[Interview] Actress Lily Donoghue for BLACK CHRISTMAS

Tackling a beloved horror Christmas classic is never an easy feat, but in the case of 2019’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, Sophia Takal was able to reimagine a new modernized version that not only pays homage to the original but also is relevant to the present. In BLACK CHRISTMAS, we see a group of sorority sisters stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break only to also discover that their school may be harboring a deadly secret. With themes such as toxic masculinity, fraternity culture, the #MeToo movement and more, BLACK CHRISTMAS is a film that newer audiences will remember in the same way that we remember the original.

For the release of 2019’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, we got the opportunity to chat with actress Lily Donoghue about her performance as Marty. During our chat, we discussed everything from her experience working with director Sophia Takal, bonding with her co-stars, and of course, horror films.

Lily Donoghue in BLACK CHRISTMAS | Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Thank you so much for speaking with me today! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about what attracted you to the role of Marty? 

Lily Donoghue: When I first auditioned it was a director’s session with Sophia [Takal] and so we all read [the character] of Riley for her emotional range. A couple of weeks later, they asked me if I wanted to be Marty and I said yes! I liked how she’s mellow, really protective, and sensitive. She has moments in the film where she’s like, “Are you sure you want to do this, are you sure you are okay with this?”. I can appreciate that because as a friend I’m similar. Marty is always looking out for her friends, she is someone who is willing to do everything for her friends.

You mentioned having a director’s session with Sophia Takal. How was it working with her on this film? 

Lily Donoghue: It was so cool because she’s an actor herself so you don’t have to constantly explain what you are thinking. It’s kind of like a secret language. It was cool because I hope to maybe one day direct and write as well. It was really interesting to watch her work and see how she handles things on set. Being a woman in that setting can be really hard because you have all these dudes putting up shit. She’s commanding but not an asshole about anything, she’s super diplomatic, super observant and perceptive, and crazy smart. She’s really cool.

When it came to the sisterhood, what was it like working with the rest of the cast? 

Lily Donoghue: Oh, they were awesome, I was so lucky! Everybody is really different. Imogen [Poots] is really funny and has been doing this a lot longer than I have so she had a lot to share and a lot of advice. I’m really lucky to have met her. And Aleyse [Shannon] and I would laugh for a long time [when we were together]. You do a lot of night shoots so it can be tough sometimes keeping it up so when you’re with a good group it keeps the energy up and solid. It makes you feel stronger and you do it for them.

(from left) Riley (Imogen Poots), Kris (Aleyse Shannon) and Marty (Lily Donoghue) in BLACK CHRISTMAS, co-written and directed by Sophia Takal | Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Prior to filming, had you seen the original Black Christmas or the 2006 iteration? If so, what was it like to know you would be in a new rendition of the film? 

Lily Donoghue: I’ve seen the original and I liked that movie a lot. It’s disturbing, it’s super disturbing. [Being in this movie] you hope that it lives up to people’s expectations and that it doesn’t stray too far for the people who really, really love the original. But at the same time, it’s for people who probably haven’t seen it or young girls who haven’t seen that movie or can’t see that movie. It takes what’s great about [the original Black Christmas] and makes it more modern.

Was the feminist storyline an aspect of the film that you liked? 

Lily Donoghue: I think what I really liked about the movie was the script but, also, I have a super close friend of mine who has been through exactly what Riley has gone through. It’s a real fear – going home and walking home alone as a woman. I’m always on, I’m always making sure I have someone on the phone, you know what I mean? You are always kind of aware and I think that hit home for me, I guess. I do hope that people see it and feel less alone or if people have been in Riley’s situation they feel less alone. I don’t want guys to think it’s not a movie for them because there’s still a lot of fun elements to it. I’m sure they have women that they care about and love who hopefully make them a little more aware, too. It’s still a slasher [film] and there are still some funny moments to it.

Lily Donoghue as Marty in BLACK CHRISTMAS, co-written and directed by Sophia Takal | Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?

Lily Donoghue: I wasn’t initially because I have anxiety really bad. If I pay to go get scared I’m like, “What am I doing?” I like thrillers or creepy films, I love The Silence of the Lambs, stuff like that, a little more psychological, like Zodiac. But I think after doing [this movie], I have a better understanding and appreciation of horror. I don’t want to rule anything out.

Lastly, what would you like to see audiences take away from the film? 

Lily Donoghue: Honestly, I feel like we go to see movies… – well, one of the reasons why I go to see movies is to see a certain level of my reality reflected on screen. I do hope that people go watch it and see themselves in it somewhere. Young women who maybe have experienced it feel a little stronger leaving it than going in. Besides that, I hope people are entertained and it gives them pause or makes them think more before they do things.

BLACK CHRISTMAS is now in theaters and you can read our review, as well as earlier interviews and articles about the film here.

Shannon McGrew
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