Interview: Actress Shannyn Sossamon of Sinister 2
Considering Shannyn Sossamon’s tendency to star in creepy film and TV, including the recent series Wayward Pines and new this week Sinister 2, learning that she doesn’t like watching horror may be a surprise. Fortunately, she’s also starred in a wide variety of projects, including her breakout role in A Knight’s Tale, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Wristcutters, The Day, and the TV series Moonlight, Mistresses, and How to Make it In America.
Along with all that, she’s a musician, trained as a dancer, and a mother of two. This week however, she’s one of the leads in the latest Blumhouse horror film, Sinister 2, opposite James Ransone and twins Robert and Dartanian Sloan, as the latest children possessed by the Bughuul deity. We spoke about getting into the role of Courtney.
Lesley Coffin (TMS): Oddly, the first question I had about the film is about the choice of clothing for the character, which is very old-fashioned and almost drab. Who made the decision to dress your character that way?
Shannyn Sossamon: It was a process between the director and I. We came to a nice middle ground and a few decisions informed that stylistic choice. We decided she probably packed pretty quickly, was in survival mode so she had no concerns about fashion or how she would look. So the clothing she brought with her were the clothing she wore before her marriage, a kind of down home country style. The kind of clothing she wore before she met Clint (Lea Coco) who had a lot of money. Because I assumed that she’d been raised without a lot of money, and met Clint who had a lot and could provide for her, so she probably felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman at the beginning of their marriage. So her clothing is really simple and comfortable.
TMS: Your character is the victim of an abusive husband, and has to be extremely protective of your sons, so mentally it seems like the movie would be pretty exhausting. Was that a difficult mental state to get into and stay in while filming?
Sossamon: It was hard for me to understand why she had stayed with an abusive person for so long. That was where I had to do the most work. But being a mother myself, it wasn’t hard to get in the survival mode she is in, trying to protect her children. That was my ticket in terms of playing this role.
TMS: What was it like acting with kids on a movie like this, where their characters witness and experience most of the horror?
Sossamon: Well, they were protected on set always. The horror they are going through primarily happens in post-production, and with kids in horror films, it is usually about how they look on screen. The make-up you put on them and look they give to the screen, and just the kids you cast. So when we were working with them on those scenes, the direction was always really, really light. The director would be like “Dylan, be really scared now,” but always in a fun way, stressing that it was all pretend. So it was more the adults who were responsible for the atmosphere of the movie. The director and James and I were responsible for keeping up the tension and anxiety. So the boys were always having fun, and they are amazing actors. Because you are right, they are dealing with most of the horror, but they have such expressive faces.
TMS: It’s funny that you mention you and James feeling responsible for the film’s sense of anxiety, because you have a lot of scenes together which actually play very light and sweet, which almost feel out of place in this kind of movie. How did you feel about those romantic, flirtatious scenes?
Sossamon: Those were some of my favorite moments in the movie, because I was happy for Courtney to get a few moments of sweetness with a man. And to be with a man who was sweet and nervous and a gentleman, who wanted to protect not just her, but her children. Clearly she has a certain type, and in the past, she wouldn’t have been attracted to a person like that, but I thought those scenes were sweet, and even if they seem out of place, they are nice and I like that they were included.
TMS: You’ve done a lot of horror films over the years. Are you a fan of these films as a viewer?
Sossamon: No. These roles just come to me. But as a viewer, I don’t like watching horror. I get scared to easily. I like different types of movies. I like a period films and musicals and romantic dramas and dark comedy. Horror might actually be my least favorite genre to watch.
TMS: Did you watch the first film as preparation?
Sossamon: I watched a good bit of the film, to see the tone of the film, but once it got really dark, I had to turn it off. But that is because it’s effective at being scary, as is this one. And I’m certainly proud of my work in this film and take horror seriously as a piece of art. Just because I don’t like watching horror films, doesn’t mean I dislike making them. I take the characters going through something seriously, and will always love that part of the work. I just can’t go into theaters showing them.
Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.
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