One of the things that have gotten us through quarantine (and in general, life) comes from movies. While theaters no longer felt like a safe option for people to watch and enjoy these labors of love together, streaming services and video on demand took notice and brought the box office to people’s individual screens.
At the start of this year Netflix announced their contribution to this would be through releasing a new movie every week, giving a platform for multiple movies that found themselves in limbo after being removed from theater schedules.
The Woman in the Window was one of those movies. It’s also somewhat fitting given the circumstances. When the highly anticipated psychological thriller was announced with Amy Adams attached as the lead, social media exploded with excitement to see her take on this kind of role and story.
She plays Anna Fox, an agoraphobic psychologist living alone in her condo in New York City. As she copes with why she fears going outside and the loneliness that comes with it, new neighbors move in across the street. She becomes intertwined with the family only for it to spiral for the worst when the woman she befriended disappears and she has to prove that foul play was involved.
Mariah Bozeman plays Olivia Fox, Anna and Ed’s (Anthony Mackie) daughter.
When we talk on Zoom about the project, Mariah explains that getting into the role of Olivia Fox was long as a process. “I wanted to live my everyday life as Olivia which meant going over the script whenever I could and also making sure I stayed in character without going on far of course,” Mariah smiles. With this being her first movie role, it was important to her that she approached the opportunity prepared and strapped in for the ride to deliver the Olivia Fox needed for the story.
“I’ve learned throughout my years of acting that the more you are the character and you have to make the character yourself, you bring things from your everyday life in order to make your character stronger and more believable,” she explains.
Preparing for this project was a family affair for Mariah. When she booked the role, her mom read the book to help guide her into making her understanding of her character stronger and as such, her performance. “I did read the full script many, many times,” Mariah counters after sharing that her knowledge of the book stems from her mom. “The official script really, I’ve studied a lot.”
Her studying went past just her scenes and moments that included her, she made sure to understand what was happening throughout the movie to figure out how it would impact or influence Olivia.
The initial shooting for The Woman in the Window took place in 2018 when Mariah was 10. Now at 13, Mariah says that she has gained new perspectives on the movie, although, for the sake of spoilers, she couldn’t go too into detail. “Really overall, I see the movie in a different way because I’ve matured a lot since I filmed the movie, but also I know more than I did then and more about acting than I did then,” she reflects. “So really, overall the whole experience seems different but either way, I had a really great time, love the cast, love the movie, and I’m so excited to see it.”
The Woman in the Window has been years in the making in more ways than one. The idea of A.J. Finn’s novel being adapted into a movie has been around since 2016 when the rights were first acquired. In 2018, Joe Wright was announced as the director with Tracy Letts being announced as the screenwriter, and then casting announcements came out left and right.
The initial filming happened in 2018 with an intended Fall 2019 release. But with a few delays and rewrites as well as the changing of theatrical releases, the premiere of the movie then moved to Netflix releasing this Friday.
“Well, first of all, shooting the movie was so much fun for me, I had a great time,” Mariah recounts the experience. Mariah’s experience with the reshoots and getting to revisit her character involved going into a voice-over studio in Chicago rather than going back to New York to film. “I went back to the full script and read that over and I read through my new script and what I had to add but I still wanted to make sure that I was still Olivia Fox.” Keeping consistent with who the character was and what served the story best was important for Mariah and how she processed her contribution to the reshoots.
When I ask her how she would describe Olivia, Mariah smiles thinking about her role. “She’s a little ball of energy, but also kind of quiet,” Mariah begins. “She’s definitely outgoing—she finds fun in everything,” Mariah says while choosing her words carefully. She laughs as she continues establishing that while she does see herself as Olivia Fox, at the moment, she’s Mariah Bozeman defining who Olivia is.
“She loves her life, loves her mom, loves her dad. Sometimes things can get rough but she definitely perseveres through it,” Mariah concludes calling Olivia a “great kid.”
Olivia knows all about perseverance in dealing with her parent’s rocky marriage. “I will say it’s rough for her. She picks up on a lot of things they may not realize but overall, she just has to put on a smile and make sure that she loves her mom and dad the same no matter what her situation is,” Mariah carefully explains how Olivia understands the family dynamic.
You just really need to understand it. It’s not as easy as people would think but it’s not terribly hard once you get used to it.
