Rachel Nichols Talks About P2

Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley Photo P2 Movie
Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley in P2. © Summit Entertainment

In the thriller P2, Rachel Nichols stars as a hard-working executive who finds herself stuck in her office’s parking garage (level P2, hence the film’s title) on Christmas Eve with a car that won’t start and a cell phone that won’t work. But that’s the least of her problems. It seems the building’s security guard, Thomas (Wes Bentley), has been watching and waiting – and carefully planning – for the right moment to get her helpless and alone.

Handling the Hysterics: Nichols had to behave like a hysterical person for a large portion of the film and the actress says she was able to handle it with help from co-star Wes Bentley. “We’re the only two actors in the film, for the most part. I’m certainly not belittling all the other people that were great, but for the most part, it’s just the two of us. And to do something like that, with this extraordinarily high suspense, tension, painful, emotional thing, to do something like this I needed a friend because I needed someone that I could trust when I was at work, that I could say, ‘God, I’m frustrated. This is really hard.’ Or, ‘I need you to help me with this,’ or ‘Let’s talk through this.’ I needed someone I could trust at work. I needed someone that, when work was done, we could go back to the hotel and grab a beer - even if it was eight in the morning - and release all of the demons from that day because they would build up while we were shooting, and then you couldn’t go home and go to bed.

You’d sit there awake. So, Wes and I really spent a lot of time together. If I hadn’t had an actor that I got along with so well, I think it would have been a terrible, painful process.”

Getting Physical in P2: Nichols joked it would take a while to list off everything that was difficult in the film.

“How long do you have? Definitely the running on concrete was painful,” said Nichols. “And, let me tell you, I’m scared of dogs. I don’t do well with dogs, and Rottweilers are huge. They have heads - and I used this in an interview today - the size of toilet bowls because they are really gigantic and they’re heavy. Running and knowing that dog is behind you - and I’m a fast runner, I did track in high school - and fearing that he’s going to decide to go for you instead of the woman with the red ball, honestly I had an escape route. I was like, ‘If he grabs the dress, if he gets too close, there’s a pipe. I’m going to grab the pipe and I’m going to swing up over it.’

I had this whole plan because I really thought that he might actually go for me. So, that was certainly traumatic. And then, [there was] the handcuffs. I didn’t really think about it when I read the script, but I’m wearing handcuffs for pretty much the whole movie and a lot of the time they’re behind my back, which is dangerous as I learned when I fell. And so that stuff that you don’t think about, because it’s just an element of the script, I’ll never look at a script the same way again. Dogs or handcuffs, I’m out.”

So is it just big dogs that frighten her or would a Chihuahua set off a panic attack?

“No, it’s just big dogs,” answered Nichols. “Michael Bay has these gigantic [dogs]. I don’t know if they’re Mastiffs, I don’t know if they’re Newfoundlands, but they’re the size of bears. And when I went to audition for The Amityville Horror, I went into his offices and literally these three huge dogs were there and I almost turned around. I was like, ‘No, I’m not going to read for this film.’ I actually used the dogs in my audition to think of what would scare me the most. The dogs are traumatizing. But no, Chihuahuas and small dogs, I think I’d be okay.”

Watch Out in Parking Lots: And don’t stay late at work unless it’s absolutely, positively necessary. “Don’t work late on Christmas! Overtime is not worth it! Yes, the moral of the story is, ‘Don’t work late. Go home early, or have a chaperone.’ I love thrillers,” said Nichols.

“The thrillers that work best for me are the ones where I’m sitting in the theater, watching, and feeling safe in the theater, but thinking, ‘That could be me. That could happen to me.’ If people see P2 and think, ‘Wow, that could happen to me. What would I have done differently?,’ that’s what I want them to think. And then I want them to come out of it going, ‘Nobody saved her. She saved herself, and I could do the same.’”

Strangely enough, Nichols says she grew up without parking lots. “We don’t even have traffic in Maine. We don’t have parking garages. We don’t have anything underground. In New York, there are parking garages but I never had a car. And then I moved to L.A. and everything is valet or a parking garage. When I went to New York from Maine, they had given me the rules for walking through Central Park. Everyone thought you were going to get raped and pillaged in Central Park so they said, ‘Walk with your head high. Look like you know where you’re going.’

I used to pretend that I was on the phone. I would have full-on conversations. I speak French, sort of, so I would have full-on conversations in French and just go straight ahead, and I feel like I now apply those rules to my techniques in a parking garage. I do feel like I’m suddenly very aware of noises and I learned to never unlock my car from a distance. Never hold up your little clicker across the parking lot and unlock your car. First of all, it tells everybody where your car is and, second of all, they can get in.

Wait until you’re right there.

I remember in Maine a couple of years ago, at Colby College, there was this trend in crime where people would get into their cars to drive away and they would turn and look back to back out, and there would be a Post-it stuck to their windshield. They’d get out of the car and go look and somebody would steal the car, beat them up or rape them, or whatever it was. So there was this big bulletin that went out. It was kind of like, ‘If you wake up in a bathtub with ice and you feel like someone’s taken your kidney, don’t move.’ This said, ‘If there’s a Post-it on the back of your car, don’t get out of your car. Drive away.’”

Page 2: Rachel Nichols' Next Projects

Page 2

Coming Up Next: Rachel Nichols has a high-profile project set to hit theaters in December. “I had the wonderful experience on Charlie Wilson’s War. I have an extraordinarily small part, which may or may not completely end up on the cutting room floor, but working with someone like Mike Nichols, who I will say is my favorite director of all time - my dad loved The Graduate and I love Closer and everything in between - he was such a great guy.

He just lived up to all the expectations that I had. And so did Tom Hanks. Tom was fantastic. He’s just every bit that nice guy. So, that’s coming up. My character’s name is Suzanne. I play one of the staffers in Tom’s office. And then I have Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. That comes out in the summer. And, I’m currently looking for something else.”

Nichols wasn’t in the first Sisterhood movie. “No. All the girls are coming back, and I play one of America Ferrera’s really good friends from Yale. I think it’s based on the third and fourth books in the series.”

Despite being the newcomer, Nichols had a great time on the set. “They were great. America really is a gem. I’ve had the very good fortune of working with some great women. Jen Garner is an extraordinarily wonderful person, and she’s extremely nice and sincere. And so is America. Sincere kindness and generosity is something that you rarely see, and they both have it in spades.

I was just really blown away by America. She’s younger than I am, and she’s so wise for her age. It’s really something nice to see in a young Hollywood star because I don’t think we see enough of it.”