Double Take: Tatyana Ali Stars as Twins in Lifetime’s Vanished: Searching for My Sister

Vanished: Searching For My SisterLifetime’s series of Saturday night thrillers continues this weekend with Vanished: Searching for My Sister.  Tatyana Ali (Love That Girl) stars in dual roles as Jada and Kayla, identical twins who look alike but couldn’t be more different. When wild child Kayla disappears, responsible Jada reports her missing and waits for the police to do their thing. But when the investigation stalls, Jada matters into her own hands. Posing as her missing sister, she searches for leads  - and gets more than she bargained for.  

While playing twins was an intriguing prospect, that’s not what drew Ali to the project. “I was so excited when I read the script,” she told journalists last week, “the fact that it’s based on a true story and that this really happened, that a woman really went undercover as her twin, all of that was so exciting. I love the notion of not allowing your loved one to remain a statistic or not be cared about, that someone would fight so hard to make sure that her sister, who has been through addiction, been through all these things, that her life mattered.”

Vanished: Searching for My Sister also stars Jasmine Guy (Grey’s Anatomy), Carolyn Hennessy (General Hospital), Justin Bruening (Sweet Magnolias), and Anthony “Treach” Criss (Feast).  The entire cast joined in the conversation; read the transcript below.

Vanished: Searching for My Sister premieres January 22 at 8/7 Central on Lifetime.

Zoom Conference
Searching for My Sister
Tatyana Ali, Justin Bruening, Carolyn Hennesy, Treach

January 10, 2022

Vanished: Searching For My SisterMODERATOR:
  Our first question is an email question, and it comes in asking for the entire cast, how does this movie stand out compared to other projects that you’ve all acted in?

TREACH:  Well, for me, I had the honor of working with a legend like Tatyana right there. [Growing up] I was watching her. You know the history, so just to have the pleasure of getting on there is really - when Jasmine Guy and Justin, these great actors, you've got to understand; you’ve got to really come here prepared, because they are legendary, these guys here. So, it was just a whole different vibe with just knowing that you were in great hands. You know when you step on a set with production and everything; you see how it’s rolling. You’re like, "Yeah, this is one of them right here."

CAROLYN HENNESY:  Well, for me, it was really cold in Atlanta, so there was that. My trailer had no heat, so that was fun. But it was all the more exciting to get inside when we did have those scenes inside. Yay! And be able to work with Tatyana, and Tatyana on this panel is the only one that I worked with because my scenes were with her and Jasmine pretty much, primarily. And so Jasmine’s just everything you would expect her to be. She’s a hoot-and-a-half, and she’s so, she’s a consummate professional – as is Tatyana, but Tatyana was not quite as funny, because she was threatened with, she’s going to be killed at any moment, her character. So, she was very, very serious, and we were kind of coming at her with, “Don’t do what we all know you’re going to do,” and that is double as your sister. So, it was really a tremendous amount of fun to keep it fun and light on the set, and then when the cameras rolled, we were just in it, but I was pretty much cold all the time, so that was me.

[laughter]

JUSTIN BRUENING:  I didn’t have that problem, but working with Tatyana was amazing. Watching her transform into two different, entirely different people was just phenomenal. I mean, there was even a moment when she did her whole transformation into Kayla, and we were sitting across from each other, and we had on masks on and stuff, but I didn’t know it was her, because I’d never seen her. I mean, I just worked with her twenty minutes before that, and I was sitting across from this woman. I’m like, “Who’s that? They just let anybody in on this set. It’s just strange.”

[laughter]

TATYANA ALI:  I remember that. We had such a rapport during the whole shoot, and I was like, “Wow, is he having a bad day? Like what, why are you staring at me that way?”

JUSTIN BRUENING:  I’m shy. I was shy. I didn’t know who that was. It’s a new person. Nobody introduced me. I felt bad. Yeah, it was great.

