Interview with actors from “Safe Room”

TV Interview!

Nicole Ari Parker and Nik Sanchez

Interview with actors from “Safe Room” on Lifetime by Suzanne 1/10/22

This was from another Lifetime Press Panel on Zoom. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed this movie, too. It was a good, suspenseful drama. The actors did a great job. I was the third questioner below.

MODERATOR: Please join me in welcoming the cast of “Safe Room.” We have with us today the stars Nicole Ari Parker, her husband Boris Kodjoe, who not only stars in the movie but is also making his directorial debut, Drea De Matteo, Mackenzie Astin, and the talented Nik Sanchez.


BORIS KODJOE: Hey, what up?


MODERATOR: I’m going to get us started immediately with questions from the floor and, once again if you’d like to ask a question please raise your hand, and we have a lot already, so I’m going to get started. The first question goes to Jay Bobbin. Jay, if you can unmute your line.

QUESTION: Hello, thank you very much. Hi, everyone. Thanks for doing this. Boris, when you’re doing something like this the space you have to work with is somewhat limited, obviously. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges and how you meet those to keep your camera moving within such a finite space and keep things active and just keep things in motion?

BORIS KODJOE: That’s a great question. You know, one of the things that I discussed with my DP, Jay Feather, who’s a genius, who — We discussed expanding out of the room by way of creating visuals that pull you in and that create a different sort of angle and a different vision. And so we talked to Luie Garcia, who is our amazing production designer, and she really created magic in that room and every wall, if you noticed, every wall was different, and everything sort of looked different that gave us a different perspective. When the camera was where the front door was and looked into the room there was an amazing wallpaper, I don’t know if you remember, that sort of took us out of the room into nature, but it was definitely at the forefront of my mind, because I didn’t want the audience to feel like we were constricted, and then it’d turn into sort of like a boring thing every time they head into the space.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Our next question goes to Rick Bentley.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. And, Nicole, I have to imagine that the easiest part of doing this role was the motherly instinct to protect. Can you just talk about was that set, and you just had to work on all the other aspects?

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Well, when I met Nik Sanchez it was very easy to love him and want to protect him. So, yes, I am a mom, but also that does not always translate when you have to — when the movie’s cast, but Nik was so generous with me, because when you’re playing a parent it’s not just the title of mom. It’s the small things, the way you touch your son or your daughter, the way you hug them and talk to them, and I really wanted to respect Nik’s space, and he let me violate him with kisses and hugs.


NICOLE ARI PARKER: So, yeah, it was a wonderful experience to work with such a talented young actor playing my son.

QUESTION: If I can quickly ask Nik to respond.


QUESTION: How was it working with Nicole?

NIK SANCHEZ: Well, she was amazing. She felt like a real mom to me, and both Boris and Nicole knew that this was going to be like their first movie project, so like they made sure like before, we had lunch together, and like they made sure that I felt comfortable and knew what was going on and, immediately, I already like knew that me and Nicole were going to get along, and it really felt like I had two moms on set because like, yeah, they were just amazing, and you and Nicole was amazing.

QUESTION: Thank you.


NICOLE ARI PARKER: Shout out to your mom, Naomi, who is incredible and also very kind and patient with me because part of revealing a relationship is what happens in private and between a mother and a son or a mother and a daughter. How do you really be there for your kid in crisis, and then in the confines of shooting it like what is the aspect that we can show in this moment. And Naomi, Nik’s mom, said these are the kind of things I do when I’m at home with Nik and Damaya (SP), and this is how I solve a crisis, and so I’m really grateful for her presence on set.

MODERATOR: Thank you, and thank you, Rick. The next question goes to Suzanne with “TVMeg.”


DREA DE MATTEO: Hi, Nicole. You look really, really, really cute right now.


DREA DE MATTEO: I was going to text you, but I’m like I’m just going to stay still. I’m going to be cool.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: I was thinking the same thing. I was like —

DREA DE MATTEO: I was like she looks smokin’.


MODERATOR: Suzanne, go right ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you hear me now?

