KAREN BENARDELLO TALKS SINISTER 2 WITH SHANNYN SOSSAMON
KAREN BENARDELLO continues her excellent coverage of SINISTER 2 with another insightful interview; this time with SHANNYN SOSSAMON.
Take it away, Karen!
Compellingly emphasizing the emotional and physical struggles and demons a vulnerable mother is fighting, particularly in her determined attempts to protect her children from experiencing any more harm, can be an immensely daunting task for anyone. But actress Shannyn Sossamon enthrallingly highlights that natural perseverance in her portrayal of a dedicated mother who’s struggling to defend her young sons from their abusive father, as well as a frightening supernatural deity, in the new horror sequel, SINISTER 2 which is set to be released in theaters on Friday. The anticipated follow-up to the critical and box office hit 2012 horror film, SINISTER 2 instinctively emphasizes the performer’s character’s relatable story, as it was directed by genre helmer Ciarán Foy, and written by the original movie’s scribes, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill.
SINISTER 2 follows nine-year-old twins Dylan and Zach Collins (portrayed by real-life brothers Robert and Dartanian Sloan), who have been taken to a rural house in Illinois by their mother, Courtney (Sossamon), in an effort to start their lives over. Their new home and property are just isolated enough to evade Courtney’s estranged husband, Clint (Lea Coco), who emotionally and physically abused her and Dylan. While the protective mother believes her decision to flee her husband will protect her and their sons, she’s unaware that the house she as chosen to move into has been targeted by Bughuul (Nicholas King).
Ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone), who has been fired from his position in the Pennsylvania police department he served on in SINISTER 2 is now working a private investigator. In an attempt to avenge the murders of his friend Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his family in the original film, So & So is diligently working to find a way to finally stop Bughuul once and for all.
In his research, the former deputy has discovered that the house Courtney has moved her children into is the next manifestation spot for the pagan Babylonian deity. So he travels to the rural residence, and intends to burn it to the ground, in an attempt end Bughuul’s chain of death. Once he arrives, So & So is not only surprised to find Courtney and the twins living there, but that they’re also in danger from Clint.
The former police officer must step in to protect them from Courtney’s estranged husband before he can implement a plan of attack against Bughuul. However, neither Courtney nor So & So are aware that Bughuul’s ghost kids have already begun targeting Dylan with their disturbing home movies, with each one showing a more sinister murder than the last, which makes the former deputy’s mission even more difficult than he could have ever imagined.
Sossamon generously took the time recently to talk about playing Courtney Collins in SINISTER 2 during a phone interview. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to play Courtney in the horror sequel, as she’s also a mother in real life, and the character’s motives and emotions were grounded in a reality she understood; and how she enjoyed collaborating with her co-stars while they were filming on location in Illinois, as she felt compelled to protect the young Sloan twins from the film’s more terrifying moments, both on screen and on set, and was able to show that Courtney was finally able to develop a positive relationship with Ex-Deputy So & So through her connection with Ransone.
Question (Q): You play Courtney Collins in the new horror sequel, SINISTER 2What was it about the character, as well as the continuation of the pagan Babylonian deity, Bughuul, from the original film that convinced you to take on the role?
Shannyn Sossamon (SS):
I liked how the character was grounded in something I could understand, and went on that route throughout the entire film, until the supernatural elements came in for her. For the most part, she was someone I could relate to, as I’m also a mother.
Q: Speaking of the fact that Courtney’s a mom, her twin sons, Dylan and Zach, who are played by Robert Daniel and Dartanian Sloan, are targeted by Bughuul. What was the process of working with Robert and Dartanian on the sequel?
Working with the boys was great. I think it’s really fun for 12-year-olds to not have to go to school, and get to play pretend all day on set, and have snacks and do all of this cool stuff.
But the biggest challenge was when I had scenes where I had to be incredibly emotional or frightened, and I was hanging onto my boys for dear life. I really wanted to grab onto them, and was really feeling things, when the cameras were rolling, so I think sometimes I may have freaked them out a little bit.
That was because children approach things in a lighter way, and the creation of the horror is done by the director in post (production). The kids are usually kept in a pretty light atmosphere the whole time we’re shooting, so sometimes I felt like we were on slightly different pages. But that’s to be expected when you’re working with kids in this intense kind of atmosphere. You don’t want the child actors to be immersed in those kinds of feelings all day-that would be terrible.
Q: What was your overall preparation process like for your role of Courtney when you first signed onto the film?
Well, I went through the script a lot, and tried to get into survival mode with her. My main objective was to show that she was trying to make a better life for her kids, and truly start over. I think being a mother myself helped that process a lot. I didn’t have to stretch my imagination too far during my preparation. But the abusive husband bit was definitely a stretch, so I had to do some work there, in order to understand why she stayed with him for as long as she had. That was mostly what we worked on before we started shooting. Then when you start shooting, you just go along for the ride, and try not to overthink everything too much.
