AnnaSophia Robb has been acting for most of her life, most recently appearing in films like Words on Bathroom Walls and series like “The Act” and “Little Fires Everywhere”. She currently stars in Quibi’s new horror series THE EXPECTING as Emma, a down-on-her-luck waitress who becomes pregnant under mysterious circumstances.
I had the opportunity recently to speak with Robb about the series and discuss her thoughts on the horror genre, how she dealt with the physical demands of the role, and the conversations she hopes the series will inspire.
What drew you to this role?
AnnaSophia Robb: I think this is a different role for me, so I was immediately…I’m always attracted to something that I’ve never done before. Being a mom in a body horror movie directed by Mary Harron was something I had never done before. So I was excited about just the challenge that this role sort of offered. And I thought it was — I’m not partial to horror, or at least I wasn’t before. I didn’t really understand it. And I think this movie showed me that horror offers a critique or a different sort of lens onto what we think of as the everyday. And I thought, “Oh, this is a lot more interesting.” Normally if I watched a scary movie or a horror movie I’d get so freaked out, but I think in looking at it as going deeper, what is it actually saying? — I find that really fascinating. So I was excited to be part of this story.
That would lead me into one of my other questions. I was able to speak to Mary Harron last week, and she talked about drawing inspiration from a few different horror films for the project. Was there anything that you watched to prepare for the role or to get into Emma’s headspace at all?
AnnaSophia Robb: Yeah, I watched Rosemary’s Baby, there’s a lot from that movie. Girl, Interrupted is also one that I watched. And then I watched a show called “One Born Every Minute”. It’s a documentary about pregnancy, like a birthing doc on Amazon. So I would watch that almost every day and just, like, cry my eyes out watching babies be born and whatnot just to familiarize myself with that process.
Emma finds herself in some really extreme physical situations. What was it like preparing for and shooting those scenes that required so much of you from a physical standpoint?
AnnaSophia Robb: I think I thought a lot about them, but it’s not really until you’re there that it’s like, “Oh, whoa, this is what I’m doing. This is crazy.” So I think that there’s a certain amount that you can prepare for something, but then once you’re actually there, it’s a whole different game. I mean, I think watching as much and thinking and all of that, but then once you’re there, it’s like you work with what’s around you and working with the other actors…But it’s interesting, you know. Once you’re re-watching it, you’re like, “I cannot believe I did that. This is so crazy.” But once you’re on set and it’s every day…it just becomes normal. Yeah, when there’s a day that I’m not bleeding or I’m not doing something kind of crazy, it feels like, “Wow! What an easy day. We didn’t do anything super exciting today.” So it’s kind of a weird feeling. It’s like 2020! Feels like a bit of a precursor to this year.
To prepare for the role, you had to shave your head. What made you trust in the project enough to feel comfortable committing to doing that?
AnnaSophia Robb: Yeah, that was a jump. I think once I made up my mind, I just made up my mind. I wasn’t expecting to shave my head at the beginning and then Mary was like, “We really want you to shave your head. I think it will change the physical appearance. It’ll just be something that’s really shocking.” And so it took me a while to come to terms with that and be like, “Okay, well, I guess this is happening. Do I really want to tell this story?” And then at the end of the day…I don’t think there are a lot of roles that require women to shave their heads and do something so dramatic. So I actually think that’s one of the things that ultimately sealed the deal for me because I wanted to jump into that challenge and look completely different.
Emma’s really isolated and faces a lot of pressure and manipulation from a bunch of different people in her life. What was it like tapping into that sense of feeling so alone all the time?
AnnaSophia Robb: Yeah, it’s kind of a weird…I mean, it doesn’t feel good. And it sort of happens naturally on set. It’s mostly me and a camera most of the time, so it would just be me and the crew. So I became really close with the crew, and I loved them, so I didn’t feel alone in that sort of sense. But I missed having scene partners. You know, I felt lonely during scenes a lot of the time. So whenever Rory or Hannah or Mira was on set it was welcomed. I loved sharing a scene or sharing the screen with somebody to have something to play off of rather than just being alone. So it feels like it sort of happens naturally because the scenes are isolating…and then you take on that energy.
You and Rory Culkin had such good chemistry. Immediately, in the very first scene, there’s such a history and ambiguity between the two of you. What was it like building that relationship with him? Like you said, you were isolated a lot of the time, but when you got to have him as a scene partner, what was that like?
AnnaSophia Robb: Rory’s super talented. I think it also sort of bled onto the screen because I find him such a mysterious person. He’s very private and quirky and also just wonderful and gentle and, like, such a really kind, kind person. But he doesn’t like to talk about himself at all, and so I think having some of that mystery was helpful in our scenes because I wanted to know what was going on in his head.
Is there anything that you hope that audiences take away from THE EXPECTING?
AnnaSophia Robb: I think how strong the female body is. It’s pretty exciting…I think it just opens up a conversation. I hope they don’t watch it and just think, “Oh, that was fun. That was entertaining,” and walk away. I think, you know, Emma gets pregnant in this way that she’s not sure how she became pregnant. She wants to get rid of the baby, then she’s no longer alone so she decides to keep the baby, but she’s not in a financial position for this, so there’s all these, sort of, complications around her decision-making. And she has zero support system. There is no support for her. And I think that that’s a really important thing to sort of think about with her character. Even though it’s a wild and crazy horror story, it’s also showing a woman who’s alone who doesn’t have many options. And I think that’s an important story to highlight.
THE EXPECTING is now available for viewing exclusively on Quibi.