Cast List

Ethan Miller ... JOSHUA LEONARD
Pastor Bill ... NORBERT LEO BUTZ
Corinne Walker ... VERA FARMIGA
Young Corinne Walker ... MCKENZIE TURNER
Kathleen Walker ... DONNA MURPHY
Salesman ... MATTHEW DUBAS
Young Wendy Walker ... TAYLOR SCHWENCKE
Mrs. Tuttle ... JILLIAN LINDIG
Pastor Bud ... BILL IRWIN
Teenage Corinne Walker ... TAISSA FARMIGA
Teenage Wendy Walker ... KAITLYN RAE KING
Teenage Ethan Miller ... BOYD HOLBROOK
Biology Teacher ... BOOKER JAMES WINTER
Younger Abigail Miller…LUELLA ROCHE
Younger Lily Miller ... SARAH BANKS
Dr. Frank Barnes ... FRANK GOODYEAR
Joanna ... LUCY OWEN
Wendy Walker ... NINA ARIANDA
Older Abigail Miller ... SARAH LITTLE
Older Lilly Miller ... ZOE PIPA
Seven Year Old Boy ... ELI RUBINSTEIN
Amy ... AMY HELM
Man in Counseling Office ... TOM CHERWIN
Woman in Counseling Office ... LAUREL S. ANDRETTA
Receptionist ... KAREN KEEFE
Dr. Adams ... JACK GILPIN
Pawn Shop Worker ... TERRY MCKENNA

Vera Farmiga

An Oscar®-nominated and award-winning actress, Vera Farmiga continues to captivate audiences with her ability to embody each of her diverse and engaging roles. Farmiga makes her directorial debut with HIGHER GROUND, which she also stars in, opposite John Hawkes, Joshua Leonard, and Dagmara Dominczyk.

Farmiga starred in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, opposite George Clooney, for which she received a nomination for an Academy Award®, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics’ Award, Screen Actors Guild Award®, and Golden Globe®. Farmiga can be seen in Duncan Jones’s Source Code alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Jeffrey Wright and in the upcoming romantic comedy Henry’s Crime with Keanu Reeves and James Caan.

Farmiga won the Best Actress Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Association for her highly acclaimed performance in the independent film Down to the Bone directed by Debra Granik, for which she also won Best Actress Awards from the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and the Marrakech Film Festival. She also earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for the role.

Among her other film credits, she starred in the dark thriller Orphan opposite Peter Sarsgaard; Miramax’s Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas; and was awarded the Best Actress Award from the British Independent Film Awards. Her role in Rod Lurie’s political drama Nothing But the Truth earned her a nomination for Broadcast Film Critics’ Award. Other films include Martin Scorsese’s The Departed; Anthony Minghella’s Breaking & Entering; The Manchurian Candidate; Joshua; Quid Pro Quo; and Never Forever. She recently wrapped the independent comedy GOATS opposite David Duchovny.

Norbert Leo Butz

Norbert Leo Butz is a Tony® Award-winning stage actor, whose Broadway credits include Rent (Original Cast); Wicked (Original Cast); Thou Shalt Not, for which he received Tony® Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics nominations; and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, for which he won a Tony® Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

In addition to starring in Vera Farmiga’s HIGHER GROUND, Butz’s previous film projects include Dan in Real Life with Steve Carrell and Fair Game with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.

On television, he has appeared on ABC’s “The Deep End”; “The Good Wife” starring Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth; and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”. He also starred in the CBS miniseries “Comanche Moon,” alongside Elizabeth Banks and Val Kilmer.

Currently, Butz can be seen on Broadway starring as ‘Carl Hanratty’ in Catch Me if You Can, for which he has won both a Tony® Award and Drama Desk Award, as well as an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.

