Always cast as the girl next door, Iowa's Annabeth Gish is the real thing

Since Cedar Falls native Annabeth Gish is finishing her college degree in a related area, it didn't hurt for her to star in a tale set during World War II.

Gish's roles have included the feature film Mystic Pizza and the TV movies Lady Against the Odds, When He's Not a Stranger, and The Last to Go. On Monday, she's a member of the international cast of Silent Cries, the new NBC drama based on the fact-inspired Janice Young Brooks book Guests of the Emperor.

Along with Gena Rowlands, Chloe Webb, Judy Parfitt and Gail Strickland, Gish plays one of several women imprisoned by the Japanese in Singapore circa 1941. Currently completing her senior year at [Duke] University, Gish says the project posed a fresh challenge.

"There were so many things that my character had to get through, and not just emotions," she says. "On one hand, that's good, because you're given physical problems to work through, but on the other hand, it's pretty grueling."

Still, re-creating such a situation was beneficial educationally for Gish, who is an English major with special concentration on women's studies. "I was enrolled in a Japanese women's-history class at the time we filmed this," she says, "so this was very helpful, especially since I had to study at the same time as I was working."

Despite its foreign setting, Silent Cries was made in New Orleans, but Gish found an ironic parallel in doing it there.

"We shot a lot of the concentration-camp scenes on some old Southern slave plantations," she says, "and I certainly don't want to make too general a parallel, but the oppression was similar in a way. They weren't the best surroundings to be in, but this was a matter of survival. It was about these women mobilizing and organizing their own power to assert change."
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