Leave it to actress Lin Shaye to take a small role and make it one of the best and most memorable things in a movie. That’s certainly the case with The Signal, in which she plays Mirabelle, a character who speaks gibberish but knows more than she is letting on. Many actors would have just played this character as a complete loon, but Shaye saw more in Mirabelle and imbued her with a beauty and an intelligence that makes her completely unforgettable.
It was a real treat to talk with the actress when she was in town to promote The Signal last week, as she couldn’t have been nicer or more engaging. In our exclusive interview, we spoke about how Shaye was cast in this movie, what it was like working with Laurence Fishburne, why she is not interested in ever becoming a movie star, and more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
How did you become involved in this film?
Lin Shaye: I became involved in it through Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who actually was one of the producers on Insidious. He called my manager and said that it’s not a very large role but it’s a very important role in this film, and it’s a new up-and-coming director helming it. I completely fell in love with the character, and the story I thought was really fascinating. I was really excited to say yes (laughs).
I imagine the script was a real page turner.
Lin Shaye: It was a page turner, and even though there is so much narrative because there’s so much that happens, it’s not all about dialogue in the story. It’s definitely action and adventure and mystery and all those things. It had such a wonderful flow to it and I really, really loved the characters and the way they were developed, the love story that’s there and the sort of essential questions that young people have when you’re in college and the kinds of intimacy that a friendship has.
I thought all those elements were really wonderfully fleshed out within this mystery within the story that they’re telling. I was completely captivated and I found Mirabelle, when we got to her, a very fascinating little poet almost. People were describing her as crazy and I immediately took offense to that. She’s broken, but she’s not crazy. She’s completely not crazy. I was just really thrilled to play the part.
Did you do a lot of research for this role, and what inspired you in your portrayal of Mirabelle?
Lin Shaye: I think just felt her dilemma. Here’s a woman that’s trying to hang on to her joy and to her life and to the outside world and is trapped. The feeling of loss of freedom of your own life in your own quest for happiness is what was totally appealing to me in terms of character, and I thought she was beautifully written. She’s like the poetry in the film. I loved the dialogue. As cryptic as it was, it was really like poetry to me.
Your recent roles have had you playing very unusual characters. Are those the characters you’re most interested in playing these days?
Lin Shaye: You know, I’m pretty much interested in whatever is offered (laughs). But that’s not entirely true either. Lately, I’ve been actually turning things down, which for me is hard because I’m such a yes person in general. But one thing I’m being very careful about is, business wise, watering down your brand or doing the same thing over and over. I have no interest in playing the same character over and over, which is one of the lacks of appeal of a TV series for me, unless it’s like a Breaking Bad where you’ve got this phenomenal story. But I love investigating different storylines and different people.
I just did a film yesterday with Olivia Cooke which is called Ouija and it came up very quickly. It’s definitely a horror film, which always gives me pause a little bit because again, I don’t like to be classified according to a genre necessarily. That’s not how I look at my career. I look at horror as hopefully little jewels on a necklace that are different shapes and sizes, but it all goes into the same necklace. This character was so fascinating that the genre didn’t make any difference to me. The appeal was the person and the story, so that’s really primarily what I look at. The things that make me say yes are really about character and of course, the people I’m going to be working with.
Knowing Laurence Fishburne was in The Signal and I was going to have the opportunity of working with them was very exciting because I think he’s got such gravitas as an actor and such a beautiful body of work behind him. I was really thrilled to work with him, so that was a big plus for me, as well as loving the story and the character. Sometimes you don’t get all three. Sometimes you get the story is fair, the characters great and the people are great; that’s a yes. The storyline changes on set and editing makes it different. There are so many elements that can change story itself depending on what’s brought to it by the actors.
I just love what I do and I’m so full of gratitude. Sometimes I can’t even believe the career that I have, and I’m so happy to have one (laughs). I do it out of such love for what I do that I don’t even think about that aspect of it really and I’m always surprised. I was given this little tribute at a new festival called the Ninja Comedy Festival just a few days ago, and I was almost embarrassed because I don’t think about it like that. I think just about, “Oh, I get to go and do it” (laughs). There’s still that very childlike element of the joy of doing and creating, which is overwhelming for me.