The River's Leslie Hope: Getting Buried Alive Was 'So Cool' (But Being Drowned? Not So Much)

The Amazon jungle has not been kind to Leslie Hope.

Already on ABC’s The River (Tuesdays at 9/8c), her Tess Cole has been drowned by… something… and then ultimately resurfaced buried in a grave. “And that was just Episode 2!” Hope notes with a laugh. “I can’t say that we’ve got more of the same, but there is more this week.”

Getting buried alive for the aforementioned scene, Hope reports, was “not that uncomfortable.” As she points out, “It’s kind of quiet in a grave, and it’s very warm in Hawaii. Plus, I thought the visual [of Tess clawing her way out] was so cool.” Throw in some Earl Grey tea leaves for the actress to cough up as inhaled dirt and you get “a little sequence that I thought was super-neat. It was fun to tap into that iconic horror-movie stuff.”

Slipping down beneath the drink, however, was a very different story. “On a personal level, that was the scariest and hardest scene to do because in real life I am terribly phobic about the water,” Hope shares. “I found it absolutely terrifying to do that.”

So what’s on tap for the Magus crew this Tuesday as they continue their tricky trek up the river to find Tess’ MIA husband, TV host/adventurer Emmet Cole? Well, watch for a bit of voodoo by some wary natives to cause the interlopers to go blind, one by one. “The premise is horrifying,” Hope says of Episode 3, “but at the end of the day, the fact is you can still see [as an actor]. But if you’re doing a drowning, there’s no faking being in the water!”

All told, Hope says The River’s plan is to, on a week-by-week basis, “have something that taps into somebody’s fears.”

But not all of the frights will come at the hand of unseen spirits or protective, painted locals. No, you can also expect some “normal human strangers,” as we put it to Hope, to scare up scares. “In Episode 5, we encounter some ‘normal human strangers’ — or at least we think they are,” she teases.

Then again, the people on the Magus itself are not exactly harmless. Because while some are seemingly squawking at the apparent futility of Tess’ mission, “As we get deeper and deeper in, we discover that everybody has a reason for wanting to go further — some more apparent than others.”

For example, Hope says that the security chief played by Thomas Kretschmann “is there for his own motives,” as will be hinted at this week. The docu producer played by Paul Blackthorne, meanwhile, “purports to be driven by making a TV show and becoming a jillionaire, but he has personal reasons for going forward — and they have to do with Tess, and they have to do with Emmet.” Even young Paulina, “our little soothsayer and connection to otherworldly information,” isn’t above reproach, Hope hints.

Yet with so, so many deadly encounters abound, when might Tess herself declare that enough is enough? Having just wrapped filming on the eight-episode freshman season, Hope says, “Each week brings her closer and closer to the stopping point — and yet each episode gives her just enough new information to keep going. She will waiver in private, but as with anybody in a position of leadership, she can’t show that to the people who are following her.”

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