TORONTO - Filming overnight in a Halifax Zellers store on the set of "All the Wrong Reasons" was like fulfilling "a childhood fantasy in a way," says actress Emily Hampshire.
"Being able to go into a store when it's closed down and you can take everything and play with the toys, that was really fun, in the movie and shooting it," she said in an interview at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, where the drama debuted.
But it was also a sad occasion during shooting in summer 2012 as the store was being converted into a Target "and all the employees there were being let go," she added.
"If they wanted to get a job at the Target, they had to, like, apply for a job and lose all their seniority," said Hampshire. "It was kind of heartbreaking to see what was happening, so they were really thrilled that we were filming there, actually.
"It was such a kind of momentous goodbye, I guess."
"All the Wrong Reasons" is also a goodbye of sorts for fans of Cory Monteith. It's one of the late "Glee" star's final two films.
Fredericton-born Gia Milani makes her feature directorial debut on the project, which opens Friday in Toronto (Cineplex Scotiabank), Vancouver (Cineplex International Village), Montreal (Cineplex Forum) and Victoria (The Vic Theatre). Milani also wrote and co-produced.
Victoria-raised Monteith, who died in July at age 31, plays an ambitious big-box department store manager who gets cosy with a cashier (Hampshire) when his wife (Karine Vanasse) suffers intimacy issues due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Vanasse's character developed a phobia of people touching her after going through a harrowing experience, and she finds comfort in prescription drugs as well as a new security guard (Kevin Zegers) at the department store, where she supervises surveillance feeds.
Hampshire, a Montreal native with film credits including "The Trotsky" and "Cosmopolis," said she did a Skype meeting with Milani before signing on.
"In that Skype session I think we discovered — aside from the fact that I was doing the movie — was that we were maybe twin sisters separated at birth.
"Our mothers look insanely alike. They both had this flash of white hair, and there were just so many things that we had in common. So it did feel like a kindred spirit kind of thing, which helped going into the shoot, especially with a first-time director."
Vanasse said she signed on just four days before they started shooting, but Milani got her up to speed on her character.
"Gia told me that she was inspired by somebody close to her who just came back from Afghanistan, so I knew where it was coming from."
In the case of Vanasse's character, however, her post-traumatic stress disorder was ignited by a tragedy on home soil.
"It's interesting to see how I think we can all relate to what she's going through," said Vanasse, a native of Drummondville, Que., with film credits including "Midnight in Paris" and "Polytechnique," for which she won a Genie Award.
"Even if you sometimes have a hard time dealing with a situation, maybe for a minute or maybe for a week, you'll be sort of in a danger zone of not wanting to get out, not wanting to deal with people, not wanting to face what's going on."
Hampshire's character is contemptible at times, but the actress saw her as "a survivor" who was "trying to make the best life for herself that she could under the circumstances."
"It's funny, I guess I have a particular affinity for the person who does the bad thing," she said with a laugh. "I don't know where this comes from, maybe I was a terrible teenager."
Hampshire got to train with cashiers who worked at the store and said she developed "a lot of respect for them" and is "a way better customer now."
Meanwhile, Monteith was flying to Los Angeles "on the weekends going to do press (for 'Glee') and then flying back and doing our super low-budget movie where we were all sharing a room for our trailer and changing together," noted Hampshire.
"And he never complained. If anything, he was the captain of that ship of: 'We're all in this together.'"