Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
September 14, 2020

In the thriller No Escape, a prominent influencer (Keegan Allen) and his closest friends celebrate his birthday and the landmark 10th anniversary of his travel/adventure vlog with an extravagant trip to Moscow. Guided by a questionable acquaintance (Ronen Rubinstein), the American tourists are lavished with private experiences and the city's opulent nightlife. But their spree takes a sinister turn when a visit to an escape room suddenly puts the group's survival in jeopardy.

With scenes involving traps, escape rooms, and Americans tortured abroad, No Escape features elements of genre franchises such as Saw, Escape Room, and Hostel. But as star Holland Roden points out, the film's original title, Follow Me, is probably more indicative of its true signature theme: the impact of social media and the extreme lengths to which individuals will go in their quest for notoriety.

In this exclusive interview, Holland talks about working on No Escape, her love of games, and her relationship with social media, including the launch of a YouTube Channel featuring her personal DIY projects. She also reflects on her college transition from medicine to acting, as well as her long-running role on MTV's Teen Wolf as Lydia Martin, a character she portrayed for six seasons.

No Escape is available on VOD and digital, including Amazon and Google Play. It's probably fair to say that of all the puzzle room sequences, your scene in the water tank seemed to be the most physically harrowing, and potentially the most dangerous in real life. Was it a difficult shoot, and was it done mostly with practical effects?

HOLLAND: It was mostly practical, yeah--they had a big tank and they filled it with water and I jumped in. I guess if you're claustrophobic, it would definitely not be a good situation to be in. And they do try to fill up the water as much as possible, which is something I also requested, because I want to have to be able to struggle to get to the top for that little bit of air, and not hold my body down underwater. So filling it up actually made it easier to not have to hold your body down if there was more air available to breathe. So I guess if you're a strong swimmer and you're not claustrophobic, it's actually an enjoyable experience, because the water's warm, and it's kind of like wading in a whirlpool in between takes. I actually enjoyed it. [laughs] I had to pretend it was uncomfortable.

Can we take that to mean you're a pretty competent swimmer?

I would like to think so. I haven't been in any riptide currents, not anything life-threatening. But I would like to think I'm a strong swimmer. I hope so. [laughs]

How would you characterize your own skills when it comes to solving escape rooms?

I'm okay. I love escape rooms! I took my mom, and my best friend and her mom...We went to Vienna, Austria, where they actually started. And I was obsessed with the fact that we were in the city that started escape rooms. This is years ago, before the escape room movie. So I've been to many. I've had many birthdays in escape rooms. I just love games. I love game nights and getting a group together to solve something that you would never usually talk about. I love the themes behind escape rooms. I love the [strategy], and how many people you need to solve one, and can you whittle it down to actually solve it? I love all the intricacies of escape rooms, so I'm a big fan.

As someone who has a regular board game group (currently on hold due to COVID-19), I'm thrilled to hear you're also a game night enthusiast. Any recommendations for us?

Well, I like heavy Eurogames, and so Terra Mystica is one of my favorites. And [Dominant] Species. There's also a game I just got called The Gallerist that I'm pretty excited about, and I just bought Twilight Struggle as well. So I'm excited about those...Terraforming Mars is a good one, too...And then Mafia is also a game I play that's not Eurogame-related.

One of the themes of No Escape is putting on a different persona for your online image. How would you describe your relationship with social media? Do you separate Holland actress from Holland actual?

Well, I just started a YouTube, because I'm building this tiny house and documenting the build. But before that, I would not consider myself a social media person. I have an Instagram that you post pictures on, but I feel like those are snippets of your life, and it kind of ended there. But I do feel it's important that we use social media not to heighten the snippets of that life to the extent that it's obviously not real. I never had that really personal intimate feeling with Instagram, and so now as a vlogger, I guess you could say, it's really cool to have (at least it feels like) a lot more of an intimate relationship with the Teen Wolf fans, and with people that have decided to follow my career. And I think it's important that it's indicative to who I really am. I'm not big on makeup and not really big on clothes. And so just showing that, and breaking down any sort of "Hollywood" wall that was there...I feel like if you're going to be part of social media, it should be more of an intimate connection. YouTube's been a great platform for that.

On the subject of Holland actual, I've always been curious: is there a story behind your first name? Are you named after someone, or did your parents have a magical adventure in Holland?

[laughs] There's a Roden, Netherlands, but it's purely coincidental. It's quite a mundane story: my mom was a camp counselor in college and she had a camper name Holland, and so she just always loved the name. And I'm glad that my mom won out, because my dad's [choice] is not my favorite. But I won't say that name, because I feel like it could offend some people! [laughs] But yeah, I'm glad my mom won. She did well. She picked well.

I understand that before you committed fully to acting, you were pre-med at UCLA. How far did you get on that entirely different career path?

I was three years in, and then I started acting my sophomore year in college, and transitioned out of that major to women's studies my senior year. So I was about three years in--quite a ways.

So do you have enough experience to switch from actor to field medic or emergency surgeon during the zombie apocalypse?

Absolutely not! [laughs] It's been 12 years. Uh...No! We did dissect a body, so I've done that. And there was a lot of fascia to get through. It takes like two weeks--at least, my group did, with the person who had donated themselves to science. Other than that, no. I remember very few terms. I would not trust me. Do not pick me! Pick a real medic, yeah? [laughs]

[laughs] Sometimes you don't have a choice. They might just throw you in, and you'll have to pick up a scalpel whether you want to or not...

Maybe! Maybe, yeah...

Your Teen Wolf character Lydia is the role that's been with you the longest in your career so far. Now that you've had a few years to reflect on it, what did the experience of that show mean to you, and how do you feel about the character today?

Lydia reminded me so much of Reese Witherspoon in Election, and it had a bit of that heightened, stylized acting to a certain extent. It's a nice sort of fork off the road to play different characters that are a bit more normalized, but at the end of the day, I was raised on Teen Wolf--I absolutely loved working for [creator] Jeff Davis, and it's part of who I am, it's part of my identity. So Lydia will always feel like "childhood Holland Roden," in a weird way. Or, "young adult Holland Roden." It warms my heart to think of her, and I definitely feel like she's always going to be inside of me. You know, Teen Wolf...It's like you graduate and leave the house and go to college, and that was my high school experience--that was my upbringing as an adult, so to speak. So I feel like I was raised on that show, because I essentially was: I was a senior in college when I booked that, and I was over 30 when it ended.

We'll be seeing you in Escape Room 2 at some point. What can fans expect from that?

Yeah, Escape Room 2 is out, I believe, in January of 2021, and it's very much like the first movie that Sony did with [director] Adam Robitel--it's very escape-room-driven in the fact that strangers are thrown into a room, have to solve puzzles, and you find out bits about their backstory through these strangers having this one awful thing in common by being thrown into this room together.

Thanks for your time today, Holland! Hopefully we're all back to playing in-person board games soon...


...Until then, stay safe and stay healthy!

Likewise! Thanks, Michael, I appreciate it...Bye!

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