BORIS KODJOE: Yeah. Hi, Suzanne, speak up.

QUESTION: Okay, hi. Sorry. So I really love this movie. It’s such an interesting idea and has so many twists and turns. You didn’t know what was going to happen next. Boris, did you write the movie or just direct it, just to clarify for me real quick?

BORIS KODJOE: No, I did not write the movie. The movie was written by the amazing — I keep pronouncing her name wrong. Help me. Her name is… sorry. I did not write the movie. I made some tweaks and changes to accommodate the location and some of the aspects we have to deal with. Also, in terms of the characters I made some changes to accommodate all the amazing actors we have but, no, I did not write the movie and before you leave us I will have the name of the incredible writer who wrote this movie.

QUESTION: All right. And what attracted you to the script?

BORIS KODJOE: The mother/son relationship is what attracted me to the script. Obviously, there are circumstances that are high stakes and dangerous and suspenseful, which lent itself to heighten the stakes to the point where it’s life or death. But, to me, at the core was the mother and son relationship, because when you have a child on the spectrum, as a parent, you constantly put out fires. You deal with and you manage your child, and there’s a whole lot of things we project on our children, but throughout the movie the relationship between the mother and the son changes, and she really sees him in a different light, because he steps up and at the end, I can’t give it away, but really comes into his own.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much.

BORIS KODJOE: And her name is Nneka, by the way. Nneka, Nneka — How do you pronounce it? Gerstle?

NICOLE ARI PARKER: I think it’s Gerstle.

BORIS KODJOE: Nneka Gerstle is her name.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Suzanne.



NICOLE ARI PARKER: Watch her be like my name is [SOUNDS LIKE: Neeka Ga-still-lay].


DREA DE MATTEO: This is my favorite conversation.

MODERATOR: The next question goes to the “Hollywood Times.” If you could unmute your mic.

QUESTION: Oh, good morning. I have a question for Boris, and then I have a follow-up for Nicole. How was it stepping in behind the camera and directing the film? Did you find it challenging to direct and star in the film?

BORIS KODJOE: Thanks for the question. Actually, that was not the most challenging part. The most — Hello?

QUESTION: That’s not me talking.

BORIS KODJOE: Okay. Can you hear me?

QUESTION: Yeah, I can hear you.

BORIS KODJOE: The most challenging part for me was to get all my ideas and my vision into this very sort of constrained schedule. We didn’t have a lot of time, and it made it very challenging for me, and I had to be very creative with —

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Very quickly.

BORIS KODJOE: –with Jay Feather, my DP. We had to figure out ways to tell the story and to respect my vision while not going over budget. That was the most challenging part to me.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: You were also really nervous to meet Drea.

BORIS KODJOE: Yes, I was very nervous to meet Drea.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Because she’s the bomb.

BORIS KODJOE: That was the second most challenging part of shooting this movie.

DREA DE MATTEO: Oh, because I’m so scary.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: We did not know how sweet and kind and shy and delicate she was. You know, she has this massive presence and persona —

BORIS KODJOE: Persona, yes. She’s a delicate flower.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: She’s totally a delicate flower.

BORIS KODJOE: On a meadow, somewhere in a black forest. I had no idea.

DREA DE MATTEO: It’s the eyebrows, the mean eyebrows.

BORIS KODJOE: But we had a lot of challenges. We had flooding on the set. We had an active shooter in the neighborhood who made it really hard for us to continue.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: We had the cicadas, the 17-year, yeah.

BORIS KODJOE: Cicadas came and descended down —

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Right on the house with the sound department, and we can’t shoot anything.

BORIS KODJOE: And we had the camera truck stolen, so —

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Well, just the, the entire truck wasn’t stolen, just the cameras in the camera truck.

BORIS KODJOE: In the camera truck.


BORIS KODJOE: Yeah. So a lot of challenges but with these beautiful people here that you see, and the quarterback next to me, I was able to pull through; Jay Feather, the DP; obviously, Dominique Telson, our producer, and we got it done.

