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Interview: Emily Swallow of The Mandalorian and Supernatural Talks Her New Thriller The Haunting of the Mary Celeste

Fans of genre television know Emily Swallow. If you’re a fan of Supernatural you now her as God’s Sister, The Darkness aka Amara, who just recently reappeared. And if you, like everyone else on the planet, appreciate and love The Mandalorian, you know her voice, if not her face as she’s the woman behind the enigmatic Armorer.

Now, Swallow is taking on a role that’s a bit more down to earth, or water at least, as Rachel, the woman obsessed with solving one of the most infamous maritime disappearances in history, in the soon-to-be-released thriller, The Haunting of the Mary Celeste. Rachel’s theory is that the Mary Celeste disappeared into a dimensional rift, and so she hires a boat to find it. Things of course go wrong as the boat is damaged and the crew begins disappearing one by one. The cast also includes Shaft‘s Richard Roundtree. Check out the very spooky trailer right here:

Not only does this scary premise and trailer have us excited for the film’s VOD release on October 23, but we’re also thrilled that the director is a woman, Shana Betz, as well as the cinematographer, Raquel Fernandez Nunes. We talked with Emily about the film, as well as her recent returns to Supernatural, even about having an action figure from a certain Disney+ series that’s returning soon.

The Mary Sue: First it was great to see you back on Supernatural last week!

Swallow: It was very fun to be back and fun. I mean, it’s been fun this season to see Amara get a little more creative with her wardrobe.

Yeah. You got to have like a bit more fabric.

Yes. When I got that, that first season, it was so funny to realize how not well-suited that dress was for anything action-oriented. Cause you know, I tried it on in the fitting and it’s just very elegant and I’m just kind of moving. And then when you have to like smite people and be on the ground and have the fan blowing on you all the time, you have to be careful about things staying in.

You kind of got to go to the exact opposite of the spectrum for that with The Mandalorian. It’s like just everything, everything is covered. I love just the look of that character, even though I don’t know how practical it feels to have all that armor and fur when you’re near fire all the time, but it looks awesome.

That’s not the smartest choice for her, but you know, she’s got a little bit of fashion flair too.

So, you’ve been God’s sister and you’ve been The Armorer, what’s it like do come down to a kind more down to earth role.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I am so grateful for the range of things that I’ve gotten to do. I don’t know if I’d say it was a fun character to settle into for a while cause she’s pretty tormented, but it was very satisfying. I appreciated that. Oh. But even with Amara, I think that like ultimately what, what has made me feel like she’s accessible to me is all the wonderful human stuff that the writers have given her, which I think, I think that’s one of the reasons Supernatural works so well, is that even these characters who were supposed to be otherworldly or from, you know, other dimensions or whatever, like they all are very relatable on a human level.

So what drew you to the role of Rachel in The Haunting of the Mary Celeste?

I mean, knowing from the startup that this was an actual unsolved mystery, the disappearance of this ship, that was really just fun to me. But then love that its a thriller, but it’s the reason we get into this situation is because of this woman’s obsession with trying to find what she thinks is the truth. This obsession that drives her to wind up losing her daughter to wind up losing, you know, pretty much everybody that she’s close to.

But she is just so consumed with wanting to solve this, with wanting to have closure on it that she kind of gets blinders on and, and can’t see all the, all the dangers. I think she’s also just consumed with so much guilt from losing her daughter in the first place that she wants to feel like the work has is justified somehow, you know, if she can prove that she was right and maybe the collateral damage of losing her daughter somehow gets balanced out.

She’s just so deep into this, this obsession that I think she can’t see anything else. And that was, that was appealing to me. Cause I mean, I love a good scary movie, but they come in all shapes and sizes and as an actor, it was more appealing to have sort of an emotional connection to this one. And Shana [Betz] played such a huge part in that and sort of drawing that out and finding the thread  what’s going on in Rachel’s mind to work on with her.

How, how often do you get to work with female directors? It’s still gotta be kind of special?

Not very often. Yeah. And it’s, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with a lot of great guys who are directors … definitely on this and because of, because of just who Shana is, I felt like I had such trust in her and I so appreciated the vision that she had for the film and, and the ideas that she had about the representation of what this, you know, this theory that we’re talking about, like what would that look like? What would it feel like? I really liked sort of the imagery that we get to see as, like, the physical representation of that.