With her mother Anna as the central focus of the movie, both Mariah and Anthony had to utilize a lot of voice acting to communicate with Anna as she copes with her agoraphobia. “I definitely had to learn the difference between voice acting and on-screen acting. When you’re onscreen you can do different things with your face and your body but when it comes to voice acting you definitely have to light up a bit more,” Mariah explains.
”You won’t be able to see yourself so all the emotion, range, and tone has to come from your voice and nothing else,” she continues. “You don’t have signals where they’re able to tell because they can’t see you so you have to be able to change everything and display the emotion and almost like feel it even though they can’t see it.”
When it comes to figuring out voice acting, Mariah says there’s no trick to it, it’s more about just knowing your craft. “You just really need to understand it. It’s not as easy as people would think but it’s not terribly hard once you get used to it,” she says.
Mariah explains that there’s value in not only knowing your craft but knowing when to trust your gut and hearing how you sound vs. what you need to sound like. However, she does offer a suggestion which is closing your eyes to focus more on your voice than your physical self.
She laughs at the idea it notes that it is based on prioritizing emotion. “Really it’s being able to tell the difference when you’re sad or mad or happy,” Mariah explains adding that again, knowing your craft is the most important part.
It helps also that she’s in great company with this cast. Alongside Amy Adams and Anthony Mackie, the cast includes Brian Tyree Henry, Julianne Moore, Wyatt Russell, and Gary Oldman. In terms of other characters she would like to play in the film, she grins trying to think of an answer. “I do love all the characters, I love being Olivia, [so] I think overall, I’m actually not sure,” Mariah admits.
With the amount of time and effort she put into Olivia, she says that it’s a good role for her to have experienced especially with the ways in which she relates to and understands her as a character. “Other than that, maybe Anna, but she’s a lot older than me,” Olivia says with a laugh. “So if I were about to switch bodies—switch characters—possibly Anna but I think that overall I would stick with Olivia.”
Playing their daughter, most of her work was done with Adams and Mackie which Mariah describes as a fun experience. “Studying under them and studying with them actually was just amazing,” Mariah muses. “At the table reads you could tell even with this being some of the first times these actors would read the script, they were just so flawless at it. Really, learning from them taught me so much about the way I would act now and acted while I was on set, I really learned a lot from them.” As the youngest on set, Mariah felt the need to prove herself as well on that end wanting to step up as best she could and show how well she could handle the project and hold her own with the cast.
“We had a lot of fun even though it’s a heavy movie,” Mariah says with a grin as she looks back at the casts natural ability to balance what was expected of them on screen and while still keeping a light environment offscreen. “I think even when we [weren’t] filming, that was so much fun–learning about them whether it was through acting or through their regular lives, it was just amazing and like I said, [they’re] amazing people.”
I have to learn new things and get over a lot of fears for cheer but that’s also the same way for acting.
Aside from acting, Mariah also engages in the world of cheerleading. As a Black Girl Cheer Ambassador, she told Young Entertainment Magazine in her interview with them that the biggest lesson she gained from doing both was staying ready so she didn’t have to get ready. (True Beyoncé energy.) But also the significance of creating space and representation for Black girls in both areas.
“I feel like for cheer, it definitely makes me open for things. I have to learn new things and get over a lot of fears for cheer but that’s also the same way for acting,” she says when I ask her about existing in the two. “I used to be a bit shyer and I think for both, it was helpful. So with cheer, you have to step out of your comfort zone to learn new things but put on your best performance and it’s really the same for acting,” Mariah concludes.
As a fan of dramas, Mariah can also be seen in a guest role on Chicago Med, but for those looking to see her in something that leans slightly more towards comedy/coming-of-age, she’s also worked on a web series called Chi-nanigans, a project she loved being a part of for centering people her age and also centering her hometown. So naturally, I had to ask her about her favorite Chicago gem. A question that, like a true Chicagoan, she has to think hard about before landing on an answer.
“I love the lake,” she finally comes to with a smile thinking about Lake Michigan. “I love being out there, it’s very calming. I sometimes go to take pictures but really I go out there for runs sometimes [and] go out there just to chill. I think that I really do love sitting there watching the water,” Mariah explains. “I think that might be my favorite part about being home in Chicago.”
(photo cred: Liz Calhoun Photography)