The Bold Type’s Katie Stevens is trading bylines for bad guys.
In Haunt, the new horror flick from A Quiet Place writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Stevens stars as Harper, a college student with an abusive boyfriend and a dark family past who gets talked into checking out a haunted house on Halloween with her group of friends. This being a horror movie, their fun plans soon dissolve into all-out hell, as the attraction turns out to be a little more lifelike than they anticipated and the creepy folks who work there start killing the paying costumers one by one.
We chatted with Stevens about getting into darker territory, working with carefully positioned fake blood, and having her own Macaulay Culkin Home Alone moment.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you want to be part of this movie?
KATIE STEVENS: I originally auditioned for both Harper and [her pushy best friend] Bailey, and in my head I was kind of like, “Oh, I’m good at playing the bitchy girl in a horror movie.” I was like, “Okay, I’ve done that before, that’s easy.” Even though I would love to play them, I don’t normally get picked to play the girl who’s a little more introverted or the girl who’s the outcast, and I’ve always wanted to play those roles. I guess in my brain I was typecasting myself, and so when I finally get the call and they were like, “They really like you for Harper,” I was like, “You mean Bailey?” Then I had a Skype meeting with Scott Beck and Ryan Woods to talk about the character a little more, where they envisioned her going, and my thoughts on it. I was so excited because with roles that I’ve gotten before — like with Karma [on MTV’s Faking It] — they’ve been very similar to the way I was in high school: very rambunctious and loud and just does whatever she wants whenever she wants. And with Jane on The Bold Type, I’m not as type-A and as tightly wound as Jane but I am similar to her in a lot of ways, so it was nice to play someone who was so far left from who I am and what I normally do. I think that’s always your goal, to play someone you’re nothing like.
When you were reading script, were there any moments where you were nervous to read on?
It wasn’t terrifying to read. I’m a scaredy-cat and I don’t normally see horror movies unless I’m forced into it by a group of friends, but when I was reading the script it was totally different because I couldn’t totally envision what the directors and writers were envisioning. I just remember reading it and really loving that there was story to it. I feel like a lot of tropes that horror movies have fallen into is that it just immediately gets to the gore and guts, and you don’t’ really care about the characters. What I liked was that there was something deeper-rooted in Harper and her experience in life with her family and now with this boyfriend. I really loved that it just came to this turning point where all of that mounted up to this moment where she had to make the choice of, am I going to be a victim or am I going to save myself? I think having that background behind it made her choice that much stronger.
Did they give you much backstory on Harper? We know she’s had a rough upbringing with an abusive father, but did you get to find out if her mother survived that?
They kind of told me… The whole scene where Harper has the dream at the end when she’s all beat up and shows up to her mom’s place was originally in the script not as a dream, but I was like, “Guys, how does Harper not seek medical attention immediately? That’s just unrealistic.” So then they made the choice to change it and have that be a dream, which I think was so much more powerful. I really loved that I get to have the Macaulay Culkin Home Alone moment where I set up all these booby traps when he’s coming for me. With Harper’s parents, I would say her mom is definitely still alive and I think her dad is alive but not a part of her life. We always talked about [how] maybe there was a moment where she was strong enough to leave, and I think that was helpful for me even if we didn’t mention it because… it added to her decision to save herself.
What about the background on the bad guys? Did they give you any reasoning for their terrifying behavior?
It was kind of left up to our imaginations. We had always spoken about how we imagined they were ex-cons and one of them used to be a tattoo artist, and that’s how he messed up his face in that way. But I think that we’re living in time where there are people who commit acts of unspeakable violence and pain towards complete and total strangers, and that’s a really hard thing to wrap your head around. I think there’s not always a reason for why people do the terrible things that they do; sometimes people are just sick in the head and I think that’s the idea here.
Was there one scene in particular that was hard to shoot?
When we shot the part where we’re running through a field and hopping over the fence, it was like 30 degrees out and we were freezing and covered in blood. I was just in a thin hoody and we were running through and it was really dewy because it was also November, so our shoes were getting wet because we were running through the mud. But I think emotionally I was really nervous and I said to the guys, “This is such an emotional thing and if this was actually happening to me in real life I would be beside myself and weeping through the whole thing.” I wanted to figure out how to not be this victim where I’m crying all the time, like, “Please, don’t hurt me.” There needed to be some strength in that, but then I’m also like, “What if I can’t even get to the point where I cry? What if this is just something so unfathomable to me that I’m a bad actor and I can’t do it?” Thankfully that didn’t happen, but I think you read things on the page like Harper’s crying and one tear falls down her cheek and you’re like, “How am I going to do that?”
Was there a lot of time spent in hair and makeup for your gunshot wound and other injuries?
What I liked about this shoot was that I literally didn’t have to worry about what I looked like. I’m so used to playing Jane [on The Bold Type], where I’m in hair and makeup all the time, and that was the beauty of doing a horror movie: I slept on my hair and didn’t really do anything to it when I got in, and the makeup was really natural. Then they just had to splatter blood on me at times. I think the hardest thing was getting the splatter of blood to have continuity. My [hand injuries] were all latex that they had to paint, and every time I touched something it would come off of my hands and we’d have to redo it. I was literally walking around for days on end unable to touch things and people would have to help me drink water because I couldn’t pick anything up. It was a mess.
Awkward hand-painting aside, did you enjoy the experience overall? Do you want to do more horror?
I mean, I’m doing The Bold Type right now so it’s nice that I can do that back and forth. I had such a great time filming this and kind of realizing what goes into making a horror movie; it’s kind of made me fascinated in watching horror movies now. I would definitely love to get into things — not just horror movies — that are a little bit higher-stakes and dramatic movies because I had such a good time doing this one. So we’ll see what the future holds.
Would you ever go into a haunted house again after making this movie?
The directors made us go to a haunted house every weekend as our homework when we did the movie. It didn’t really scare me away from going to them.
This interview has been edited and condensed.