Your new movie The
Covenant - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell
us about your character?
about demons and dark times and complicated relationships. Sarah Doyle (my
character) is going through the grief of losing a daughter and husband
within days of each other and the fear that she is either being attacked
by supernatural forces or losing her mind.
What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and
how much of Monica Engesser can we actually find in Sarah?
definitely her own person, but I drew a lot from my own experience as a
mother. I have a son who was just over a year old when we filmed, he
stayed with his grandparents and dad and I didnít see him for two weeks,
which was the longest weíve ever been apart. Taking those feelings of
missing your child and then amplifying them and imagining the separation
was permanent really helped me get into the headspace of grieving the loss
of a child. For possessed Sarah I drew a lot from reading first hand
accounts of possessed people and those around them and of course cinematic
depictions of demonic possession. I also drew from my personal life, both
my very strict Catholic upbringing as well as the years I studied
psychology. No matter how crazy everything happening to Sarah seems on the
surface, itís all very, very real to her.
did you get involved with the project in the first place?
was my 4th time working with Robert Conway [Robert
Conway interview - click here], I had two small roles in features he
directed in 2014, then starred in Krampus:
in early 2015. I was thrilled when he asked me to audition, he is very
considerate of his actors and Iíve had a blast on all of his sets. He
also tends to work with largely the same crew, and Iíve gotten really
close with some of them as well, so it was a really great environment to
Covenant being a horror movie, is that a genre you can at all
relate to, and why (not)?
donít really seek out horror movies (to watch OR to act in), but they
seem to find me again and again. They are THE MOST FUN to make. Growing
up, my parents were very strict about what we watched, so I missed out on
the childhood horror experience most of my friends had. The
Ghost and Mr. Chicken
was pretty much my momís limit. She has watched all my movies though, so
I like to think Iím broadening her horizons.
Do talk about your
director Robert Conway [Robert
Conway interview - click here], and what was your collaboration
with him like?
is wonderful to work with, he is one of the most humble writers/directors
Iíve filmed with and truly likes his films to be collaborations. This
was a unique experience because the key cast and crew were all staying
together in a boarding house, so every day after filming, Robert, Owen and
I would go over the scenes for the next day. It was awesome to be able to
talk through everything, make sure we were all on the same page and
explore (and reject) ideas about the story and Richard and Sarahís
You spend quite a bit of the movie in
quite bizarre makeup all over your body - so do talk about your makeup for
a bit, and the process of having it applied?
done some pretty intense makeup and body painting before, so I knew what I
was getting into. It was an approximately 4 hour process including latex
and silicone appliances (pieces that are glued to the body), airbrushing
and meticulous hand painting, all done by our talented FX artist, Cat
Bernier (sheís also an amazingly fun and kind person). It required a lot
of sitting still, but we talked a lot, I read a lot and went over my
Latin. The hardest thing about full body makeup and glued on appliances is
feeling like you canít move after youíre done because it will mess up
the final product. You really do want to stay as still as possible except
when the cameraís rolling. It can get uncomfortable, but makes for a lot
of funny moments. I also was supposed to have some really rad hand painted
contact lenses (you can see me wearing them in my big scene with Maria
Olsen [Maria Olsen interview -
click here]) for all the possession scenes, but one night the lenses were stored
in a solution I didnít know I was allergic to, so I had an intense
reaction and wasnít able to wear them for the rest of the shoot.
with Robert Conway
you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was a lot of laughing. We all like to have fun and joke around and many of
us have worked together before. It becomes like a family. We shot over
Thanksgiving week and my husband and Cat cooked a turkey dinner for the
cast and crew that werenít able to go home. We had a really warm,
relaxing, nurturing environment, I think thatís key when youíre
shooting scary or heavy stories.
future projects you'd like to share?
was really excited to have a scene with James Russo in Possession
Juan J. Fraustoís upcoming film about (guess what) demonic possession (I
DONíT play the demon this time). Nothing else I can talk about right
now, but hopefully soon!
What got you into
acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the
grew up in southern Minnesota. It was very rural, very cold (very Chekhov,
but I didnít know it). I was involved in 4-H plays and community theatre
up until I graduated high school, always loved it and then didnít give
it another thought for about a decade. There were no real working artists
around me and it didnít cross my mind that I could be an actor, even
though I dreamt about it. It wasnít until I was 24 and refocusing my
life that I had this huge realization that acting made me happier than
anything else I had ever done and I needed to try to pursue it. I got my
BFA in Theatre from The University of Memphis and also trained at
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to The
took an elective my senior year of college called Acting for TV and
Film and felt like I had come home. The biggest note I had always
received on stage was to be bigger, so to find myself under the microscope
of the camera was incredible. It could literally see me think, and it
opened this whole new world of subtlety and technique that I love about
film acting. Iíve been doing film work for 7 years now, Iíve been
fortunate to have several leading roles in various indie films, I think The
are all available to stream.
How would you describe yourself as an
actress, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
I donít know. Iím really cerebral I guess. I like to think about my
characterís mental state and past, Iím constantly imagining myself in
the characterís position and looking at how I would react or behave in a
situation vs. how they would. Iím big on memorizing my lines ahead of
time so they flow naturally, I think (for myself anyway) if Iím thinking
about what to say it really takes away from the scene and if my lines are
coming automatically it frees me to listen to the person Iím in the
scene with and try to think my characterís thoughts. For intense scenes
I use some physical tricks (trembling, fast breathing, jumping around a
little) to make sure my energy is high.
(and indeed actors) who inspire you?
Streep, Catherine Keener, Sarah Paulson, Jessica Chastain. I really like
Ed Norton. Recently Iíve been super inspired by Neil Brown jr, because
I did Kidnapped Souls
with him so I know him a little bit personally and seeing his career
explode the past two years after over a decade of grinding has been just
awesome, I know how hard heís worked for it. Honestly any actor, famous
or not, who keeps at it, who continues to grind and hustle despite all the
rejection and shit talking and ebb and flow of success is an inspiration.
They are the ones who keep me going.
Beauty, Fight Club, Moonrise Kingdom,
favorite thing I saw this past year was Hunt
for the Wilderpeople.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
not too big on most westerns, but I canít think of anything I deplore
right now. I found Anomalisa
really pretentious and didnít care for a lot of the choices made, but I
totally understand what they were going for, it just didnít really hit
the mark for me. A lot of people liked it though. I guess thatís the
last movie I watched that I didnít love.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Engesser - Actor on FB, and
I have a Twitter but I donít really tweet, maybe in 2017.
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think youíve covered everything pretty well, thank you so much for
having me and I hope you enjoy The
for the interview!
Thanks for having me!