We are in Women in Horror Month and here at Nightmarish Conjurings we are celebrating women in all forms of art with the dark corners of horror. In our latest interview, we spoke with actress Rebekah Kennedy about what it means to be a woman in horror.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Rebekah, can you talk about what this term WOMEN IN HORROR means to you?
Rebekah Kennedy: First off, I love that they have a month celebrating women in this genre. Horror films are often overlooked for the regular accolades, so I think it's really great to be able to praise the work from such incredibly talented ladies. Growing up I really never imagined myself to be in a horror film, so now that I have been in quite a few, I'm really thankful to be given such great opportunities. I've been able to create such interesting, powerful, and strong women in each horror film I've done. And that's what 'Women in Horror' truly means to me. There are such memorable, tough, and influential women characters that other people watching can relate to. Characters we can root for. Characters that might start out weak and vulnerable, but end up finding themselves and really standing proud. And characters we love to hate. And even for character that get killed off early on, there is something so fun and visceral about horror films. I'm thrilled we are applauding women in this genre, and giving them the acclaim they deserve.
NC: Congrats on your latest acting endeavors "To The Bone" rocking Sundance and Netflix buying it! Talk about the film, your role as Penny and the subject matter of anorexia.
RK: Thank you! I really appreciate that. I'm truly honored and so grateful to be a part of this film with such a poignant and important subject matter. My character Penny is in a rehab center with Lily Collin's character Ellen. Penny is also struggling with an eating disorder when Ellen isn't very nice and makes fun of her. It was very fun to film because Lily is so kind and gracious in real life. I personally have not struggled with an eating disorder, but I very much understand what it's like to look in the mirror and not like what I see looking back at me. There is so much pressure with society, magazines, and even this industry to be thin. Be crazy fit. Be perfect. I am a perfectionist so it is difficult to see a flaw and not want to fix it. Even though I'm probably the only one who notices. It's really difficult sometimes to let that go and remind ourselves no one is perfect. No one's lives are perfect. No matter how flawless it seems. It's a tough battle and one I possibly will be fighting forever. So with that, I tried to infuse as much as I could into Penny. Knowing what it's like to want to make everything picture-perfect. I hope once this film is released, it opens up the conversation about eating disorders even more. I hope that people will continue to have the courage to speak out and seek help. Even though the film is very heavy and intense, our amazing writer and director Marti Noxon put such love, humanity, and irony in the film. I hope that the film moves people and helps them to see they are not alone.
NC: In "To The Bone", you work with another talented case and leading man in Keanu Reeves as Dr. Beckham in the film. Talk about that experience of working on set with him as well as working with talents such as Marilyn Manson, Mark Boone Junior, Art LaFleur, Nicolas Cage and such.
RK: Yeah, I've gotten the chance to work with some incredible talent over the years. I don't actually share any scenes with Keanu Reeves sadly, so I didn't work on set with him. But the times I've hung out with him; he's so nice, down to earth, and very chill. He's also really great in the film and I think people are really going to love his performance. Marilyn Manson is awesome. He's a very funny and nice guy. Our set of "Let Me Make You a Martyr" was pretty intense because of the scenes that were being filmed, and he always making everyone laugh and lightening the mood. He was a good reminder to relax and don't forget to have fun! Mark Boone Junior is also a really wonderful guy. I first worked with him on "Street Level" and he's so easy to work with. I really just had to show up and look at him and the work is there. He was also very supporting, complimentary, and a good friend. I really feel lucky to have met him. The same really goes with Art LaFleur. I worked with him on my first big feature "House Hunting" and I was pretty terrified at the beginning. But Art was so kind and generous. He really helped me to relax. There was also so much going on with his character, and he was so invested in everything he was doing. I just had to pay attention to him and play. He was really willing to go as deep as I needed to. Honestly, I was pretty excited to work with Nicolas Cage, but also a little nervous (laughs). But he was so caring and thoughtful. We filmed "Season of the Witch" in August in Louisiana and it was so terribly hot. We were also wearing 14th century costumes, and it felt like I couldn't get enough water to drink. Nick made sure I was always getting enough water, that I was comfortable with the stunts we were doing, and that after each take I was doing okay. We had just met but he definitely took care of me that day, which I really appreciated. I am so lucky and grateful to have worked with such remarkable people, and I'm truly thankful for everything they have taught me along the way.
NC: "Let Me Make You a Martyr" has garnered a lot of attention. Can you talk about this cerebral revenge film and what the experience was like?
RK: Yeah, I had a blast working on this. We filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which very much set the mood and tone for the film. I play Libby, who is a white trashy, crass, witch of a woman and I had a fantastic time playing her. We were setting up to shoot one of the scenes, and I was looking around for an ashtray because Libby smokes. I didn't see one, so I asked one fo the directors about it and he thought for a moment and said, "Here use this." And it was a measuring cup. It was absolutely perfect and said everything about the character. John Swab and Corey Asraf (the directors) really understood the world of the film and that was obvious in their attention to detail. I really had a good time on that set playing, and Gore Abrams and Niko Nicotera were really tremendous to work with. Libby is a crazy character and they were really willing to fly with her. All the cast and crew were wonderful, and I'm excited for people to see the film. It is also very dark and intense, but a story that needs to be told.
NC: Over the last 10 years, you have had the opportunity to be a producer on short form film and television with most recently on the short "No Empathy." What does being involved on that part of the business offer to you as a profession in film?
