Based on R.L. Stine’s spine-chilling stories, the upcoming Fear Street Trilogy will be released as an epic summer movie event over three consecutive weeks this July. Because the series can’t wait until Halloween, I guess.
For those not in the know, the Fear Street trilogy takes place in 1994, where a group of teenagers discover that the terrifying events that have haunted their town for generations may all be connected — and that they may be the next targets. The films follow the nightmare through Shadyside’s sinister history.
We managed to participate in a roundtable interview with Gillian Jacobs (C. Berman), Ashley Zukerman (Sheriff Nick Goode/Solomon Goode), Darrell Britt-Gibson (Martin), Kiana Madeira (Deena/Sarah Fier), Olivia Welch (Sam Fraser/Hannah Miller), and Benjamin Flores Jr. (Josh/Henry Fier), courtesy of Netflix Malaysia.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
What are your favourite horror films?
Darrell Britt-Gibson: For me personally, my brother showed me Jaws. I loved being in the ocean and in the water. He ruined a lot of my life by doing that because I just know Jaws is waiting for me. I don’t know what to do and Jaws is a bit; get out, get out. It’s also a very frightening film for me.
Ashley Zukerman: I think a lot of the recent horror thrillers that have come out have been really exceptional at using the genre to speak to something societal or to speak a message to something else that’s going on in the world, like Midsommar and Get Out. Fear Street is a part of a group of contemporary horror films. The purpose here isn’t just to shock. That might happen but it’s interested in doing something else as well.
What did you think about the films that director Leigh Janiak chose for you to watch as preparation for the Fear Street trilogy?
Kiana Madeira: She gave us great movies to watch.
Olivia Welch: Scream and The Goonies were the big ones, like the ones she wanted us to pull reference from. Then, she gave us a great playlist of music to listen to while we were filming. It’s super helpful because I think you get to know what’s in the director’s head and kind of what you’re going for in the movies. I love the homework of watching movies from the director.
Kiana Madeira: Me too. It’s not very often that the directors will give you homework. For us, it’s so helpful and it really helps, especially watching The Goonies and seeing the dynamic in the young cast there. It was such an inspiration for us. Leigh is always super on-point with her references, they are very helpful.
What were the challenges of filming the Fear Street trilogy?
Gillian Jacobs: I wasn’t used to doing as much action as this film required, so that is the part I think I found to be the most challenging. By the end of the shoot, I was soaking my feet in absinthe and salt in my trailer every morning.
Ashley Zukerman: If you’ve seen the third film, for a part of it, I have to wear a wig, a beard and a moustache. The makeup and hair team were incredible. They ended up looking great but I just wasn’t able to laugh. I had to hold my face like this whenever I wanted to use my laughing muscles. Unfortunately, we were just doing a lot of laughing between takes. This group of people mixed with this material, we just ended up enjoying ourselves a lot. I just spend a lot of the 1600s just doing this.
Darrell Britt-Gibson: Piggybacking on what Gillian said, you get these knicks and these bruises that you don’t really realise you have until you walk back into your trailer. You go back to your room and you’re like; wow, your knees hurt and your shoulder hurts. Adrenaline gets you through it, but then you’re like, yeah, that hurts. Something’s broken.
Olivia Welch: I think the challenge was the fact that we were filming the three films back-to-back-to-back. The filming schedule was pretty intense, the challenge was probably that we were naturally tired sometimes, but usually, the scenes in all three films are so crazy and requires so much energy from us, so that was probably the most challenging part. Coming to set every day knowing that we have to have so much energy and really dive into the circumstances of the scene. I think meeting that energy demand was the most challenging.
Kiana Madeira: There would also be weeks where we’re shooting only at night time. And that was like such a crazy thing to do, cause your internal clock is completely turned on its head. Okay, so it looks like I’ll be awake only at night time for the next month or so. It was really crazy.
What were the most challenging part of playing gay (LGBT) teenagers who are the leads in a horror movie?
Olivia Welch: Nothing about it was challenging, really. It was really an honour to be at the forefront of the story and have it be a queer love story that’s represented in such a sweet and emotional way.
Kiana Madeira: More than challenging, we just recognised and acknowledged that it was a big responsibility because it’s never been done before, at least to our knowledge. Horror trilogies centred around a queer love story and the representation is so important. I think that audiences and the queer community watching it will finally get an opportunity to see themselves in this kind of role, this kind of story.
So you know, it wasn’t challenging in that way, but it was a responsibility. Like Olivia said, we’re just honoured and I couldn’t have asked for a better co-star. That always helps.
