‘Abigail’ Star Melissa Barrera On Love From The Horror Community And Her Iconic Wolf Cut

Melissa Barrera won the hearts of horror fans when she starred as Sam Carpenter in Radio Silence’s Scream 5. Coming to a well-known (and very white) franchise as a young woman of color is no easy task but Barrera tackled it with grace. Between Scream controversy and speaking out for the people of Palestine, she’s been in the news and labeled as outspoken. But even in the face of controversy, Barrera keeps coming out on top, especially with her new role in Radio Silence’s latest film, Abigail.

In Abigail, Barrera plays Joey, a member of a team of talented criminals who kidnap a young girl for $50 million. But when the girl’s sanguine condition comes to light, the team scrambles to escape. Leading the charge is the serious and determined Joey, an anchor in the film’s chaotic storm.

We previously spoke with Barrera and her co-star Alisha Weir about the bloody good time, discussing their bond on set and dancing in blood.

Most recently, in honor of Abigail coming to digital, we spoke with the star about changing her look for Abigail, her chaotic and amazing cast, and muppets. Plus we discuss how much blood is actually too much blood.

Dread Central: What draws you to work with Radio Silence? Obviously you’ve worked them on the Scream movies and now, Abigail, so what is it about those guys that keeps you coming back?

Melissa Barrera: I mean, they’re great people. I just love them. They’re the best people to be hanging out with. Obviously they’re very talented at what they do and they make working so much fun, but I just love them as human beings.

I remember growing up watching Adam Sandler movies and how he always put his friends in there and I was like, that must be amazing to just work with your friends and make movies with your friends. That’s what I want. And I feel like I’ve been doing that. I kind of put that out in the universe and now I get to do that and I’m so grateful that I get to work with them. We get to have fun and make good movies that we’re all very proud of.

DC: That’s so nice. I feel like as a creative, as a filmmaker, as an actor, it’s the dream to make things that are just fun. They’re good times for you and you make friends along the way, especially with this set. It seemed like everyone was just friends.

MB: Yeah. There’s something about Matt and Tyler, they just pick amazing people to work with. That’s how they cast their movies. They’re like, who do I want to hang out with for three months? We know all the people that we’re going to see are talented. They’ve done their research as directors. They’re like, I know their work. I know that they can do it, but who’s going to be the right mix of people so that we actually have fun? And I think that that’s a brilliant way to do it. So we always end up becoming family.

I don’t live in LA, but Dan just had the premiere for Godzilla Vs. Kong and now Kevin had the premiere for Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes. And they’re always like, “I got tickets for you guys.” And everybody goes. It’s that kind of building a supportive circle in the industry that’s so important because it’s hard.

It’s hard and it’s hard to keep those friendships after a movie ends. Everybody’s like, I love you, let’s keep hanging out. Let’s be friends. And then you go on your next job in fucking Australia and the other person is in Vancouver and then the other person is in Chile. You never see each other again. It’s really hard. So there’s something about these specific groups of people, Scream 5 and 6 and now Abigail, that have all been with Matt and Tyler that we genuinely, whenever we can, we see each other.

DC: That’s lovely. That’s just so nice to know. Talking about the cast, your character, I love her. I want her haircut. And I hope you’ve seen how many people are now online being like, I need the Joey.

MB: Oh really? Oh, that makes me so happy. That was actually a huge conversation with Matt and Tyler. For Scream it was kind of boring. It was kind of like my hair. I’ve always wanted to try different looks for movies and no one ever wants me to. They’re always like, no, no, no, we like that. So I told Matt and Tyler I need a different look. This needs to be something different. I also was like, who the fuck is Joey? From the moment they see her first frame, I need people to be like, oh, okay. So there needs to be a look change.

Linda Gannon, who was our incredible hair supervisor and designer, is a genius with the scissors. We had FaceTimed about ideas and we had kind of thought that a wolf cut would be good. I already had shorter hair because of Your Monster. I had cut my hair and so I had bangs, but it was very sweet and soft. And so she was like, “I want to make it rough and more tough.” And I was scared of the wolf cut. I’m not going to lie. But Linda was like, “Trust me.”

