We love a good horror here at THN and were rather impressed with new release DARK SUMMER. The film stars IT FOLLOWS actor Keir Gilchrist as Daniel, a teenage boy whose obsession with female classmate Mona. His obsession with her leads to some very dark places, including Mona’s death and being placed under house arrest for the summer. It is then that he realises that he is not alone, someone or something is haunting him, and he has no place to run.
Playing Mona is up-and-coming young actress Grace Phipps. Phipps started her career in the David Tennant starring FRIGHT NIGHT before going onto a regular role in American television show The Nine Lives of Chloe King. This was followed with a recurring stint on the phenomenally successful The Vampire Diaries. Then she landed a role in the newest Disney craze TEEN BEACH MOVIE. In-between TEEN BEACH and it’s sequel, which American teens are desperate to see, Phipps has continued carving herself out a career in the horror genre. and will be seen later this year in both SOME KIND OF HATE and TALES OF HALLOWEEN.
We have been following the young actress’ ascent through the ranks for a while now and were thrilled when the opportunity arose to have a sit down chat with her. We talked about all things DARK SUMMER, aspirational actresses, pets (Grace has a Golden Doodle called Hildy who is pretty famous on her Instagram feed) and the possibility of her returning to fill the Elena Gilbert void on The Vampire Diaries.
What was it about DARK SUMMER that made you want to be part of it?
I first read the script and I loved it from the beginning, but by the end of it and it all came together, I actually gasped out loud. I met with Paul [Solat], our very lovely director, at Blackmar, so right off the bat, meeting at an art museum is way more creative than meeting at a café. Usually meetings happen at Café 101. But we met in an art museum, I really liked him. He asked all the right questions that, as an actress, you want somebody to be interested in, in terms of your interpretation of character. So I loved the script and I loved the director, not a bad start.
How did you get into your character Mona’s headspace?
Well there’s not a lot of the movie that I don’t spend in very intense special effects make-up. It’s hard to walk around with giant contact lenses, looking like a dead person, then you sort of feel like a dead person. I actually had a very intensive playlist, especially the scene with Skype and I’d go around a lot on set listening to this playlist I’d made for the character. It was very dark and moody. I kept a journal as Mona, which I don’t do for every job I do, but she seemed like a journaler, so I have this kind of disturbing journal still in my possession.
So like a Veronica Sawyer-esque book, but to the nth degree?
(Laughs) Yeah. Actually Paul started out with this idea that I wouldn’t get to know the main cast, cause then I would be scarier. I don’t think I walk around very well, convincingly as scary. But that did give me a lot of time to do things like journal the character on set. Of course I know all of the cast now and we’re all really friendly. I’ve worked with Kier again, actually I’ve worked with several members of the cast since, but for that job he wanted me to hang out in crazy dead make-up joking around.
The internet is a powerful thing and the film touches upon some of the more darker sides of social media. Have you had any bad experiences online?
Oh knock wood (Knocks) not so much. I’ve had one ex boyfriend change settings on my phone but not like actual strangers on the web bad things. I actually I don’t feel a lot of hate on Twitter very often. So I’ve been lucky so far (giggles) I’m sure that’ll change eventually, but it never has. I received one email that said it was from somebody in a French prison, but I’m not sure about that. It was a weird IP address but I never really looked into that.
You’ve made a few horror films over the last few years, what is it about the genre that keeps bringing you back?
I love the genre to watch but it’s also so much fun because I do a lot of sweet cherry pop things. I like the juxtaposition of that. I worked with Paul again on TALES OF HALLOWEEN which was absolutely fantastic and fun. I’ve actually done a lot of horror because I did Vampire Diaries; that was a lot of dealing with fake blood. Then I did one other film called SOME KIND OF HATE, but Paul to this day is the only person to have killed me on camera.
TALES OF HALLOWEEN is the one that Neil Marshall’s producing isn’t it? There are a couple of horror anthologies in the works.
Yeah there’s a HOLIDAYS I think happening too and then this TALES OF HALLOWEEN one. Paul had originally written three bad guys and we had a breakfast together and he asked would I want to come do it. We ended up gender bending it which was really fun.
It worked for Sigourney Weaver in ALIEN so why not.
Exactly! Well that’s aspirational certainly.
So what is your favourite scary movie?