Q: Courtney forms a relationship with James Ransone’s character, who reprises his role of the deputy from SINISTER 2 while she’s trying to protect her twin sons. What were your working relationship like with James as you were filming the sequel, particularly in show that he was trying to shield her from the evil that Bughuul unleashes on children and their families?
That part of the story was actually one of my favorite things about the whole experience of making the movie. It was really about finding a little sweetness for this woman who’s on the run from this abusive ex-husband, who’s also a terrible father. She’s also worried that one of her kids is rotten on the inside.
So it was nice to have this sweet connection with this person who she may not have found attractive in the past. You can see that in the type of man she married, Clint. So & So is very different from the type of person she may have been drawn to in the past. I really like those sweet connections and odd-pairing moments. It was really nice to have that break in the movie.
Q: Since James’ character also appeared in the original film, and other characters from SINISTER are also mentioned in the sequel, how did having the first movie as source material for SINISTER 2 influence the way you approached portraying Courtney? Or did you prefer not relying too heavily on the source material, particularly to show that Courtney wasn’t that familiar with the deputy’s case?
I didn’t watch much of the first movie. I did start to watch it, because I wanted to get an idea of what I was about to go into. But I didn’t continue watching it, because I’m not a huge fan of horror films, so I didn’t want to sit and watch this darkness and killing. But it helped me understand the tone of the franchise. You’re right in the fact that I could get away with not watching the entire first film, since my character wasn’t familiar with the case.
Q: What was your experience of collaborating with Ciaran Foy, the director of SINISTER 2 on not only Courtney’s character arc, but also the story overall?
It was great. I think the main reason why I did this movie was because of my reading with Ciaran. It was a really great meeting. I knew the script and had a lot of questions and some concerns. So when I met him, we talked for almost two hours, without almost any pause. It was a great meeting, and then I became really excited to do the movie, just to be able to work with him. I liked what he wanted to do with the story. He wanted Courtney, the boys and Clint to be very real. He also wanted Clint to be a villain, and almost be the true villain, of the piece.
Q: Principal photography on SINISTER 2 took place on location in and around the Chicago area. What was the process of filming the movie independently on location in Illinois, particularly since Courtney and her sons have moved to such a rural area?
I liked it. It’s fun to travel, and I thought Chicago was a great place to film the movie. I love Chicago, and had a really nice time filming there.
I like making movies because they end. Filming takes place over a nice couple of months, and you get to lose yourself in a pretend world during that time, and then you get to go back to your regular life and be with your kids.
Filming a television show five to six days a week for nine to ten months a year in one place sounds really scary for me, and gives me anxiety. But I know a lot of people would be grateful for that kind of security and money. I wouldn’t complain if I had that, but I like to travel, and don’t like to be stuck in one place.
Q: Speaking of television, besides starring in films, you have also appeared on several TV shows throughout your career, such as the recent ten-episode Fox sci-fi mystery drama, WAYWARD PINES. What is it about television that you enjoy working on, and how does it compare to acting in movies?
Well, I felt like I was making a long movie when I was filming WAYWARD PINES and I would love to do that again. But I actually just signed onto the upcoming season of SLEEPY HOLLOW, which is shooting in Atlanta. As of now, it’s unknown how long my commitment will be there, and I can’t really say much about my character until the season starts. But it would be really nice if my part wrapped up, and became like another long-form movie. I don’t think my family wants to move to Atlanta, so we’ll see what happens. But I’m grateful to have the work.
Q: How does portraying a character in a film or on a show like WAYWARD PINES, which was created as a one-season series with 10 episodes, compare and contrast to developing a character in an open-ended show like SLEEPY HOLLOW? Do you prefer knowing your characters’, and the plots’ entire arcs, like you do with films and a limited television series, than an open-ended run on a show that has the potential to have multiple seasons?
It is a different process to not know your character’s entire arc when you begin filming a project. You think, okay, I’ll just start, and do as much research as I can. However, there’s only so much preparation that you can really do when you don’t know what’s going to happen to your character right away. So you just jump in and go for it.
Q: Horror franchises often have multiple sequels, but the later installments don’t often fare as well with fans as the original film. If viewers are receptive to seeing how the story of Bughuul continues, would you be interested in seeing how Courtney and her family’s story could continue in a second follow-up?
Yes, I don’t see why not, but it would depend on the script.
Q: Besides SINISTER 2and SLEEPY HOLLOW, do you have any other upcoming films or projects lined up that you can discuss?
I also starred in a film called THE JESUIT with Tim Roth, José Yazpik and Paz Vega. I really enjoyed being in the movie. But it has been in post (production) for quite a while, so I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen to it yet. So I think it’s SLEEPY HOLLOW up next for me, and it premieres on October 1.
Karen Benardello is a freelance contributor with expertise in covering film events and reviewing content. She has worked with sites including The Movie Network. Follow her on Twitter: @kbenardello