QUESTION: Nicole, you’ve shared seamlessly, actually, shared the screen with Boris over a decade, but was it easy taking direction from him because he is your real husband? And do you feel like he made it a point to try and exceed your expectations?

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Well, I think that we have such a great rapport back and forth because we did meet on “Soul Food” twenty years ago in a TV setting, so we know how a set runs. My first impulse was to collaborate, so he would tell me something day one, and I would be like, “Well, actually, if you just push in and then da-da-da-da-da,” and I realized like halfway through the sentence, because everybody was silent — I think, Mack, you were there that day — I just, in that moment, I was like we’ve got one take, and we have to do it in four minutes, okay? And he is the captain of the ship, and I have to just let him do it. So I pushed back like day one, scene one.


NICOLE ARI PARKER: And then after that I just did what he said.

BORIS KODJOE: Well, she realized that a lot of preparation went into setting up these shots and, you know —


BORIS KODJOE: — I had the confined space, time, a lot of things to deal with, and I think she realized that I had through those things numerous times, and I had plan A, B, C, D, E, F, G ready to go.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Yeah. And I looked Mack’s face. I was like, “Because you’re an actor, right? Mack, you get it. You get what I’m saying, that if you just run in and then fall he can just shoot it from…” and Mack just looked at me like (Makes face.)

MACKENZIE ASTIN: Got to make this day, got to make this day —

BORIS KODJOE: He pled the fifth, he pled the fifth.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: He (totally pled the fifth @ 00:14:07).

BORIS KODJOE: He pled the fifth. He was hiding behind his mask. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you both for doing this today.

BORIS & NICOLE: Thank you.

MODERATOR: The next question is an email question for Drea. Drea, you have a huge fan following from “The Sopranos,” and in this movie you play the villain Rocco, who’s also a tough-talking type. Did you like playing Rocco?

DREA DE MATTEO: I really, really did. I think, well, this has been the month of me playing psychopaths, just the beginning of it. So I think I’m used to playing a victim, so it was nice to victimize somebody else. There’s a real freedom that comes with being a psychopath. You’re just not careful about anything, nothing is calculated. Everything is just, you know, it just all hangs out. So, yes, I really enjoyed being able to be this awful human being. There’s no redeeming qualities here.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Drea. The next question is from Karen Moul. Karen, if you can unmute your mic.

QUESTION: Hi, everybody. Hi from Baltimore. I’m calling you from my place in Baltimore.



QUESTION: In fact, Mack and I are neighbors and go to the same restaurant.

MODERATOR: Ask a question.


QUESTION: When I read about this movie I thought Drea De Matteo and Mackenzie Astin as the heavies, that’s a little unexpected, and then halfway through the film I thought these two need like a spinoff like a workplace comedy with these characters, and I wonder if you could talk about where you guys found your chemistry together and for these two characters, and how you enjoyed playing them together.


MACKENZIE ASTIN: Well, I’ll go ahead and say that I think like the universe helped establish the chemistry. Drea and I have known each other for about twenty years now. An old friend of mine that I worked with ended up working with her and connected us, and we became friends. So I actually sort of got this job because Drea recommended me, so there’s an instant chemistry boost right there, but we’ve known each other twenty some-odd years now, so that stuff’s sort of already in there, which is great, actually. And the opportunity to work together after being friends for so long absolutely destroyed our friendship. (Laughter.)

BORIS KODJOE: Karen, I want to jump in here real quick because, yes, it’s not true. He didn’t get the job because Drea recommended him. He got the job because —

NICOLE ARI PARKER: He got the audition because Drea recommended him.

BORIS KODJOE: Exactly. He got the audition because Drea recommended him.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: And then killed it.

BORIS KODJOE: And he slaughtered and incinerated the audition.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: And I’m from Baltimore, and my mother and father still live in Baltimore, so I was like you got to give it to Baltimore, man. You got to give it to Baltimore.

BORIS KODJOE: No, he came in and it was scorched earth.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Yeah. He shut it down.

BORIS KODJOE: He took the role.