Ooo. This might actually be in my top twenty favourite movies in general, but the original THE HAUNTING from 1968. I saw that when I was a young kid but its black and white and the way that it’s shot and the stuff that do with the camera… it absolutely terrified me. I still get freaked out whenever I see a spiral staircase. That and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, Barbara Steele’s eyes at the end rocked me to the core when I first saw that one.
What actresses do you admire/look up to?
Yeah there’s certainly a lot of actresses who inspire me. When I was probably in middle school I saw the mini series Angels in America for the first time and I think Mary Louise Parker’s performance in that first of all sparked a deep obsession with Mary Louise Parker, but I also really love Amy Adams because she gets to do comedy and drama so consistently. Even Anna Faris, I love comedic actresses. Who else really inspires me that I absolutely love? Barbara Stanwyck probably (giggles) Barbara Stanwyck, I think the role that she played, just her outfit is so fantastically written, but if I can ever give a performance anywhere near half as cool as Barbara in THE LADY EVE, I can retire.
You played April in The Vampire Diaries, Nina Dobrev has announced that she’s leaving the show. Would you ever go back?
Oh I’d always go back. I love everyone involved in that show.
Did April die? So much happens in a single episode that I loose track?
No. I almost died sooo many times.
That’s right you were one of the only humans left so ended up as bait/hostage a lot of the time.
Yeah it was sort of a season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer situation where everyone became capable of rescue and no one needed rescuing.
Oh Hildy’s wonderful. I can’t wait for her to meet – my parents just got a golden doodle as well – so I can’t wait for them to meet. She’s great, keeping on, keeping on, keeping her mouth open. Always smiling.
Is it hard going away for a shoot and leaving her behind? It must be like leaving a child behind.
It is. I do actually find myself – I have friends with babies and I keep wanting to talk about my dog when they’ve finished speaking about their baby and then I realise that that’s ridiculous (Laughs). When I leave her for just little trips like this I leave her at this great daycare place where they don’t have kennels and I can watch her on a web cam. I went away for almost three months to rehearse and then shoot the second TEEN BEACH MOVIE, TEEN BEACH 2 and I was in Puerto Rico. There was absolutely no way I could of had her so I had to do this crazy 6000 mile road trip across the country to drop her off with my family. That was good. She was a seven month old puppy and I did actually cry a lot, cause I missed my dog.
So what’s next on the cards for you, you mentioned TEEN BEACH 2 and SOME KIND OF HATE, but what else have you got lined up?
So SOME KIND OF HATE just got into the Stanley Film Festival, so we’ll go do that and I’m sure I’ll have a bunch of press to do for TEEN BEACH 2. I just did a job in New Orleans that I had to sign paperwork to say I’m not allowed to talk about. Which makes me feel really silly, but I did sign paperwork that says I can’t talk about it. What else? What else have I been doing? I don’t know. I’m around looking for the next cool thing. At this point in my career I’ve managed to only do things that I actually really love so hopefully I’ll keep that going… Oh I have an episode of CSI: Cyber airing [in the States] in May, I have the date, May 20th, that was a really fun job. I know that’s the actor stereotype, that every actor does an episode of CSI, but that was one of the most awesome experiences.
You could look at it as a stereotype, but also as a landmark in your career – I’ve finally done a CSI.
Yeah. I then I got to work with Patricia Arquette who – she’s on the list for sure. I love Patricia Arquette!
TRUE ROMANCE is just amazing.
She was so sweet and I was like ‘you can’t be that nice to me! You have no idea how many hours of my life I’ve spent trying to find a wig to look like your character.’ I’ve definitely dressed up as Alabama Worley before.
You say you’re on the lookout for something cool, is there anything in particular you’ve got your eye out for? Any type of role you’ve not done but want to? The en-vogue genre at the minute is obviously superheroes, would you be up for one of them?
Oh Yeah, definitely, anyone with super powers. I’ve never actually had any kind of superpowers except I had witch powers in DARK SUMMER. That sounds like so much fun to me. My dream role in television would be something like Buffy. There are definitely roles in plays that I want to be able to do someday which is obviously easier because it’s easier for people to revisit them. If somebody remade FORBIDDEN PLANET I’d be pretty jazzed about that. Or THE LADY EVE. I would love to play a 1940’s style fast-talking reporter lady. That’s probably the dream.
Catch Grace in home entertainment release DARK SUMMER now.