She first rose to fame as Miss Teen USA before becoming a favorite of soap opera fans as Stephanie Johnson on Days of our Lives and more recently, as Mali Tate on the MTV series Teen Wolf. Now, however, Shelley Hennig is taking on the horror genre once again (after Ouija) with a role in Unfriended.
In the film, Hennig plays Blaire, one of several high school friends who chat with one another over Skype. However, they soon find that there is an unwanted guest in their chat room that won’t go away and is intent on turning their enjoyable conversation into a living nightmare.
During the recent LA press day for Unfriended, I had the chance to sit down with Hennig for an exclusive interview. She talked about how the filmmakers managed to shoot the movie in one long take, the challenges of maintaining such strong emotions throughout production, and of how Unfriended is not just your usual kitschy horror flick.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
I read about your audition for Unfriended and how it involved you Skyping with the other actors. How unusual of an audition was that for you?
Shelley Hennig: Well I had never done that before, Skyping for an audition, but we were in an office and then I went into a room and they told me that I was going to Skype with an actor and we just did the scene. It was sort of like voyeurism; they’re watching on a third computer. It was definitely unique, but because of that I fell in love immediately. I felt I had to be a part of this. I though that it’s already unique and this is just the auditioning process. I can’t imagine what’s going to happen after. So luckily, they thought I was a good Blaire.
You were a great Blaire. In fact, everybody in this movie was perfectly cast.
Shelley Hennig: Perfectly cast. John McAlary (the casting director) was unbelievable. It’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, how perfectly cast everyone is.
Yes, that’s what makes it work so well. The characters here are really down to earth and I like it when movies are dealing with teenagers going through real problems.
Shelley Hennig: Absolutely, and the first 30 minutes of the movie you’re just watching them shoot the shit. So you really connect with them and you become part of their afternoon and it feels very relatable. And then things just go haywire but at least they’ve set up the groundwork of a realistic, natural introduction.
I read that you had suggested that the filmmakers attempt to shoot the movie in one sitting. Did you film it in one sitting several times?
Shelley Hennig: Yes. The second or third day in I was at lunch and I was thinking why are we filming this in one take? It’s lit for it, so I asked Nelson (Greaves) and Leo (Gabriadze) without asking my co-stars first; I felt really bad. Their eyes just lit up. I think originally they thought that was too much to ask of us because it’s a lot of material to do in one take, but my co-stars shortly fell in love with the process and we really enjoyed doing it in one take. It was very satisfying as actors and I think as filmmakers, and apparently the first version of the full run is a lot of what’s in the movie. It allowed for a lot of weird things to happen organically, and some of the mistakes are the best parts of this film.
The challenge I imagine was keeping your energy up as your character becomes more emotionally frazzled as the film goes on.
Shelley Hennig: Yeah, endurance was definitely a challenge, but I think we actually saved some energy doing it in one take. However, you are right. It’s so hard to think back on… I didn’t know that we were all capable of going to the places that we did. This isn’t just a kitschy horror film. We really tortured ourselves in the most beautiful way possible.