And so we come to the final part of our coverage from the set of The Descent 2 with an exclusive interview with newcomer Krysten Cummings, who plays the role of Rios in Jon Harris’s forthcoming sequel. Best known as a musician and stage actor – Cummings played Mimi in productions of Rent in London, Toronto and on Broadway – The Descent 2 is her first major feature film role.
A reporter’s dream, Cummings was brimming with enthusiasm on a variety of topics as we snuck outside for a sneaky cigarette during the afternoon’s filming.
Phil Newton: Hi Krysten, so my first question for you is how did you come to be involved in the film?
Krysten Cummings: The casting director, she’s known me for quite a long time. I haven’t really been doing a lot of acting but she and I did climbing together and that type of thing, and she saw the breakdown and thought I know who could kick this part really great. She wondered if I was still living in London and then hunted me down and found me. I went in initially thinking they’re not really going to be interested in me – because I’m a singer most of the time – and I didn’t come in looking all perfect and super clean and lovely and Hollywood, I said I’ll just go and see what happens. And I read the part and I thought it was awesome and I love the first film immensely…
PN: I was going to ask if you’d seen the first film?
KC: Oh my God yes! I mean I love horror films, I looooove horror films in a really sick scary way almost as much as I love my Playstation 3 (laughs) – that was my present to myself on this job, a Playstation 3 – so now all my housemates love me, we’ve been driving around killing people in Grand Theft Auto … anyway, forget that, I can’t remember what the question was? Oh yeah, I saw the first one and I was a huge fan and I was really happy about the fact that it was actually women that were doing something pretty cool and it was (thinks)…
PN: Quite different?
KC: Yes, and I was just surprised that it hadn’t been done before. And it scared the shit out of me which was great, it was one of the first films in a long time that scared me when it first came out and even watching it again on DVD – maybe I shouldn’t say this if it’s going to be in print – my boyfriend didn’t really like it because he kept getting up to do the washing up and make tea because he was like, it’s just freaking me out with all the claustrophobia.
DC: Yes, I watched it again last night and that scene where Sarah gets trapped…
KC: It’s really awesome, it’s brilliant! And I knew about Neil (Marshall) from before, from Dog Soldiers and then recently, just before I got this, I started to hear about Doomsday … So I did my research and I looked up who Natalie (Mendoza) was and strangely enough Natalie and I have a few friends in common! Shauna (Macdonald) and I didn’t but as soon as we met each other it was like a really old friend that I hadn’t seen in ages and we just kind of slotted in together.
PN: How’s it been working with the two of them bearing in mind they both did the first one?
KC: It’s a lot to live up to! I really cacked myself the first time we met. They’re both super-fit anyway in real life (whispers) – she says with a cigarette in her mouth – I used to be super-fit but I only had like three days before I knew I was doing this film, well maybe five, but it was a weekend and I had to come in properly to start getting my costume fitted. Another thing with the girls is that everyone is much bigger than I am and I was a bit kind of, hey man I might be small but I’m kinda scrappy… they’re quite tall compared to me anyway.
PN: I think on the first one they had like a boot camp where they went off together?
KC: Yes, well that’s what I was hoping for. I’ve done quite a lot of climbing, I’m quite fit as I was a dancer and I’ve had to do a bit of fighting here and there in real life (laughs). No I’m just kidding, in theatre and that kind of thing, I’m usually always playing the hard-nuts.
PN: So you’ve not had to do too much preparation for this?
KC: No, not too much although I would have liked to have done a little bit of training as in not eating that third Krispy Kreme doughnut (laughs). It was really nerve-wracking especially when Natalie arrived. The first time we didn’t really get to do anything together on set but in the last week or so she’s really come on and she actually almost knocked out Shauna for real. Shauna took a punch in one of the takes and it was quite cool. So they’re both really tough.
PN: Can you tell us a bit about the character that you play?
KC:I’m Deputy Jenna Rios and I’m a city cop, not so much on the tough side, she’s more working with battered women and doing more counselling. She has a young daughter and wants to have a better life so she moves to Chattooga County to have a better time, open spaces and clean air and good schools, all that kind of thing. I think really she’s having the shittiest day of her life ever, it’s that feeling of man, I just want to go home and hang out with my kid and here I am doing this.
PN: I believe that Rios bonds quite well with Sarah?
KC: Yeah, in the beginning when we first see Sarah she is extraordinarily maternal towards her and because of Rios’s history of dealing with women who are possibly battered or damaged or whatever she’s really approaching it more that way. I think she’s very much in the dark about what has happened to Sarah for real and she’s applying all logical knowledge to the situation and it takes a while, once they get into the throes of the insanity, where they are and what’s going on and why they are down there, for her to get hyped up and get alert.
PN: Have you had a lot of action scenes to do?
<>KC: I’ve spent a lot of time representing the damsel in distress I think, which is hard. But, you know … Rios gets her freak on. Juno’s gone feral and Sarah’s a tough-ass but she’s like a silent but deadly type. I’m having to find where it is, I’m like the humanity within this desolate world.
PN: So what sort of challenges have there been in store for your character? I know in the first film there were lakes of blood…
KC: Well, I’ve been in a pit of shit which has been fun.
PN: I saw a clip of that today.
KC: Did you? Oh my God, help me please!
PN: Was it as uncomfortable as it looked?
