In Writer/Director John Logan’s queer slasher flick THEY/THEM, several queer and trans campers arrive at Camp Whistler, a gay conversion camp run by Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon), for a week of programming intended to “help them find a new sense of freedom.” As the camp’s methods become increasingly more psychologically unsettling, the campers must work together to protect themselves. When a mysterious killer starts claiming victims, things get even more dangerous.
Leading up to the release of THEY/THEM, which we’ve reviewed right here, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew had the chance to chat with actor Darwin del Fabro. During their conversation, they discussed everything from his initial reaction to the script to the complexities of his character.
**INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS – PROCEED WITH CAUTION**
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Darwin. I’m very excited to get into the nitty gritty of your character. To kick things off, what was your initial reaction after you read the script for the first time?
Darwin del Fabro: I loved it. John Logan is an expert and created this brilliant queer empowerment story with depth and complexity in a genre that is notoriously one-dimensional. Many classic slasher films focus on the gore and don’t have time to tell the stories of the characters. I immediately knew this movie was different because it has a proper, thoughtful, well-written script with a diverse and unique cast. We’re not only interested in who is the next victim, but also in the journey of the character.
What were your thoughts on Gabriel’s betrayal and why do you think that was important to show in the film?
Darwin del Fabro: Gabriel’s betrayal and his range of emotions were what drew me to his character. He starts out as this fragile, shy kid, and suddenly reveals this very sinister, twisted side to him. I think his betrayal was so important to the story because his delicacy is actually his strength; he definitely teaches you not to judge a book by its cover.
We don’t know much about Gabriel. Did you work with John in order to come up with a backstory for him to better understand how he go to the point he’s at?
Darwin del Fabro: Gabriel’s backstory is still somewhat of a mystery – and up to the viewer to speculate about. When developing his character, we imagined the ways that Gabriel might have grown up. He’s been manipulated his whole life into viewing the world of Whistler Camp as normal. What does that do to a kid? It was a very interesting and challenging role to play.
You have incredible style but Gabriel’s style is very under-the-radar, choosing black clothes to wear as opposed to more outrageous outfits. Do you think this was an aspect of Gabriel that said a lot about who he is as a person?
Darwin del Fabro: Yes, 100%. The costume designer Rebecca Gregg was incredible and we put a lot of thought into Gabriel’s clothing choices. Gabriel wants to be invisible, he wants to maintain this element of mystery about him and so he shrouds himself in black. I also think the sex scene becomes all the more dramatic when you have that contrast.
Your death is an impactful, almost satisfying, one considering how it parallels your betrayal. What was the process like in crafting that scene?
Darwin del Fabro: During that scene, I asked the crew to really tie my hands down tight to the chair as we were filming. As a horror fan, I love some good screams so I wanted to portray the pain and agony with as much realistic detail as I could. After the scene was shot, I actually had a rash on my arms from straining against the chair so much!
Outside of this being a fun slasher film, what do you hope people take away from it – whether it be in regards to your character or the film as a whole?
Darwin del Fabro: There are so many great takeaways, but I think the central theme of the film is queer empowerment. Especially in the horror genre, it’s rare to see queer kids at the center of the story, being celebrated and honored for their individuality. I hope when watching the film, people are reminded that your uniqueness is your strength, you’re powerful just the way you are, and that must be celebrated every day.
THEY/THEM is now available to stream on Peacock.