Paranormal thriller The River follows the story of a world famous wildlife expert and TV personality named Dr. Emmet Cole (played by Bruce Greenwood). When Cole goes missing deep in the Amazon; his family, friends and a documentary film crew set out on a mysterious and deadly rescue mission to find the doctor. It’s a perilous journey that will take them deep into the unexplored reaches of the Amazon River; a place where nature is cruel, magic is real – and nothing is what it seems.
With the first season of the show about to be released on DVD, we caught up with British actor Joe Anderson – who plays Dr. Emmet Cole’s son, Lincoln – to find out more…
What attracted you to the role of Lincoln Cole in The River?
As an actor, I look closely at the character and arc of any prospective role. What is the dynamic and how many layers does this character have? Will I be stuck doing the same thing in a year’s time as I was in the second episode? When I read the script of The River, I knew there was no way that was going to happen. That really appealed to me. I thought the father/son relationship was really interesting and there were many places where the writers could go with this story. I was hooked from the very start.
How would you describe the relationship between Lincoln and his father?
It’s an estranged relationship. I like to equate what it must be like to grow up with a successful father to the thought of being the son of Mozart. If that was the case, you really wouldn’t want to play the piano in front of him. It’s a similar situation for Lincoln. Emmet Cole is a world-famous wildlife television personality. He’s about as successful as you can get. For Lincoln, going to medical school and leaving the life of the Amazon seems to be more of a surefire deal for him. If he does that, he wouldn’t end up making the same mistakes his father has. However, he’s tempted back to the Amazon when his father goes missing – and the story of The River continues from there.
When you read the script of the pilot episode, what did you think Lincoln’s arc was going to be?
The obvious choice would be for Lincoln to fill his father’s shoes and become a young Indiana Jones-type figure on the same crusade that his father was on. But if you take into account the issues that happened before the pilot episode and the fact that they have an estranged relationship, then that wouldn’t be an easy journey at all. I didn’t think the writers wanted Lincoln to step into those shoes. I thought it was more likely for his arc to be about forgiveness and understanding. He’s growing up and realizing that there’s more to life than books. He is studying for a good job, but there’s magic out there and I think that’s something that he wasn’t necessarily aware of – and that’s what he’ll be discovering.
When you first signed up for the role, did the producers go into detail about how Lincoln would develop as the show progresses?
I was left completely in the dark, but that’s what I loved about the project. Usually, when you read script after script, you can see a format developing. But with this premise, after a while you realize that your imagination is working overtime because there are so many possibilities. The writers don’t want to tell us more because they want to keep us in the moment. And it means you’re not worrying while shooting episode two about something that might happen in episode eight. You just live in the moment and I think that’s exactly what they wanted us to do.
What’s your standout memory from shooting the pilot episode in Puerto Rico?
There’s a scene in the pilot episode where we’re moving the boat and Leslie Hope [who plays Lincoln’s mother, Tess Cole] is trying to floor the engines to get the boat off a mud bank. Well, that was all for real; there was no faking involved. They basically put the boat on a mud bank and then realized they couldn’t get it off. When Leslie was revving the engines, there was mud, wood, stones and everything flying out of the back of that boat – and it wasn’t moving. There were other memorable moments as well, like the time we had to swim under the boat and shoot upside down in the water. We got a lot of nastiness in our ears when that happened.
Was the film shoot challenging?
It was definitely challenging at times. Later on, you’d find yourself playing a scene and you’d go deaf all of a sudden. You literally couldn’t hear anything because of what you got in your ears earlier. You learn to adapt very quickly when you’re working on a show like this.
How do you think the cast would handle a survival situation similar to the one your characters experience in The River?
I think we’d be okay because there’s a fair balance of ages on the boat. There’s a nice balance in terms of life experience, too. I think it all helps.
Did you have to learn about boating for the role?
No, not really. Obviously you don’t want to be saying starboard when it’s port, but it’s a flat-bottom boat for navigating shallow river channels and it’s not incredibly complex. It’s not like sailing a ship where you have to hoist sails or climb the masts. There’s none of that. On our vessel, you press forward and the boat goes forward. It’s really quite simple.
Did you have the opportunity to improvise any of the dialogue in The River?
The script is great, but sometimes we discover there are gaps in the dialogue that need to be filled once movement is added or other things are going on. That’s what makes the show so much fun for me as an actor. I look forward to the moments when we get to improvise or add a little something.
There are some hauntingly chilling moments in The River. Are you a fan of the horror genre?
I’ve always been a big horror movie fan, but I don’t want to see somebody sticking a screwdriver into someone’s head or anything gruesome like that. If they’re talking about doing it, then that might be quite interesting, but I prefer a different type of horror to the mainstream shocks and gore. I prefer psychological horrors like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It’s not scary but Allan Parker’s Midnight Express is another movie in my top three horror films. It involves people in horrific situations but at the same time is based in reality, which I love.
It sees like all of the characters in The River have hidden depths and secrets. Is Lincoln the same?
Definitely. I can’t say what, obviously, but there’s definitely more to Lincoln than you first see. Where you think there is one layer, there are actually eight – but you’ll have to watch to find out.