The actress stars in Lifetime's 'Girl in Room 13,' which tells a harrowing story of human trafficking.
Anne Heche's director and co-star are opening up about her impact on her upcoming project, the Lifetime film Girl in Room 13. Director Elisabeth Rohm and Larissa Dias, who stars as Heche's character's daughter, spoke with ET on Thursday about the TV movie -- part of Lifetime's "Ripped From the Headlines" franchise -- that tells a harrowing story of a recovering addict who becomes trapped in the world of human trafficking.
"I know all of us at Lifetime, myself, Larissa, everybody is devastated," Rohm said of Heche's hospitalization. The actress has been in a coma in Los Angeles since a fiery car crash last Friday.
"We are praying for her and the victims of this horrible tragedy," the director continued. "I know that Anne really was passionate about this film. She gave it everything that she had, she brought a phenomenal performance and force to this project and she was really committed to stopping violence against women. We wish she was here with us, and all I can say is that we're just praying for her recovery."
On Aug. 5, Heche crashed her blue Mini Cooper into a home around 11 a.m. in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Fifty-nine firefighters rescued Heche from the crash that ignited a house fire and she was rushed to a nearby hospital with severe burns. The home was completely destroyed. Heche's accident was her third car crash within a 30-minute span.
Days after the accident, Heche's rep told ET that the actress is "in extreme critical condition" following the crash. "She has a significant pulmonary injury requiring mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention," the rep said Monday. "She is in a coma and has not regained consciousness since shortly after the accident."
Heche was set to join Rohm and Dias for a virtual panel about Girl in Room 13 on Thursday as part of the Television Critics Association's 2022 Summer Press Tour, but in light of her absence, the pair shared a bit about what drew the actress to the project.
"She had a passion for stopping violence against women especially," Rohm shared. "We are creating, hopefully, a movement, a sense of responsibility around this topic -- after the film, around the film, we're launching a PSA to draw attention to the Polaris Foundation. All of this, Anne was a part of -- she was committed to that and she, like Larissa, came to work with a tremendous passion towards getting this film out there and making a big impact."
The film, which is inspired by true events, tells the story of Grace (Dias), who was addicted to opioids after her doctor prescribed them for a sports injury at a young age. After three stints in rehab, she is ready to turn her life around. Under the watchful eye of her mother, Janie (Heche), Grace tries to begin a new chapter, but her past comes back to haunt her when her ex and drug dealer, Richie (Max Montesi), imprisons her in a hotel room with no way out as he tries to break her down so that she can be sold into human trafficking. Refusing to give up on her daughter even when her husband and the police believe Grace has returned to a life of using, Janie begins her hunt to find Grace. Stopping at nothing, Janie discovers the dark world of human trafficking and the shocking statistics about its widespread victims and its unexpected accomplices.
"I feel like you can tell stories like this and they can be salacious, or you can be responsible to the storytelling and make a movement around a movie," Rohm shared. "That is why I continue to want to direct these films -- on behalf of them. I think Girl in Room 13 is very powerful -- Larissa and Anne gave incredible performances, Max Montesi also really went there, and I think that their commitment to draw attention to this issue, it just never ceases to amaze me."
Added Dias, "That's the draw for all of us, was the story and the cause... I've talked to Anne about this countless times, and we were both in it to make an impact and to make a change. We use our work to do that, and hopefully, this movie can do that for people."
The duo admitted that the film's subject matter could often make their days on set "very exhausting," "difficult" and "emotional." Dias said she made sure to read case law and accounts from victims and survivors of sex trafficking, and both women praised the on-set intimacy coordinator for their support during intense scenes.
"Playing something like this, it was not necessarily easy going home and putting on Netflix," Dias shared. "It was grueling."
Rohm said she and Heche spoke at length about her "fearless" character, who fights tooth and nail to find her daughter. "Although she's raw and she is pushed to her limits and she's living a terror that no parent ever wants to go through, she also wanted it to be heroic and grounded and strong and clear," the director shared. "She wanted to represent mothers and women who have to fight for themselves with clarity and purpose."
"She had this sort of -- even from before -- this very maternal, protective nature to her," Dias agreed. "I really benefited from that... Even just like, tips on how to stand your ground as a woman on set and as an actor, that was something I really learned from her as well."
"She was always checking in on me," the actress added. "It's hard -- as actors we're extremely empathetic, so it's not just the character that you're shutting off after a production like this. These victims' stories, these survivors' stories, they stick with you. And it's not just women, it's men as well, it's people who are part of the LGBTQ community that are vulnerable in these situations... That experience builds something in you and builds character and teaches you something, and that's why I do it. I want to give people new perspectives on things and shed light on these immensely difficult topics."
"Anne and I talked about that a lot, and that was a big draw and a big reason why we wanted to be a part of this project," Dias shared.
As for Heche's ongoing hospitalization, Rohm admitted that she was doing interviews with a "very heavy heart" in the actress' absence.
"We were devastated, and I don't think we're done being devastated," she shared. "It's really a horrifying situation... We wish she was with us and again, we really know that she was passionate about this film -- to get it out there to people, to make an impact. We're just praying for her and her family that she has a full recovery."
Girl in Room 13 is set to premiere in September on Lifetime.