In honour of celebrating International Women’s Day, The Squid was delighted to land an interview with multi award-winning actress and screen-writer Laura Ellen Wilson. Laura has kindly taken time out of her hectic schedule to share some fantastic insights into what being a woman in horror really means to her, and how her experiences in the industry have shaped her into who she is today.
Emily: Laura! We are so glad to be catching up with you on such an important day for women! Can you give our readers a quick overview of where they would have seen you?
Laura: If you like horror (who doesn’t?), you may have seen me in Matt Shaw’s Monster and Next Door. Both are available to buy and/or rent on Amazon. Or, you may have seen my starring role in Friday the 13th: Vengeance, alongside several Friday the 13th alumni – available for free on YouTube! A recent addition to Amazon is Surprise, which you may also have seen.
Emily: What drew you to horror? Is there a certain kind of horror that you have always been into?
Laura: I have always been drawn to horror, since before I knew I wanted to be an actor. I love the FX and I am always looking for movies that scare me enough to have me sleep with the light on!
I love any form of horror. Extreme, slasher, gore, psychological, found footage, supernatural, zombie – the list goes on and on! If there is a chance that there is a good jump scare in there, I’ll watch it.
Emily: Why do you think horror draws people in?
Laura: Everyone likes a good movie, and horror seems to be a good place for twisty storylines and unexpected endings. I believe the fear factor plays a huge part in this. If you have a few friends round (pre-COVID, of course) and the drinks are flowing, it’s always a horror movie, right?
Emily: What’s a favourite character you’ve played?
Laura: My go-to answer for this is always a film, rather than a character – Suprise. It’s an anthology feature where I play four very different characters. It was a brilliant challenge and so much fun!
Emily: What horror films inspire you?
Laura: Honestly, I am inspired in some way by everything I watch. It’s super hard for me to pick out an individual example, but I would say my ‘go-to’ films like The Others and Insidious inspire me very much, in the hopes that I can be a part of similar movies one day.
Emily: What’s your experience of being a woman in horror?
Laura: I have only ever had great experiences. It is true to say that there is always a lot of competition in auditioning for a role, but knowing a lot of fellow horror actors who are always up for the same roles as myself, we all have a healthy competition and respect for the one who is eventually cast.
On a horror set (from my experiences anyway), both male and female crew and cast members are some of the most ‘down-to-earth’ people I have ever met, and some of the best laughs and memories come from horror sets. Two worth mentioning are the Friday the 13th: Vengeance and Survivor Girls sets. After 16-hour days, no one wanted to go home. We wanted to stay and play!
Emily: Do you think women in horror have a different experience to men?
Laura: I’m honestly not sure. I know of a few male crew members who are always wary to be associated with certain horror genres – those involving nudity mostly – for getting a reputation.
Emily: Who are your favourite women in horror?
Laura: My two favourite actors who have performed extensively in horror, but not exclusively, would be Rose Byrne and Vera Farmiga. In everything they do, I just can’t take my eyes off them!
Emily: What stereotypes do you think women still face in horror?
Laura: Stereotypes that I have faced personally have always been about my look. Too short, not having that typical hourglass figure, the fact I don’t wear a ton of make-up all the time or constantly post sexy pictures online, etc. These are just some of the stereotypes I face – not just for any genre, but horror in particular. I was once asked if I was thinking of getting a boob job any time soon because they weren’t big enough!! I just laugh it all off. It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I am proud to be the size and shape I am, and if a person can’t accept me for that, then they aren’t worth knowing or working with!
Emily: Wow, well you’ve got more patience than me, haha! What tropes and plot armour surrounding women in horror would you like to see updated or changed?
Laura: I think everyone knows the stereotypical female roles in horror. The ones that mainly exclaim “What do we do now?” to their male counterpart. I think the industry is getting much better at representing stronger female roles, and there are much more strong female-centric horror movies being released now. In years to come, I’d love to see women fairly represented, including those with visible and invisible disabilities.
Emily: Excellent, I look forward to seeing that too! Who would you like to play one day?
Laura: The answer for this will always be Ellen Ripley (Alien franchise). The character is the entire package and the exact definition of why I want to pursue this career. Woman don’t have to be weak or saved by a man!!
Emily: I totally agree! How do you prepare for a role?
Laura: This is a tricky one because it is different with each role. Firstly, I read the script in its entirety and familiarise myself with the various characters. I make a point of developing my character whilst learning the lines. It’s as though we are getting to know each other whilst learning.
Emily: How does being in a horror film differ from being in a mainstream film?
Laura: Horror can very quickly go from a small independent project to a cult classic with the demand of a sequel, depending on what’s ‘hot’ in horror at the time. I like the uncertainty of the response. The horror world has VERY high standards of newbies and films, and it’s always exciting to get feedback.
Emily: How has your experience differed on the horror sets you’ve worked on over the years?
Laura: My experience has been quite up and down, mainly in the fact that the first set I ever stepped foot on was a horror, and I feel as though I have grown up as an actress in the ‘horror-sphere’. I look back in the early days and think “God, why did I do that reaction in that moment?”, but at the time, I was very new (I still am but, you know) to the industry. Each set has been a learning experience. On Monster, I learnt how to cry on cue.
Emily: Favourite death in any horror?
Laura: The death of Quint in Jaws (1975). I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite (or most gruesome) death, but it is one of the first deaths I remember watching onscreen aged five. Especially with the struggle prior to the death – it has stayed with me ever since.
Emily: What makes you cringe in horror movies?
Laura: My biggest cringe in horror films is super ditzy females. Again, speaking of stereotypes, always the pretty cheerleader type wearing minimal clothing.
Emily: What would you like to see from the next generation of horror writers/actors/directors?
Laura: Less remakes and more original horrors!
Emily: Who would you like to work with?
Laura: Well, all of the mainstream directors, obviously – Spielberg, Del Toro, Tarantino, etc. I’d also love to work with James Wan, creator of the Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring franchises, three of my favourites. Patty Jenkins is definitely one of the top on my list. Being a female director is a win anyway, but representing strong females in film and executing it to perfection is a big win.
Emily: If you could choose a horror death for yourself, what would you choose?
Laura: Nothing in particular comes to mind except a super memorable, gruesome and bloody demise!
Emily: Epic! Are there and roles you’ve undertaken that have changed or stuck with you?
Laura: This is an impossible question for me. Every role has changed me and my perspective, especially watching myself back. All of my roles have stuck with me in some way, shape or form.
Emily: Are you attending any conventions?
Laura: This is quite an uncertain one. I have been approached by a couple in the UK and one in the US, but they aren’t set in stone yet, so I’d rather not announce them, just in case. One absolute definite is a meet-and-greet, which is being run by Matt Shaw in Southampton, UK. It will be an intimate and informal setting in his back garden, but there will be some awesome guests there. (To get tickets and find out more, click here.)
Emily: Oh brilliant, well you may see us pop up there! What’s next for you?
Laura: Well, there are several projects that were postponed from last year due to COVID-19. These have all been pushed to later this year and throughout 2022. These include US-based feature films Survivor Girls, Barry the Hatchet, Reflecting the Void, With Child, and two more that haven’t yet been announced. In the UK, TV pilot/show Day One and Swords of Scavelia, and in Hungary-based feature film I Hear the Trees Whispering. In May 2021, I will also be making my directorial debut in my own screenplay In Bluebell Wood. I can’t wait to be busy, busy, busy!
We can’t wait either! The Squid would like to thank Laura Ellen Wilson for sharing her first-hand experiences as a woman in horror, and we look forward to catching up with her again later in the year!