Dagmara Dominczyk

Dagmara Dominczyk is a television, theatre and film actress. Originally from Poland, Dominczyk pursued the arts in New York City, first at Laguardia High School of Performing Arts as a teenager and later at Carnegie Mellon University. On Broadway, she has performed in such productions as Closer, The Violet Hour and Enchanted, and Off-Broadway productions such as There Are No More Big Secrets and Red Angel with Eric Bogosian at Williamstown Film. Dominczyk’s television appearances include “24”; “Five People You Meet in Heaven”; “Bedford Diaries”; and “Law & Order: SVU.” In addition to her role as Annika in HIGHER GROUND, she has also acted in films such as Trust the Man with David Duchovny; Lonely Hearts opposite Salma Hayek; The Count of Monte Cristo; Rock Star; and Ryan Murphy’s Running with Scissors.

Currently, Dominczyk is balancing motherhood with acting work, and is finishing her first novel.

John Hawkes

John Hawkes received critical acclaim for his role as ‘Teardrop’ in Debra Granik’s feature Winter’s Bone, which earned him an Independent Spirit Award win and an Academy Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, along with nominations from the Screen Actors Guild® and several film critic groups. In addition, the Santa Barbara Film Festival honored him with their Virtuoso Award for his performance. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine credits Hawkes “in a brilliant portrayal of buried tenderness” and Karen Durbin of the New York Times wrote, “John Hawkes’ Teardrop is a villain worthy of Shakespeare. He is mesmerizing.” The film, also nominated for an Academy Award®, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and recently garnered Best Feature and Best Acting Ensemble at the Gotham Awards. The Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles also presented Hawkes with their Indie Film Trailblazer award for 2010.

He’s completed production on the indie film The Playroom and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion as well as HIGHER GROUND with Vera Farmiga and Martha Marcy May Marlene; the latter will be released by Fox Searchlight in the fall of 2011. Hawkes previously starred in Me and You and Everyone We Know which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It shared Camera d’Or honors and won the Critics Week sidebar at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and received two 2006 Independent Spirit Awards nominations.

Hawkes also starred in and co-produced the independent film, Buttleman for which he received a Breakout Performance Award at the 2004 Sedona Film Festival. Additional credits include American Gangster; Miami Vice; Identity; The Perfect Storm; Small Town Saturday Night; Hardball; Wristcutters: A Love Story; The Amateurs; From Dusk Till Dawn; and A Slipping-Down Life.

On television, Hawkes has starred in two acclaimed series for HBO. He portrayed ‘Sol Star’ in the critically lauded drama “Deadwood” and now plays Danny McBride’s brother ‘Dustin’ in the comedy “Eastbound and Down.” Born and raised in rural Minnesota, Hawkes moved to Austin, Texas where he began his career as an actor and musician. He co-founded the Big State Productions theater company and appeared in the group’s original play, In the West at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He also starred in the national touring company production of the play Greater Tuna including extended engagements in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Hawkes wrote and performed the solo play Nimrod Soul at the Theatre at the Improv and appeared on Broadway in the 24 Hour Plays alongside Sam Rockwell.

Hawkes has penned several songs featured in films and television shows. His song “Bred and Buttered” appears on the newly-released Winter’s Bone soundtrack. With his band King Straggler he performed at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW Music Festival and numerous clubs across the U.S. He is currently writing and recording a new full length CD due for release in 2011.

Bill Irwin

A Tony® Award-winner for his role in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Bill Irwin has starred in many Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional productions, including The Goat or Who is Sylvia, opposite Sally Field; Accidental Death of An Anarchist; Waiting For Godot with Nathan Lane, for which Irwin was nominated in 2009 for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play; The Tempest opposite Patrick Stewart; Garden of Earthly Delights; Texts for Nothing, and the Tony® Award winning Fool Moon which he created with David Shiner.

On television, he has most recently appeared on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”, FX’s “Lights Out” and The Good Wife. He has also appeared on “Saturday Night Live”; “The ®Tonight Show”; “The Cosby Show”; “3rd Rock from the Sun”; HBO’s “Bette Midler, Mondo Beyondo”; CBS’s “Northern Exposure”; PBS’s “Great Performances”; and, with great pride, on “Sesame Street” in one of his most famous roles, Mr. Noodle.

In addition to his role in HIGHER GROUND, Irwin had an award-winning role in the Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married, and appeared in such films as Robert Altman’s Popeye; John Sayles’ Eight Men Out; Michael Hoffman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Ron Howards’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Igby Goes Down, starring Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon and Jeff Goldblum; M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water; Dark Matter, starring Meryl Streep; Julia Stiles’ Raving (short) starring Zooey Deschanel; and Julie Taymor’s Across The Universe, among others.

