Known for her roles in such films as Dude, Where’s My Car?, Star Trek (2009), and Mulan (1998), actor Freda Foh Shen is no stranger to stepping into any genre that comes her way. In BOOKS OF BLOOD, Freda takes on her most insidious role to date, that of Ellie, an AirBnB host who takes in a troubled young woman (Britt Robertson) who has recently run away from home. For the release of the film, I had the chance to speak with Freda who discussed everything from the complexities of her character to the mother-daughter dynamic that forms between Ellie and her guest.
Synopsis: Based on Clive Barker’s acclaimed and influential horror anthology BOOKS OF BLOOD, this feature takes audiences on a journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three uncanny tales tangled in space and time. The series stars Britt Robertson, Rafi Gavron, Anna Friel, Yul Vazquez, and Freda Foh Shen.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today! To start things off, can you tell our readers a little bit about your role as Ellie and what interested you in playing such a complex character?
Freda Foh Shen: You named it exactly! The fact that it is a complex role is absolutely what attracted me. The fact that everything she does comes from something that is relatable to almost every woman. and probably men, this feeling of wanting to protect what one might call the maternal feeling of wanting things to grow and prosper and wanting them to feel protected. This is why she and her husband say “gotta protect the garden”…
Prior to filming, how much backstory were you given to better understand Ellie’s motivations?
Freda Foh Shen: Well, you know, for this script, Brannon and Clive put little markers throughout the script. So all I had to do…a lot of actors, we create a backstory of our own in our heads and we often relate it to our intimates in the film, say my husband. But it just depends on how actors want to work. In this case, because they put in markers such as I was in a hospital and did certain things, that allowed my imagination to blossom and to take off with details. That then fed back into how we did certain scenes, how certain choices that Brannon might’ve made directing me that I certainly made, in terms of how I related to all the people in the film.
There’s a mother/daughter dynamic that forms between Ellie and Jenna (played by Britt Robertson). How was it working so closely with Britt on this project?
Freda Foh Shen: That [mother/daughter dynamic] was exactly how I would feel about her. Britt, she’s just a phenomenal actress. She made everything so easy. She was what we actors call “available”, which is that all her emotional life was there, she reacted to any little nuance that you gave her so that you could then build on that. She just was a steadying force. My husband and I, Nick Campbell, we would finish a scene and then turn to each other and say [about Britt], “Oh my god, and she’s so young!”
My last question for you goes back to the complexity of your character. I do think, in-between all of her layers, there is a sliver of good intention in her. What would you want viewers to take away from their experience with Ellie?
Freda Foh Shen: You know, that’s a really interesting question. I don’t know that I specifically thought about what would people take away from this to apply to their own lives. I think to myself, where was Ellie’s turning point? Was there a turning point? And is that what we should all look for in our own lives? At what point do you say to yourself, you know what, if I take one more step this way, I may not be able to go back? And I suppose that’s part of constantly trying to be aware of the totality of yourself and how it affects not only the people around you, but perhaps the whole world.
BOOKS OF BLOOD is now available to stream on Hulu. For more on the film, check out our review here.