returntosender-poster3In Fouad Mikati’s Return to Sender, Miranda (Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl) is a dedicated nurse, an exquisite cake maker, and a great friend to her colleague Nancy (Camryn Manheim). But when she agrees to a blind date and the wrong man comes to her door, Miranda’s perfect world is shattered by a brutal assault. Even after her attacker, William (Shiloh Fernandez, Evil Dead), is convicted and locked away for the crime, Miranda can’t overcome the fear and trauma enough to put her orderly life back together. Desperate for closure, she reaches out to William — first through letters, then prison visits — and slowly builds a relationship with him. But when William is paroled and comes looking for her, Miranda seizes the opportunity to exact revenge. Return to Sender also features Nick Nolte, Rumer Willis, and Illeana Douglas.

I’ve always admired actress Camryn Manheim, a wonderful performer who is probably best known for her long-running roles on shows such as The Practice, Ghost Whisperer, and Person of Interest. I talked to her by phone from backstage at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York where she was getting ready for her Broadway debut in the Deaf West production of the musical Spring Awakening. That show opened a few days ago to ecstatic reviews.

Danny Miller: It was great seeing you as Nancy in Return to Sender. I liked your character so much that I spent half the film worrying that something horrible was going to happen to you.

<> at Alex Theatre on October 4, 2010 in Glendale, California.

Camryn Manheim: Ha, thank you for that concern! I hope you didn’t see the Kevin Bacon movie Cop Car that came out a few months ago then.

Uh-oh, I didn’t. Does something horrible happen to you in that film?

Oops, spoiler alert! I’m not saying! And to be honest, as far as this film goes, I can pretty much guarantee you that as soon as Rosamund Pike is finished with her current project, she’s coming after me! (Laughs.)

What is it about Rosamund Pike that she can seem so sweet and innocent and then have this horrible, deceptive, mysterious thing going on?

I know! I was a little scared to work with her! But she really couldn’t have been more lovely — so prepared and professional. It was kind of alarming how quickly she could turn into this creepy, meticulous OCD woman.

You’re so believable as a nurse. Have you played one before?

Oh yes, I’ve played so many nurses, doctors, and lawyers, I should be able to get a medical and law degree. I just played a doctor for a year on Extant with Halle Berry so I got to say all those insanely complicated medical lines.

What goes into your decision-making process these days in terms of getting involved in smaller independent films like this?

Oh, a whole bunch of things: the director, script, actors, location, money. This one was not about the money, but the other four fit the bill! I have a kid and I always think about how it works with my family and if the location is somewhere I want to go. But, of course, the number one thing is reading the script and seeing if I connect with the material — if it feels like it would be an interesting challenge that I could bring something special to.

You bring something special to everything you’re in.

Oh, Danny, I love you! In terms of location, this movie was shot in New Orleans and I love that town so much. I am that girl who’s up at 4 in the morning during a shoot gambling in the casino! I have to say that it’s not hard to get me to New Orleans. But I was also very excited about working with Rosamund, she’s such a unique and interesting actress.

And what a killer American accent for a Brit! What’s with all these English women playing American roles?

I KNOW! It totally pisses me off! (Laughs.) But that’s even more true in the theater, I’m so glad I got cast in this Broadway show before some Brit took my part.

deafwestI am so excited about this new Deaf West version of Spring Awakening. I saw the original which was so fantastic and I’ve seen some of Deaf West’s other productions like Big River and Pippin and this seems like a perfect fit!

Oh my God, Danny, it’s so amazing and beautiful. You cannot imagine what it is like to see these young deaf people talking about this subject matter where no one’s giving them the right information and they’re so isolated — it just adds such an amazing element to this play. I couldn’t even believe when this opportunity came up, I was so thrilled. I have a real bond with the deaf community, I was an interpreter for many years, so being a part of this is just coming full circle for me. And to work with Marlee Matlin and everyone in this cast, it’s like a dream come true.

How are your signing skills these days?

I’m pretty fluent in sign language but honestly it doesn’t help because I’m speaking in this kind of Old World tongue but I’m signing in a more current way so knowing sign language almost makes it more complicated because I know the word that I’m signing isn’t the word I’m saying! It’s all wonderfully challenging.

Ugh, I have to get to New York during the run of that play!

We’re scheduled to be here until January 9, 2016! Be sure to come say hi if you get to New York.

Return to Sender is available on VOD and iTunes and was just released on DVD and Blu-ray.