Mena Suvari stars in the harrowing new Lifetime movie House of Chains. While Laura and Tye seem to have the perfect family, they have dark secrets that remain hidden for years. Following their own set of strict religious beliefs, Laura and Tye’s authoritarian ways with their kids grow stronger and lead them down a path of child abuse, neglect, and imprisonment. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Mena about tackling such a tough role.
“To be honest, I felt like there were aspects of Laura and her personality and her story that I personally identified with, and I think that’s part of why I was so fascinated with her,” Mena said. “The story overall is about how someone can really get caught up in another and completely lose themselves and completely turn their own version of their worst nightmare. I don’t think that Laura ever thought that this would be a part of her story. I felt like going into it, I had some of the emotional connection to it, but it was really just such a gift being able to work with Stephen [Tonkin], our writer-director. I just felt like everything was there. We really had the time to really work together, rehearse, and have conversations. That was the biggest gift for me, really having the time to have the conversations on really getting into that space.”
Mena admitted that getting into the mindset of Laura every day throughout filming wasn’t easy. “It was intense. It was stressful. It was exhausting,” she revealed. “I felt like I had to really decompress. We were filming up in Canada, and every single one of our cast, our writer-director, our producers, were the most wonderful people. If we didn’t have any of that, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it. All of these incredible children, some of them it was their first film that they’d ever worked on, and the professionalism, the commitment, the care and consideration for this story and the telling of the story, I was so impressed. It was such a wonderful environment to be a part of that it was really weird that we had to then perform and put on camera. I couldn’t have done it without all of them.”
Due to the intense subject matter, Mena was “nervous” about the young actors who play Laura and Tye’s kids in the Lifetime movie. “I’m a new mom. My son’s almost 17 months old, so I have all those new mom nervous vibes around all of this. All I cared about was them,” Mena told HollywoodLife. “I said [to writer-director Stephen Tonkin], ‘If there’s anything that you need me to do without them there, I’m more than able to do it.’ I was so nervous to show some sides to myself that were so mean and abusive and violent, and how they were going to take that. I cared so much about that. But again, I’m telling you, the amount of professionalism… I was blown away by the commitment and the understanding of the subject matter. It was awesome for me to see. I’m just so grateful for everything that I work on because I feel like it gives me the opportunity to learn about myself. I just learned so much about my own life and how I work through these kids.”
House of Chains bears similarities to the Turpin family. Laura and Tye’s relationship evolves into a chaotic mess of abuse and control as they imprison their 6 children in their home. Tye is definitely the ringleader, and Laura falls in line. Mena discussed how she feels about her character and whether she views Laura as a victim at all.
“I think that’s really what attracted me to this is because I don’t think that anything is just black and white. There are so many shades to it,” Mena said. “I was really fascinated by how in the beginning of the film when you first meet Laura, she’s so down on her luck. I feel that she’s so ultimately convinced that no one really cares about her. No one’s going to save her, and she’s just desperately trying and looking for anything to cling to. She’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time in meeting Tye.”
She continued, “Yes, I would like to believe that she is a victim. I feel like we’re all a victim in some respect, right? I feel like we could talk about her story forever, but I don’t think that she ever really wanted any of those things for herself. I think that Laura is so lost. I’d like to say that it’s like a chipping away. It’s a conditioning. I know that for myself in my own life and the things that I’ve experienced a few years in, you sort of feel like there are no lifelines. There’s like a relent that happens. For me, when I experienced those things, I didn’t have children. So I can only assume too that there’s something that binds you. I think that Laura really felt like there was nowhere to go, and you’re so caught up in the manipulation. You see that in the film. I don’t want to give too much away, but I feel like there is a way to view Laura as a victim, especially towards the end, because she tries to at least make a better move than she ever has in her life by the end. She’s trying. I’d like to believe that there’s some hope for her in some way.” House of Chains premieres September 10 on Lifetime.