Irwin was an original member of Kraken, a theatre company directed by Herbert Blau, and was also an original member of the Pickle Family Circus of San Francisco where he worked with Larry Pisoni and Geoff Hoyle. He has won many awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowship, and Guggenheim, Fulbright and MacArthur Fellowships.

Joshua Leonard

Joshua Leonard is a Los Angeles based actor and filmmaker who first garnered attention for his memorable role in 1999’s lo-fi thriller The Blair Witch Project. Leonard has continued to work in projects that push the envelope, including 2009’s Independent Spirit Award-winning Humpday, HBO’s acclaimed series “Hung” and Showtime’s “United States of Tara.”

Leonard had two films that premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival: As an actor, starring in Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut HIGHER GROUND, Leonard played a man at odds with his wife (Farmiga). He also directed and starred in The Lie, a devilish morality tale adapted from the story by acclaimed author, T.C. Boyle. The project co-stars indie darlings Mark Webber, Jess Weixler, and Jane Adams.

Most recently, he completed filming The Motel Life, an adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s novel, starring opposite Emile Hirsch and Kris Kristofferson.

Leonard directed the short film The Youth in Us (Sundance ‘05). The art doc, Beautiful Losers followed, winning the Grand Jury prize at Cinevegas in 2008. He has also directed music videos for many popular acts, such as Morcheeba, Harper Simon, and Fitz and the Tantrums.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach

Ebon Moss-Bachrach was raised in Amherst, Massachusetts and attended Columbia University. He has acted in a wide range of film, television, and theater productions.

His feature film credits include Vera Farmiga’s HIGHER GROUND; Alejandro Agresti’s The Lake House; Rob Cohen’s Stealth; and Mike Newell’s Mona Lisa Smile. He has also appeared in numerous independent projects, such as Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman’s American Splendor; Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums; and Lajos Koltai’s Evening.

On television, Ebon was ADA Nick Sallenger on season three of FX’s “Damages”, as well as recurring roles on AMC’s “Rubicon” and on the Fox series “Fringe.” He portrayed John Quincy Adams in the Emmy®-winning HBO miniseries “John Adams.” He also has starred in the NBC dramas “Kidnapped”; “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”; and CBS’s “Medium”.

Ebon’s stage work includes On the Mountain at Playwright Horizons; 36 Views at the Public Theater; Ten Unknowns at Lincoln Center Theatre; Horton Foote’s When They Spoke of Rita at Primary Stages; and multiple appearances at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Most recently, Ebon played opposite Amy Irving in The Glass Menagerie (John Drew Theatre) and appeared as Baron Tuzenbach in CSC’s acclaimed production of Three Sisters, directed by Austin Pendleton.

Donna Murphy

Award-winning actress/singer Donna Murphy continues to build a career of striking range and diversity in the theater and on the large and small screens. This “seductive actress of major transformative powers” (New York Times) has impressed both critics and audiences with her depth and skill. Since starring in Vera Farmiga’s HIGHER GROUND, Donna recently completed filming a leading role in award-winning filmmaker Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, also starring Christopher Walken, Mia Farrow and Selma Blair. And this past year, she treaded new ground in her first animated film, Disney’s box office hit Tangled, drawing international acclaim for her scene stealing performance as the voice of ‘Mother Gothel’.

This spring Murphy returned to the Broadway stage, starring in a new musical, The People in the Picture, produced by the Roundabout Theater Company. She garnered rave reviews and has received Tony®, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for her performance.

Murphy received the first of two Tony® Awards for Best Actress in a Musical, along with the Drama Desk and Drama League Awards, for her role in Passion. She was also awarded Tony® and Drama League Awards, as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations, for her performance in the 1996 Tony® Award-winning revival of The King and I. Additionally, in 2004 she was honored with the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Astaire, and Drama League Outstanding Achievement award for her work in Musical Theater, as well as another Tony® nomination for her role in the Broadway Revival of Wonderful Town. In 2007 she received Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards, and a Tony® nomination for her portrayal of Lotte Lenya in LoveMusik.

