Interview: The Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez

The Girl in the ShedAbby Hernandez was just fourteen years old when she disappeared. Her abductor held her for nine months, subjecting her to sexual and psychological abuse before she returned home just as suddenly as she vanished. A decade after her return, Lifetime rounds out its February lineup with a new movie based on the teen’s harrowing ordeal. Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez is the true story of how Abby was abducted and held in a soundproof container. Despite daily abuse, she kept her cool and never lost hope that she would see her family again.

The film stars Lindsay Navarro (Life XP) as Abby, Erica Durance (Supergirl, Saving Hope) as her mother, Zenya, and Ben Savage (Girl Meets World) as kidnapper Nathaniel Kibby.

This is not just another drama ripped from the headlines; Abby Hernandez was an executive producer of the film. She told journalists that getting on board to tell her story was not a tough decision.

“It’s nothing new to me. It’s in here constantly,” she said, tapping her head, “has been in there since 2013. I’m almost numb to it, you know what I mean?” When Hernandez first returned home, she was reluctant to share the details of her captivity, even with police. “But we're in a day and age now where I think it’s encouraged to be honest about what's going on. I don't feel as scared anymore.”

“What I want to come out of this,” she explained, “is awareness. I think…a lot of people have that voice in the back of their head. You know, ‘If I disappeared it wouldn't matter.’ And I learned that yeah, it does matter. It affects a lot of people and it will forever.”

During the conversation, the cast spoke at length about working with Abby and Zenya, and the responsibility they felt to tell the story authentically. Read the transcript below but beware of minor spoilers. Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez premieres Saturday, February 26 at 8/7c. Check your cable guide for additional airdates.

Zoom Conference
Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez
Executive Producer Abby Hernandez
Stars Ben Savage, Lindsay Navarro, and Erica Durance

January 10, 2022

Girl in the ShedQUESTION: This question is for anyone who would like to answer it. Tell us a behind-the-scenes story about something that took place on set.

LINDSAY NAVARRO: Behind the scenes, hmm. Erica, Ben, you got anything? There's so much that happened.

QUESTION: You can tell us a fun fact.

LINDSAY NAVARRO: I've got one. I've got one. Okay. So, there was a scene where Abby and Kibby are outside. It’s Abby’s first time being outside in I believe six months. And there's a scene where she has this moment, a beautiful moment with a horse, but in reality, this horse was not having it. He did not want to be there. So there's a couple scenes where you see this beautiful, majestic horse, and then, there's another one where you see a close-up of my face. The horse is not there, because the horse has taken off. It completely jetted. It was quite funny and all of us were a little bit scared because he was running across the field. Yeah, it was a great time.

ABBY HERNANDEZ: That's hilarious.


ERICA DURANCE: Not to do any spoilers, but remember when we, Lindsay, had to walk in the field and we had to be looking straight up and it had to be very graceful.


ERICA DURANCE: We kept trying to avoid all the – I don't know, there was a bunch of cow pies and all sorts of stuff. So, you're trying to have this ethereal, really beautiful moment, and we're trying to spot check each other somehow by not looking down.

LINDSAY NAVARRO: Yeah, fun times.

QUESTION: Abby, did you have a chance to speak with the cast before they shot the film?

ABBY HERNANDEZ: Yes. Pretty much everybody, all the main characters, everybody that's here.

QUESTION: Abby, being executive producer, but also this being your story, [what] was it like to relive this, something that happened to you personally, come to life in a movie on Lifetime based on a true story?

ABBY HERNANDEZ: Obviously, it’s a weird experience to have this happen in the first place, and then to have it made into a movie is obviously an even weirder experience. But ultimately, I did find it healing in a weird way, just to have it out there.

QUESTION: Lindsay, this is a film based on the real-life kidnapping of Abby [when she was] fourteen years old. Learning her full story, what was it like for you to personally portray Abby on the screen and act out some of the scenes of what actually went on in her real life?

LINDSAY NAVARRO: Yeah, wow. There was such a responsibility that came with that, it being a true story, knowing that Abby was a part of the project. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to do it as well, knowing that Abby was on board. So, it was challenging in that way but it made it easier knowing that I could get in touch with Abby, and we could talk things through. So, for that, I will be forever grateful [for] having her there, accessible on WhatsApp, getting to video chat with her. But yeah, it made it heavier and it was challenging to walk through those scenes knowing that she had experienced this, and there was that weight that came with it.