KC: It was quite warm and it’s really fun for about half an hour and then after that it starts to get to you a little bit. And the stuff got everywhere, I mean we were pretty well kitted out but it still got everywhere you could possibly imagine, and it was three days of it almost. And unfortunately Rios does suffer from claustrophobia which doesn’t really bode well for tunnels and darkness so she’s had a little bit of hyperventilation here and there.
PN: Can you say a little about the scene you’ve been shooting today without giving too much away?
KC: Without giving too much away? Well, there’s bound to be death in this film and (pauses) I don’t know how to say without giving too much away…
PN: Okay, so how about the crawlers, did you actually get to meet them before you did a scene together or did they purposefully keep them away from you?
KC: I met them in civvies, well I met one, and then I asked because I’d spoken to Neil about it and I’d spoken to Shauna about it – I mean I’ve met most of the other girls as well – and I knew that they hadn’t seen them before their scenes so I said very specifically to everyone that I do not under any circumstances want to see a crawler until the day, and I’m telling you man, I nearly shit myself because they’re just horrible (shivers). I mean they’re amazingly fit men, but they’re not men, not like that. Yeah, they’re pretty cool; it’s amazing what they can do.
PN: And how’s it been working with Gavan (O’Herlihy) who plays your superior in the film?
KC: He’s a legend, he’s a fucking legend … I’m sorry, am I allowed to say that? He’s a God amongst men, I’m honoured, truly, and privileged, I used to have a tragic crush on him … but we try not to tell him that too much! No, he’s amazing, he’s brilliant and I’ve personally learned so much from everybody that’s been in the film. I don’t know if you’ve seen any other clips with any of our other characters yet?
PN: No, not yet.
KC: (Excitedly) Ooh, this is gonna be fun! Everyone has been brilliant, the crew, the director Jon – he’s going to have a huge future, seriously. I mean it’s amazing to shoot with a director who’s got editor’s eyes and senses… It’s him sitting all these years in an editing suite thinking God, if they’d only just done this then I could make it like that, so it should be exciting.
PN: I’m also hearing whispers that this could become a trilogy?
KC: It might be far too early to say but there are vicious rumours.
PN: Are you keeping your fingers crossed?
KC: I sure am, I really am. I can’t even fathom where it could go but it has possibilities, definitely, there have been jokes about it.
PN: Is this something you’d like to do more of now; has this film really given you the acting bug?
KC: Yes definitely, I mean I’ve done a lot of acting in the past but I haven’t really done a film and most of the films I’ve been up for have been horrors
PN: That’s something you’re really into, yes?
KC: Yeah, I’m a huge fan of horror and sci-fi so I don’t know if I’d want to stereotype myself into being like a ‘Scream Queen’ but I guess I wouldn’t mind if that’s what it’s going to be.
PN: So what are your favourite horror films or is that too difficult to say?
KC: Ooh I mean, that depends if we’re talking sci-fi horror or like psychological horror (thinks)…
PN: It’s hard isn’t it? I had the same conversation earlier with James (Watkins)…
KC: Oh, James the guy who wrote this? Well, one of my favourite films is actually My Little Eye – which he also co-wrote – which is so obscure but I loved that film and there’s so many people who you go My Little Eye, you know, and they don’t know what you’re talking about.
PN: It’s really intense towards the end isn’t it?
KC: My favourite bit though is when they’re on the couch (shouting) it’s so freaky, it’s so brilliant! That’s recent … Erm, I really liked the original Carrie and that’s sometimes who Shauna reminds me of a little bit, I mean obviously there are loads of comparisons. There’s so many, it’s a really tough question. Can I make you a list and get them to send it to you, like my Top 20 of all time? It’s like asking for my favourite tunes, I just don’t know. I had a huge argument one night with a bunch of mates where we had to come up with what was the best tune ever and we came up with Silent Night and it’s like that’s not the best tune but that’s all we could basically agree on! The Descent is still one of my favourites, definitely in my top five and not just because I’m working here, just because I love it. I think it’s fucking awesome.
PN: The claustrophobia element gets me every time I watch it, is that something that terrifies you?
KC: Me personally? No, but spending that amount of time… I mean, it’s no joke, it’s not like we’re in a gigantic space and we’re pretending when we are in a teeny-tiny space. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the sets?
PN: Yes, I saw one of the passages earlier and it was really tight.
KC: And I spent some time in there, I spent about two and a half hours in there, and after a while you really do start to get into a bit of a panic.
PN: What does scare you?
KC: Erm … spiders would bother me. You know what it is? It’s not really big spiders, it’s the teeny-tiny ones, they’re the ones that really bother me because you can’t tell. I always think Black Widow in the back of my mind all of the time. Snakes don’t bother me; I’m okay with them. Underwater is a little bit scary.
PN: Ah yes, have you had your underwater scenes yet or are they coming up?
KC: Yes, they’re coming up soon although since I’ve got past the shit pits I don’t think it’s really going to be a problem now. And we’ve had some special guest stars, as in small furry types which are hmmmmm…
KC: Mmmm, they’re alright actually. They’re really cute but then when they’re right in your face they really weren’t, not so nice (laughs). I’m not really scared of heights either which we’ve been dealing with today but I am scared of heights when there’s somebody behind me that I’m not sure of, who could, by accident, knock me over because I’m small. I’m giant on the screen but I’m teeny-tiny in real life.
Thanks to Krysten for taking the time to chat with us and being so energetic about the sequel! Be sure to hit our “>Descent 2 database to check out the rest of our interviews with its cast & crew, as well as our extensive set report!
The Descent 2 will be released in 2009; keep it on Dread Central for all the updates!