Abigail’s Melissa Barrera and Alisha Weir on Being Horror Frenemies

An iconic horror duo makes its debut in Abigail with Alisha Weir’s vampire ballerina and Melissa Barrera’s would-be kidnapper Joey. The Radio Silence film introduces a friends-to-enemies relationship you root for between Barrera—one of this generation’s best final girls, having left an indelible mark on the Scream franchise—Weir, a soon-to-be monster favorite (and, we’re hoping, Halloween-costume inspiration).

io9 recently sat down with the stars of Abigail to talk about the most interesting relationship of the film and how it goes through a bloody battle to see who comes out on top.

Sabina Graves, io9: Melissa, did you come on board during the development of the film? Because I love seeing you back with Radio Silence [Scream revival helmers]. I was like, “this team is amazing.” I’ll watch anything y’all do together.

Melissa Barrera:  I know, I’m just so happy that I get to keep making movies with them. It’s such a treat. I love them so much as people, and they’re such talented filmmakers that I just know that it’s a guarantee with them. I came on… not during the development at all. I didn’t find out about them making this movie until almost exactly a year ago. And I read the script and I was like, “This is something that I could do. This could be really fun.” A fresh take on a vampire film, I think, is rare to find. So I was like, “I hope that they see me as one of the characters. I think I could do it.” And luckily they did. 

io9: Alisha, did you know off the bat that you were up for playing a vampire and ballerina? What was your reaction to that?

Weir: I mean, as soon as I saw “ballerina vampire,” I was 100% “I would love to play this character.” At the start she always was a ballerina, but it wasn’t a huge part of her character. The more we talked about it, the more I was trying to understand Abigail, and our choreographer [with directors] Matt [Bettinelli-Olpin] and Tyler [Gillett] had so many ideas. And then next thing you knew, it was a very, very big part of her character and of the film, and she was she was a ballerina vampire. No matter what she doing, she was always leaping, she was pirouetting, she was spinning. Everything she did, she looked like she was a dancer at all times. And I think that was what I thought was so fun about getting to play Abigail, and getting to experiment and play with that side of her.

io9: Abigail and Joey go through an evolution with their relationship. How did you build that together? Was it hard to pretend to hate each other when Abigail’s true nature is revealed?

Barrera: It was! I mean, I think for Joey because she’s very protective of Abigail at the beginning and feels for her and has this motherly instinct to protect her—I had that with Alisha. Just knowing that she’s so young and [has] such a huge role in a movie with only adults… I just wanted to make sure that she was okay all the time. So I think that that that kind of merged into the film and it was so natural. The development of the relationship felt really natural for both of us. We really love each other. I don’t think Joey ever hated Abigail, even when she turned. I think she just felt deeply betrayed and fooled. It was more like anger of, like, “Why did you play me? I was trying to take care of you and you really manipulated me.” So I think that it starts off as one thing and then it flips on its head and the relationship between them goes through a lot of pushes and pulls.

Weir: Abigail and Joey share such a connection. When you see Abigail, you figure out that Abigail has been doing this a very long time. She’s been bringing a lot of people here over the centuries she’s been alive, and she’s never brought someone there where she’s had someone that’s cared for her—someone who didn’t want to hurt her. And I think that’s why at the start, although she is putting on an act, some things that she’s telling Joey are true. Some things are truthful that you don’t realize [until] you see the whole film. Because she feels the trust with Joey that she can tell her these things, she knows that Joey’s not going to hurt her and she’s not going to let anyone hurt her until she finds out who she really is. But she never does want to hurt her because she’s a child. They share that relationship that that I don’t think Abigail’s ever found in anyone she’s brought over, in the centuries she’s been doing that.

io9: I love how the film really just explores, like, “Who are the real monsters?” In many ways, every character has an element of having done something monstrous. So it’s monsters versus monster. But how do we determine who the real monsters are?

Barrera: That’s a good point, because they’re all criminals, and you meet them and you’re like, “All right, these are kidnappers. These are not good people.” But as you get to know them and you peel the layers back and the more information gets revealed, you start liking them and rooting for them. The tables get turned a little bit where you think the monsters are these people—they kind of hunt her and kidnap her, but then it turns out to be the other way around, she actually kidnapped all of them. What I love about this, all the characters, is you get to really see the softer side of them. And I think that that’s very true about human nature. No matter what masks we put on, there’s softness and vulnerability inside all of us. And no matter what mistakes we made, the regrets that we have, there’s always goodness inside. And we live in this gray area where we’re not all good and not all bad. Human beings can be very bad sometimes, like you see in the world. And you’re like, “Whoa, how do we get to this point?” But then there’s always a way back, and I think that’s the message of this [film], like repentance and turning a life around and kind of going back and doing the right thing.

io9: Alisha, just to close it out, you’re my favorite vampire right now. Incredible work. What was it like to dive into the research to build out your character? Were you a fan of other vampires previously? Or was this your gateway into the vampire lore?

Weir: It was so exciting. I didn’t know a lot about vampires before getting to play Abigail. I knew the bare minimum about daylight and things like that, but I didn’t know a lot about them. Abigail is also very unique in that she’s been living centuries. I loved getting to do the research with her father and her past and her life and why she’s doing this. You see different parts of her and different characteristics of her during the film and I think that’s what’s so special about Abigail. She brings you through so many different emotions, and you see so many different sides to her. And sometimes you love her and you hate her. I think that’s what I love so much about getting to play Abigail, is getting to explore those sides of her.

Abigail is in theaters now.

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