Harrowingly scaring devoted fans of the horror genre through physical and emotional scares can be a daunting task, as many people have become detached from feeling empathy for others who are contending with frightening situations. So creating an enthralling horror movie that captivatingly chronicles the problems of contemporary society in a meaningful way is no easy feat, especially for a first-time filmmaker. Actress Lexi Atkins effortlessly collaborated with Adam Egypt Mortimer, who made his feature film writing and directorial debuts on the upcoming independent horror, ‘Some Kind of Hate,’ to create realistic characters who audiences can empathize with.
The movie, which is set to be released on Friday in theaters and on VOD and iTunes, powerfully showcases how adults’ ignorance can lead to tragic and senseless bullying among high school students. If teachers were able to dedicate more time to carrying from those teens who are targeted, the motives that drive classmates to betray one another through violence may be brought to an end.
‘Some Kind of Hate’ follows troubled teen Lincoln (Ronen Rubinstein), who emotionally struggles to contend with the people in his life who continuously berate him, from his neglectful father (Andrew Bryniarski) to his ruthless peers. After being pushed to the breaking point one day at school, Lincoln physically attacks one of his classmates who has relentlessly targeted him. As a result, he’s remanded to an isolated reform school in the California desert, but he fails to find any true solace in his new environment. The new-age detention center, which is run by such leaders as Jack Iverson (Michael Polish) and Christine (Atkins), doesn’t enforce many rules or offer much organization or protection.
When he’s targeted by some of the bullies in his new school, the introverted Lincoln only develops a friendship with his new roommate, Isaac (Spencer Breslin). An attraction also forms with the guilt-ridden Kaitlin (Grace Phipps), who leaves behind her friends who have begun tormenting the newcomer. In the aftermath of his latest attack, Lincoln angrily wishes his intimidators would die. In the process, he inadvertently summons the spirit of Moira (Sierra McCormick), who was tormented at the school herself before she died.
Wanting to defend her fellow victim, Moira inflicts violence on herself, which is also inflicted on the people she targets, notably Lincoln’s enemies. While he’s initially happy for the reprieve from his bullies, he soon realizes that he can’t allow her to continue hurting everyone who has wronged him. The two ultimately become involved in a battle of their own, as he finally builds the courage to protect himself and the people he has come to care about.
Atkins generously took the time recently to talk about portraying Christine in ‘Some Kind of Hate’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to play the character in the horror film, as she’s drastically different from most of the characters she has previously portrayed throughout her career; how she enjoyed working with Mortimer on the movie, as he has taken acting classes, and therefore understands that actors need to be able to creatively develop their characters; and how shooting the film independently also offered the cast a creative freedom to develop the story and their characters’ relationships.
ShockYa (SY): You star as Christine in the new horror film, ‘Some Kind of Hate,’ which follows a bullied teenager who’s sent to a reform school where he accidentally summons the spirit of a girl, who was a victim of bullying herself, and subsequently takes vengeance on his tormentors. What was it about the character of Christine, as well as the script overall, that convinced you to take on the role?
Lexi Atkins (LA): Well, I really loved the overall project, but what drew me to it was the character of Christine. She’s different from the normal type of role that I usually book. She’s the teacher at the school, so I thought that was very unique for me. I usually book more of a younger girl, who’s still in high school.
I originally auditioned for the role of Kaitlin, which Grace Phipps ended up playing. Then I was asked to read for Christine, and I fell in love with the project even more, because the character’s so different from the roles I usually book. So that was exciting for me.
SY: Since Christine is a teacher in ‘Some Kind of Hate,’ like you mentioned, what was the process of working with your co-stars, particularly those who played the students in the film, including Ronen Rubenstein and Sierra McCormick?
LA: Well, we’re all the same age. (laughs) Some of the other actors were actually older than me, which is funny. But I think it was easy for us to click, since we all are around the same age and do the same thing. It was really exciting to meet them, because I don’t get to meet a lot of people who are the same age as me in my industry. I play characters who are younger than I am in a lot of the things I book. So getting to work with people my own age on this film was pretty cool. We had a great cast and crew, so we bonded very quickly.
SY: Speaking of the crew, Adam Egypt Mortimer made his feature film directorial and writing debuts on the horror movie. What was your experience of working with him on the film, especially since he was a first-time filmmaker? Do you prefer working with helmers who also worked on the script?
LA: It was amazing to work with Adam. He has taken acting classes, so he would take his mind out of director mode and put it in actor mode. He would direct us in that way, which was awesome. He was really easy to work with and open to our ideas and what we would come up with first. It was a great collaboration process, and cool to work with a director who let you be free and go different ways.
SY: You started your career by studying writing, stand-up, musical and long form improv at The Second City in Chicago. How do you feel that experience helped you developed your improv, as well as your overall performing, skills?
LA: It helped prepare me to become an actress more than anything. I think any actor, and everyone in general, should take an improv class, because it helps you get to know your body. It was such an amazing experience to have before I moved to L.A. and went into casting rooms. I love improv, and am a really big fan of it.
I became involved in The Second City because my parents wouldn’t let me move to L.A. until I turned 18. I’m originally from Illinois, so I moved to Chicago to get the big city experience before I moved out to L.A. Chicago’s the mecca of improv, so I took everything that The Second City and iO had to offer.
SY: Did you use any of your improvisation skills while you were shooting ‘Some Kind of Hate,’ to help build your character and her arc, or did you mainly stick to the script that Adam and his co-scribe, Brian DeLeeuw, wrote?
LA: Yes, it definitely helped the process of being able to do the scenes over and over again. Adam let us take the scenes many different ways, so having that improv experience helped us make the characters more well-rounded.
