When it comes to beloved holiday horror films, Black Christmas reigns supreme. The 1974 version, from acclaimed director Bob Clark, is considered a classic, with the 2006 iteration mostly forgotten. However, in 2019 the movie gods decided to grace us all with Sophia Takal’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, a reimagining of the original that tackles themes such as feminism and toxic masculinity in the most brazen of ways.
For the release of BLACK CHRISTMAS, we had the chance to speak with actress Brittany O’Grady who portrays the bubbly character, Jesse. During our chat, we discussed everything from her excitement over working with director Sophia Takal, horror films, and what she hopes viewers take away from this new interpretation.
What was it about the character of Jesse that attracted you to the role?
Brittany O’Grady: When I auditioned, I didn’t start out with Jesse, I auditioned for [the role] of Riley. I think all of us had to start with Riley’s material. Then I auditioned for Kris and then I was offered the role of Jesse. I, of course, said yes because when I met Sophia Takal, I was just so excited to work with such a unique director. I’m so excited for her future and I’m so excited for her and April [Wolfe’s] material. The script was something that I understood even down to the little minor details. It was very sweet and something I related to. I didn’t know what to do with [Jesse] at first. When I read the script I was like, “I don’t know what to do with this character” but I then created her with all my castmates as well as with Sophia.
Were you familiar with, or had you seen, the original Black Christmas? I ask because your character, in particular, pays homage to a certain scene from the original film.
Brittany O’Grady: I didn’t, which I was a little nervous about. But then we asked Sophia if it was necessary to watch and she said we didn’t need to. I kind of want to watch it now that it’s Christmas time and now that the project is finished. I love Olivia Hussey, I remember seeing her in [Franco] Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet in high school. Lily [Donoghu], who plays Marty, reminds me so much of her.
I think that’s good though because then it allows you to come into the film with a clean slate. You don’t have to rely on the previous iteration. One thing that is the same though is the closeness that all the characters have with one another. What was it like working with the rest of the cast?
Brittany O’Grady: Outside of the main cast who were American, I also loved meeting the actors from New Zealand. They helped create the film and were curious as to if this type of fraternity culture was normal. [With the film being shot in New Zealand] we were in their territory and I felt very welcomed and loved. As for the main cast, all the women are incredibly powerful, very dedicated to their craft, strong in their choices, and very serious about the message of the movie. I learned so much because they are unapologetically themselves.
When it came to portraying Jesse was there a favorite scene that you did?
Brittany O’Grady: I think one of my favorite scenes was when we were getting ready for a [fraternity party]. Jesse is just in her own world and not really sensitive to Riley (played by Imogen Poots) and the PTSD that they are dealing with. I just think that my character was kind of on her own planet but was a part of the sisterhood as well. I had to find respect for her in that way.
If it’s any consolation, your character is so pure! You can’t help but think that Jesse always means well.
Brittany O’Grady: Yes, that’s exactly it! (laughs). She means well but it doesn’t come off right. It was fun to create those moments.
Since the film does center around sororities and fraternities, were you ever in a sorority?
Brittany O’Grady: No, I went to college at Pepperdine University and only went there for a semester and a half. I was thinking about rushing, but I never did, and then I actually got a job and left college. A lot of my friends are in sororities though. I’m from the DC area so everyone went to college and finished except me (laughs).
Are you a fan of horror films?
Brittany O’Grady: I love watching horror films in groups, I love the experience of a horror film. I think I have enjoyed them. Growing up I saw The Birds, I’ll never forget that my dad introduced me to that [film]. I also watched Them, with the big ant, and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Then I saw IT – I loved IT because that was the first time I really watched a horror film and related to the characters. Get Out was also amazing, an amazing story that talked about the black experience in a light way. I was surprised by the way it ended.
Lastly, what would you like audiences to take away from BLACK CHRISTMAS?
Brittany O’Grady: I hope there is respect for females, just in general. The one thing I loved about the film that made me feel really validated as a woman was the beauty of seeing girls in their element. Whether they’re putting on a pad in front of their friend or putting keys in-between their knuckles or dressing up and being girly. Sophia made it okay to be a girl, to embrace your feminism. I felt like it gave me permission and we didn’t have to try to have masculine attributes to override the man. I hope that men that don’t have that perspective or women that don’t have that perspective, look and see this and think maybe they should validate someone that was drugged at a frat party and struggled with PTSD. Or even that it’s okay to be a girl and be in a sorority and love your girly feminine sides that people just diminish all the time.
BLACK CHRISTMAS arrives in theaters December 13, 2019.