We chat with the star of the gruesome hide-and-seek thriller Ready or Not about pulling off a genre gem.
Samara Weaving is everywhere these days. Weaving is making a name for herself with smaller parts on TV shows like Smilf and Ash V. Evil Dead (the latter which saw one of her production photos in a beaten and bloodied state used as a hoax), film roles in acclaimed films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and the lead as a Satanist cult member the Netflix exclusive The Babysitter.
Now with her starring turn in the new comedy/horror thriller Ready or Not, Weaving may really break out into the mainstream.
Physical similarities to Margot Robbie aside (which has been a big talking point in recent days since the red carpet events for Ready or Not), much like Robbie herself, Weaving is showing audiences around the world her versatile acting abilities that make her a threat in any type of role. We spoke to Samara about the balancing act of pulling off such a rare gem like Ready or Not (read our review here), working with a filmmaking collective [Radio Silence] as directors, and what it feels like to trade punches with a legend like the incomparable Andie McDowell.
In this kind of project, what is more appealing, the moral aspect, or the straight forward horror romp is it encased in?
I think for me, when I read the script… it’s really hard to walk that fine line between the horror/thriller aspects of the script, the story, and the comedy. Guy [Busick] and Ryan [Christopher Murphy], they nailed it on the script, and even then, it’s sometimes hard to execute. Then the producers and Radio Silence as the directors, they absolutely nailed it, in my opinion. It was a very short and fast shoot, but they made it a delightful set to be on, and they really pulled it off.
As an audience, we are given a bit of information on Grace’s background to help explain why she is able to deal with such a strange situation, but did you work on a fuller backstory yourself that we didn’t get to see on screen?
Yeah, the fact that she was in and out of foster care, that really spoke to me. When I met with Fox Searchlight and Radio Silence, that was the key to the character for me, because what she goes through in the film, I realized that she would be able to hold her own. She would have had a really distressing childhood, which one, is the reason why she values family so much- or at least thinks she does- and also adds to the comedy in that this very intimidating, regal family isn’t expecting her to fight back. I really wanted to avoid playing the very typical, illogical, distressed protagonist. I argued for her to make fast, logical decisions in moments of extreme confusion and panic. The women I know, they’re absolute heros in stressful situations. Women go through a lot, they can think on their feet, and rarely do they make– you know, they wouldn’t run up the stairs, they’d run down the stairs; they would try to escape.
If Grace wasn’t that type of character. If she was someone who could pull off an escape, but was written more as a typical, “scream queen;” would that have changed your mind about being attached to the project?
Yes, definitely. I think I would be very apprehensive. It is very rare, even now, though it is getting better; but I was so refreshingly surprised and grateful that Tyler, Matt, and Chad– along with Fox Searchlight–were so collaborative with my ideas. They really heard me and they really let me shape Grace how I wanted to and they trusted me on those decisions that she was smart, and strong.
What becomes interesting about her character in that sense too, is that this overall story about what people are willing to do to keep their riches, also plays into a morality tale about what we may or may not also be willing to do for love.
Yeah, I mean, without trying to give too much away; she realizes that the only person that really matters, is herself. Sure, she’s been dreaming of having her own family, because she didn’t have one growing up, but she comes to the realization that she’s whole, on her own.
Now, moving on to some slightly different territory, I need to know what it is like to engage Andie MacDowell in hand to hand combat!
Oh my goodness, I was so anxious when meeting her. I mean, I have such bad anxiety anyway, but we didn’t know how cool she was! So when I met her, we were rehearsing a fight scene. When you’re in rehearsal, you kind of have to just go for it, and with a fight scene it’s very physical. So she has her hands around my neck and I had a prop that I had to pretend to beat her over the head with…and I was mortified because I accidentally clocked her, right in the temple. No one knew how she was going to react. We thought, “Oh no!,” and I actually wondered if I would be fired, or is she going to quit because of this. She was so great! She just asked for some ice, and we went again. It was amazing, she laughed about it, said she was fine, asked for some ice, and kept going. That really helped set the tone for the film, and she was so cool.
