When it comes to villainous roles, Carolyn Hennesy is a pro (and I mean that in the best way possible). Having earned the title with such roles as Penelope Ellis in the TV series Revenge as well as Rosalyn Harris in True Blood, Carolyn makes bad gals look oh so good.
For the release of ST. AGATHA, Carolyn once again transforms herself into an evildoer as Mother Superior, the head of a convent where young unwed and pregnant women seek refuge during the 1950s. During our chat we discussed everything from her latest role, playing a new type of villain, and the influence that the horror genre has had on her.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you so much for speaking with me today, it’s such an honor! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character Mother Superior in ST. AGATHA and what interested you in the role?
Carolyn Hennesy: What interested me in the role was it was something I’m very rarely asked to play – an evil character with no humor. I’m always asked to play evil with a lot of humor, but evil with no humor is something that was a little out of my wheelhouse. Now having done it, I think not only is it in my wheelhouse, but it IS my wheelhouse, and that’s what drew me to the role. [As for] Mother Superior, she is just a big bad, she’s one of those tremendous villains that everyone is going to hate themselves when they love her. The scary thing for me was it really wasn’t that hard to find her [within me] and I’m not quite sure what that says about me (laughs)!
Nightmarish Conjurings: When it came to preparing for your role, was there any type of research you did?
CH: Mother Superior has been excommunicated, so my take on her was that she was always a little, to a lot, outside of mainstream Catholicism and mainstream divinity from the get-go. She would not have become as twisted as she is if she wasn’t already a little twisted from the start and that’s really what I focused on. Holding a rosary imbues you with a lot of otherworldly spirits, with a capital S, which was something that I really clung to. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the movie…
Nightmarish Conjurings: You’ve also worked with Darren Lynn Bousman on his theatrical experience, The Lust Experience. What was the transition like between live theater and filming for the movie?
CH: We filmed ST. AGATHA in January/February of 2017 and I think The Lust Experience was May of 2018, so I was already very comfortable with Darren. I trusted him a great deal having worked with him on ST. AGATHA. When I got the script for The Lust Experience, I sort of looked at him a little oddly from then on out (laughs). I thought, this is the brain that basically helmed Saw II-IV, why should I be surprised with anything that comes out of this man’s head, including naked people running around. I was a little trepidatious the first night, but after that, I had utterly given over to my character to the point of ordering people to rub my feet and taking almost perverse glee of people in submission. I had the best time working on The Lust Experience, it was wonderful.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Your career has spanned across so many different types of genres but you’ve never really shied away from that of horror. What is it about the horror genre that keeps you coming back?
CH: Honestly, my father [Dale Hennesy] was a production designer and when he was designing Young Frankenstein he had tons of books about horror films and we watched many Hammer horror movies. I remember at a very young age coming through one of these books and seeing a picture of a woman with her eyes wide open and an axe planted firmly in the middle of her head with blood spilling out. I thought, “This is interesting! You don’t get to do this in daily life without being put away. I want to know more about this!” That was kind of the catalyst for me and then I started thinking about the idea of being scared and not being truly in danger from an audience perspective. Then being able to channel that when you really think you are truly in danger, possibly, from an acting standpoint. There’s just something very primal about being scared, whether it’s about things that go bump in the night, germ warfare, aliens, things that are going to cause pain and/or suffering, and how do we stay alive knowing that these things are out there and not losing our tiny minds. It’s fascinating because horror comes in many, many, many forms and it’s not just a lady with an axe in her head.
ST. AGATHA is now in theaters and available On Demand and Digital HD.