SY: Having starred in several horror films throughout your career now, including ‘Some Kind of Hate’ and ‘Zombeavers,’ do you enjoy performing your own stunts in the action sequences?
LA: Well, I never had the chance to work with a gun before. That was definitely different than what I usually get to do. So there was definitely some action involved in holding the gun. But my character didn’t have the chance to do as many action sequences as the Moira character. But it was cool to have more of a bad-ass feel to my character.
SY: Like ‘Zombeavers,’ ‘Some Kind of Hate’ was filmed independently. Since both films are action-driven horror movies, how did shooting them independently on a limited schedule influence the way you approached playing your characters?
LA: Yes, I think that process definitely did influence the way we filmed. But it gave us the leeway to create the characters in the way we felt comfortable with with Adam. But it was definitely a collaborative process, and everyone worked off of each other. But I also had my own ideas about Moira would react, and Grace had thoughts on how Christine would react, and so on. We all worked together to show how our characters all reacted to each other.
SY: ‘Some Kind of Hate’ is set to be released in theaters, as well as on VOD and iTunes, on (Friday). Are you personally a fan of watching movies On Demand, and why do you think the platform is beneficial for independent films like this one?
LA: Yes, I definitely think so. I think the industry is changing a lot now. Shows don’t even technically need to be on TV now; they can be on (On Demand streaming networks) like Netflix. It’s definitely beneficial to get projects seen by audiences.
SY: The horror movie had its world premiere at the Stanley Film Festival this past May. Were you able to attend a screening of the movie at the festival, and if so, what was your experience like there?
LA: I wasn’t able to go to the premiere, but I really wanted to attend. I actually haven’t seen the whole movie yet, so I’m not sure how the entire story played out.
SY: One of your first major film roles was as Jenn in the horror comedy, ‘Zombeavers,’ which was released earlier this year. What is it about the horror genre that you enjoy acting in overall? Are you a fan of watching horror films?
LA: It’s funny-I was never been the biggest fan of horror films growing up, because they really do scare me. But sometimes there are different aspects to them when you’re on the other side. They’re now my favorite type of movie to make.
‘Ted 2’ was also so cool to make, and it was an amazing experience to be a part of as an actress. But playing horror and comedy are obviously totally different. I get so much more out of playing horror, though, because you get to become so much more involved in developing the story and characters.
Making horror movies is also so much different than even watching them. Films like ‘Zombeavers’ are so crazy and silly to watch, but the process of making them is so intense. But they’re really cool to make, which is why I love acting in them and continue to do so. I’m actually filming one in New York right now. But I never feel comfortable to truly watch them. (laughs)
SY: Since you prefer starring in, rather than watching the final cut of, horror films, do you enjoy staying on the set to see the scenes you’re not in being shot?
LA: You could if you wanted to, but sometimes you don’t have the time to so. On the film I’m doing now, I wouldn’t have the time, because I’m doing a 12-hour turnaround. If you’re more of a lead character, you don’t really have the time to watch everyone else. But if you have a smaller role, you can definitely sit around and watch everyone else, if you want to do so.
But I personally don’t even like to watch playbacks of myself. (laughs) So I get into character and film my scenes, and as soon as the director says we’ve got the shot, I definitely get out of character as fast as I can.
SY: Besides starring in films, you also had a recurring role on The CW’s apocalyptic series, ‘The Messengers,’ on which you play Alice, the love interest for Joel Courtney’s character, Peter. What interested you in also starring on a television show, particularly ‘The Messengers?’
LA: I don’t think there’s that big of a difference in how I approach a character for the different mediums. But TV does go by so much faster.
My experience on ‘The Messengers’ was so different for me, because I kept being brought on and off. So it was an interesting experience to get into character, then leave and go on auditions in L.A. for other projects, and then get back into character for the show. On a movie, you dive into a character, and then you’re done. So it was a little difficult for me to get back into the exact character I was playing.
SY: Besides acting in movies and on television, would you be interested in also directing in the future?
LA: I would definitely love to try directing one day. I was just talking about that with one of the guys I’m working with now, Logan Paul. We were discussing how much we would love to direct. But right now, my career is definitely focused on acting, so directing would have to be way down the line. But one day I will definitely dive into that world of directing.
SY: Besides starring in films and on television, you also recently made your musical debut by covering Fetty Wap’s popular single, ‘Trap Queen.’ What inspired you to also delve into singing, in addition to acting?
LA: I am continuing with it right now, but my schedule is so hectic. I’m with a label right now, and even now as I’m here in New York, I’ve been writing with different writers and working with producers. I’ve also been getting into the studio a bit. The process is really fun for me, and it’s a great creative outlet.
SY: Like you mentioned, you’re currently shooting a movie in New York. Since you live in L.A., do you enjoy filming projects on location?
LA: Yes, it’s so much fun to get to travel and see other places while still working. I’m always nervous to leave L.A. and take a vacation, because I never want to miss any castings and work opportunities. So I love to film on location, so that I can travel and work.
SY: Besides ‘Some Kind of Hate,’ do you have any other projects lined up that you can discuss?
LA: When I get back to L.A., I’ll be starring in a short film, which is also horror. I’ll excited about it, as the project’s really amazing. I’ve also been putting myself on tape while I’m here in New York, so I think I may have a callback for another horror film. But it’s not like anything I’ve ever done, but I’m really excited about the prospect.
When I get back to L.A., I’ll still be working on music. I’ll be releasing an original song, as well as a music video for it. I’m really excited about that.
Written by: Karen Benardello