"We were emotional train wrecks, to be honest," Rapace tells EW of filming the dark drama.

By Sydney Bucksbaum
August 13, 2020 at 03:00 PM EDT
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For Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, and Chris Messina, The Secrets We Keep became more than just another movie. The post-WWII revenge thriller seeped into their lives in ways that Rapace says they just couldn't shake.

EW has your exclusive first look at the dark period drama directed by Yuval Adler about a Romani woman named Maja (Rapace), who is rebuilding her life in the suburbs with her husband (Messina) when a chance encounter leads her to the man (Kinnaman) she believes brutalized her and her family during the Holocaust. She kidnaps him and seeks vengeance for the heinous war crimes she believes he committed against her.

"When I first read the script, something just hit me and stayed in my heart about Maja's fight for her own happiness and for healing," Rapace, who also executive produced the film, tells EW. "She just stayed with me. I couldn't forget about her, I couldn't put her away. She took a grip on my soul."

Calling Maja "inspiring yet complex," Rapace connected to how "she's not just a good, likable character; she’s so layered." Throughout the film, Maja struggles with the morality of what is right and what is wrong. "Can you hurt someone who hurt you? Does revenge work?" Rapace adds. "We meet her at a breaking point and that is for me as an actress such a great gift to go in and bring life to but also as the producer to tell the story about a woman who went through something so horrible 15 years ago and now is dealing with it. I'm almost obsessed with those subject matters – revenge, forgiveness, finding a way to heal things that were wrongly done to you, or emotional scars and trauma."

But as filming commenced, Rapace was shocked at how much the story affected her and her two costars. "We were emotional train wrecks to be honest," she admits with a laugh. "[Kinnaman and I] had to open the door in ourselves to really unpleasant emotions. I'm holding him hostage in my basement. I'm putting him through a lot of extreme things. We went to those emotional places, and they become real so it was hard for us."

Thankfully, Rapace and Kinnaman go way back — they attended high school together in Sweden — so they were able to explore those emotional depths with an implicit trust already built between them.

"I love him and he's my friend, so that helped because he allowed me and embraced me when I went to those places that were quite scary," she says. "You don't really know what's going to come out when you open the door to that chaos of pain and hate. It's explosions of unresolved old wounds that Maja is opening up and that means me, Noomi, is doing the same. When you work with a friend that you trust, you can just go a little bit deeper because you have each other's back." She laughs again before adding: "It was painfully joyful."

Check out more exclusive first-look photos below:

The Secrets We Keep hits theaters September 16 and on demand October 16.

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