MACKENZIE ASTIN: Well, a lot of stuff conspired to make it all come together for which I’m super grateful, because it’s not that often that a job comes to town, and it was good to get onboard.

QUESTION: Well, Dominic and Rocco were a lot of fun and very scary, so thanks a lot.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Karen. The next question is from Noah Wilson.

QUESTION: Hello, everyone. It’s so great to be here with you guys. Boris, I wanted to ask you my first question. Congratulations on this being your directorial debut. It being with Lifetime, could you ever see yourself direct more movies with Lifetime down the road, because this is such a fantastic film. So many are going to love to “Safe Room.” It’s so intense.

BORIS KODJOE: Wow. Thank you. Thank you, Noah.


BORIS KODJOE: Thank you for these kind words, and I was delighted to work with Lifetime. Tanya Lopez was amazing. She really supported the project. She loved it, as well as Mekita Faiye who was our executive over there. It was a delight. I’m forever grateful for them for thinking about me for this movie and, hopefully, yes, absolutely. I’d love to do more work with them.

QUESTION: Now how was it like to not only direct but star in the movie with your wife and get to work together as partners on this, because you don’t see a lot of Hollywood stars get to work with their husband or wife in a movie, so how was that like?

BORIS KODJOE: That’s true. Like my wife said earlier, we met on a set, so we were very much accustomed to the environment of a professional setting, and we thrive in that setting, and so working with her again was a dream because, first of all, she makes me better, and she is, you know, she was a top dog, and her energy and her professionalism sort of transcended the whole set. Everybody had to step it up a notch when she stepped on set, and I love to see that. And I’m forever grateful for these people here on our Zoom. They really came to play, which I loved. All I had to do was really set the stage and then get out the way. They were all phenomenal.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: I think Nik kind of stepped up everyone’s game.

BORIS KODJOE: Yeah. Definitely.


BORIS KODJOE: Nik’s energy —

NICOLE ARI PARKER: He was like that’s not your line.

BORIS KODJOE: Yeah. He was very specific about everybody’s lines.

NIK SANCHEZ: Thank you.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: Are you (audio glitch @ 00:19:36).


QUESTION: No, you guys, I want to ask the rest of the cast that are on the Zoom chat how is it like to take direction from Boris? Did you guys think he nailed down his first directorial debut?



DREA DE MATTEO: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I —

MACKENZIE ASTIN: Hundred percent.


MACKENZIE ASTIN: I don’t want to take up too much space in this, but I definitely — and I definitely talk too much — but like this guy, I don’t know, I absolutely loved it. This guy had a plan, and when stuff went wrong he had a way to counter it, and when stuff went wrong the second time he had a way to counter that. I don’t know where it comes from, but it was a treat to work with a guy who is such a natural at leading a team.

BORIS KODJOE: Wow. Thank you.

DREA DE MATTEO: Yeah. I mean, I’ve been on too many film sets, TV sets for sure, and I thought that Boris seemed like he had been doing this longer than all of the seasoned directors I’ve ever worked with.

BORIS KODJOE: Oh, my goodness.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: And I knew like, and it was funny when you were talking about Nicole, like, “Well, I want to do it like this,” and I was just like I’m just going to park and bark. I’m going to do whatever he says to do. I don’t know. Park and bark. Here I go. I’ll make anything fit into a tiny space, so it was easy. You really are awesome, Boris.

BORIS KODJOE: Thank you so much.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: You really are. Like there’s a confidence that you have that’s like and which it just there was no question. Okay, if he says do this then I’m going to do this. I don’t care.


MODERATOR: Thank you all. I’m sorry. We have to move on to our next question, because we just have a few more minutes left and we are trying to get through as many as possible. But thank you, Noah, and thank you to the cast.

QUESTION: Thank you, guys.

MODERATOR: The next question is for Starry Constellation Mag.


QUESTION: Hi, guys. Nik, what was it like for you doing a character that’s on the spectrum? Did you study much about this in order to portray the character properly?

BORIS KODJOE: Hang on a second, hold on.

