The red carpet at Sundance isn’t as glitzy and glamorous as the red carpets in Hollywood, but Cedar Rapids native Molly Brown liked it that way. She was comfy wearing a blazer and enjoyed the indie festival’s low-key vibe.
Brown, 25, an actress now based in New York City, is appearing in “Lost Girls,” coming to Netflix on March 13. It premiered with three showings during Sundance, the nation’s largest independent film festival, held Jan. 23 to Feb. 2 in Utah.
Based on a bestselling true-crime novel, the film stars Oscar nominee Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone”) as a mother trying to learn the truth about her daughter’s disappearance, only to discover more than a dozen unsolved murders on Long Island.
Brown has a supporting role as Missy, one of the missing girls.
“It’s about the Long Island serial killer, so it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s about these sex workers who were found on Craig’s List, and then murdered by this person, and they still haven’t caught him.”
The Sundance experience was “absolutely wonderful,” she said. “It was very exciting. I’d never been on a red carpet before.”
But all the photo-snapping did start to get annoying, she admitted.
Brown doesn’t see this as her breakthrough role, but another movie that’s coming out later this year might be “something a little bit bigger” for her career, she said.
Also based on a book, it’s “The Good House,” a dark comedy recently filmed in Canada. It stars Sigourney Weaver as an alcoholic real estate agent whose life begins to unravel when she hooks up with a former flame played by Kevin Kline. Brown plays Weaver’s youngest daughter, Emily.
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“My sister and I, from the very beginning, we’re the ones who have been saying she has a problem. We get her to go to rehab, and support her by pushing her that way.”
Even though this topic is tough, too, Brown said the film shoot for “The Good House” wasn’t “heartbreaking every day,” like with “Lost Girls.”
Still, her acting specialty came in handy with both.
“I’m very good at crying,” she said. “So in both films, I cry, but in ‘The Good House,’ it’s more of a comedic cry.”
She only got to work with Kline for one day, but said he was “so nice and kind.” She spent much more time with Weaver.
Working with the three-time Oscar-nominee “was such a gift,” Brown said.
“When you’re on set, there’s a lot of down time that you’re not doing anything. It’s really long days, but for most of the day, you’re probably just sitting there. Sigourney’s never just sitting there. She’s always running her lines and working on her stuff and making sure she’s ready for the next scene. She’s next-level. She’s paying attention. It was a learning experience for me. ...
“And she’s just so funny. ... We have this one scene where we’re kind of improvising a little bit, and to hear her throw something right back at me that I said to her was kind of an out-of-body experience.”
Brown knows a thing or two about comedy and improv. She got her start in standup comedy in New York when she moved there four years ago, fresh from studying acting at the University of Iowa.
“I had to have a creative outlet to keep me sane,” she said. She still regularly hones her standup chops, since comedy and acting “fit really nicely together,” she added.
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“Some of the things that will mess you up in comedy will mess you up in acting,” she said. “If you’re not fully present, it’s detrimental to both.”
A graduate of Cedar Rapids Washington High School, she doesn’t consider herself a singer, so she didn’t do much acting there, but worked more onstage in college. While she’d like to step back onstage in New York, her first audition was for a short film, and she’s been working in film and television ever since.
Among her television credits are roles in “High Maintenance” on HBO and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Amazon Prime. She also has been a guest star on television’s “Law and Order: SVU,” “Gone,” Conviction,” “A Crime to Remember” and the pilot for “Truly Grimm Tales.”
The daughter of Sara Riley and granddaughter of Nan Riley and her late husband, noted attorney Tom Riley, Brown has felt her family’s encouragement every step of the way.
“It’s been my goal to move here and to be doing this since I was in middle school,” she said. “I’ve had a job since I was old enough to have a job, and I’ve been saving money and really making sure that I was ready to do this. That’s been my mind-set since I’ve known that I could move out of Iowa.”
That move to New York came with her mother’s blessing.
“My mom is the most supportive person ion the entire world. I wouldn’t be doing this if she didn’t believe in me so much,” Brown said. “She sent me to theater camp when I was in high school.
“In my house, it’s been known for a long time that this is what I wanted to do. And she just tells me all the time that even if I wasn’t working, she’s very proud of me for even having the guts to move out here and do that on its own.
“That’s one of the things I try to tell some of my friends: The fact that we’re out here and even trying, is more than most people will do.” Comments: (319) 368-8508; firstname.lastname@example.org