Big Sky actress Jade Pettyjohn gives us the rundown on her character's harrowing escape attempt
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Tuesday night's episode of Big Sky, "The Big Rick."
While the ABC series' heroines Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) and Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) continued their hunt for Cody (Ryan Phillippe) and the missing girls, the captives in question started to fight back in earnest. Jenny journeyed to a questionable mega-church compound that seemed extremely cult-like, only to discover Cody never made it there. Cassie continued to sniff out Rick Legarski (John Carroll Lynch), suspicious of his role yet unable to find anything substantial.
After figuring out how to shed their shackles, Grace (Jade Pettyjohn) noticed that there was a weak point in the wall of the shed she, her sister Danielle (Natalie Alyn Lind), and Jerrie (Jesse James Keitel), were being held captive in. Kicking it loose with their feet, they made a hole large enough for Grace to wriggle through. She then went full Shawshank Redemption, escaping through a sewer grate and pipe while being tailed by Ronald (Brian Geraghty).
Despite the collapse of the pipeline, Grace emerged and high-tailed it through the woods, finding hope in a lone fisherman. But her freedom was short-lived as Legarski slunk from the woods to murder the fisherman with a bow and arrow and hobble Grace with two arrows through the leg.
Back in Legarski's clutches, Grace was returned to her underground bunker alongside Danielle and Jerrie, only to vow that when it came to fighting back, they were just getting started.
Jade Pettyjohn, the actress behind Grace, answered our own far-less pressing distress call to rundown that harrowing escape attempt and what her next bids for survival might look like.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Grace has been a fighter since we’ve met her. She doesn’t succeed in her escape, but has it chastened her or just redoubled her determination?
JADE PETTYJOHN: It goes in waves. I obviously have never been in a situation as intense and traumatic as this particular one. But I would imagine that it would go in waves. By the end of episode 3, you really see that she becomes a woman unhinged by the end of it when she's banging on the trailer door. She's not only afraid of her situation, and upset and all of those things, but there's a lot of rage. That really fuels her getting out. She's furious at her abusers and her captors and that ultimately is what pushes and propels her forward. That's an asset in this particular sense. In further episodes, there are a lot of layers and a lot of colors; I don't think that it's a very linear path. She got hit pretty hard, but what I love about her is just how resilient she is and she's relentless when it comes to saving herself and saving her sister and Jerrie.
Grace ends up having to Shawshank it through a pipe. Did you talk about that famous movie scene as a reference point at all? What was it like filming that?
[Laughs] It was really interesting because they sat me down before shooting that scene and said, "Okay, so we're building this tube for you to crawl through." I remember getting measured for it, and they measured it so that I wouldn't be able to crawl on my knees in it. It was very, very tight. They were like, "Are you claustrophobic? Do you have any issues with this?" I've never been in a situation where I've had to be stuck in the tube for that period of time, so I had no answer for them. It was really interesting going into shooting not knowing if I had a fear of it or not. Luckily, it was very smooth and really fun and a definite adventure.
When you first read the script, were you hoping or expecting this escape attempt would be successful?
It's impossible not to. Each page gets your blood pumping, and you want to know what's happening next. I might be biased because I play Grace, but you really want to root for her, especially as she's doing something intense and risky and badass with this particular sequence. When I was reading it, I was definitely hoping that she'd get through it and make it. It also makes interesting television when she's got a lot of obstacles. But I will tell you this is definitely not over. She doesn't give up, that's for sure.
Grace is pretty incredible in her ingenuity and determination, even still trying to run after getting shot in the leg with an arrow. How much of that is inherent to her personality and how much is fight or flight response?
It's a little bit of both. Ingenuity and thinking analytically is inherent to Grace and who she is. But I also feel like it's very easy for anyone to underestimate how capable one is in a really intense situation. There are other ways of reacting to situations instead of breaking. At a certain point, she's running off of instinct and survival. It is a little bit of fight or flight. A lot of that just is a testament to who she is as an individual, the way that she uses her mind and not necessarily her emotion to drive her. But it also poses a deeper question of what are we really capable of in moments of distress? I love exploring that with her. I am very uninterested in playing a damsel in distress.
She takes two arrows to the leg. That looks brutal and the wound is left untreated. The other girls note it could need stitches. How concerned about that should we be?
The audience should be very concerned. Because not only did she get hit by an arrow in the leg, it was through her leg. Both of those arrows went completely through her leg. She has no medication or any way to clean the wound. Obviously, they can't get stitches. What I'm excited about in episode 4, they do try and help the wound in a very, very weird way and try and save her and it's very gross. But there's a lot of repercussions to her injury and the loss of blood and the adrenaline finally abating and the weight of her injury kicking in. That's something that all three girls have to navigate.
Were you surprised she didn’t try to escape Legarski again? Or was she just in too much shock/pain at that point?
I think at that point she was aware that there's really no way for her to be able to outrun him when she has her wounds. And she is bound and gagged at that point too. She did see this man kill someone and drop them off in a sulfur deposit. So, she's aware that if she tried to escape again, he might kill her. She's also trying to look at her surroundings and try and get familiar [with] where she is so that she can plan her next escape.
Who should Grace hate or fear more — Ronald or Legarski?
I think she should hate Ronald more and fear Legarski more. But that might change a little bit in future episodes. John Carroll Lynch and Brian Geraghty do a really great job of playing villains that are very much yin and yang. Brian is really a vulnerable psycho, and John is just twisted and terrifying as far as the psycho he plays. There's reasons to be afraid of and hate both of them. But at this point, there's a little more hate towards [Ronald], and then confusion and fear toward Legarski.
What was the most difficult stunt for you here?
The fisherman scene. We originally shot that in October when we're running through the woods and meeting the fisherman and the arrow sequence. We shot it up in Squamish, and I thought it was cold at that point. I did not know what cold actually meant. Because we actually reshot it about a week and a half ago, just due to like location issues and things like that. At this point, there's snow on the ground and on the rocks. I think you see it in the episode, there are snowy rocks she's running on. That honestly was the hardest stunt just because I'm from California, I don't run in snow barefoot. That was definitely a first for me.
As soon as she’s put back, she starts banging at the walls and tells Ronald, “We’re just getting started.” What does that mean? What might Grace try next and how far is she willing to go?
She's willing to go very, very far. I definitely don't want to spoil anything. I want to keep the audience on their toes. But I will say in episodes to come, it becomes more of an emotional and challenging mental war between the captives and the captors. Now that Grace is debilitated to a certain degree, they use other tactics to get out. There's this very interesting mental warfare going on in future episodes. But Grace is right — we're just getting started. All of these characters step up to the plate to save themselves and to fight back in any way they can.
If I were a betting woman, should I bet on Grace?
You absolutely should bet on Grace. Without a doubt. She's a woman that doesn't give up easily.
How would you tease episode 4?
Episode 4 really explores the next tactic for getting out. Grace has to deal with her injury. That's very hard, but she's also planning her next little stint of getting her and her sister and Jerrie out of there. It's all a mental war game. It's definitely intense [and] emotionally demanding. I'm really, really excited for people to see what Grace has to offer.