QUESTION: Erica, what will viewers learn from watching this movie based on Abby’s real-life story?

ERICA DURANCE: Oh, I don't know if that should be - thank you for giving that to me; I think that's more of an Abby question. I suppose I can only share part of what I learned playing the part of Zenya in it and in speaking with her. It’s the absurdity, the cruelty of life, the beauty that can come out of things that are awful, and with Zenya, I found that she was just so incredibly powerful and strong. But yeah, I was kind of awestruck in dealing with her and talking to her. So, originally, when I was going to do this, she talked to me through her whole experience, and it was incredibly generous of her. It was a three-hour phone call. But yeah, I don't quite know how to answer that succinctly, which is why I'm bumbling about. It’s the human spirit and what we are capable of doing or what we are capable of doing to each other, how we are capable of finding our way around it in some way. But I do feel like I'm the actor playing it. It wasn't my story in that sense. I think it will be really awe-inspiring for a lot of people.

QUESTION: The mother role on these projects is interesting, because depending on how it’s cast, who’s playing it, how much they're given attention in the script, we've seen Jenny Garth do it and she did it to a great extent in the one that she was in. Joely Fisher did one and she had maybe a few scenes here and there. It was largely, “Where’s my daughter? What happened to my daughter?” How did you approach the mother role? Because you want to make your mark, but as you said, it’s really the daughter’s story. How did you go about portraying the mother to make your mark in the film based on what you’d read in the script?

ERICA DURANCE: Well, the first thing that I did was talk to Zenya, and I think that's very important when you know you're doing a true story; you're portraying somebody else. You have to get inside as much as they'll allow you access to their process and what it was like. She was so incredibly generous, as I said, in really walking me through the scenario. And, like Lindsay had mentioned, there was a couple of moments on the set where I was going to do a scene that was specific and to something that had happened to her, and I just had a last minute need to call her and go, “What was it you did when this happened?” And she was right there and just so helpful. So, that gave me a blueprint of how she would have done it. Then, at the end of the day, you have to take the situation that you're dealing with and process it in the way that you would naturally, if you can be natural, but how you would respond to those given situations as truthfully as you can. For myself, it was tricky, because I have little kids, and so I knew that there was going to be a point where I would probably step into a zone which was difficult to come back [from] and figure out how to separate myself from it. But you have to dive into it…Every day was intense and they shot my stuff all very sequentially, so I had five days, and it was all the scenes. It was all of it all at once in that way. I just locked myself in my green room and listened to music constantly and then just tried to give it my best. And I depended a lot on Jess Harmon, who was our wonderful director, to help guide me through those different nuances and what she believed was truthful and maybe not as truthful or kept me on point with the story as close as I could be.

QUESTION: Ben and Lindsay, most of your scenes are together. What was it like working together for this project and how did you tap into these characters, of course, after speaking with Abby and crafting the relationship?

BEN SAVAGE: I think that it’s such a difficult subject and it’s such a complicated story that I think Lindsay and I both wanted to be very careful about how we approached the subject and how we approached the relationship. I think when we first got started, I think Lindsay and I were both a little apprehensive about making sure that we did this properly, but I think we gelled together as well as we could. Lindsay is a total pro and we had a wonderful crew, a wonderful cast, a terrific director with Jess Harmon. And I think we worked together as well as we could. It’s a tough subject, and I think everyone wanted to be very sensitive to everything we were going through. But yeah, it was an interesting journey.

LINDSAY NAVARRO: Yeah. We gave each other space when we needed to have space, when there was a difficult scene coming up that we needed to film where it was perhaps more emotional or more physically demanding. We would give each other that needed space. Then, there were other times where Ben and I would check in with one another make sure we were doing okay. I really appreciated that from Ben, actually, that he would come over and just ensure that I was comfortable [and] I was content. Truly, you said it, right Ben? We had an amazing cast, amazing crew that made everything feel very safe and easy to drop into, but it was a challenge.

QUESTION: Abby, I can’t even pretend to wrap my head around the hell on earth you went through with this. I’m just wondering where you found the strength and the courage to face it again through this production? And ultimately, what do you want to come out of this?

