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'The River's' Leslie Hope Talks '24' Comparisons and Exploiting Her Biggest Fears

"It's the closest thing I can compare [it] to," she tells THR. "I feel like we are doing something new, with TV anyways, in terms of the pace that the information is delivered."

The River Kitchen TV Still - P 2012
ABC

A warning to anyone tuning into Tuesday's episode of The River. The scare-of-the-week involves a lot of cockroaches.

It's one two unnerving twists that hit a little too close to home for star Leslie Hope while filming the supernatural thriller's freshman season in Hawaii.

"I gasped when I saw that script," Hope tells The Hollywood Reporter of the plague that swarms on the cast. "There are really only two things I’m terrified of: water and cockroaches."

Water is pretty much a given, considering the series title, but Hope says her character's near-drowning in the second episode was the biggest fright she's encountered during production. "The stuff that I had to do in the show that was scary for me was real, it had nothing to do with graphics," she says. "I have a terrible phobia of the water, so [with] that particular scene there was really no acting required. I had to be dragged along the mud and submerged in the water... those are real screams."

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Halfway through its initial eight-episode run, The River has settled into its weekly mystery, still furthering the quest to find missing documentarian Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) and delving more into the backstory of his search party -- led by his wife, Tess (Hope) -- through the recovered tapes of their Amazon expedition.

For Hope, the found footage formula provided a first in her three-decade career as an actress and dramatically informing the way she plays the role.  

"As an actor, it was a great freedom for me," she says. "You actually have to fake that you are not being photographed, you have to pretend that there are no cameras there and what is wonderful about this particular job is that you are allowed to have a real relationship with who is photographing you. And that brings a whole other layer, I hope, to what we are allowed to do as actors on the show."

And it adds a complexity to Tess, who, perhaps more than any of the other characters on the show, is constantly alert to the fact that she's being filmed.

"She virtually grew up being in front of a camera, so she has an awareness that she’s used to being photographed, so private feelings come out only when she feels like absolutely nobody is watching" says Hope. "But it keeps her guarded a lot of the time."

There is a heavily serialized element to The River. Though each episode takes different turns as the crew seems to go deeper into the Amazon, the search for Tess' husband continues to take priority. That consistency is something Hope is used to from one of her most high-profile jobs, playing Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) ill-fated wife on the first season of 24.

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"It is the closest thing I can compare The River to," she admits. "I feel like we are doing something new, with TV anyways, in terms of the pace that the information is delivered. It’s not served up fully in every episode. If you remember 10 years ago in 24, the style of storytelling was new then too. Now it seems like everybody splits the screen... I think why 24 worked and I think why The River works is that you can see the style of the show and the material of the show."

Hope says she'll be happy to return to Hawaii if ABC picks up the series for another season. For one thing, it would afford her the opportunity to explore her favorite dynamic on the show if Emmet Cole is no longer relegated to flashbacks through old footage.

"I was really interested in the idea of these three people who grew up together, essentially," Hope says of her character, her character's husband and her character's former lover. "The premise is Clark [Paul Blackthorne] has been our producer for years and we have all come up together as a trio figuring out how to make a TV show and what sells and what doesn't. The reality would be that those three characters would often be by themselves in the middle of the jungle, not doing a TV show, but telling stories and drinking -- all the stuff that happens when the camera turns off. I was really interested in that triangle."

Regardless of where The River takes her, Hope continues to pursue her her other career: directing. She recently finished shooting her latest project, The Merry In-Laws with Shelley Long and George Wendt, in her native Canada.