Interview: Kate Lyn Sheil

by Natalia Hadjigeorgiou

Kate Lyn Sheil, an NYU Tisch alum, stars in a new film, The Heart Machine, that premiered at SXSW this year. The film follows the Internet relationship between Cody (John Gallagher Jr.) and Virginia (Sheil) as she completes a six-month trip in Berlin. The couple has never met physically and it has never affected their relationship. What happens when Cody suspects that Virginia may be a few stops away from him on the L train and not 3000 miles away?

Starring in numerous independent films, veteran Kate Lyn Sheil spoke to me about her role as Virginia, the future of dating and the hard life one leads with bangs. She was incredibly nice and patient with me as I collected myself to give my first interview.

I loved the movie! What drew you to the film?

It’s obviously very timely with the entire Internet portion of it. But what was appealing to me about it was that it was a love story between two deeply insecure people. They both mess everything up and that was so appealing to me. I love people who try hard and make mistakes, people who are insecure – I totally relate to all of that! I think John [Gallagher Jr.] did a great job with the character. Yeah, I love the movie. 

Cody and Virginia’s relationship is based solely through Skype. Do you have any personal experience with online dating or feelings towards it?

I’ve never dated online but I did have a long distance relationship once where we talked on the phone all the time. I do understand the comfort of having a mediated relationship where you can talk and talk for hours, getting certain things out of a person like companionship and intellectual stimulation, and then going to live the rest of your life how you please. You don’t have to answer to someone but that relationship didn’t last long. I started an Okcupid account one night back when I was single but I never finished it.

Your soul mate could be waiting for you.

Yeah, you never know! I didn’t finish answering the questions or even upload a picture but I still get quiver matches. Who knows! One of my matches that has a 25% connection could be my soul mate. But I think that it’s cool. Meeting people and finding meaningful relationships in your life is hard so if that can be facilitated, I’m not going to hate it.

People have been trying to compare the movie to Catfish, but I didn’t get that vibe. I felt that both characters were honest with who they were.

That was something that we talked a lot about before shooting because the lie is such a giant crest of the film. I don’t think that she sets out to lie to him. She does it very suddenly and after she’s like, “Why did I just do that?” Virginia isn’t expecting to find a deep meaningful relationship and when she does it’s weird and frightening, she doesn’t know how to handle it. It’s more of her not expecting to take her relationship with Cody so serious or for it to grow. She would never set out to hoodwink him.

Throughout the film, different versions of Virginia are shown. What was it like filming those scenes?

It was interesting because in her “real life dating” you see a person who is very much trying to find herself and is not at ease with her. She is very much a work in progress. But then you see her online with her relationship with Cody, she’s found someone who turns her on –I don’t mean in a sexual way – she seems alive. That was really interesting to me. I know how that feels for sure, that you can’t think of a single thing to say to anyone, and then you meet someone that you have chemistry with, you know how to talk to them and suddenly you have a million things to say. And that’s a very true thing for me. I thought that was crucial to see her life outside of her Internet relationship.

How was it preparing for the character of Virginia? Because I wanted to sympathize with her but at the same time I was thinking, “what are you doing?!”

I have a great deal of empathy for both of those characters. I root for them and think that it’s very sad what comes for them at the end. It’s manipulative on her part that she does that and knowing that he is in pain and having a hard time with the long distance thing. And knowing that she talks him into staying in the relationship but then doesn’t reveal that she is near by and they could have an actual physical relationship.  Ideally she would come clean and tell the truth but she wouldn’t even have to. She could just say I’m coming back.

The whole time I was like, “You can pretend you came back super early!”

That’s what I thought was interesting about it. If Cody ever just directly asked her the question then the plot stops. If she ever said, “Hey, I got a plane ticket I’ll be back in 18 hours,” the movie stops or turns into something completely different. But both of them are so afraid of the truth and change I guess. They are both people who are very afraid but really want something very badly. I can totally relate to that, someone who wants something so badly but is also afraid to get the thing that they want.

It’s the romance of hiding behind a screen isn’t it?

It’s just so hard. They are just two people who are so desperately trying to present an ideal version of him or her. When if they could just be the complicated flawed person that they really are and say, “I’m afraid. I don’t know if I’m in love you. I’m afraid I might be in love with you.” They could probably make it work if they were to just admit those things to each other. But instead they are trying to be this sort of snazzy most appealing version of themselves. It’s sad.

The Heart Machine is in theaters Oct. 24! Check out the trailer here


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