When most people hear David Schwimmer’s name, the first thing they think of is his bumbling character Ross on NBC’s mega-hit Friends. Sure, there’s a couple fans of Simon Pegg that will stampede to his directorial debut of Run Fat Boy Run, but we all know that most will think of his television work.

Well, Schwimmer is distancing himself further from situation comedies with his new film Trust, which opens in limited release on April 1. Trust takes a darker angle than the bulk of Schwimmer’s body of work, telling the story of a teenage girl who is targeted by a sexual predator online.

Finding the right star for a film like this is as challenging as getting a story about such a sensitive subject made. For the role, Schwimmer turned to then-14-year-old Liana Liberato to play the teenage lead of Annie. Liberato took some time to speak with Film School Rejects about how she handled such an emotionally challenging role.

“A lot of it was internal preparation, but I got a lot of help from David who’s involved in The Rape Foundation,” Liberato told Film School Rejects. “I was able to go to the Rape Foundation and listen to a girl who had actually been through something similar to what Annie went through. So that was very helpful, along with having David on set and him being so personable and always being open to talk to me about it.”

The key to a film like this is developing an emotional bond among the cast, which also includes Clive Owen as Annie’s father, Catherine Keener as her mother and Chris Henry Coffey as Charlie, the sexual predator. “I think that we all kinda made a point to bond during the filming process,” Liberato said.. “Because of how beautiful the writing is and how raw it is, that kind of disintegration of what we’d built during that time on set just kind of naturally showed through the camera.”

The biggest challenge for Liberato were her few scenes with Coffey, who hadn’t even been cast when they started filming. “I had to keep in mind that whoever plays Charlie has to be extremely charming because he has to convince me to follow him into his car and go to the motel with him,” Liberato said. “Chris did a phenomenal job. I think that he’s an extremely talented actor. It takes a lot of guts to do something like that, and I really, really respect him for it.”

Their scenes together were difficult for Liberato, not just because of the content. “My natural instincts would be to run,” she said. “One of the hardest scenes for me was first meeting him just for myself personally, it was hard to really stay and talk to him.”

Even with such heavy subject matter, Liberato said the atmosphere on set was surprising light. “People think just because it’s a dramatic film, it’s very hard on set, but it really wasn’t at all,” she said. “We had a lot of laughs, to the point that we couldn’t be serious in scenes. We had to laugh. Everything was very lighthearted, and David definitely set the tone.”

Prior to working on Trust, Liberato wasn’t aware of the problem of online predators. “Of course, I was involved with MySpace and Facebook and everything at a very young age because it’s so casual now, and I’m into texting obviously. But I’ve never been involved in any type of chat room. My parents are pretty cautious about it and know all my passwords and know who my friends are and who I’m talking to,” she explained.

Still, she’s just a regular teenage girl who isn’t in any hurry to grow up. “I’m only fifteen years old,” she said. “I’ve never had a serious relationship before. I’m very new to that as well.”

Trust, starring Liana Liberato and directed by David Schwimmer, opens in limited release on April 1.

To hear the full interview with Liana Liberato, visit the Fat Guys at the Movies site.

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