Enthrallingly portraying a powerful protagonist who isn’t afraid to go after what they want, regardless of the harrowing consequences they may face, can be a challenge for actors, particularly when the character is susceptible to vulnerabilities throughout an intense horror film. But acclaimed genre actress Danielle Harris once again proved her talent of effortlessly showing a determined victim’s strengths and will to survive in ‘See No Evil 2,’ which was helmed by acclaimed twin horror directors, Jen and Sylvia Soska. The sequel to the 2006 horror thriller, ‘See No Evil,’ which is one of the filmmakers’ latest directorial efforts, once again showcases their signature cinematic theme-when a compelling and dynamic female protagonist sets out to get what she wants, she bravely overcome any obstacles she may face, no matter who tries to stand in her way.
‘See No Evil 2,’ which is set later on the same night of the events that occurred in its predecessor, follows morgue attendant Amy (Danielle Harris), who is forced to cancel her birthday plans after the corpses of mass murder Jacob Goodnight’s (WWE wrestler Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs) victims are brought into the morgue. She instead celebrates her birthday with her colleagues, Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Holden (Michael Eklund), before the three begin contending with the aftermath of the murderer’s brutal rampage. Since Amy was forced to cancel her plans to instead go to work, her friends, including her overprotective brother, Will (Greyston Holt), and Tamara (Katharine Isabelle), show up at the city morgue hoping to surprise her.
But the shock is on Amy and all of her friends when the ruthless killer unexpectedly rises from his gurney in the sub-basement level of the hospital that houses the morgue. The group’s wild party quickly turns into a terrifying slay-fest as the sadistic mass-murderer resumes his savage rampage with hooks, surgical knives and power saws.
Harris generously took the time to talk about playing Amy in ‘See No Evil 2‘ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to play Amy in the horror sequel, as she’s not only a fan of the Soska twins’ previous films and their enthusiasm for the genre, but she also wanted to work with female directors in general, as most of the leads in horror movies are women who defeat the villain, but most films in the genre are directed by men; how she respects Jacobs for his dedication to performing his stunts and showcasing the emotional aspects of the series’ villain, as she feels it’s important for actors to be able to do both whenever possible; and how she enjoyed filming the movie primarily on location in Vancouver and at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia, as it helped her truly connected to Amy’s emotions and motivations.
ShockYa (SY): You play Amy in the new horror film, ‘See No Evil 2.’ What was it about the character and the project overall that convinced you to take on the role?
Danielle Harris (DH): I was actually a huge Soska twin fan before this film, as I loved ‘American Mary.’ I thought before I signed onto ‘See No Evil 2’ that I was going to take a little break from playing the “final girl,” for a lack of a better term. (laughs) I was burned out from these 15-day schedules.
But I heard they were doing this movie, and I really wanted to work with female directors before I took a break from acting. This was a great opportunity that presented itself. I read the script and loved it, and knew what the twins could do with it. I’m also a big wrestling fan and love Kane, and thought this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I readily stepped into the role.
The character was actually originally written for a 21-year-old, and she survived all the way until the end. But when I came on board, we all thought it was a better idea, and a bit cooler, to change the norm. While I may seem to be the final girl, I may not actually be the final girl.
SY: The movie was directed by Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, who you just discussed, and they have mentioned that you approached them, and expressed interest in playing Amy in the movie. What was the overall process like of becoming involved in the movie? What was the experience of working with them to both make ‘See No Evil 2,’ especially since they’ve had that previous success in the genre with ‘American Mary?’
DH: It was great. Like I said, the idea of being directed by women was something I felt had been lacking in the genre for quite a long time, considering that most of the leads in these movies, especially the ones I’m in, are usually females. So it was odd to me that most of these genre films, and movies in general, are directed by men. So with the women in the films having to save the day and defeat the monster, I wanted to see what it would be like to have a female’s perspective on a genre story. So that’s what really drew me to it.
