DWFF 2017 Interview – Captivating “Cassidy Red” Actress Abby Eiland Talks Westerns, Female Grit And Becoming Something Dangerous

There’s nothing better than a no-nonsense leading lady force to be reckoned with to make a wild west yarn even wilder.  But add to that a careful character layering that also infuses equal amounts of passion, romance, heart and grit and you’ve got one dynamic and long lingering female performance that demands to be seen and praised.  Such is the fate of the terrific turn by actress-to-watch-for Abby Eiland via the Dances With Films 2017 recently screened dramatic western set against the 19th century American Southwest titled Cassidy Red.  Eiland plays Josephine “Joe” Cassidy, a headstrong daughter of a prostitute and a gunslinger who heads into town with skills and singular vengeance in mind when she finds out her lover has been gunned down – and she’s not happy.

A damn fine film (ala writer/director Matt Knudsen!) that’s enhanced by an even more magnificent piece of work by Eiland as the lead dangerous dame, I sought out the actress for further character insight and she did not disappoint.  From the her chemistry ridden work with other on-screen characters to the significance of Joe’s fiery hair color of choice, Eiland helped dissect a performance already in full contention for my Top Five Female Performances of 2017.  Highlighting five-star work that works, here’s the amazing… 




How did the project of Cassidy Red come to you and how did you come to be cast?

Abby Eiland: My manager sent me the casting notice for it.  Then I put myself on tape and pretty much immediately when I first taped it I thought I want this part so bad and I felt like I really understood the character of Joe.  So I sent my tape in and I felt really good about it.  I didn’t hear anything for a little bit and then did get a call from them and went in and did casting and character reads and all that stuff – and then they cast me.

What was your first impression reading the script – especially of the character of Josephine “Joe” Cassidy?

AE: I was in love with her when I first read it and I’ve always wanted to do a western anyway.  I watched westerns with my dad growing up, so it was a genre that I was really interested in.  And the character herself is tough, but she has all these layers and I thought that was really interesting – I was very excited to audition for it.

Speaking of layered your performance as Joe is multi-layered to say the least- she’s curt, tough, romantic, passionate and filled with gumption – what were some of your influences in creating her?

AE: As actor I just draw out qualities within myself.  So I really tried to channel that and do as much justice to someone who I thought was torn between two people and two worlds.

I love Joe’s complex relationships with others in the film – just wanted to get specific on a few and hear your thoughts…

AE: Sure.

The chemistry with Jason Grasl’s Jakob?

AE: Joe really didn’t know what to make of him after their childhood had passed – they hadn’t really stayed closer.  She always felt like a protector to him and then one day you turn around and you suddenly see this person who that isn’t a boy anymore that is a man and is someone you’re very drawn to and I think that was how that got started.  Jason was great – it was easy to fall in love with him.

The sibling rivalry with Lola Kelly’s Rowena?

AE: Yeah – that was fun.  It felt like kind of a sister that you have a strained relationship with.  We had a backstory between us – we knew each other growing up and she was led down one path of becoming a working girl and I was led down another path and that’s where we separated.  But I think at the heart of the relationship there was a lot of love.  We really did love each other, but as it does with family and close friends things get complicated.

And my personal favorite the father/daughter journey with Rick Cramer’s Cort Cassidy – I love your scenes together!

AE: I loved doing those scenes!  Rick Cramer is one of my favorite people – not only is he really talented, but he’s the cheerleader of everyone in this movie.  I didn’t meet him during the casting process, but during the table read we met and we had good chemistry there, but I didn’t know and I didn’t spend much time with him.  And then we got to Tucsan and after we shot our first scenes together it was just so easy to work with him.  In terms of the character though it was complicated because he’s my father and there’s a side of Joe that definitely does love him, but it’s a strained father/daughter relationship.  You always want your dad to be proud of you and I think there’s a lot of that in Joe.

Loved the scene where Joe dies her hair red in a vat of what looked like blood and meat – what was it supposed to be and what was it really?

AE: Supposed to be?  There are these red rocks all over the area, so it was supposed to be she took this kind of clay and broke it down and mixed it with water and that’s the dye she used.  But I actually don’t know what it really was – it was a mix of different things.  We didn’t want to put a bunch of crap in my hair, so we actually waited to do that until it was the very last shot of the whole movie because they didn’t know what would happen when they put that stuff on my hair.  But I think it was just red dye and paste and clay and a bunch of other stuff they could find.

And more importantly what did the red represent for Joe?

AE: That shedding of who you were to become something dangerous.  And when Joe believes that Jakob has died she feels she’s lost everything.  Like now I don’t have anything.  My mom is dead and Jakob is dead and my dad is estranged from me.  It was a battle cry – the last thing she was going to do.  She goes into it fully prepared, and kind of hoping, she might get killed doing this.  The idea of living without Jakob is just too much to bear.

Now that you’ve shown a layered badass side of yourself any desire to keep these kind of roles going?

AE:  (Laughs)  Oh yeah!  I think this is like my bread and butter – I love doing parts like that.  So yeah, I would love to do more roles like that.  Anything that has a tough grit to it I always like.  I refer to myself as a brass knuckle banana a lot (laughs) and Joe is a good encapsulation of that.  Someone who is really tough on the outside, but on the inside she’s just like everyone else who is trying to love and be loved.

What’s next for you?

AE: I can’t exactly discuss it yet, but I have a pilot we’re filming six episodes over the summer that’s a comedy, so I’ll be working on that.

Stay tuned for more of our continued coverage of the Dances With Films Festival 2017 taking place in LA at the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland between June 1-11 – we’ve only just begun!


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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