Being in such intense situations like that, or having a lot of practical effects to work with, help ground the performance, when there is so many absurd things happening in the story?
I really think the ensemble was the key. They were all incredible people–which is so refreshing–it’s rare to have a set where you absolutely adore everyone, and we still hang out and have big dinners. Last night, we all went to dinner and had so much fun, maybe a little too much fun. They’re all so talented. Everyone did their homework, and everyone came to set really well prepared. The marriage between the actors who played it straight, and the zany characters who bring that comedic relief when you really need it, was genius. It really worked so well. I think with most films, you find it all in the edit, but I think they had so much to work with these talented, talented people.
Well, talking about the zany characters there to help balance things, but I imagine it must be hard to find that balance in your own mind for what your character experiences. Thinking specifically about your reaction to the dumbwaiter scene, there are plenty of people who would play that too heavily toward one emotion or the other.
Yeah, that one was tricky. The character of Grace, I think was really torn in that moment. She wanted to stay, and help, but the pressure and the ticking time bomb of these 10 people coming after you. It’s that desperation of what to do in that moment, it’s just complete, surreal, insane, distress. With Grace, I really tried to play the truth of the situation and I think especially with comedy, that’s how you get the funny moments. I mean, when you see her yelling after a car that doesn’t stop for her it is the same thing. They also let me improvise a couple of things, but Guy and Ryan wrote some fantastic one liners, but we could also have a little play on-set, and some of the improv made it to the final cut, which is great.
As I understand it, this was also shot mainly on locations…
Yeah, it was three locations, and there were these two mansions we shot in. They were creepy and they were so grand…I would get lost all the time in those houses, I didn’t know where I was most of the time. There was a bowling alley in one, and one was where Billy Madison was filmed; which is really cool. They really made it confusing for the audience, it was almost like a maze for Grace. She didn’t know where the front door was, she didn’t know how to get out, but it was feasible that she didn’t know.
You’ve already mentioned how you felt about the work that Radio Silence did putting this together, but did you have an trepidations about having a trio of people to go to in the production and how that would work out?
I was for maybe…two seconds, but we went and got lunch together and I met all of them, and I felt very safe in their hands.
So what’s more entertaining, playing the Satanist (The Babysitter), or being chased by them?
They both are a joy, I think it’s really how well rounded the character is. It is fun, diving into the mentality of someone who is really mentally ill to the point of wanting to murder people. I love crime documentaries, I’m fascinated by the minds of serial killers. Sometimes, they don’t even realize they are doing something wrong, it’s such a fascinating psyche to delve into. However, you do get a little strange, playing them for a month. You kind of get what I call, “the actors hangover,” where you are just so used to being in scenes where you’re playing an absolute freak. I know sometimes after filming characters like that, my fiance says things like, “can you not look at me like that, please.” He has to point it out and there I am, “sorry, sorry, I was just thinking about a scene, my bad;” and I’ll shake it off. Then, with Grace, it was such a great challenge to figure out how she would respond in this situation, because you can’t draw on life situations with scenes like this, so that was really fun, too.
Now, you’ve already had the experience of joining in on a cult project with Ash V. The Evil Dead, and now you’re part of the Bill and Ted world; is difficult entering into those worlds that have these massive fan bases already, compared to something fresh, like Ready or Not?
There’s less pressure for sure. I mean, with Bill and Ted, I can’t even think about it that much, because I’ll have a panic attack. There is that expectation and pressure on me, that I want to give the fans what they want and you just try your best and hope for the best, and you really don’t know how people are going to respond. Whereas, with Ready or Not–I mean, I try not to even look at reviews or look online too much, because I don’t think they’re healthy for an actor go down that road, but my fiance will just read out really nice things. We’re all so pleasantly surprised with how well this has been received, it is way more successful than we imagined it would be.