[Interview] Karen Lam & Kerri Medders for BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE
BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE follows team co-captains Abby (Kerri Medders) and McKayla (Tiera Skovbye) and their Diablos teammates who are forbidden from doing any risky cheer stunts by their overly cautious school principal (Missi Pyle) and fear that they will be laughed out of the upcoming regional cheer competition. The squad comes up with a plan to choreograph a winning routine in secret, at a nearby abandoned school.

Once at the school to rehearse, the cheerleaders begin to disappear one by one. By the time they realize they’re locked inside with a killer, it may be too late for any of them to survive. They must use their skills to fight off a killer who gives them only one choice: Cheer or die!

Ahead of BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE‘s premiere on SYFY, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Sarah Musnicky spoke with director Karen Lam and actor Kerri Medders, where we discussed the battles of learning cheer choreography, the sinister cuteness of the Diablos mascot, and what drew the both of them to enter this iconic franchise.

[Interview] Karen Lam & Kerri Medders for BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE
Pictured: (l-r) Tiera Skovbye as Mckayla Miller, Erika Prevost as Tori, Kerri Medders as Abby

The allure of a franchise

What drew you both to BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE? Karen, either from a directing standpoint, or Kerri, from an acting standpoint.

Karen Lam: For me, it was the chance to do it in my wheelhouse, but also outside of my wheelhouse, because I’m a horror director. It was the first time doing something for a different audience than I’m used to, this is an iconic franchise, basically, for teen girls, and it was a chance to actually see if I could make a film for my inner team girl.

And Kerri, for yourself, how did you get involved in the project?

Kerri Medders: I ended up auditioning, and I didn’t hear anything back for about a month and a half And then all of a sudden, my agents ended up calling me and they’re like, Hey, you booked BRING IT ON: [CHEER OR DIE], and I remember falling to my knees and being like, oh my gosh. I ended up doing something that’s so iconic because it’s Bring It On. It’s iconic.

I also love the horror side of it, because I love horror. It’s my favorite thing and the fact that I got to develop Abby and highlight and get to portray her was such an honor to me because I care for her so much.

[Interview] Karen Lam & Kerri Medders for BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE
Pictured: (l-r) Kerri Medders as Abby, Sierra Holder as Jackie

Starting from scratch

This is such a physically intensive film because again, Bring It On usually means cheerleading. I noticed in the behind-the-scenes footage they have in the end credits of you guys training. What was it like to train while also try not to get sick, and then apply it all logistically once you got on set? Because that’s a logistical nightmare of sorts.

Kerri Medders: First off, I didn’t have any cheer background. Tony Gonzalez, who’s the choreographer, I told him, I was like, I’m gonna tell you right now, I’m going to try my best. And he was like, ‘Don’t worry. [In] three weeks, you’re gonna be amazing. People are gonna know you cheer.’ And I was like, here we go!

We would cheer from seven to five for three weeks. Weekends off. [laughs] We did keep safe. We always had a COVID person always around. Also on top of that, in the cheer element, we always made sure there was a medic, just in case there were falls or anything.

But also, Tony was so great about making sure we were doing things properly before we did stunts. It was very much like elevating things that we were learning over the course of three weeks to make sure that casualties did not happen, which is very nice because, as someone who doesn’t come from that background, I had to learn it all.

[Interview] Karen Lam & Kerri Medders for BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE
Pictured: 2023 Green Knights Cheer Squad

A little kung fu

For yourself, Karen, what was it like figuring out the logistics around just figuring out a set that could accommodate the cheer stunt choreography that you had to do?

Karen Lam: It was important to me that all the stunts and all the kills were going to be set in the cheer world. Meaning, if you’re a cheerleader, these are the skills you could do and have. That was important to me that that was where I was going to draw from.

Also, I did watch a lot of kung fu movies as well growing up. The idea of a kung fu movie is that the hero has a couple of moves that they can’t quite get, and they’re working on it the whole time. and then finally, when it comes down to it, to survive the killer, the hero finally perfects that one move, that special move. I wanted to give the Diablos that special move. In this case, Abby was going to fly. That was always going to be the special sauce.

In development, I don’t think anyone had a cheer background. Some people had dance and some people had gymnastics, but they didn’t have cheer. So what kind of special move we actually had just kept changing because depending on how your skills were…We didn’t want to ever put anyone into a dangerous spot. That was not the aim. It was really again, it was what you were able to do.

Kerri Medders as Abby

The Diablos mascot in BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE

In conceptualizing the slasher mascot, what was the process in figuring that out, Karen? With its cute, little pointy nose and everything.

Karen Lam: Yes! It was a Diablos mascot. It was funny because we realized, at the same time that we actually had to create what it was going to be, we wanted it to be scary, but kind of cute too. So when I talked to Nick Richardson, our production designer, and when we were coming up with this, I said, like an evil Teletubby is sort of what I was thinking od. He’s cute. He’s coming after you, but he’s got a belly. [[laughs] I wanted him to basically be something that was cute, but scary. So we definitely went for that.

Kerri Medders: It scared me. I’m not gonna lie. It was constantly lurking in the halls when we went to set, and I would scream. I’d be like, no, no, I gotta run the other way. I literally cannot look at you. [laughs]

Karen Lam: We could have probably gone way scarier and I kind of wanted to go with a chubby mascot. So I remember watching Teletubbies and just seeing the bouncy thing, and I remember that’s something you want to see when you’re really like kind of high and bouncing. So we went with that.

(l-r) Kerri Medders as Abby, Aidan Ritchie as Grungy Bus Driver

The final showdown

Wrapping things up here, but for the both of you, what was your favorite scene to shoot?

Kerri Medders: Besides the cheer stuff, which was really fun, but I’m just gonna say the [final] showdown. That whole thing. I was waiting for that moment. I was like, I’m so ready. I’m so ready. Let me do it. Let me get into this. Yeah, that excited me.

Karen Lam: I think it was the final brawl for me. Because it was the thing that we were working for the whole time. Anytime when we weren’t on set, you guys were rehearsing that final brawl sequence and what was going to actually happen. So I think that by the time we got to do that, that was sort of like the pinnacle for me. I was like, oh, yeah, we get some kills and fights but it’s also this ginormous almost like dance and action all at once.

BRING IT ON: CHEER OR DIE premieres on October 8th from 9-11 p.m. on SYFY.

This interview was edited for clarity and length. All images courtesy David Bukach/SYFY.

Sarah Musnicky
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