In Courtney Paige‘s directorial debut, THE SINNERS, seven schoolgirls, part of a clique dubbed The Sins, become the lethal target of an unknown killer after a harmless prank goes horribly wrong. Tackling themes such as religious oppression and sexual identity through the use of a striking visual palette, THE SINNERS is a murder mystery that’ll keep you on your toes until the very end.
For the release of the film, Nightmarish Conjurings had the opportunity to speak with actors Kaitlyn Bernard, who plays Grace Carver, a popular high schooler who’s the head leader of ‘The Sins’, and Brenna Llewellyn, who plays one of the members of ‘The Sins’ who threatens to expose the clique’s dirty secrets. During the interview, they discussed everything from how they were able to relate to their characters, working with a powerhouse director, and more.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me today about THE SINNERS! What was it about the characters of Grace and Aubrey that attracted you to those roles and were there elements to your character that made it easy to relate to them?
Kaitlyn Bernard: That’s a really good question. I think there was a lot of things that attracted me to Grace. She’s such a complex character. I think so often in films that are teenage girl movies, they just show the popular girl as just the popular girl being this mean controlling person. But I loved that in THE SINNERS there were more elements to Grace. It actually showed that she had other stuff going on internally in regards to her figuring out her sexuality, dealing with heartbreak, dealing with just a lot of teenage emotions and stuff that isn’t really shown with the popular girl. That was probably one of the things that I loved about playing Grace.
In regards to if I have any similarities to her, I think she has this exterior where everything’s perfect and she doesn’t really let anyone into her world. I’m very much a perfectionist myself and I like to seem like that to everyone so I think that’s probably the thing that I would relate to her most.
Brenna Llewellyn: Yeah, with Aubrey, I grew up in a very religious household, so it was very fun for me to draw from those childhood memories and use all these things that I already kind of knew of with a character and having it be in a safe space, you know, fiction. When I first auditioned for the character, I only had a paragraph from her, after a twist kind of happens, and being like, “Oh my gosh, this is a dream I want to go this intense my whole life,” well, not in real life but in movies. It was so fun to be able to connect to that.
How was it working with Director Courtney Paige on her first feature film, and how did she help you to develop your characters?
Kaitlyn Bernard: Courtney is amazing. She’s such an actor’s director. Because she has that background in acting, she really knows how to get through to the actor and how to communicate with the actor instead of just telling the actor where to stand and say their line. I loved working with her from that aspect. She’s just so hardworking and driven. And when she says she’s going to get something done, you know that she’s going to do it. I think having that mindset on set was amazing and just knowing that we were going to get it done, we’re going to do it. She’s a powerhouse director and I’m just so excited to see what she comes up with next.
Brenna Llewellyn: She created such an element of trust on set for her vision because she was so clear with what she wanted and so able to communicate that and work with our characters with us, not like on the side, but as a team together. There was no room for any indecisiveness because everything was so clear and just worked out well.
To help form the chemistry between your characters, did you spend time outside of filming so as to get to know one another?
Brenna Llewellyn: Courtney actually had us all go to the mall beforehand, before we started shooting. We took polaroid pictures on the little mini carousel and at (the store) Claire’s. That was such a great first bonding experience, to get to be in our characters and do what you would normally do in high school. I did that so much. It was a fun start to get us into that mindset.
Kaitlyn Bernard: Because we were filming in such a small town, we had a lot of opportunities to get together in-between filming when we had days off or on the weekend. It was a lot of fun and we grew closer inevitably because we had that extra time to see each other. You’re all staying around the same area and we didn’t know anyone in Kelowna, British Columbia, so it was just nice to bond in that way.
When it comes to the horror/thriller genre, is that something you both enjoy? If so, do you have a favorite scary movie?
Kaitlyn Bernard: It’s so funny because, out of any genre, I’ve been in horror and thrillers the most. I’m personally not a huge, huge fan of watching horror movies. I don’t like getting scared but it just seems like I always get cast in horrors and thrillers. I love being in them I just don’t like getting scared, so I’m not a huge fan of watching them, but that’s just me.
Brenna Llewellyn: I love the adrenaline, I’m a horror junkie. Well, not so much the blood and guts stuff, Saw isn’t really for me, but anything with jumpscares, spooks, and darkness, it gets my heart rate up and I love it. Like, The Descent I’d say is my number one favorite horror movie. The spelunking, those creatures, I love it.
Other than being an entertaining horror film, THE SINNERS does explore some heavy topics surrounding religious oppression. That said, is there anything you hope viewers will take away from the film?
Kaitlyn Bernard: Yeah, that’s such a good point that the film does shed light on how certain things or topics aren’t really talked about in religious communities. It’s 2021. We should be talking about this. It should be something that is accepted. There’s a lot of hidden messages within the film in regards to bullying, in regards to being able to talk to your parents or talk to adults when things are going wrong, and that popularity also isn’t what it seems like it always is in films. There’s just a lot of layers that the film touches on and I think that there are some really good messages within it.
Brenna Llewellyn: Yeah, I think viewers can see what can really happen, what can go wrong with oppression. Faith is important for everybody, but I think if you take it to the extremities of where it becomes a superiority complex, you can end up with some bad results. I think just having love for everybody is what it kind of encourages.
I can’t end this interview without asking the important question of if you had to pick a sin from the seven deadly sins, what would you pick?
Brenna Llewellyn: I would say I’m a bit of all seven (laughs). Gluttony is probably what I can relate to the most. I eat a lot of doughnuts, a lot of ice cream every day.
Kaitlyn Bernard: It’s funny, we’ve gotten asked that question a lot today and I’m not sure. I love sweets like Breanna, so maybe gluttony, but I think that there are little bits and pieces of the different things that I can relate to. But yeah, my sin is definitely not lust (laughs).
THE SINNERS is now available On Demand. For more on the film, check out our review here.