RK: I'm just starting to really get into more behind-the-scenes of a project as well as being in front of the camera. I would like to produce more films in the future, and this has given a little insight into the process of what goes on to get a project off the ground. I was a producer on the web series "Throwing Stones" and was also involved in the casting process. That was really important to me and it was a vital part of how the show came together. I am thankful to have been a small part in shaping our amazing cast. It absolutely offers a way to be more involved in how the project will come together and who is cast. And also maybe a little say what the final product will be. I'm hoping to do more producing in the future as that is all really fascinating to me and I want to be able to learn as much as I possibly can.
NC: Speaking of television, I just watched your episode of "Criminal Minds" entitled "Hostage." Another powerful and emotional role as Gina. Talk about taking on roles very layered, dark and out of the comfort zone. Where do you go to find the strength and control to create characters like this? Does any of it stick with you after?
RK: Thank you very much! I'm really blessed to have been a part of that episode and to be able to have played Gina. When I auditioned, I immediately connected with her and I knew I needed to help tell this story. Not because I have ever been kidnapped and held hostage, but because I wanted to be able to tell a story of such oppression and that through everything, there can be light at the end. Gina experiences true horror, yet she is strong and doesn't just think of herself. She risks everything to save them. She doesn't crumble and give in to her circumstances. She is fierce and it's a good reminder to me to stay invincible. It was also an important story because it's happened too often and these women are truly inspiring and courageous. I think I'm often attracted or drawn to these roles because my real life is pretty normal. Which I'm very thankful for! It's really intriguing to explore the dark, the odd, and the uncomfortable. These roles continue to challenge and stretch me as an actor, and force me to confront any demons I'm pushing away. I really like roles that push me to the depths and also expand me as a human. I don't know that I would consider myself that strong because I know it's all fake. At the end of the day, I get to go home to my pretty normal life. But, I know that not everyone gets to, so I'm compelled to help tell those stores. To give a voice to those who don't. Even if I'm playing a sociopath - everyone is the hero of his or her own story. At the end of the day, people just want to be loved, noticed, and to feel worthy. No matter their circumstance. And those are very human feelings I can relate to. I truly enjoy creating these characters that are very far away from me, no matter how dark their life is. I can go as deep and as wild as I want to sometimes. My imagination just goes crazy as I slowly find who these people are. What makes them tick. What their own dreams are. We are dealing with our struggles; some are just very different than others. On occasions there are stories that stick with me. Characters that I still think about. But for my own sanity, I try to let them go once it's over.
NC: Whether television, short form film, or feature work, horror has become an incredible platform for performance and storytelling. Performers like yourself find a way to cultivate and craft emotion, tension, fear and the struggle making the viewer believe in the darkness. Can you talk about what makes horror such rich genre to perform in?
RK: As much as I love watching horror movies, I thoroughly enjoy acting in them. There is something about being scared, even if you're pretending, this is such an adrenaline rush. There is also something greatly satisfying about the entire journey of a horror film. In "Bastard" for example, my character Betty started out very meek, vulnerable, and weak. When I was first reading the script, I thought 'well she will die first' (laughs) and I was pleasantly surprised to see her transformation on the page. And then it was truly rewarding to bring her to life. Throughout the film, she deals with a truly dark and troubling ordeal, and yet she's able to find out who she can become. She stands up for herself and develops into a strong and powerful young woman. And the cool part about it is, I felt that journey with her. I got to experience being scared, sad, terrified, angry, resourceful, strong, and then end up a force. There are not a lot of times I get to go through such visceral and varying degrees of emotions. And that's of course, a true testament to Patrick Young's fantastic script and Powell Robinson and Patrick's brilliant direction. They gave me such rich material to work with. As actors, we really get to dive into the deep-end and play. And hopefully give the audience a great ride with us.
NC: In "Throwing Stone" you say a very interesting line in "Labels are really hard to peel off." I bring this up because you seem to be casted and land roles of troubled and damaged characters. While these are not all your roles, they are compelling and dramatic. Can you talk about this as a performer, professional, and as a woman?
RK: Some labels you want to peel off. Like in "Throwing Stones" Chrissy is labeled a slut even thought that's really not the case. It's a rumor that was started and just stuck. I really don't have a problem with my label (laughs). While I would like to do more comedies as well, I think I'm always going to be drawn to the weird and the odd - even if it's comedy. I like speaking for these characters and giving them a unique view. Even though my characters are often dark, they are all very different too. Which I'm very thankful for. Getting into the mindset of a desperate young woman in "Street Level" who is pregnant, yet needs drugs just like we need air to breathe was uniquely challenging. It's hard to imagine doing anything to intentionally harm the life growing inside of you like doing drugs. But those are the minds I must enter. As an actor, I look for material I can connect to in some way, a story I must help tell, a voice that must be heart. As a woman, I want to continue to grow as a person and my view of the world continued to be expanded. Though I definitely don't agree with all the choices my characters make, it helps me to understand a bit more why people make them. They are often rough, dark, crass, scared, and weak characters, but I'm thrilled to be able to give them a voice. I don't see a need to do light roles just to 'change it up' unless I really feel connected to a character. I think people always need to stay true to themselves and the kind of work they want to do. And who knows, I say all this and maybe I will do a light role in the future. Never say never!
NC: Last, but not least, what is next for you and where can we find out more?
RK: As you mentioned "To The Bone" will be coming out on Netflix later this year and "Let Me Make You a Martyr" should be releasing this year as well. As far as what's next - I'm not sure yet. I've got a few things in talks, so hopefully projects I can talk about soon. If people want to find out more, they can follow me on Twitter @rebekahkennedy or Instagram @bekahk. I appreciate the support and I'm so delighted to be part of Women in Horror!