Is it too early to call See for Me the best thriller of 2022? Well, we’re going to say it anyway. Staring nonbinary, visually impaired actor Skyler Davenport, the film follows a woman named Sophie who, after having lost her sight, has turned to professional house sitting to make a living. She does so with the help of a new mobile app called See for Me, which connects her with a woman named Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy). Using the camera on Sophie’s phone, Kelly literally sees for and can guide her when needed. This connection becomes life-or-death when armed men break into the house Sophie’s sitting. What follows is a truly suspenseful, boundary-breaking thriller tied together by a compelling central performance by Davenport.
When Davenport first read the script, they knew they needed to make the film. “I feel like I’m pretty good at determining where a plot is going even with twists and turns,” they tell The Advocate. At one point in the film, however, their character Sophie makes a choice that surprised both the villains and Davenport themself. “I don’t think people think ‘action, shoot ‘em up thriller’ with a disabled character as the lead. So that, coupled with the fact that she kind of toggles back and forth, morally was really exciting to me and I was like, oh, yeah, I’m in,” they say.
Davenport brings an authenticity to the role that can really only happen when the actor and character share a lived experience. In this case, it’s a shared disability. Davenport suffered vision loss in 2012 following a stroke caused by a rare neurological episode known as hemiplegic migraine, a condition that affects approximately 0.01% of people. And like their character, Davenport struggled with the impact of losing their vision on their life. It was their passion for acting — and inspiration drawn from one (intentionally unnamed) Marvel superhero — that helped them find their mojo again.
“That character is actually what motivated me to not waste my life away in a bed when I was told that you need to learn braille and get a live-in assistant because you’re probably not going to be able to do much,” they share.
In See for Me, Davenport’s character is facing a similar struggle, as her vision loss marked the end of her Olympic skiing hopes. The resulting anger and frustration are palpable, making the film compelling even before the break-in begins. It’s also one of the ways Sophie disrupts the standard disability narrative, all of which made her a role Davenport was thrilled to take on.
“One of my favorite things about the movie is how complicated morally Sophie is,” the actor says. “In a way, it’s almost like the part of us that we don’t want to admit is there. It’s just out in the open for her.”
Davenport also shares that there was enormous care taken with the casting of Sophie. It took years to find the right fit, as the filmmakers were determined to cast a blind or vision impaired actor in the role. It’s part of the burgeoning movement Davenport sees emerging around disabled actors getting work in lead roles. “It’s a slow process. And I do feel like it’s two steps forward one step back in my personal experience,” they say. “But the overall trend is upward.”
While Hollywood might not be moving quickly enough in terms of disability representation, Davenport says the industry is doing better when it comes to nonbinary representation. “For the longest time, the agents and managers that I had — because I’d had the mastectomy — they would either forget about [my being nonbinary], or it just wouldn’t get talked about. And then it seems like out of the woodwork in the last two years, this has been a thing that’s come on the radar,” recalls Davenport. “All of a sudden, everybody cared about pronouns... In middle and high school, that was such a huge issue for me. And it seems like all of a sudden, overnight, it was like poof, gone.”
While Davenport says it’s not required that every actor fill a role they personally identify with, it can be positive both for the actor themselves and the rest of the cast when they do. “It’s not that you can’t be a good actor, and you can’t portray it accurately. But I think people that come into this world, and for whatever reason their beingness has decided to experience a disability...there’s something so special about that,” they say. “It brings this little indescribable spark to the role that you’re just not going to get someone that doesn’t live in that day-to-day.”
“I also think it draws different reactions out of the other actors,” explains Davenport. “I’m not knocking anybody that doesn’t cast that way. But in my opinion, why wouldn’t you?”
Fortunately for Davenport, not only were the filmmakers behind See for Me serious about authentic disability representation, but the production was proactive and respectful about the actor’s gender identity. Davenport recalled a life-changing experience they had when arriving in Canada to begin shooting. At immigration, the agent told Davenport their paperwork, which was completed by the studio, had them listed as “agender” and wanted to confirm that was OK. Misunderstanding the question, Davenport asked, “Yeah, which one?” When the agent explained what they meant (someone without a gender), Davenport couldn’t believe what they were hearing. “I was like, ‘am I allowed to do that without getting in trouble?’” to which they say the immigration agent replied, “Oh, honey, we got all the colors of the rainbow, just pick one.” As the actor recalled, “It was just unexpectedly sweet. I’m so used to it just not being cared about and glazed over. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know what to do with all of this love.’”
Davenport not only deserves all the love for their various identities but all the praise for their performance as Sophie in See for Me, which truly puts the “thrill” in “thriller”. It’s exactly the kind of movie that’s easy to both recommend and support, because it’s just as excellent behind the scenes as it is on screen.
See for Me is now available on various VOD platforms. Watch the trailer below.