Ryan Rotten interviews Emily Perkins
Emily Perkins is beyond being seen and referred to as “that girl from IT.” She was just a young ‘un playing Beverly Marsh in the 1990 Stephen King mini-series then; the only girl amongst a clan of small town boys who find themselves up against, er, a giant kid-eating spider who often takes the guise of a clown.
Ten years later, following some more television work including a stint in a fifth season X-Files episode (All Souls), Perkins’ performance as Brigitte in John Fawcett’s werewolf romp, Ginger Snaps, demanded our attention. In the opening minutes of the film she may have just been a recognizable face (that girl from IT), but as its unpredictable final reel rolled out, Perkins had won the disembodied hearts of genre fans everywhere. Her Snaps co-star, Katharine Isabelle, may have been the one to exude the physical sex appeal, yet it was Perkins’ deadpan wit and shy demeanor that peaked our curiosity.
Now this 26-year-old Canada native is up to more werewolf antics.
She spent the first half of 2003 revisiting her Brigitte role for a Snaps sequel and prequel…back-to-back, no less. The first production to see the light of the projector, Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed (directed by Brett Sullivan), intends to prey on Canadian audiences January 30th through a 100-screen theatrical run. You can read the Corner’s review of the flick here.
Perkins welcomed a phone interview from your devoted Rotten one to discuss the latest Snaps chapter…
Ryan Rotten: What were your initial thoughts about doing a Ginger Snaps sequel?
Emily Perkins: I was really excited about it. Obviously the first one left the door open for there to be a sequel. The first script I saw for “Unleashed” was nowhere near being finished, so, I couldn’t judge it too much. In the last two weeks before we started shooting the script really changed a lot. But, I love the new character of Ghost and I love the idea of Brigitte being stuck in this rehab center. I thought that was hilarious, there’s a lot of potential for comedy there.
Ryan Rotten: I’ve seen the original far too many times to be considered a healthy thing so I know it pretty well. Upon seeing this new installment I was taken aback by it’s really dark tone which is vastly different than the first.
Emily Perkins: It is, it’s a lot darker than the first one. I think that’s because Brigitte doesn’t take to the transformation, with Ginger she has fun with it, she enjoys it. That brings a little lightness to the material. But with this one…Brigitte’s fighting it the whole way. It’s intensely dark.
Ryan Rotten: You’re character does take a different arc this time around, but was it easy for you to slip back into that skin again?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I think it flowed naturally. That’s the way I would imagine Brigitte experiencing the transformation. I can’t really see her character enjoying it or anything so it made sense to me. It’s also pretty similar to the way that I experienced adolescence, like, I was not into it. For me it was very psychologically horrifying. So something deep within my psyche resonated with the script, that whole darkness and unwillingness of it.
Ryan Rotten: You and co-star Katharine Isabelle spent a lot of screentime together in the original Snaps and the bond between the sisters was incredibly tight. Even though Katharine has a few small scenes with you here, did you ever feel like a part of you, or a part of your character, was missing?
Emily Perkins: I definitely did, but I think that feeling was something that I tried to put into the character and performance because she is lonely and she really misses her sister. I just sort of felt nervous being in those scenes by myself without her being there, and I hope some of that comes through on screen.
Ryan Rotten: How would you describe Katharine’s part in Unleashed?
Emily Perkins: Ginger’s trying to get Brigitte to just surrender to the transformation, enjoy it. She’s really Brigitte’s dark side, I guess.
Ryan Rotten: The shooting schedule, I’ve been told, was arranged so the sequel and the prequel would be shot back to back. Were you prepared for that?
Emily Perkins: It was an economical decision which is understandable. It was grueling, I was pretty tired by the time we got done shooting the prequel. It was quite exhausting. I love the challenge though and because the character’s so dark it really works to be exhausted, just having to work late at night…
Ryan Rotten: With it being a tougher shoot and because there’s such a larger cast this time around I have to ask how the camaraderie on set?
Emily Perkins: You get a lot of commiserating happening on set with the crew and the cast. They’re all dragging themselves to work, but there’s still an element of enthusiasm because a lot of people saw the first one and liked it so they thought they were working on something really cool.
Ryan Rotten: Brett told me this was a whole new experience for him in regards to working on a feature film, how was it to work with him?
Emily Perkins: The great thing about him being a first-time director is that he’s so open. He just has a fresh viewpoint and is willing to consider everybody’s opinions and the best way to go about things. He also has a very clear vision and has a really good understanding of who the characters are and what the story’s about. So, he can take other people’s perspectives and mesh them into a really great vision.
Ryan Rotten: Did he and John Fawcett ever sit down with you at some point in pre-production and have a serious look at where Brigitte is going and how she was going to be portrayed this time?
Emily Perkins: We did. We did have those meetings. A lot of that was about the script, they were trying to get the script done while I was there. [Co-star Tatiana Maslany] had already come in and we were working out what was going on in the story. The four of us sat down and talked extensively about the characters. We just went through the whole script and discussed where they were at at this point.
