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Justin Long has left quite an impression playing a possessed teacher on Goosebumps, which is just one of many projects proving his status as a scream king.
During an exclusive interview with Us Weekly, executive producers Pavun Shetty and Conor Welch praised Long's approach to the role of Mr. Bratt — a.k.a the body Harold Biddle takes over for the season.
"We were super lucky to get Justin for this role. He has done a lot of comedy, a lot of adolescent comedy and coming-of-age comedy too. But he has also done real horror," Shetty said. "He did Jeepers Creepers, which is a super scary adult movie. He was [also] just coming off Barbarian too, where he got to be goofy but also was super intense."
Shetty complimented Long's ability to seamlessly transition from one genre to another, adding, "He [can do] comedic stuff and horror at the same time. And luckily he's a really gifted physical actor too. That played a lot into this role."
Goosebumps, which is based on horror books written by R.L. Stine, focuses on a group of teens who accidentally release supernatural forces from a haunted house. They subsequently learns that their parents' connection to a murder in 1993 triggered the unexplained evil, which they must recapture before it is too late.
Long, 45, plays English teacher Mr. Bratt who moves to Port Lawrence after inheriting the creepy Biddle house. His body is quickly snatched by the ghost of Harold Biddle — the teenager who died in the house in 1993 — and Mr. Bratt ends up trapped in his own mind.
"He's literally haunted by the ghost of a 16-year-old kid that takes over his body. So a lot of [the acting involves] that mental strain. But it's also his body learning how to act while it's being possessed," Shetty continued. "He really jumped in. He threw himself against lockers as he was banging his head on things. He was transforming between a kid and an adult trying to fight himself."
The executive producer noted that Long was "so adept" at transitioning between comedy and horror.
"[That] was key for this role and key for every role really because we were trying to tow that line of scary and funny. It was important to us that the kids — but also the adults — were able to land a joke [and] to have comedic timing," Shetty told Us. "But also [they had to] be able to really lean into the drama as well."
In addition to Long’s scene stealing presence, the creative team behind Goosebumps prioritized bringing on new faces as the show’s leads. Zack Morris, Isa Briones, Miles McKenna, Ana Yi Puig and Will Price ultimately rounded out the cast.
“We literally auditioned hundreds of teenagers and young adults. It was important to us to not have super familiar faces as the main high school aged ensemble. We just really lucked out that the five that we cast immediately found a chemistry,” Welch noted. “The idea of the characters is that most of them come from different backgrounds, even though they're from the same small town. They probably wouldn't sit together at the same lunch table. But as they realize that each of them is haunted by things, they come together in order to solve the mystery and save the town.”
He concluded: “We also wanted to sort of subvert some of the familiar Breakfast Club type high school tropes because it became clear that contemporary teenagers and the contemporary high school experience is not segmented by jocks and bookworms and wallflowers. It was important to us that we subvert those expectations and that there be much more depth to each of these characters, where we present them in a surprising way. We were very, very lucky in the actors that we got — they just absolutely knocked it out of the park.”
New episodes of Goosebumps are released weekly every Friday on Disney+ and Hulu.