American Mary: Q&A with actress Katharine Isabelle
Ginger Snaps star Katharine Isabelle talks with The Horror Hothouse’s Emma Knock about filming American Mary and working with Jen and Sylvia Soska.
Firstly, can you give us a little bit of background as to how you came to star in American Mary?
I was sent the script to read and went through the entire thing – something like 180 pages – on my Blackberry. I called my Dad right away and asked him to read it because I thought, “Am I crazy for loving this?”
It is hard to come by a truly strong and empowering female in horror and harder still to find an iconic female antagonist, yet you have played two of most memorable with Mary and of course Ginger in Ginger Snaps, what do you look for in a character before taking on a role?
I look for a well written script with interesting characters. It doesn’t matter to me what genre it is. I just look for a story that is original and challenging and captures my attention.
Speaking of iconic characters in horror, if you put Mary up against the likes of Freddy, Michael Myers or Jason, how do you think she would fare?
I don’t know. I don’t see Mary as a villain in the same respect. She isn’t chasing people around a creepy house at night. She’s methodical and full of intent. She is very different from other horror characters like those.
What was it that most appealed to you about Mary’s character and how did you prepare for the role?
I listened to the twins. Jen and Sylv wrote this character so completely and created such a complex woman that I just had to read the script and try to understand Mary’s motivations and nuances. The script was so detailed that I just tried to do justice to the twin’s creation – and to Mary herself.
Were you particularly familiar with the concept of body modification prior to American Mary?
Not at all. And, thankfully, the twins led me through that world. They would bring me tons of material from the Internet so I didn’t have to delve into it myself and find photos of God knows what. We had an incredible body mod expert – Russ Fox – who helped us better understand the world throughout the shoot.
Mary goes through a variety of character transitions and by the end of the film she is almost unrecognisable to the Mary at the beginning. Was it difficult to ensure you were the right ‘evolution’ of Mary considering the movie was shot out of sequence?
The whole film was shot in just 15 days so it really was a blur. I just tried really hard not to screw it up. I knew the twins felt for and understood this character and so I didn’t want to disappoint them in bringing her to life.
One thing that struck us in particular about Mary is that she is so likeable and no matter what she does you always root for her. She is a hero as much as she is a femme fatale – why do you think that is?
I’m not sure. She really does nothing at all likable. I think she only smiles once in the whole thing. But you follow her along because her story is interesting and that progression as a character is fascinating, I think.
When watching American Mary it was scary how much we believed you actually could be Mary. Did you have a lot of creative input in the character development and how much of yourself could you actually bring to Mary?
The twins really made Mary. She was already so full and so whole. I just followed their lead.
What was it like working with the Soska Sisters? You seem to work so well together that we think they should ‘adopt you’ so you can become the Twisted Triplets.
Absolutely. I have told them many times already that they are geniuses. We have an agreement that they are never to film anything in the future without me. I am just going to follow them around forever and hope to get paid for something.
The supporting cast is made up of a whole bunch of weird and wonderful characters, our favourites being Lance and Beatrice. What was the vibe like off camera?
Everyone was so dedicated because they fed off the incredible energy of Jen and Sylv. This was not a high budget production at all. People just put their all into it because the twins are so charismatic and the story was so unique.
On a more general note, you have acted in your fair share of horrors and thrillers, what is it that draws you to the genre?
I am not drawn specifically to the genre. In fact, I can’t watch horror movies really. They scare me. So when I work, I just look for a good script. It can be any genre really. As long as the characters are strong and the story is compelling.
Can we expect you to pop up in the Soska Sisters next project, Bob?
I hope so. I will do any role they want me to in anything. Ever.
Finally…what’s your favourite scary movie?
Apocalypse Now. It’s not a “horror” film but the story and the thematic elements are frightening. It’s my favorite movie.
Check out the trailer for American Mary below:
Follow Katharine Isabelle on Twitter at @Katie_Isabelle
Read our interview with American Mary directors Jen and Sylvia Soska here.