Exclusive Interview: Rochelle Aytes Talks Voyuristic Violence in THE PURGE Season 2
We’re midway through The Purge Season 2 on USA, with new episodes dropping on Tuesdays through December. If you haven’t gotten in on the action yet, take my word for it: You’re missing out! If you want to know a bit about what makes The Purge Season 2 so exceptional, follow the link below.
Related Article: Top 5 Reasons to Get Excited About THE PURGE Season 2!
During a set visit last September, I had the privilege of interviewing series star Rochelle Aytes. Horror fans probably remember her as Maria in Michael Dougherty’s elite horror anthology, Trick ‘r Treat. On The Purge, she plays Michelle Moore, a woman whose complex marital status has potentially deadly consequences come Purge Night. Give our exclusive interview a spin below the show’s trailer and synopsis.
Based on the hit movie franchise, The Purge revolves around a 12-hour period when all crime, including murder, is legal. Season 2 explores how a single Purge night affects the lives of four interconnected characters over the course of the ensuing year, all inevitably leading up to the next Purge. Hailing from Blumhouse Television and UCP, this season of the anthology series opens on Purge night but dives deeper than ever before into what the Purge world looks like the other 364 days of the year.
Dread Central: For some of our viewers who might be seeing you on The Purge for the first time, can you just tell us a little bit about how you got into acting and how it felt to get this role on The Purge Season 2?
Rochelle Aytes: How did I get into acting? Well, I used to be a professional dancer. I grew up in New York, and I had a quick career in dance. But I did a Broadway show where I had to act, sing, and dance and I got the bug. I left the tour and I started studying acting in New York to even see if I could do it; to see if I would even like it. And within two years of really focusing and solid studying I got a film called White Chicks. It was amazing, and I’ve been acting ever since. That was like 16, 17 years ago. And since then I’ve been on the grind. I’ve worked consistently. Then I got this audition for The Purge in May. I’d seen one of the many Purge movies so I knew what it was about, I knew it was intense and I was excited I got the part.
DC: I’ve been watching The Purge Season 2 and I’m loving it! Without getting into specifics, can you talk about your character’s story arc throughout the season; how things start isn’t how things end, right?
RA: Michelle is married to Marcus [played by Derek Luke] fora solid amount of time. They’ve got a really comfortable relationship; everything seems to be great between them. But then someone attempts to “Purge” him and it really changes our life because we’re trying to find out who did it. It then opens up a can of worms of “Who are these people?” and “What has their relationship really been like?” And we get to see it’s not the perfect life viewers thought it was. He’s not there as much; he’s not focused on her and some secrets are revealed about her past; specifically, she had an affair. So she’s looking guilty; it’s going up and down but towards the end they become united. He doesn’t trust her and she’s feeling guilty but then they become united as one and it seems like these two are more in love with each other than they’ve ever been, and this kind of tragedy brings them together and changes her I think a great deal. She becomes a person who is so brave and strong she’s willing to lay her life on the line to prove to her husband that she is there for him and their family.
DC: You said you’ve only seen one of the Purge movies. Does that mean you’re not a huge horror fan?
RA: Honestly, I’m a huge horror fan, mostly from the eighties and nineties.
DC: Can you tell me some of your favorites from the eighties and nineties growing up?
RA: Every Friday the 13th. I’ve seen every Nightmare on Elm Street, every Halloween. I saw The Exorcist when I was 8, too young to watch it. I fell asleep and the bed jumped and I was like, “Oh my God!” My mother let me watch all of those horror movies.
DC: How does acting in horror differ from acting in other films? What’s it like on set or how it makes you feel?
RA: Acting in horror is different, depending on which side of the horror you’re on; whether you’re the murderer or murderee. [Laughs] There could be a lot of screaming, and a lot of acting up terror, which is exhausting emotionally, as opposed to something else that could be emotional but it’s just different. I think it’s just more physically exhausting to do horror.
DC: Now let’s imagine we live in a world where Purge Night actually happens once a year. Do you think there’s any truth to the concept that it would actually make society more peaceful because we’d get it out of our system, or is it just a pathway to complete other chaos?
RA: I think it’s so great, the way they’re doing this season. They’re showing you that The Purge, this society, this government, saying that it helps… But you get to see it through the eyes of a regular person, and it doesn’t work. It really makes you go crazy. I think it desensitizes you from things that are just horrific and terrible, it takes away from all empathy. So no, absolutely not; I don’t think it would work in our society.
DC: Do you think anything that’s happening in Season 2 is a direct reflection of our current political state in America? I mean. I heard the words “fake news” in the scene that was just shot. Are there any more parallels that illustrate where we are today?
RA: You know, what’s interesting is this Purge world that shows them making money off of it. You can take Purge vacations; they’re selling consumer products and masks. It’s becoming a money market and I think that’s very similar to our world. I don’t know, maybe our social media: How powerful it is, how it’s just wrapped up in recording and watching people fight an then publicizing it for more likes and tweets, when you should have put it down and helped. Like, where’s the empathy?
DC: That’s really interesting. I never even thought about the whole idea of the voyeuristic aspect of it, as opposed to the good Samaritan aspect of it. So, what has been your biggest, most satisfying moment so far and what has been your biggest challenge so far on The Purge?
RA: This is probably going to be weird but I’d say the most satisfying thing is feeling tough and picking up that gun in this episode where we’re ready to throw down, we’ve got each other’s back. Marcus’s ex-wife and husband come to the house and I hadn’t worked with them yet, and we’d just become a family. And they’re like, “We’ve got your back”, and we’ve got those guns and we’re ready to protect each other. It’s so brave. For me, Rochelle, it’s fun because that’s not me in real life. I’m not picking up a gun but I will pretend. So that was fun. The most challenging thing for me in this whole season was shooting the scene where I had to confess that I had the affair. As an actor it was hard for me to do it. I don’t know, it’s just like, going to that place, remembering that I’ve ever cheated, what was that like. It was a challenging scene as an actress to portray.
Are you a fan of The Purge franchise and/or The Purge Season 2? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.