Local actress Liz E. Morgan talks first major film role

The Remaining' star opens up about the faith-based horror flick

It took Liz E. Morgan a few years, but landing her first film role turned out to be pretty easy.

The 18-year-old, who lives in Johns Creek and attends Northview High School, will appear as the arty, guarded Sam in The Remaining.

Morgan auditioned for the part like she auditioned for a lot of other things, and then thought no more of it. But she appeared at the right time: Remaining director Casey La Scala says he was getting worried that he'd never find "the right Sam," according to the film's production notes.

"I started looking through tapes and I saw Liz's face and immediately pushed play, she said a few words, I picked up the phone and said, 'Cast her now,'" says the director, who was also a producer for the cult classic Donnie Darko.

Morgan says she actually had "completely forgotten" that she auditioned for the role (the better to avoid stressing about it). But indeed, they loved her: The script called for Sam to have black hair. Morgan's hair is bright blonde, and they didn't ask her to dye it.

It's the biggest break in Morgan's short career. Originally from Boston, her family relocated to Atlanta when she was 6 years old. Morgan is a huge theater buff and calls the Shakespeare Tavern her "second home," but she decided about three years ago that what she really wanted to do was act in films. Soon, she signed with Atlanta Models & Talent.

Stepping onto that film set for the first time was a bit like entering a new world, Morgan says, especially for a theater kid now mastering the art of "being really, really small" in front of film cameras. "I was terrified, I was absolutely terrified," Morgan says. "The first day I was filming, I was off-book already, I just knew all of my lines, and then, like, the first day, the lines changed and I was not expecting that at all. I was freaking out."

The Remaining will be released by Affirm Films, an arm of Sony specializing in faith-based works such as Fireproof and Moms' Night Out. Morgan doesn't plan to chart a career in strictly religious filmmaking, but the experience did resonate with her.

"I was definitely struggling with my faith for a while, even during filming with this, and it definitely made me question what it means to have faith," she says. "Even on the set, the crew and cast would talk about their religion, and it was really cool, being in that sort of environment."

The Remaining is being marketed as a horror thriller; its premise is bleak and concerns the Rapture and individuals who are left behind. Morgan says it's more thriller than horror, and she's quick to emphasize the film's strong story and characters. Going forward, those are the same kinds of things she'll be hunting in other projects.

As a budding screen actor, Morgan has had her eye on Atlanta's production boom during the last few years. "I remember I was driving down the street, and I saw a base camp for one movie. ... It was so exciting because I got so happy that Atlanta is becoming this new Hollywood," she says.

Speaking of Hollywood, Morgan has an additional agent in L.A., so after graduation in the spring that's where she'll head.

Moving across the country is likely to resemble walking onto that film set for the first time. Making that journey will be terrifying, too, but the good kind of terrifying, Morgan says: "It's like, this is what I want to do, so I've got to do it."

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