TATYANA ALI:  For me, what was different about this one, the cast is so amazing, and the crew, and I just had an incredible time working with everybody. Treach, there was a point when it was one of the scenes in the trailer when you kind of grip me up in the club, and I don’t even know if you noticed, but I had to take a moment afterwards, because you are scary when you want to be. You’re so kind and wonderful, and you just scared the bejesus out of me, for real. Yeah, just working with everybody was amazing. Especially, I was so excited when I read the script, the fact that it’s based on a true story and that this really happened, that a woman really went undercover as her twin, all of that was so exciting. I love the notion of not allowing your loved one to remain a statistic or not be cared about, that someone would fight so hard to make sure that her sister, who has been through addiction, been through all these things, that her life mattered. I really loved that and so into it, and then right before I started working, I was like, “Oh, my God. What did I get myself into?” But y’all saved me, so thank you.

[laughter]

QUESTION:  Tatyana, do actors when they start their career think, “Oh, boy. I hope one day I get to play a twin?” Or “Oh, my God. I hope I don’t ever have to play a twin?”

TATYANA ALI: [laughs] Maybe, “Oh, my God. I don’t ever have to play - I hope I don’t ever have to play a twin.” Actually, no, it was really a wonderful sort of experiment, and especially in the kind of truncated schedule that we have. There were days when I went back and forth between the sisters, and it can make you feel a little bit crazy. Our makeup and hair department and costumes, they were really like a refuge for me on those days, but it’s fun. You kind of have to use literally everything you know or think you know or might guess at to, not just create two people, but then also a relationship, the relationship between them, the history between them. That was really fun, actually. You might not hope to do it, but it could be a dream to be able to do it.

QUESTION:  Did you color code your script or did you put markers to who you were for the day?

TATYANA ALI:  I’m super anal. I always color code my script even if it’s one person.

[laughter]

So, yeah, I keep a binder. I’m not at the iPad script yet phase -

JUSTIN BRUENING:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  My question is for Tatyana. You talked about the fact that it can make you a little crazy playing two characters in one. What was it like preparing for a role where you’re playing two people? Because that’s an enormous amount of responsibility to have that much dialogue. So, what was your secret to actually preparing?

TATYANA ALI:  It’s similar to the way I prepare for just playing one role except you just double it. They’re sisters, so they have their shared pasts, and they’re sisters, so they also have things that only the two of them know that the rest of the world [doesn't] know. They both have their own wishes and desires and hopes and dreams, and so it’s the same, it’s just more. So, even with when I was prepping for it and doing my own rehearsals, I just tried to schedule the time, so there’d be days working on one, and then days working on the other, so I didn’t have to get confused. Then, their style. For me, once I start, once I am in their hair, in their clothes, and then all of the things, their walk or their body language, all those things that I tried to - I always work on those things, but with twins I was trying to differentiate them a little bit more, but once all those pieces come together then it’s like it meets somewhere. That’s how it happened.

[laughter]

QUESTION:  Treach, what was it like on the set? Is there a fun fact you can tell us about, something that we wouldn’t know because we weren’t there?

TREACH:  Yeah. There’re certain times you get into stuff, you’ll have a scene. For instance, I was rolling up on a motorcycle. I’m not even half good on a pedal bike.

[laughter]

So, I got to really show my acting skills. I had to find the clutch and when I do, should I look...but I know people that ride motorcycles, so I had to do what I knew they do without doing [anything].

[laughter]

TATYANA ALI:  You look good on that bike.

TREACH:  Thank you. But the movie magic makes things happen. So, like I said, it was certain things that I naturally don’t do at all. When I do a movie it’s so fun to me, because I got to really make sure they think I know what I’m doing.

QUESTION:  Question for anybody or everybody who’d like to take it: is there any difference between doing a Lifetime thriller and a different network or an indie film with thriller subject matter and the same schedule and budget? Is there anything specific to working for Lifetime?

CAROLYN HENNESY:  There’s a lot more blood on an independent.

[laughter]

JUSTIN BRUENING:  Yeah.

CAROLYN HENNESY:  It’s the truth. It’s the absolute truth.

JUSTIN BRUENING:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CAROLYN HENNESY:  And the things you can get away with on an independent thriller, yeah, the Lifetime audience would pass on that, so.

JUSTIN BRUENING:  Yeah.