Olivia Welch: Me too, exactly, it was great working with you.
What do you think makes the Fear Street trilogy different from other slashers?
Darrell Britt-Gibson: It’s diverse. It seems like an easy answer but it’s diverse. Marginalised communities are represented in these films and I don’t watch a bunch of slasher films, but I can’t remember a slasher film that has this much diversity in that regard. So, that is the most beautiful thing about it, in my opinion.
Ashley Zukerman: Yeah, I think the same, also. What I’ve mentioned before, the idea of this is using the slasher genre to speak to something else. It’s a trojan horse for something else. It’s more than just blood and guts.
Gillian Jacobs: There’s a lot of interconnected stories so they’re not three separate stories told one, two, three. The stories all weave in and out; some of the actors are actually together in different timelines. They found an incredible way to keep shifting the time periods and making sure the stories are all interconnected while building towards the third movie. You have to keep watching because you don’t get a resolution for the story at the end of Part 1 or Part 2.
Darrell Britt-Gibson: There’s also cliffhangers at the end of each one. In tandem with actually caring about the characters, director Leigh Janiak has created something that really makes you want to stick around to see what happens to these characters you’ve quickly become invested in. It’s a testament to Leigh and all the cast who are incredible. People will come back.
Ashley Zukerman: These films will start a conversation about; like it’s another challenge towards the genre. What’s television? What’s film? What’s horror? What’s comedy? What’s drama? This is sort of genre-less and it’s also sort of platform-less. It’s something entirely new that each film is a standalone film that the whole trilogy really does wrap up one single big idea.
Love is at the centre of them. I think they’re uplifting. There are absolutely some scares and some violence but it’s done so artistically, it’s executed so perfectly that I feel like it transcends shock or bad feelings. I finished watching the third film last night and I had tingles. I was so inspired. I think people are going to be really uplifted by these films.
Kiana Madeira: I feel like in this society that we live in, I can only speak about North America where we live, there’s definitely a sense of systemic oppression that is so deep-rooted and exists. It’s the same in the world of Shadyside. The people in Shadyside have faced systemic oppression for 300 years as we can see when the movie goes back to 1666.
I feel like that’s such a reflection of the world that we live in. I think that these movies really shine a light on the fact that the time’s up for that. It’s a new time and we’re embarking on a new journey where we can be the heroes of our own story. We can stand up to that sense of oppression and that’s a really important theme of the three films.
What did you enjoy about travelling back in time (1994, 1978, 1666)?
Gillian Jacobs: For the 1990s when we were at the mall, it really did feel like we were in the mall in the 90s. It’s been a while since I experienced that and I used to go to B. Daltons as a kid so it was great seeing that in the opening scene.
Ashley Zukerman: It’s interesting. When we’re in it, I sort of forget to enjoy myself sometimes in that way. It was really satisfying to just go through periods of American history and trying to mark the changes. You know, try to experience what it’s like to walk, I think something big in the films is how the past affects us now. I think that’s a major story in a sense.
Darrell Britt-Gibson: Kudos to our production design because you couldn’t help but be transported back to these times because they did such an incredible job. I think that productions designers can sometimes be a thankless job in this industry but it doesn’t work or move without them. Kudos to our production designers because every time you step on the set, you felt like you were transported to whatever time period it was. It’s a testament to them, it’s incredible.
How did you prepare for both roles; in Fear Street Part 1: 1994 and Fear Street Part 3: 1666?
Ashley Zukerman: I think Nick (the present-day sheriff in Part 1: 1994 and Part 3: 1666) was more challenging to portray than Solomon (a character from the past in Part 3: 1666). Everything comes with a challenge but I think Nick is more confused. He’s so encumbered by all of his history and that makes it difficult for him to figure out what to do or how to behave. Not that he was difficult, difficult sounds like a negative thing. It’s just more interesting, more of a challenge.
Every character just fit the one story of all three films so we knew what story we were telling. It was a unique thing to get to play multiple characters within that story but because the story was so strong, it definitely wasn’t difficult.
Benjamin Flores Jr.: I would say, the only challenge was the accent but we practised the accent with a coach for a while so I feel like we got pretty much down pat. I don’t really know any other challenges. I feel like our characters were all so similar, even in the 1600s too.
Do you have a favourite moment or scene from the Fear Street trilogy?
Gillian Jacobs: I love the scene at the end of the third one where the three of us (alongside Ashley Zukerman and Darrell Britt-Gibson) got to work together. I won’t be saying more than that because I think I’d be giving away too much but that was really fun.
