monsters. those imagined and real.

You think monsters are real?
— Jessica, 'Paralysis'

When it comes to scary movies, I’m a full-grown scaredy cat, wuss, punk… whatever you call it, I am that!  

The moment I know it’s a horror film, you can count on two things: 1) I probably won’t stay and 2) if I do, I’ll watch the entire thing with my eyes closed. I’ve mastered the art of detecting certain sound cues, closing my eyes and cupping my ears within a split second; missing all of the action and keeping my dignity in tack. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the only person screaming in the theater!

Paralysis_Kitchen 2.jpg

This awareness made for an interesting first meeting with Robin where she excitedly shared that her new project ‘Paralysis’ was a psychological thriller/ horror; she really wanted to scare people and would like me to play Jessica.  Yay! Finally, we will get the chance to work together. Hold up. Did she just say Horror? Scare people?  Whaaa... 

Luckily for me, I’m a better listener than I am a scary moviegoer.  As Robin expressed her passion for the project and shared that the horror was rooted in the things Jessica was experiencing; not an axe murderer leaping from the closet killing people-- I was hooked. Layered stories and female characters with depth, is my jam!

That evening, Robin emailed me the script. I was thrilled to have a new project on the horizon as well as a new script to read in the morning. What? You thought I was going to read a horror script at night? Nope!

Nia as 'Jessica' in short film, Paralysis

There is a line in Paralysis where Jessica says:

“You think monsters are real?”

These words gripped me. I was there with Jessica as she was trying to make sense of the things happening to her. I marveled at Robin’s approach in examining mental illness and the reality of  “monsters” that plague individuals like Jessica. Robin and I chatted weekly about Jessica, her sleeping disorder, scary moments and the complexities of life.  We went deep.

Exploring mental illness from the perspective of the person living through these scary unsettling experiences was a gift.  It was powerful to acknowledge that this is Jessica’s reality and for those on the outside, she was like a movie that has taken a sudden scary turn.

I’m grateful that Robin has made the exploration of mental illness one of her missions as a filmmaker, poured her gifts into ‘Paralysis’ and entrusted me with Jessica.


After a successful festival run, PARALYSIS, is now available online! Click to watch.

Currently, R. Shanea Williams is in the process of developing her new project, a feature length psychological thriller.  You can follow her journey on Facebook and twitter.