ABBY HERNANDEZ: Ultimately, I guess I'll answer the last question first. What I want to come out of this is awareness, I guess. I think that a lot of teenagers, since the age of social media and socialness is such an important thing, I think everybody – or not everybody, but a lot of people, have that voice in the back of their head. You know, “If I disappeared it wouldn't matter.” And I learned that yeah, it does matter. It affects a lot of people and it will forever. And then the first question, how did I muster the courage to sign off to do this movie? It’s nothing new to me. It’s something  - it’s in here constantly, has been in there since 2013. I’m almost kind of numb to it, you know what I mean? And I feel like the world has progressed since then. You know, when at first I did not want to give Kibby up; I was really under tight pressure. That's when I gave up, and I said, “I know the name of the person.” But we're in a day and age now where I think it’s encouraged to be honest about what's going on. I don't feel as scared anymore.

QUESTION:  Have you seen the final film?


QUESTION: Was it a tough watch?


QUESTION: Can you talk about changes made between reality and the film either for time or dramatic clarity, or things that they felt would help people understand the story better that maybe happened differently?

ABBY HERNANDEZ: Sure. I think the ultimate thing [is] that trust in the movie seemed to be linear. At first it was nothing, and then it grew. I think in real life, Kibby was almost in sort of a way – I don't know I want to say manic, but he would trust me and then no trust. Trust me and then no trust. So marijuana cleaning was one of the very first things that happened in October. In the movie it was portrayed afterwards, once he had really gained my trust. So, I think that's basically what it was. And ultimately that's kind of true; he didn't trust me at first really at all to see his face or know his name. But later on, he did. I think that's a good way of portraying it.

QUESTION: So, his psychological ping-ponging was made more streamlined for the film.

ABBY HERNANDEZ: Yes, exactly.

QUESTION: And were there any things about you that you thought, “Oh I wouldn't have done it like that,” or “Gee, I wish I had done it like that?”

ABBY HERNANDEZ: Lindsay was more classy than me. [laughs] Gosh. I don't know. I really don't know.

QUESTION: Ben, you usually play the good guy. Have you ever played this kind of psycho role before, and was it challenging?

BEN SAVAGE: It was certainly a change of pace for me, but again, as everyone said here, I think it was such an important story to tell, and I was just happy to be a part of the storytelling in the film. Yeah, certainly a departure, but, you know, it was a very interesting role to play.

QUESTION: I'll bet. And Erica, were you familiar with everyone that worked on the show before? Had you worked with any of them previously?

ERICA DURANCE: I knew Jess Harmon through her family. So, I kind of knew of her, but I hadn’t met anyone else. I was of course familiar with Lindsay and Ben and Abby somewhat through the news, but otherwise, it was the first day meeting everybody.

QUESTION:  What can young women learn from watching the film?

ABBY HERNANDEZ: Keep your cool…which is easier said than done, especially as I've gotten older.

ERICA DURANCE: Abby, one of the things that your mother said to me, and you mentioned and in some of the earlier conversations we had, which still shocks me to this day, is your ability to - where you kept your cool in a way, the way your mother described it was to somehow find a way of seeing the humanity in the person that was treating you so cruelly.


ERICA DURANCE: And use that as a survival technique. That, still, to this day is just shocking to me that you were able to somehow see that and find a way to make a connection with this person who was doing these things.


ERICA DURANCE: And spoke to such a huge amount of power and strength and I believe the young gals and whoever’s watching this, men or women, I think that that will be something that resonates a lot.

BEN SAVAGE: If I could just add, jump on that, I would just say I certainly can’t speak about what women can take away, but I think a larger message of course that I certainly took away from it was just strength and strength of character. I think everyone associated with this film was so impressed with Abby and her story, and I do think there are some lessons to be learned here. But again, I'm just glad that we were all able to come together and tell this wonderful story as best the way we could. And Lindsay, I think you should jump in, too.

LINDSAY NAVARRO:  I was just going to add on as well, the tremendous courage that Abby had and continues to have in being so passionate about sharing this story as well. It’s truly remarkable. And I'm with you, Ben. For a larger audience, I think a lot of people are going to be inspired and will continue to be inspired by Abby’s story, and the crew, yeah, the crew valued it so much as well. Everyone was so careful about telling the story as truthfully as we could and with such passion into telling it. So, I think people can take away this hope, the power of prayer, the power of faith and the power of not giving up.

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