Darrell Britt-Gibson: That was a lot of fun. That’s definitely my favourite, but my first interaction with Ashley was fun; just sort of building our little backstory with each other’s characters and sort of playing with that was a lot of fun. Getting to know Ashley the human being was so cool and he’s a good person. It was fun getting to balance off of him early on in production and have that moment, I really do enjoy that moment.
Benjamin Flores Jr.: It was the grocery scene for me. It was my favourite, or one of my favourites, at least, for me. Fear Street Part 1: 1994, grocery store scene.
Olivia Welch: The grocery store sequence was really, really cool.
Kiana Madeira: There’s one scene you guys are gonna hate me because it’s the school bus scene in movie one (Fear Street Part 1: 1994), where their characters (Olivia Welch and Benjamin Flores Jr.) are not in it, but Fred and Julia are in it, and they play Simon and Kate, respectively.
It’s when we’re leaving the vigil and we’re on the school bus going back and we’re just like chanting Shadyside. it was really intense and that was really, really fun to film.
Olivia Welch: The three of them were like, oh, it was the best, we had the best time. Benji and I were like, wow that sounds really cool.
Benjamin Flores Jr.: I was in school that day.
Olivia Welch: I was just at home.
What were your first impressions after watching the Fear Street trilogy?
Kiana Madeira: After watching the first movie, I was just smiling the whole time. It was so surreal to finally see everyone’s hard work come together. I had pretty high expectations but somehow the movie managed to exceed my expectations. The first time watching them, I was just in awe and just like and enjoying them so much.
Watching them two years later after filming, you kind of forget the little moments and even scenes that you filmed. In a way, I think it’s cool that two years later there’s an element of surprise even for us. Being in the film, I feel like it still had a surprise factor and the jump scares still affected us as well.
That’s just telling of how scary they actually are. Making them felt so special and it was so cool watching for the first time because they still felt as special. The feelings we had while making them translated to the screen. That’s all you can hope for when you’re trying to make a movie.
Benjamin Flores Jr.: My first impression was just happy that we made something this good. We did care about it when we were filming and cared about making it good and it came out amazing way better than I could expect. I was just excited and happy.
Q: What was it like to be on the set while filming the Fear Street trilogy?
Darrell Britt-Gibson: You would’ve thought we were shooting Curb Your Enthusiasm as much as we were laughing on set. The intensity that you see on-screen sort of lived there and stayed there. Once director Leigh Janiak said cut, we just really enjoyed each other’s company and it’s really a great cast. It starts with our fearless leader, Leigh, the captain of the ship who creates the environment for it to be a warm space to be in.
Everybody felt seen and everybody’s heard. Leigh leads by example and this created a space for us to just have a lot of fun. We laughed more on that set than I can remember and I’ve been in some comedies. We genuinely had a great time.
Q: Is there anything in common between your characters and your real selves?
Kiana Madeira: I think for me, I’m similar to Deena and Sarah because I really, really feel protective for the people that I love. I’m not a confrontational person but I feel like I would go crazy if someone tried to hurt the people that I loved. That fearlessness, in that way, I really relate to and I really connected to them because of their fearlessness and their willingness to sacrifice for the people they love.
Benjamin Flores Jr.: I believe that me and Josh are similar in our strong belief. I feel like Josh has a strong belief that when he believes in something, he’s not going to let it sway or let anything change him. His passion, for what he believes in.
Olivia Welch: I feel like, with Sam, I really related to her with having a shakiness on trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. That’s what I empathise the most with. At the time when I auditioned, I feel like people are always going through that kind of cycle in their life and that resonated with me.
Q: Have you ever met R.L. Stine (the original writer and creator of Fear Street)?
Gillian Jacobs: I’ve never met him, but if I ever do, I’d just like to say thank you for bringing so much to my childhood and making me love reading.
Darrell Britt-Gibson: I would just apologize to him for not reading the Fear Street books and if he didn’t hit me, I’d see if I could cultivate some type of friendship with him like a book club and we’d read Fear Street excerpts to each other. I’m really shooting for that so if everybody will shoot good energy towards that, I’d really appreciate it.
Kiana Madeira: We’re big Goosebumps fans. If we could say anything to R.L. Stine, it would be thank you for creating this amazing Fear Street universe and giving us the space to play in Shadyside, in this world. You’re a Legend.
FEAR STREET PART 1: 1994 is releasing globally on Netflix on 2 July 2021. FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 is releasing globally on Netflix on 9 July 2021. FEAR STREET PART 3: 1666 is releasing globally on Netflix on 16 July 2021. Stay tuned for our review soon.