Plus, the Soskas’ energy and enthusiasm is amazing. They’re true fangirls, which is good, because you really do want to be directed by masters of the genre. I feel like with all the directors I’ve ever worked with on horror movies are huge genre fans. I grew up watching horror movies, and the directors I’ve worked with have also loved them since they were children. I’ve never worked with anyone who’s just been a work-for-hire on a horror film; you have to love it do it.
SY: The movie is the follow-up to the 2006 slasher film, ‘See No Evil.’ How familiar were you with the original movie before you signed on to act in the sequel? How did the first movie influence the way you approached portraying Amy in the second film?
DH: It was so many years ago, but I think I saw the original in the theater. I didn’t watch it again until a day or two before I flew out to Vancouver, just to freshen up on what I was going to be in for with the sequel. (laughs)
But this movie is so different from the first one; it’s a totally take on Jacob Goodnight. So I didn’t really compare the two films. I think this film had a mind of its own. The twins didn’t really approach the film as if it were a sequel, but I do love that it takes place within the same night as the first movie, even though their release dates are quite a few years apart. I love sequels that pick up right where the prior one left off, and it’s one continuous story. I was also stoked to be in their presence, and work with Jacob Goodnight in this franchise. I love series, but the ‘Halloween’ and ‘Hatchet’ movies are done for me, so this franchise was a fun thing for me to do.
SY: Kane, who you mentioned earlier, reprised his role of killer Jacob Goodnight from the original film. What was your experience of working with him on the sequel?
DH: Kane’s a professional, wonderful and kind. He just shows up and does his job. But unfortunately, he’s one of those guys who always has to perform his own stunts. I don’t have that problem, because I only do my own stunts when it’s needed, and I truly feel comfortable. (laughs) But on this movie, I did do all of my own stunts.
But no one can do what Kane does. He broke through so many doors on a daily basis, and also had to beat the crap out of people every single day. So not only did he have to do all the acting, but he also had to do all his own physical performing.
I guess that’s actually just another day at the office for him, because this is what he does in his daily life in the ring. But he definitely had his work cut out for him in this movie. He’s wonderful, and I really enjoyed working with him. He made my job very easy.
SY: Like you also mentioned, you performed many of your own stunts in the film. What was the process of creating the action sequences for ‘See No Evil 2?’
DH: I think unless I’m worried that I’m really going to get hurt, I’d rather just do my own stunts. For the actor to have to pop in there for inserts, and pretend that they just physically went through whatever their stunt double had just gone through, is really difficult to sell. It never really matches up 100 percent. I don’t like when I’ve seen doubles for me in the past, and I know where they cut the double in, and where I really am. The wig and the body will be a little bit different. That bothers me because I can easily spot the double as a viewer.
So if I know I’m not going to get very hurt, I’ll do my own stunts. But of course, we’re always going to get hurt, and there are going to be bumps and bruises. But I love doing fight stuff on the set, as it also helps with the emotional aspects of my character. Then the entire portrayal is real, instead of pretending like I did the stunts myself. So unless my life is at stake, I’m probably going to always be the actor who decides to my own stunts.
SY: The movie was primarily shot on location at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia. What was your experience like filming in the hospital? Do you prefer shooting on location, and does that experience influence the way you approach your roles?
DH: I love going on location. It’s one of those times where you get to stay in a hotel in another city, and basically live in a new place. It’s not like I would get to live in Vancouver for three weeks, or a month, on my own. But I loved it there. You get your hotel room or apartment, and all you do is focus on your character. You eat, sleep and breathe what you’re there to do, and there aren’t any distractions. I think when you have such a tight schedule like we did on this film, that’s really important.
During my downtime, which is about a day a week, essentially, you’re really able to take that time for yourself. You’re not running out to do something else during that free time. Like if you’re at home in L.A., your friends want to see you, or you take to take care of your dog. But when you’re on location, there aren’t any distractions. So you can actually take that day off and get your rest, and go to a movie, or go work out. Then on Monday morning, you’re right back on set again. So I like being on location, and just being focused on what I’m there to do.