I felt like Rachel’s story was safe with her. Cause I felt like she was paying attention even in the midst of like, trying to get all these special effects to work out and trying to create this atmosphere like she was very focused on who Rachel is. And she helped me sort of shape that through the film. So it was, I would work there again in a heartbeat. She’s really wonderful.

Were there any particular challenges to shooting this? Cause most of it is set on a boat. How often were you on a real boat or how much of it was soundstage? And it just sounds like it’s gotta be pretty difficult.

It was all on a real boat!  It’s crazy. And it’s the boat looks as sinkable, as I think it actually is. At the end of the shoot, we were like, okay, how long till the thing actually just goes to the bottom. Um, but um, our DP, a woman named, uh, Raquel Nunes, she is just a superhero man. She would cram herself in the corners to get me angle. Like she has no ego at all when it comes to getting a shot. So we did have to get kind of creative about how some of the shots were going to happen. Cause we couldn’t just like take out a wall to make room.

But that was also really helpful, I think for us and feeling the atmosphere, because I think like being out on the open sea on a teeny little boat, like that would get kind of claustrophobic and we definitely felt that, so that was definitely a component of it. And then we were shooting a lot, all of it, we shot up near Sausalito and kind of in the Bay area and we spent a lot of time out in the San Francisco Bay, like in the middle of the night. So there was plenty of actual atmosphere that, that felt scary. And we were able to have moments where we sort of felt the vastness of the ocean and felt a little worried and, and that helped all of us as actors. So it worked out, I guess.

How long were you guys filming on the water?

I think we were up in Sausalito for about a month. There was like one week where we spent, I think we were shooting all overnight, like out in the Bay. And then there were plenty of days where the boat was just docked in a slip and it had like a tent over it and they were pumping in all of the smoke and stuff.

It sounds like the boat itself is a character in the film.

It felt like it to us cause we were constantly having to deal with issues on it … [The characters] are willing to go out and this janky old thing that looks like it’s gonna fall apart. So I feel like there’s sort of constant dangers, like will the thing just sink, it doesn’t feel like a very safe place to be in the big open sea. So it definitely felt like us, there were a lot of issues that we had to deal with that boat.

So what was it like working with this cast, especially Richard Roundtree, because like that’s a pretty legendary name you’ve got in there?

He is wonderful. I was definitely a little intimidated when I found out I was going to be working with him and he just immediately put everyone at ease and he’s such a, such a team player. I mean, a film like this, where the script itself is sort of bare bones. You don’t get a lot of details about the people themselves. And we had to fill all of that in. So there was a lot of, kind of like rehearsal that we did while we were all up there together before we would shoot scenes and some improvisation and Richard was right there, you know, he did not have any ego about it.

And he was, I mean, Shaft, like if he had been like, “you guys deal with this, call me when you’re ready,” I would have been like, “okay, yeah, cool.” But he was not that way at all. And he’s, he’s just so super sweet and thoughtful man. That was one of the biggest rewards for me of doing it was just getting to spend time with them and hear his stories and talk about the state of the world and everything that then he’s a very thoughtful, um, and gracious man. So I have nothing but good things to say about him.

I know, I can’t get ant spoilers on the finale of Supernatural and I can’t ask you like any details about The Mandalorian, but what is it like to have an action figure and an emoji? It must be so cool. You got an emoji!

It’s a dream come true. It’s so much fun. I mean, I just feel like everything having to do with The Mandalorian has just been like, it’s like Christmas all the time. I love Star Wars and I have all my life and I find that the fans that I get to connect to all just have … there’s just such joy around Star Wars. Like it’s an overwhelmingly positive and it spans generations.

And so it’s just, it’s fun. So much fun to get to meet, you know, when I do panels and stuff to get to meet like some of the actors that I have been, we have to as part of this franchise for so many years. But the action figures, definitely, like I knew, I knew when I was shooting season one, um, and 2018, I knew like they took scans of me for a potential action figure. And so basically since then, I’ve been like, is it going to happen? Are we going to see the armor? So I was very excited when it actually just happened.

 

The Haunting of the Mary Celeste premieres on-demand and on digital on October 23.

(images: Featured Artists Productions)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.