Elisha Henig | "The Sinner"
At only 14 years-old, Elisha Henig is already leaving a mark in Hollywood. He’s been in a few shows including ABC’s Alex Inc., Netflix’s American Vandal, Hulu’s Ramy and now the award-nominated USA Network series: The Sinner; which is based on the novel with the same title by German crime author Petra Hammesfahr.
The Sinner is a crime/mystery drama that’s set in anthology style—meaning that each season has an entirely new close-ended story and with new characters.
Season 1 follows Detective Ambrose (Bill Pullman) as he takes on a bizarre case of a woman named Cora (Jessica Biel) who fatally stabs a stranger on the beach one day while out with her family. Throughout the short 8-episode season, which also wraps up Hammesfahr’s novel perfectly, we get to follow Ambrose as he tries to figure out why this mother who has no recollection of the incident committed the murder in the first place.
Season 2 starts off with Ambrose again and lures him “back to his hometown in rural New York to assess an unsettling and heart wrenching crime -- parents murdered by their 11-year-old son, with no apparent motive. As Ambrose realizes there’s nothing ordinary about the boy or where he came from, the investigation pulls him into the hidden darkness of his hometown. He’s pitted against those who’ll stop at nothing to protect its secrets—and the mysterious Vera (Carrie Coon) who proves to be a complicated, enigmatic piece to this haunting puzzle.”
This season explores why Julian (Elisha Henig) murdered his parents for no apparent reason and as the investigation continues, we find out more about Julian’s history and characters from his past.
FLAUNT got the chance to speak with the Portland native about the hit series, his favorite book and what other projects he’s currently working on.
First of all, I just want to say congratulations for The Sinner being picked up for a season 3! I know that each season branches off with new characters, but I’m sure your amazing acting in Season 2 had some part to play.
(Laughs) I don’t know, maybe? It’s more to do with Derek Simonds the showrunner. He had to come up with the entire season 2 plot because the first one’s based on the book and the second one is totally different. He came up with a pretty amazing story.
So let’s just go straight into The Sinner, how was the process like preparing to play such a daunting character like Julian? Did you have to lock yourself in a room?
We tried that! Before shooting for the first episode, we were having a lot of conversations with myself, Derek and Antonio— who was the director of the first two episodes. For some of the bigger scenes, they would put me in a secluded place so I could think over the scene an hour and a half before the shooting.
Some of those scenes were intense, did it take you a while to snap out of Julian’s character? And how did you usually feel afterwards?
I was mostly exhausted— I mean, it was a very intense shooting. It was a fun role though because it was the first role that I’ve done that had this arc to it. Julian changes over the 8 episodes and there’s a lot of work in planning that and making sure everything came out well and makes sense at the end.
Now I know that Cora, Jessica Biel’s character isn’t in the second season, but I wanted to know how it was like working with her as the executive producer? Since it’s her first credit as one for a television series.
I met her on the first day of shooting. She was very nice, she has this very magnetic personality to her. We talked a little about her playing Cora in the first season and she talked about how exhausted she was.
How long does it take to film one episode? Since it’s an anthology series, I would imagine that cramming all that info into only 8 episodes would take forever to film.
It’s supposed to be 8 days for an episode and then the 8 days is overlapped with a second unit that shoots the first day of the next episode. But you know, we’ve had to pack on a lot of extra shooting days at the end, so it probably ended up being around 10 days an episode.
I ask because I used to be an extra for a TV series and I was shocked when we had to re-film a scene (even if it’s a 20 second scene) like 12 times. Is that pretty normal?
Yes! We do a lot of takes.
Alright, so a lot of actors, Keanu Reeves for example, hate watching themselves on the screen because they get very self critical of their acting; so, I’m curious, did you actively watch The Sinner as it aired on TV?
Yes! I watched it every night. It’s a little easier to watch it now, because it was a little weird watching it then.
Do you have a favorite episode?
I love the finale. I also like episode 7—I loved that one. It had an interesting tone to it because it had a new director.
As you already know, The Sinner is based on a book with the same title by German crime writer Petra Hammesfahr. This is pretty neat considering the fact that it was published more than a decade ago and it got greenlit for a television series. So I’m curious, what are you currently reading right now?
I’ve been trying to start What Maisie Knew by Henry James.
You’ve already worked on so many shows at such a young age, can you give some advice to the young aspiring actors on what they should be doing now to get where you are today? You did some Shakespeare stuff when you were 10 right?
Yeah. I took a Shakespeare class and started at a local theater here in Portland. The style of acting in LA is different from theater. There’s no immediate reaction to the audience and it’s less entertaining so you have to find other ways to keep yourself going. I think it’s important that kids, you know, if they’re interested in acting/theater or to entertain people to know that acting in TV shows & theater are two different things, but they are related.
Which actor would you love to work with one day?
Would you like to branch out and take indie/comedy roles in the future? Since your past roles were a bit more dark in nature.
The Sinner was great, but I’m trying to go more into indie films, yes—but it’s a very competitive world.
Are there any new projects that you’re working on?
I’m in a show with the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia . He has a show coming out on AppleTV called Mythic Quest. I’ve got a little role in that.