SY: ‘See No Evil 2’ has received a Video on Demand and Blu-ray release. Are you personally a fan of watching movies On Demand. Do you think the platform is beneficial to independent and smaller films overall?
DH: I do think it’s beneficial and great for independent films. But it’s also complicated, because I love going to the movie theater, particularly when everyone’s silent. (laughs) I don’t want to hear other people talking about the movie; I just want to focus and get lost in the movie.
Horror movies are a little bit different, because you can watch them On Demand, and invite all of your friends over and have a party, and scream, “Oh, don’t go in there!” All of that stuff is really fun.
But there are some movies I don’t think I would like to watch at home. I prefer going to the theater, but if a film’s not available in a theater, then I do like to watch it On Demand. Then there are other times when I’m like, “Do I really want to spend $30 on popcorn and $40 to get into the movie, and also pay for parking? I can just sit at home in my sweatpants and watch it on TV.”
I think if films have a same day release On Demand and in theaters, it’s really cool audiences have an option on how they want to watch them. But if movies are only On Demand, people can get the same experience as if they actually went to the theater, as technology has changed. People have great television screens at home now, so films can look as great on TVs as on actual theatrical screens.
SY: While Kane plays the main character in the movie, many of the supporting characters are female, including Katharine Isabelle and Chelan Simmons. What was your experience of working with your fellow actresses on the sequel?
DH: It was actually pretty cool, because Katharine and Chelan have done so many genre films. I haven’t worked with other actresses who have had as much experience in horror movies as I do. So it was really cool to see their process, as they were prepping for a scene.
During one of the first days on set, I saw Katie around the corner, shaking her hands and jumping up and down, and making herself hyperventilate. She was also pacing back and forth and stomping her feet, and her eyes started watering up. I thought, she looks exactly like me, as this is what I do. So it was cool to see another actress do that, because I had not seen that before.
I think with most of the movies I do, the scenes only feature me and the killer. (laughs) So I rarely get to work with a bunch of people my age, so that was really cool.
Chelan’s also awesome and wonderful, and I’d love to work with her again, too. The boys are the boys. They do their thing, and they’re great. So there weren’t any issues with any divas-we didn’t have time for that. I think the casting was perfect, and we all got along great.
SY: Besides ‘See No Evil 2,’ you have starred in several popular horror franchises throughout your career, including the ‘Halloween’ and ‘Hatchet’ series, which you mentioned earlier. What is it about the horror genre that you enjoy acting in it so much?
DH: I’ve grown up making films in the genre, as I started off by staring in several classic horror films in the ’80s, and have continued with them up until now.
So I think I know what it takes to make a good horror film that’s fun, and appeals to what the fans want. I’ve seen the shift, and know where the genre needs to go, and what works and doesn’t work. So I do what I know and love, and I think that’s why I’ve continued to make horror movies. The fanbase is so devoted, wonderful and supportive. It’s like a little clique, and you’re always going to be blood brothers and sisters. (laughs) It’s great to have this following, which is why I keep going back to the genre.
SY: Seeing the success that Jen and Sylvia have had with their films, are you interested in pursuing writing and directing in the future?
DH: Yes, I actually directed a movie called ‘Among Friends,’ which Lionsgate has actually released-it’s available on DVD. It’s literally the direction I’m going in right now.
SY: Besides films, you have also starred on such television shows as ‘The Wild Thornberrys’ and ‘Fear Clinic.’ What is it about television that you enjoy so much? How does it compare and contrast to making films, particularly smaller ones like ‘See No Evil 2?’
DH: I would love to do television again, so that’s what my focus has been on right now. As much as I love films, nowadays they’re shooting in such short amount of time, the schedules have been extremely hectic and difficult. I think I worked a total of 13 days on ‘See No Evil 2,’ so it’s such an enormous amount of work in a short amount of time. Then your work is done, and you have to find something else. So I would love the consistency and time to really develop a character, and see the change they go through. So I would love to get on a TV show right now, so that’s what I’m working and focusing on for the future.
Written by: Karen Benardello