Siobhan Fallon Hogan, M.F.A. 1985, had no intention of writing her second film, Shelter in Solitude. The idea came to her in the middle of the night during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was like “divine inspiration,” Fallon Hogan recalled.
Set in the South in the early days of the pandemic, Shelter in Solitude tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a death row prisoner, Jackson, and his new guard, Valerie, a country singer with a fizzled-out career. Central to the storyline are the themes of faith and loneliness.
Valerie (Fallon Hogan) is desperate for love but looks in the wrong places. Despite her flaws, Valerie clings to her Catholic faith as the guiding force in her life. She urgently tries to evangelize Jackson (Peter Macon), who is furious with God and has only days left to live. The prison warden, Dwayne (Robert Patrick), happens to be Valerie’s brother and is grappling with his own isolation from family and the moral burden of overseeing the execution.
Lighthearted moments come in the form of Valerie’s eccentric personality — she pairs high heels with her prison guard uniform — and in the stunts of overzealous police officer Chris, played by Fallon Hogan’s son Peter Hogan.
Longtime friend of Fallon Hogan, Dan Castellaneta, known for voicing Homer Simpson on The Simpsons, also makes an appearance in the film as a departing prison guard. Peter Macon, who plays Jackson, is known for his role on the television show The Orville, and Robert Patrick, who plays the warden, starred in Terminator 2 and in Fallon Hogan’s first film, Rushed.
Fallon Hogan described Shelter in Solitude as a “different type of story” in that it is “steeped in faith” but not overly pious.
“My characters are very flawed but they’re deeply faithful. And their faith means everything to them, but they make a lot of mistakes in life and so that makes them more relatable,” she said.
Fallon Hogan said she received a “full, well-rounded education in the theater” at Catholic University. After graduating with her M.F.A. in acting, she moved to New York City. She recalled how during her first year in the city, Dominican Father Gilbert Hartke, the founder and former head of the Department of Drama at CatholicU, called her and said, “Irish, this Christmas, I give you the gift of courage.”
“It was exactly what I needed,” she said, after the discouragement of countless auditions and wondering about the future of her career. Father Hartke was “not only a mentor to everyone, but he was a friend,” she said. (Hartke Theatre bears his name.)
Fallon Hogan credits the M.F.A. in Acting program for the experience of performing in a one-person show as a student. While in New York, she decided to write and put on a one-person show. Saturday Night Live came and “that’s how I ended up getting on Saturday Night Live,” Fallon Hogan said. “It opened so many doors for me for films and television.”
Over the course of three decades, Fallon Hogan has appeared on the stage and in film and television in productions such as Forrest Gump, Men in Black, Seinfeld, Charlotte’s Web, and Dancer in the Dark. She wrote and starred in her first screenplay, Rushed, a mystery thriller drama that was released in 2021 and is now available for streaming on Amazon.
Shelter in Solitude received awards for Best Actress and Best Cinematographer at the Boston International Film Festival. The film premiered Sept. 26 at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, and will be released in U.S. theaters Oct. 6.