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How ‘Emergency’ Cast Turned Immediate Chemistry Into a Friendship-Fueled Thriller (Video)

Sundance 2022: Film follows three college students of color struggling to figure out what to do when they find a white girl passed out in their apartment

The cast of Carey Williams’ second feature film, “Emergency,” found themselves clicking right away, using that chemistry to drive a thriller that required several long nights of shooting.

Williams and the cast joined TheWrap’s virtual Sundance Studio to discuss the film, which stars RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins and Sebastian Chacon as a trio of college students of color who find a drunk white girl had broken into their apartment and passed out. Realizing the police will wrongly suspect them of rape if they call 911, the three decide to drive her to a hospital, all the while being tailed by the girl’s sister and some of her friends who are scared when she didn’t respond to her calls.

Cyler told TheWrap that he immediately agreed to work with Williams again after starring in his feature debut “R#J,” an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” that also premiered at Sundance. Then, after doing chemistry auditions with Watkins and Chacon, he immediately told Williams that he didn’t have to look any further to fill the role.

“It was something I even told my mom about. I was like, ‘Yo, I did a chemistry reading with this dude Donald, and it’s so weird because I feel like he came from us and we came from him,” Cyler said. “And when we got to read with Sebastian, Sebastian blew my mind! We talked about Sebastian for, like, another 30 minutes.”

The film’s production involved long shoots after dark so that chemistry was necessary. While the film had some buddy comedy-esque levity as the three students joke with each other to calm their nerves, Williams said it was important that the seriousness of the situation and the characters’ real fears of being falsely accused of rape remain at the core of the story.

“Playing it honestly and truthfully to the characters was always my thing and the absurdity of some of the situations would bring humor on its own,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sabrina Carpenter and Madison Thompson play the girl’s sister and best friend, who tail the three students by tracking her phone. Carpenter said that doing the scenes with the group required “manic” energy that was sometimes challenging to keep up as shoots pushed past midnight but, at other times, easy to slide into.

“I think it’s interesting to have that cat-and-mouse dynamic because our characters’ version of what is happening is so vastly different from what is actually happening,” Carpenter said. “So it’s great having that back and forth in perception between these groups.”

Watch the full interview with Williams and the cast of “Emergency” in the clip above.