NIK SANCHEZ: Well, I mean, like playing an autistic, sorry, since I am autistic playing autistic just feels like, you know, a man playing a man. It’s part of who I am, but what I most like about playing Ian is the fact that it helps me learn more about like myself, and my own aspects of my own autism, and what other people on the spectrum go through, too. And Ian loves a lot of things like videogames, STEM, like gadgets, cars, basically, you name it. He’s a big geek, but I love those similar things. Ian and I are very similar when it comes to our character and our traits, and I really enjoyed playing this role. It made me feel like that if I was in a similar situation like he was I would be able to be brave and confident just like he was.

QUESTION: Well, it was wonderful to watch you. You really excelled in this role.

NIK SANCHEZ: Thank you.

BORIS KODJOE: Well said.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Nik. Thank you. I think we have room for one more question, and that will be the “Hollywood Times.”

QUESTION: Hi, there. One more time. Thank you. Do any of the writers or actors have experience dealing with children on the autistic spectrum, and how did you all ensure the authenticity of Ian’s character?

BORIS KODJOE: Well, first of all, we did a lot of research and partnered with organizations who support children and young adults on the spectrum. We wanted to make sure, again, we wanted to make sure that this comes across with full authenticity and truth, and that’s why I fought to hire and actor who was on the spectrum. And Nik, he superseded any expectations that I had going into this project, and I was so delighted and grateful to have him onboard. He really, like Nicole said, he made everybody step up around him and not just in front of the camera, but also just the energy on set changed when he stepped on the set, which is amazing to watch. Representation is everything. It is truly important, because it creates normalcy around whatever we’re talking about, in this case, autism. And we wanted to shed a light, because we want to make sure that young actors on the spectrum are supported, and the opportunities increase in the industry. It’s much needed. It’s time, and it’s completely normal. The problem has been that we project too much on these performers, on these kids, young adults, and that’s our own problem, and this experience has been eye-opening for me in that we should talk less and listen more, and Nik has taught us a whole lot in those four weeks we spent together.

NICOLE ARI PARKER: And it also helped us understand, and you, as a director, you were saying how you would hire Nik for anything.


NICOLE ARI PARKER: It wouldn’t have to be the narrative around a child or a teenager on the spectrum; that his talent and his work ethic were so tremendous that he could, you know, play any role in any film —

BORIS KODJOE: Yeah. Hundred percent. So specific. So prepared. So professional. I aspire to be like Nik.



BORIS KODJOE: To be honest with you. And I thought I was prepared and disciplined being German.


NIK SANCHEZ: (Inaudible @ 00:25:25) like that.

QUESTION: Wonderful answer. Thank you. And thank you to the “Safe Room” team.

MODERATOR: Thank you to the entire cast of “Safe Room.” It’s been great having you. I really appreciate it and thank you to the press for asking your great questions. Just a reminder, “Safe Room” premieres Saturday, January 15th at 8/7 Central on Lifetime.



Safe Room centers on recently widowed Lila Jackson (Ari Parker) and her 14-year-old autistic son Ian (Sanchez).  Since the death of her husband, Lila is grateful for their kind neighbor Neil Hargrove (Kodjoe), who looks out for them.  After Ian accidentally witnesses a break-in in the house across the street and records the horrific murder of the homeowner, Lila becomes embroiled in a deadly struggle to protect her son from intruders Dominic (Astin) and Rocco (De Matteo), who will stop at nothing to retrieve the video evidence of the crime and silence them. Hiding and trapped in a makeshift panic room created by her late husband, Lila and Ian must use all of their strength and intelligence to outsmart the intruders to save themselves.

Additional cast members include Monica Calhoun who appears as Officer Armani and Julito McCullum as a repairman.

Lifetime has worked with the organization RespectAbility in review of the script to ensure as much authenticity as possible in the portrayal of Ian. The role of Ian is played by Nik Sanchez who is on the autism spectrumAs part of Lifetime’s advocacy efforts, resources to learn more about autism will be provided at the end of the film.

Safe Room is produced by Astute Films for Lifetime. Executive producers include Dominique Telson and Karen Kaufman Wilson. Boris Kodjoe directs from a script by Nneka Gerstle.






