With her fresh-scrubbed beauty and natural self-possession, actress Neve Campbell makes a believable ex-Amish heroine in Lifetime’s new original film, An Amish Murder.
The twisty mystery, based on Linda Castillo’s best-selling novel Sworn to Silence, features the Party of Five favorite as Kate Burkholder, an Amish exile from tiny Painter’s Mill, Ohio, who comes back home as its chief of police and finds herself embroiled in a gruesome serial murder case that dredges up horrific memories from her youth. Joined by a visiting detective (Rookie Blue’s Noam Jenkins) with demons of his own, Burkholder finds it increasingly difficult to separate the personal from the professional in tracking down a killer she thought could never strike again.
The film is the first project in a development deal Campbell recently signed with Lifetime — and one she says she was drawn to for the chance to delve deeper into a culture she finds fascinating for its focus on family and self-contained calm in a country full of chaos.
“There’s something especially interesting about the Amish community today, because if you think about the recession, they probably weren’t affected,” says Campbell, who mastered serviceable Pennsylvania Dutch and logged hours racing around in the Canadian cold while five months pregnant with son Caspian for the role. “They’re self-sufficient and everything that they do is within their own community. They’re not dependent on the outside world; not dependent on electricity or oil or those kinds of things. And there is something really beautiful about their love of family and their respect for their faith.”
Speaking of family, Campbell took advantage of her dual role as executive producer to suggest one particular actor to play Kate Burkholder’s brother Jacob, a practicing Amish who struggles with having to shun his sister when she desperately needs his help. Jacob is played by Campbell’s own brother, Christian (Big Love).
“This is the first time we’re playing brother and sister, so that was fun!” Campbell chuckles. “There was the brother character in the project, so when I spoke to Lifetime about it, I said, ‘Well it would seem obvious — I actually have a brother and he’s an actor. A successful actor!’ They were very pleased to get him, so it worked out well.”
Directed by Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal’s dad, Stephen, An Amish Murder also features The Walking Dead’s IronE Singleton and C. Thomas Howell (Southland, E.T.) as Campbell’s fellow cops.
An Amish Murder premieres Sunday, Jan. 6 at 9pm on Lifetime.