Troian Bellisario Made BITE to Give ‘Mental Health Heroes’ Their Due

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Troian Bellisario knew there was a grave responsibility when bringing director Jorey Worb’s traumatic experience to life in her new short film, BITE.

“I felt responsible for honoring her experience, but most importantly I wanted to protect Jorey and make sure that in shooting this, we would not be putting her in a dangerous place,” Bellisario, 38, exclusively told Us Weekly. “This was a work of auto-fiction, but for both of us, it was less about recreating the exact events and more about making sure the emotional journey was portrayed truthfully.”

She added, “The more specific you can be in your storytelling, the more universal the story becomes. Our goal was to depict the transformation from victim to hero, emphasizing that mental health heroes deserve admiration.”

In the 15-minute short – which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this month – Bellisario’s character Alexa, loses and attempts to gain back her identity after being sexually assaulted by a dentist. She struggles to decide how to move forward in a healthy way, consulting her friends, her family and her husband in hopes of finding the right path between healing and standing up for herself.

The film is based on Worb’s personal experience, and Bellisario told Us that the duo had six months of prep and conversations before production began.

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“We delved into what happened during the assault, and she was very open and honest with me about her history and life experiences,” Bellisaro explained. “Trauma isn’t just the story of what happened; it’s about how the body and psyche learn to respond based on the initial reaction to the trauma.”

Bellisario noted that Worb “emphasized that the most important part of depicting the character was staying true to the universal feelings, emotions, and experiences that all abuse survivors share.”

Troian Bellisario, Jorey Worb for BITE
Alex Raiman

The short has already been compared to the works of Wes Anderson and Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, using a heightened, surrealist lens to drive the message home. For Bellisario, Worb’s otherworldly creative choices helped “capture the experience of living with trauma.”

“She explained that the major symptoms of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) — living in fight, flight, freeze, and fawn — are effectively depicted through these stylistic elements,” Bellisario said,  A tense courtroom scene, in which Alexa gets verbally accosted during a Victorian-era faux trial, was her “favorite” to play.

“It portrays the fawn response [in which a person attempts to appease their attacker] and processing life while toggling between flashbacks and reality,” she said.

Bellisario believes the film is akin to Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once — 2023’s Best Picture Oscar winner — and its ability to maintain “emotional and narrative authenticity” while also being both “visually and stylistically heightened.” The Pretty Little Liars alum explained that it was “freeing” to play up the more “surreal” aspects because they were more “truthful” to her character’s “emotional experience.”

Troian Bellisario and Jorey Worb for BITE
Alex Raiman

“They were her internal life, made external,” Bellisario explained.

As for why Bellisario chose to take on the complex role of Alexa, she told Us that she’s interested in championing “stories that matter.” That includes holding up a magnifying glass to the country’s ongoing “mental health epidemic,” which has led “suicide rates” to reach an “all-time high.”

Bellisario also found herself in Worb’s story. Despite her and Worb having different experiences, she related to women being told when and what to feel about their own life and trauma.

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“As a woman I can relate to being [told] to keep our voices down, to swallow circumstances we should not be told to swallow and be a good girl,” Bellisario said. “That’s how I found myself in this character. BITE is a verb, and I’m grateful that Jorey and I discovered it together.”

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