Kate Lyn Sheil Online

Kate Lyn Sheil

Kate Lyn Sheil. Photo by Victoria Stevens.

In the new indie drama The Heart Machine, actress Kate Lyn Sheil plays Virginia, a 20-something office assistant at a publishing house, who falls in love with Cody (John Gallagher) after meeting him on an online dating site. Although the two are both in New York, Virginia pretends to be in Berlin, forcing their relationship to exist exclusively in mediated realms—Skype, text message, email. “[Virginia] is only able to be the most herself and free and easy over the computer” explained Sheil. “She’s afraid that the whole package of her and all the dirty parts of her will be too much for Cody.” It was the universality of Virginia’s fears that most attracted Sheil to the role. “At the end of the day, it is a love story,” she said. “It is about two people who really do have a genuine connection, who are just sabotaging their own chances because of their insecurities, and that felt true and sad.”

Although her attachment to the character was rooted in a real life by the ghost of a long-distance relationship past, Sheil knew nothing about online dating, and had no experience from which to draw beyond a failed attempt to set up an OkCupid account “on a sad, lonely night.” “When I read about Tinder in the script, I thought Zach [Wigon, the film’s writer and director] had made it up,” Sheil said with a laugh. “I thought, ‘this is a billion dollar idea!’ Then I found out that it was a real thing.”

Even more foreign, however, was acting through the lens of a computer camera. “John and I had a brief period where we rehearsed face to face,” she explained, “but it was much more difficult when we were doing it over the computer. First of all, you’re battling the elements. Sometimes the Internet wouldn’t work, but these are issues you would have if you were really in an online relationship.”