• Television

“Harlan Coben’s Shelter” – Abby Corrigan on the importance of an LGBTQ+ character in the YA Series

“Who am I? What’s going on? I’ve definitely struggled with those questions throughout my life,” admits Abby Corrigan (Castle Rock; Homeland), in a press conference at the Monte Carlo Television Festival last week in Monaco. She is promoting the new Prime series: Harlan Coben’s Shelter, which is based on “Shelter,” the first novel in the best-selling young adult book trilogy by the writer Harlan Coben, and premiered at the festival.

Corrigan portrays Ema, a character in the eight-part television series that tells the story of Mickey Bolitar (Jaden Michael), who witnessed the traumatic death of his father as a child. We catch up with Mickey as a high school junior, navigating a new school and a new life with his aunt in New Jersey. Mysteries abound, including the appearance of a strange woman who may or may not be a ghost, who suggests that Mickey’s father may not be dead after all. Mickey and his friends soon form a team of alienated misfits who find an alternative family in their friendship, as they embark on a sea of events and agendas bigger than themselves.

“Actors portray different people, which makes you question who you are,” Corrigan continues, pointing out overlaps between herself and her character. “In this adaptation Ema is queer. I’m also queer. I think it’s a really magical thing to have representation, especially at this time. And to have her be…”

She pauses, looking for the right words.

“It’s interesting,” she continues, “because I feel like she’s searching in many other ways, but in this way she’s actually very, very intent and knows who she is, which is an amazing thing to see because generally you don’t see that on television.”

The 25-year-old lets a beat pass before adding, “Ema is an extremely guarded person and she’s very, very vulnerable. I don’t think she’s one to show her emotions. I think sometimes she can’t really help it, but she’s very much the definition of ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ I just hope my character gets out there and decides to make more friends.”

Given Harlan Coben’s passionate fan following and his successful footprint in adapting his books to the little screen, (The Stranger, Stay Close, Safe, Hold Tight), one wonders if the young cast is prepared for the fame that may soon follow them. Corrigan answers obliquely. “We have an incredible team on the show. I really felt supported in this environment. There’s something in the air when you get a role. I’m very much of the belief that it doesn’t belong to you in the first place. It belongs to the writer, and it just slips into your soul for a second and you’re lucky to have that.

“I feel like fame’s meant to happen when it’s meant to happen.” confesses the North Carolina native. “You’re led in that way because it was meant to be. When a character comes to you there’s something that is unsaid within yourself or that needs to heal within yourself. I feel that something in you, or something from your past, or from a past life, wants to be shared. I believe these things happen when they happen.”

Herself the product of a close family – she has a twin sister who was born just five minutes before she was – she comments, “It’s a crazy industry. Having all these people that are just incredibly collaborative and supportive in the cast and process means I’ve never once felt alone. We just had the best time.”

Then, like a true artist, she addresses the greater resonance of the show. “What’s more important than fame is people liking the show. You then get to tell more stories, and that’s an amazing thing.”

But for the actor, who cut her chops in theater, bringing home the Blumey’s Best Actress Award for her performance as Fiona in “Shrek The Musical” in 2014, representation and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community is also particularly close to her heart. She adds, “I think it’s really important to have queer representation, especially in the younger community. I think it’s so important at this time for people to be seen on the screen and also to be seen in environments where they are in their integrity. Not just like, what am I? What am I doing? I feel like people are being seen for, ‘I am who I am, and that is what I am. And I don’t have to answer any other questions.’ I don’t have to say anything else about that.”

Jaden Michael, Adrian Greensmith and Constance Zimmer co-star. The series was directed by Edward Ornelas.