Ryan Rotten: We agree that Unleashed is a little darker and nastier than the first flick, so was there any scene that made you uncomfortable to film in the shooting process?
Emily Perkins: Originally in the script there was a lot more sexual content that ended up not being in the final cut and I was pretty happy about that. I didn’t think it made sense in terms of the character and it was a stronger decision for her to not go the way of Ginger. It makes her seem a little more heroic that she resisted.
Ryan Rotten: The sexual tension is more subtextual in this film when you compare it to the first one which was more in your face.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it is both the internal and external construction of a teenage girl as a sexual object, but here Brigitte fights the internal side of it whereas Ginger accepts it. So it’s more of the horror of being pursued by the external factor.
Ryan Rotten: Which is the werewolf that chases Brigitte the whole film. But I have to ask, is the wolf the infected Jason McCardy character from the first film?
Emily Perkins: My feeling is that it’s not. I think it’s scarier if its not, I don’t think there’s just one werewolf out there at any one time. I think there’s lots of them out there.
Ryan Rotten: It all comes back to the fear of the unknown thing, you have no idea where this werewolf came from. Reinforcing the sexual theme, and without sounding like a dirty old man here or anything, you’ve got this masturbation scene which is pretty bold.
Emily Perkins: [laughs] I loved that scene. I don’t like gratuitous sex in films, generally. But I just thought it was hilarious, I didn’t have any problems with it at all.
Ryan Rotten: And it sounded like Brett kept it light on the set.
Emily Perkins: He definitely did. He had numbers he’d call out, like one to ten. He’d be like, “Now you’re at a two.” And everybody would start getting into it, then, “Now you’re at a five! Now your at a seven!” Everybody was laughing so hard.
Ryan Rotten: You go through a pretty gruesome transformation…
Emily Perkins: Yeah.
Ryan Rotten: There’s no sexy white streak in the hair for you like Ginger had.
Emily Perkins: That’s right, it’s not sexy.
Ryan Rotten: Unleashed gave you a chance to go under heavy make-up this time, can you talk about that a bit?
Emily Perkins: At one point it took, like, seven hours to put it all on. That’s a long time in the make-up chair. But the prosthetics guys were so fabulous, Howard Berger and Charles Porlier. Charles was mostly responsible for my make-up. They were such clowns, like my daily dose of vitamin C before going in, they were so funny. But, I love the way Brigitte is, like, ugly. She doesn’t turn out to be this beautiful sexpot. It reflects what’s going on for her internally. This isn’t something she wants to happen, she doesn’t enjoy it. Brigitte doesn’t enjoy having the sexual power teenage girls supposedly have, it’s a really horrifying scene for her. It helped me to get into character, to look in the mirror and see myself that way and have people on set visibly repulsed by me. Nobody would talk to me as much when I was in make-up!
Ryan Rotten: Well, you’ve got this jutting bucktooth sticking out, couldn’t it be a fang? No, it’s a perfectly square bucktooth.
Emily Perkins: I know!
Ryan Rotten: You suffer a lot of self-inflicted pain in this flick, cutting off the ear, stuff like that, did you get into that at all?
Emily Perkins: I just love that stuff. I just thoroughly enjoy it. The fake glass that makes blood appear, all that kind of stuff is just fascinating to me. I’m just really into it.
Ryan Rotten: Are you a horror gal, do you love the genre?
Emily Perkins: It’s hard for me to find a horror movie that actually scares me. Because to be really scared it has to have something, like, unconscious in your psyche that responds to what you’re seeing. I’m a very, sort of, political person and I’m very rational so I usually think, “Okay, well, that’s threatening the patriarchy, that’s why it’s considered horrific.” I mean, I’m rooting for the side of the monster, that’s why I’m not scared. It’s hard for me to find a horror movie that I could connect with.
Ryan Rotten: The prequel pits you and Katharine in the 1800s, are you playing ancestors of the Brigitte and Ginger characters?
Emily Perkins: It could be ancestors or a reincarnation sort of thing, it’s really just up to fans to decide. I think it’s funnier that way. Here’s Brigitte and Ginger, they’re back in the 1800s, in period costumes, you fill in the rest.
Ryan Rotten: One last question, inspired by something asked in the film by your co-star Eric Johnson: Do you ever smile?
Emily Perkins: [laughs]
Ryan Rotten: I’ll take that as a yes.
Emily Perkins: I smile all the time. When I’m on set I always smile, I’m a pretty happy person. It’s just when they call action…
Ryan Rotten: You have to start scowling.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I have to go away.
Ryan Rotten: Thanks for your time, Emily, it’s definitely been a pleasure.
Emily Perkins: Thank you, Ryan.
Many thanks to Virginia Kelly at V Kelly & Associates, Emily and her agent, as well as Robin Smith of Les Films Seville Pictures! All pictures courtesy of Seville, copyright 2003.
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