LOS ANGELES, CA (Nov 16, 2021) – Lifetime unveils airdates for two new suspense-filled original movies— Safe Room and Vanished: Searching For My Sister—scheduled to premiere on back to back weekends in January 2022. Marking his directorial debut, Boris Kodjoe directs real-life wife Nicole Ari Parker (Chicago P.D., Empire), Drea de Matteo (The Sopranos), Nik Sanchez (The Rookie) and Mackenzie Astin (The Magicians) in the home invasion movie Safe Room (formerly known as Safe Space), premiering Saturday, January 15th at 8p/7c. The following weekend, the chills and thrills continue with the story of a sister who poses as her missing twin in Vanished: Searching For My Sister, starring Tatyana Ali (Love That Girl) playing both twins, Justin Bruening (Sweet Magnolias) and Jasmine Guy (Grey’s Anatomy). Vanished: Searching For My Sister premieres on Saturday, January 22nd at 8p/7c.

Full movie descriptions below.

Premieres Saturday, January 15TH at 8p/7c

The Lifetime thriller, Safe Room, centers on recently widowed Lila Jackson (Nicole Ari Parker) and her 14-year-old autistic son Ian (Nik Sanchez).  Since the death of her husband, Lila is grateful for their kind neighbor Neil (Boris Kodjoe), who looks out for them.  After Ian accidentally witnesses a break-in in the house across the street and records the horrific murder of the homeowner, Lila becomes embroiled in a deadly struggle to protect her son from intruders Dominic (Mackenzie Astin) and Rocco (Drea De Matteo), who will stop at nothing to retrieve the video evidence of the crime and silence them. Hiding and trapped in a makeshift panic room created by her late husband, Lila and Ian must use all of their strength and intelligence to outsmart the intruders to save themselves.

Lifetime has worked with the organization RespectAbility in review of the script to ensure as much authenticity as possible in the portrayal of Ian. The role of Ian is played by Nik Sanchez who is on the autism spectrumAs part of Lifetime’s advocacy efforts, resources to learn more about autism will be provided at the end of the film.

Safe Room is produced by Astute Films for Lifetime. Executive producers include Dominique Telson and Karen Kaufman Wilson. Boris Kodjoe directs from a script by Nneka Gerstle.

Premieres Saturday, January 22nd at 8p/7c

Twins Jada and Kayla (both played by Tatyana Ali) could not be more opposite: Jada being the mild-mannered sister with an office job, and Kayla the wild child. Recently divorced from her husband Warren (Justin Bruening), Kayla asks Jada to watch her daughter while she sets up her new apartment.  But after a few days with no word from Kayla, Jada begins to worry and reports her sister missing. With no leads and the police investigation at a standstill, Jada takes matters into her own hands.  She disguises herself as her sister and gets pulled into a world of drugs and deceit in order to learn the shocking truth about what really happened to Kayla.

Vanished: Searching for My Sister also stars Jasmine Guy, Carolyn Hennesy and Anthony “Treach” Criss.

The film is produced by Big Dreams Entertainment and Leslie Greif serves as executive producer. Tim Woodward Jr. directs from a script written by Christina Welsh.

About Lifetime
Celebrating over 35 years of entertaining audiences, Lifetime is a premier entertainment destination for women dedicated to offering the highest quality original programming spanning award-winning movies, high-quality scripted series and breakout non-fiction series. Lifetime has an impressive legacy in public affairs, bringing attention to social issues that women care about with initiatives such as the long-running Stop Breast Cancer for Life, Stop Violence Against Women, and  Broader Focus, a major global initiative dedicated to supporting and hiring female directors, writers and producers, including women of color, to make its content.Lifetime Television®, LMN®, Lifetime Real Women® and Lifetime Digital™ are part of Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC, a subsidiary of A+E Networks. A+E Networks is a joint venture of the Disney-ABC Television Group and Hearst Corporation.

Proofread and Edited by Brenda

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poster for "Safe Room" on Lifetime