PRINCETON—What would happen to humanity if a primordial black hole punched through the earth and triggered 12 volcanoes to erupt? Alyssa, Sausha and Denise Medcalf might have a better idea than anyone.
The three star in National Geographic Channel’s “How To Survive The End Of The World: Hell on Earth,” which airs Saturday, Dec. 28 at 10 a.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. (It showed several times last week.) It’s the second in a five-part series.
Alyssa, 16, of Princeton, plays a girl weathering out the apocalyptic conditions in an underground bunker. The girl she portrays is 12, but since Alyssa is petite, that wasn’t a problem.
This episode considers terrifying possibilities by exploring the very deadly science of volcanic activity. Space scientists and physicists suggest the theoretical black hole could hit Earth, punching a hole in the planet as though it were a bullet going through an apple. Although Earth would survive, the black hole would generate a colossal shockwave awakening magma beneath all the volcanic systems on Earth.
“I think any apocalypse could happen,” Alyssa said. “I had never heard that theory before, so it was pretty interesting.”
“I’d heard of black holes but not that one,” Denise said.
They both felt the theory was very believable, especially with the scientists presenting how it could happen, they said.
Denise, who lives in Patoka and is Alyssa’s paternal grandmother, portrays an older woman with emphysema, on an oxygen machine.
“And I haven’t acted since 1971, so it was pretty crazy,” Denise said.
Alyssa has been singing since she was 2 and performing since she was 4. Previously Alyssa has played roles in several local productions such as Gibson County Theatre Company’s “Hairspray” and Lyles Station School’s “Night At The Museum” not to mention her recent role of a Catholic schoolgirl in spirit form in the independent film “Daylight.”
She’s a “Walking Dead” fan, loves Animal Planet and enjoys
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mentoring younger actors.
Originally Alyssa, with help from Denise, applied for the role that was on a Indiana films website.
“We at first didn’t know it was National Geographic, it was just Atlas Media,” Alyssa said. “They said that they liked my look and said they wanted to do a Skype interview.”
“I was just talking to the camera, it was a little bit awkward at first,” she said.
“They were in New York and had it on a big screen,” Denise said. “They had auditioned thousands, is what they told us.”
After choosing Alyssa, Atlas Media set out to find a man and woman to match her look in order to play her parents.
A photo of Alyssa and her real-life mom, Sausha, (a nurse at The Waters) caused the producers to rewrite a portion of the script. Although Sausha had never acted, the producers asked her to play Alyssa 25 years later, emerging out of the bunker in the episodes conclusion—and she said yes.
“We had a big party when this came on,” Alyssa said. Her three younger sisters (two are twins) are among her biggest fans and “screamers” she said.
Some may think the Princeton Community High School sophomore’s role was easy, but she’ll tell you it was much harder than it appears. They did all the filming in 13 hours in one day.
“There was a lot of labor,” she said. “There was a scene where I walk down steps and it was steep—they were like a foot steep—and I was carrying these heavy bags and I had to walk up those like 30 times. There were at least 30 takes,” she said. “At the very end of it we were going home and I had to buy some Ben-Gay for my legs. My muscles twinge just thinking about it,” Alyssa said.
“And the heat,” Denise added. They had to wear several layers of clothes despite the 90 degree weather.
“I got covered in dirt,” Alyssa said. “It was a fun experience.”
One of Alyssa’s favorite parts was getting to ride around and see Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex, where the show episode was filmed.
“It’s a military training base and they’ve set it up to look like Afghanistan in some parts of it,” Alyssa said. “They have everything a military soldier would need, they have tunnels, a city, a flood area, a crater-ish thing...we were running around in Cadillacs looking at the sets—it was pretty interesting,” she said. “It was the real deal—there were food stands, people taking you everywhere, it was really fun.”
While Alyssa hopes to star in more science-type shows or films, she has a backup plan, just like her character in “Hell on Earth.”
“If I don’t make it in acting I want to go into animal studies or possibly biology or zoology,” she said.
“It’s hard to become an actress but I think if you try hard you can do it,” Alyssa said.