portrayed strong women on screen and featured a talented female filmmaker in the director's chair.
"It’s really a woman’s story and told by a woman," says Donovan. "We just need more of that."