Midori Francis Talks Unseen, Grey's Anatomy, And The Sex Lives Of College Girls - Exclusive Interview

Being lost out in the middle of the woods would be terrifying. It would be even more frightening if you were unable to see what was around you — which is exactly what happens to Emily in the new horror film "Unseen."

After being kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend, Emily (Midori Francis) escapes his cabin and is on the run. However, she is without her glasses, leaving her nearly blind and unable to navigate the unfamiliar terrain around her. Luckily, she does have her phone and unknowingly dials the number of a stranger named Sam (Jolene Purdy), who lives halfway across the country. 

Though these two women have never met, Emily knows one thing for certain: Sam is bound to have much better eyesight. Using video calling, the two women connect over the course of the film as Sam attempts to guide Emily out of the woods and to safety.

Actress Midori Francis couldn't wait to be a part of the twists and turns and edge-of-your-seat action, and we had the opportunity to hear all about it. In an exclusive interview with The List, Francis broke down her most difficult scenes from the horror film, shared the special gift her co-star Jolene Purdy gave her prior to filming, and described the impact that making the film has made on her life.

We also got the chance to ask about what's soon to come for her characters on "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Sex Lives of College Girls."

The fast-paced action drew her to the horror film Unseen

What was it about the project "Unseen" that made you want to be a part of it?

It was that initial actor thing of being like, "Wow, would I love the chance to be so physically and emotionally challenged and be fully invested in something."

When I read the script, I knew that this was sort of a superhero role with added dramatic stakes and that a lot would be required of me — I would have to run, scream, cry, [and] hold the movie together. I can't even tell you how much I wanted to do that, how ready I was to do that, how much I felt like I was craving that, coming from where I had been coming from. It's like any good meal: You need bits of everything, and I was ready for, I guess you would call that, the steak. [laughs]

I was so excited and so down. Jolene [and I] always joke about Sam and Emily [and] that the type of actor that you want to play Emily is the type of actor who'd be down to be outside, jump in water, get dirty, and all of that, and I'm certainly that type of person. The worst thing is being bored, for me, so this is the opposite of being bored, and I was so amped.

The actress breaks down her most difficult scenes

Your character spends a majority of her scenes alone, out in the elements, and physically fighting against her ex-boyfriend. Were there any scenes in particular that were the most difficult to film?

It's really funny — someone from ... our team used to joke ... "There's this actor, and she has to go on freezing water and fall, and she's really happy about it." They were very confused by that aspect.

[That stuff is] hard, maybe, but I find it way more difficult to be benched on the side and desperately wanting to get in there. This was the moment when it was like, "You're up! You're up!" Pretty much every day, I was super happy to be up, so to speak, to be in the game.

The things that I can imagine being the hardest were probably the very early wood scenes before I'm fully connected with Sam — a lot of the exposition and learning how to balance being in the woods, not being able to see, doing phone acting, dealing with the props. All of that took a few days to feel like, "All right, I got this." That was probably the hardest [part], but the things that looked the hardest probably were not as hard for me. Funny how that worked.

She and co-star Jolene Purdy had a 'pretty instant connection'

Your character, Emily, and Jolene Purdy's character, Sam, communicate strictly over the phone throughout the film. When did you two meet for the first time?

We met virtually via the table read and then connected on social media, and actually talked on the phone — a pretty instant connection to decompress and talk about the table read and deconstruct our feelings about everything. That was really early.

Then we met at the hotel in Covington, Louisiana. Her husband works for Disney, and she got me and Yoko [Okumura, our director] personalized presents. She got me a "Lilo & Stitch" blanket that says "Midori" on it, and I remember being like, "Who does this? This is a nicer present than my best friend would get me" [laughs], and I had just met her. Actually, we all got each other a little present — very much our love language.

[My character was] out alone in the element[s], it is true, but [Jolene] was right behind me, hiding in a bush, hiding in a tree, walking alongside me in the mud. She was out there with me pretty much every time there was an Emily and Sam scene. We actually did that together. She was essentially a reader in the scene. She played herself, which was incredible and so generous.

I feel like that would help so much when you're in a scene going back and forth.

Yeah. Once you build one side of [the scene], you are a little more locked in once you switch, because there are certain timing things, story beats, that can't be unplayed once they're filmed.

We did get to build things together emotionally, and then by the time we flipped over to Jolene's side, she took ownership too over my side, in a way. That was great because it would stink to go second if you weren't a part of the first part. It felt like we got to build it together, talk things through, and find our chemistry and our pace.

On why representation matters in the movie industry

There's one scene in particular where Emily and Sam connect in the woods. In it, your characters talk about the lack of representation in the media while they were growing up. How does it feel to be a part of Blumhouse's very first film with a female Japanese American director and female Japanese American leads?

Awesome. Absolutely awesome. The way that Yoko and I and Jolene talk about it is not necessarily sitting around every day being like, "Oh my gosh, we're Japanese American. Let's talk about it." But there was a certain sense of ease. 

Having Yoko as my director, quite frankly, I didn't feel like I had to go into it proving that I could do it all the time or proving my right to be [in] that role. I never doubted that she saw me as her lead, that she saw me when she closed her eyes and imagined the leading character. So I felt less pressure from day one and more ease, so I feel great about it.

As Yoko said, she just cast the Emily and Sam that she wanted. I don't think Jolene and I could be more different in terms of type — the diversity within the diversity — but we've all become good friends. We went to Disneyland this summer, so I'm so lucky [to have] their presence in my life. I really am.

Midori Francis teases her other upcoming projects

Your character Emily is an emergency room doctor in "Unseen," and funn[il]y enough, you're also currently playing a surgical [resident] on "Grey's Anatomy." A lot of fans online have recently discussed seeing some sparks between your character Mika and Taryn Helm. What are your thoughts on this potential relationship?

Taryn Helm is an awesome, badass character who fans love and adore, and it would be great for her to have a love interest. And if that happens to be me, hell, yeah. Why not? Other than that, I can't say. I'm down to date people. Whatever happens, happens.

Is there anything you're able to tell us about Season 3 of "The Sex Lives of College Girls"?

Pretty much just Season 3 of "The Sex Lives of College Girls." That's all I know. [laughs] Should everything work out with the timing and scheduling, that would be wonderful. I'm very close with everybody there. They know that I love Alicia, and I'm totally willing to continue telling that story. It will come down to timing and schedule.

But no matter what happens, it's going to be awesome. The fan base keeps growing and growing. Even this year, I've noticed, "Wow, it's become more commonplace that people have watched it," so I'm super, super excited for the 3rd season no matter what happens. I think it's awesome, and it gives a lot of people joy.

Midori Francis' new movie, "Unseen," is available on digital and On Demand as of today from Paramount Home Entertainment. The film will be available to stream on MGM+ in May.

This interview has been edited for clarity.