TREACH:  You know, for this type of movie, everyone goes to Lifetime to watch these types of movies but the masses, one thing that’s beautiful about Lifetime, the masses are going to tune in.

CAROLYN HENNESY:  Yeah.

TREACH:  They have a long list of anything that like, “What comes on Lifetime, I’m here.” So, it’s just a honor to be on Lifetime, because you know that following, that cult following is going to be there for you.

JUSTIN BRUENING:  That’s a tough question, because I think our director, Tim Woodward, sort of filmed it like an independent, I think he went for that.

CAROLYN HENNESY:  True.

JUSTIN BRUENING:  So, I think there’s some stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor, speaking of blood.

[laughter]

JUSTIN BRUENING:  There was a little bit, but […] I think he set that as his benchmark, and he went for that, but I think that we had to tone it down for Lifetime, for that audience. But I think we filmed it the same way we would film an independent film.

TATYANA ALI:  Yeah. I’ve worked with Lifetime many times now, and I always feel really supported by the network and by the executives. That’s always a really good feeling, and they stay in communication while you’re filming and that’s awesome but to also know, it’s true, there’s this very wide audience, and there’s something about Lifetime. I always think about my cousins and my family because I know they’re going to be watching it. I got to make them proud. Everyone’s going to be texting me while it’s on, and there’s something about that that’s actually really special.

CAROLYN HENNESY:  I think, also, with it being Lifetime - very often in an independent you don’t get the justice that you want at the end. Things are left unresolved, and sometimes you can leave the theater or whatever you’re viewing it on unsatisfied. That’s not going to happen with a Lifetime thriller. Things are going to be wrapped up. Everyone’s going to be happy and vindicated, and you’re going to end up being thrilled during the movie, but all will be well at the end pretty much. Or maybe not this with this one. I don’t know -

QUESTION:  Does it affect your performances in any way, either knowing there isn’t going to be that much blood or that everything is going to be resolved at the end? Do you play with more fervor and less frustration? Or do you perform it the same way you would perform a more ambiguously ended material?

CAROLYN HENNESY:  Whatever is honest for the character is how you go.

JUSTIN BRUENING:  Um-hm.

CAROLYN HENNESY:  So, it doesn’t matter if it’s a soap opera.

TATYANA ALI:  That’s right.

CAROLYN HENNESY:  Or a Lifetime or a Darren Bousman Saw franchise film. It’s all, for me, for me. I mean -

JUSTIN BRUENING:  Yeah, I agree with that.

TATYANA ALI:  Yeah, ditto.

QUESTION:  Tatyana, which twin was more difficult to play and why?

TATYANA ALI:  You know, I guess I would have to say Jada, because I certainly get to play her more. But often during the film, and it sometimes led to a little bit of confusion when we were filming, I spent a lot of time playing Jada pretending to be Kayla, and those were probably the most challenging parts, playing someone you love, Jada putting on Kayla’s wigs, going out into Kayla’s world, which she’s heard of but never really participated in. Just the longing to know what’s happened to her sister and to find her, I think Jada pretending to be Kayla was the most challenging, for sure.

QUESTION:  Were you scared to do it?

TATYANA ALI:  I was excited at first and then as I got closer and closer, yeah, I was scared. But I’ve come to learn that that’s - If I’m not intimidated by what I’m trying to do then I’m almost not that excited about it, so nerves to me are a good sign that I’m stretching myself. So, yeah, I was.

QUESTION: Tatyana, I do want to ask you, taking on two roles - could you ever see yourself doing it again?

TATYANA ALI: [laughs] I had a lot of fun doing it. I would love to do it on a project where we had more time. It was hard to switch on the same day. That was really hard, to go back and forth on the same day, and when I was prepping for it, I saw a lot of films where actors played multiple characters and twins and sisters and even read a lot of interviews of the process, but we had three weeks. So, I would. I would try it again. I thought it was - I was exhausted when it was done, but it was thrilling, and I really liked playing a character like Kayla, even for the short period of time that I do in the film. I’ve never really, I’ve never been able, given the chance to play somebody like her, and she really stole my heart.

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