Murphy’s film credits include: The Nanny Diaries; World Trade Center; The Fountain; Spiderman 2; The Door in the Floor; Center Stage; Star Trek: Insurrection; The Astronaut’s Wife; and Jade. Murphy’s first television film, HBO’s Someone Had to be Benny, earned her a Cable Ace Award as Best Actress in a Drama Special or Series, as well as a Daytime Emmy®.

Other television work includes, TNT’s “Trust Me”; ABC’s “What About Joan”; Showtime’s political drama “The Last Debate”; Mary Todd Lincoln in “The Day Lincoln Was Shot” (TNT); Stephen Bochco’s “Murder One” (ABC); “Leonard Bernstein’s New York” and “Abigail Adams in Liberty!” for PBS; the 2000 and 2002 “Kennedy Center Honors” (CBS); and guest appearances on “Ugly Betty”; “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: SVU”; “Damages”; “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”; “The Practice”; and “Ally McBeal.”

Taissa Farmiga

Named one of the breakout stars of the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 by The Daily Beast, Taissa Farmiga is, at sixteen years old, at the beginning of what promises to be an outstanding career. HIGHER GROUND is Farmiga’s feature film debut. Farmiga resides in Whitehouse Station, NJ.

Boyd Holbrook

Boyd Holbrook was raised in Prestonsberg, Kentucky where he had the opportunity to steal some peaceful down time learning to play guitar, sculpt, and ride horses. His creative interests sparked and he decided to move to New York City to pursue a career as an actor studying with famed acting teacher and coach, William Esper, and at the same time audited classes in screenwriting at Columbia University.

During the course of these acting pursuits, he was also evolving as a talented writer and on a whim sent a screenplay to Gus Van Sant who was so impressed with his talents that he gave him a role in the Academy Award®-winning film Milk starring Sean Penn (Oscars 2009). This led Boyd to other acting opportunities in films such as Oranges produced by Anthony Bregman; HIGHER GROUND, directed by Vera Farmiga; many other indies and most recently a role in Rob Reiner’s Summer at Dog Daves.

Boyd can also currently be seen in the Showtime series “The Big C” with Laura Linney and Oliver Platt. He has had his screenplay Uncle Sam optioned to be produced within the next year and looks forward to continuing his work as a solo sculptor, highlighting his exhibitions at galleries around Manhattan including his first solo art exhibition “Iscariot” at RARE Gallery followed by a group show at PPOW that took place in 2009.

Michael Chernus

Michael Chernus is a television, film and award-winning theatre actor who can be seen as ‘Jeffrey’ in Barry Sonnenfeld’s upcoming 3D film, Men in Black 3 opposite Will Smith. His other recent film credits include Vera Farmiga’s HIGHER GROUND; Bradley Rust Gray’s Jack and Diane; Will Frears’ Coach, starring Hugh Dancy; Ed Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway; and the indie comedy Feed the Fish opposite Tony Shaloub.

Chernus’ past film credits the Oren Moverman drama The Messenger (Academy Award® nomination for Best Screenplay) playing opposite Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Jena Malone and the Bart Freundlich comedy The Rebound, also starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. He also starred in Kirt Gunn’s award-winning feature Lovely By Surprise (2007 Special Jury Prize Seattle Film Festival) alongside an exceptionally talented cast that includes Dallas Roberts, Reg Rogers, Austin Pendleton, Carrie Preston, and Kate Burton.

On television, he appeared in the Season One finale of “Bored To Death” as Zach Galifianskis’ nemesis. He also had a notable recurring role as ‘Ryan Flanagan’ on the NBC hospital drama “Mercy”.

Also an accomplished stage actor, Michael won a 2011 OBIE Award for his performance in Lisa Kron’s In The Wake at The Public Theater. He also recently played the lead role of ‘KJ’ in Annie Baker’s The Aliens, which Charles Isherwood of the New York Times named the best play of 2010. Michael is a graduate of the Juilliard School’s Drama Division. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Chernus lives in Brooklyn and plays bass in the band Less the Band.

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