So I got to Ireland and the first day I went in, we immediately cut my hair. No testing, no wig, no nothing. She was like, “Okay, let’s do it.” And I went over to [Radio Silence] and they were like, oh my God. They just couldn’t believe that I had just let her cut my hair. I feel like actors really, they don’t do that. They do a wig first to see if it’ll look good. And I just kind of went for it. I’m so glad I did it because it really did help me a lot to understand who Joey was and get into that character. So I’m happy that people like it.

DC: Your attitude in Abigail is so measured. It feels like you’re in a movie with a bunch of Muppets. And I mean that in a good way.

MB: [Laughs] I’m dead because no one has said that before, but it’s so accurate. And that’s what I’ve been saying. That’s how I felt the entire time while we were shooting it. I was like, “Matt, I feel weird because this is so serious to Joey.” Everything is a big deal. This is serious very life or death. She’s either going to get her son back or not. She’s either going to get her life back or not. And everyone else is insane, what’s happening?

I did not expect that everybody was insane because they chose insanity when they woke up and came to set. And I was so confused, but also having so much fun. I did not expect any of them to do what they were doing. But it’s brilliant.

DC: You’re literally Joey both on camera and off camera. You’re just like, hello, I don’t know what’s going on, but chaos reigns and I’m just here for the ride.

MB: Seriously. And I was like, Matt, “Am I supposed to be doing that? What’s going on?” Because I was like, what movie are we making? And Matt was like, “Melissa, you keep doing what you’re doing. As long as you are grounded and the emotional core of this movie, you’re giving permission to everyone to do crazy things. But you’ve got to keep us grounded.” So I was like, okay, alright.

DC: What a wild marching order to get. Especially with Kathryn Newton saying she got the garlic and Dan Stevens yelling “It’s fucking onions.” Just ridiculous line delivery. It’s so funny.

MB: My favorite moment of Kathryn’s is when she just killed Kevin and she’s a vampire. She calls and Dan and I run in. She’s there, going “Oh no, he got her, he’s dead” all sing-songy. I was dying. There were so many moments where I ruined takes because I just couldn’t keep it together because of all the craziness that was going on around me.

DC: Some of the lines, I don’t know how you kept it, how anyone kept it together. Like I said, you’re the human amongst a bunch of Muppets just trying to corral them all.

MB: I’m going to text everyone in the chat and tell them this because I love it.

DC: Please do. So you’ve obviously made a space for yourself in horror, particularly as a Scream Queen, as a final girl. I know that people have feelings about the term Scream Queen, but what has it been like to become that kind of figure in horror for so many people, especially as a woman of color coming into this space?

MB: It was hard for me to understand the meaning of it just from social media because I was like, I don’t know. Who are the people saying that? And is anybody even saying that? What’s going on? I don’t even know if that’s even real.

And it wasn’t until I started doing conventions this year. I’ve done two conventions, and so I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the fans. It’s been amazing to in reality, see the reach and see and talk to fans who then say how much my characters mean to them. It’s been really beautiful. So I am honored to be considered by some as that and join the ranks of all these iconic actresses that came before me. So it’s nice. It feels nice and I love horror and I’m going to keep doing horror.

DC: Just get used to keep getting soaked head to toe in blood.

MB: Well, I think in my contract, I just have to add that I have to end up covered in blood in the last frame.

At the end of Abigail they just kept layering blood on to make it look wet. They just kept adding more and more and more. Matt and Tyler are always saying more. It is rare that they’re like, “No, that’s okay.” They’re always more spritz, more sweat, more blood. And so it got to the point where I’m leaving the house and I turned to Abigail where she’s like, you just have to show up. That beautiful moment at the end where it was just eyeballs and teeth, you can’t see anything.

But it had gotten to be so much blood on my face that they were like, “We can’t even see your features.” Someone came in and wiped some off because Matt and Tyler were like, all right, I think we reached the limit. It was a lot. But I love it. I love the look.

Abigail is available now on digital.



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