What was your first reaction to being asked to do this film?
I was thrilled. I went in along with a couple hundred other people and auditioned and had so much fun at the audition. And then I had the callback, which is where I met Micah, my co-star, the first time. We got along so well and it was all improvised, and the energy was great. I remember telling my mom, “If I don’t get this role it’s because of some spiritual reason why I shouldn’t,” because I had so much fun that it seemed wrong for me not to get it. I just loved it. So when (writer-director) Oren (Peli) called and said, “Hey, you got the role,” I was beyond thrilled.
What did Oren ask you to do in the audition?
I remember, all these women were going into the room, and they’d walk out and they all looked kind of disgruntled, they were shaking their heads, and I was like, What’s going on in there? I walked in and sat down, and Oren said, “Why do you think your house is haunted?” And I just had to start telling him. There was no, “Hi, I’m Oren, this is the movie,” or “Can I have your headshot?” It was straight into it. It was all improv. And then the film itself, there is no script. Oren had such a good direction that he wanted the movie to go in. He had it all planned out. But the dialogue in the movie is improvised. We were just kind of living in the moment and taking it scene by scene.
Did you have any specific improv training?
I went to Southern Methodist University, where they have an amazing theater department. Improv was incorporated into a lot that we did there, and then I did have a specific improv class for a semester. But other than that, no Groundlings or anything like that.
I just noticed, it doesn’t sound like you have any accent.
That’s probably a result of Ashley Smith, my speech and voice teacher at college. He was very good. Give me a few margaritas, it’ll come out, don’t worry.
What has “Paranormal” done for you? In the aftermath has there been any change for you?
It’s been incredibly overwhelming. The response that I’ve received from people who have loved the movie is … I don’t even have words. It’s really incredible. My Facebook blew up. I have a fan page now. I can’t even accept friend requests. I’ll get 100 a day. I started a Twitter account, and that blew up. People recognize me, and they’re always so nice. It’s like, overnight my world changed — I didn’t change, I’m still me — but my whole life kind of shifted around. But it’s all good. I’m so thankful.
Has anyone reacted to you as the character?
I know Micah has received a lot of that: “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad to find out you’re alive!” And on my Twitter I’ve had some, “Are you really missing?” “No, I’m not. I’m in Los Angeles.” But it’s endearing. I’ve had mothers get to me on my Facebook account or Twitter and say, “My daughter is convinced that this is real. Please write back and help me convince her that you’re really OK.” I always try to send them a message, “I’m good. I’m a happy girl! Don’t worry.” But it could be the demon trying to be tricky.
Are you still taking acting classes or training at all?
Yeah, actually, as you’re talking to me now, I’m sitting in front of my acting coach’s studio. I’m getting ready to go in to work on an audition. I take classes every week, and whenever I have auditions, I always get some help. There’s always more to learn.
Where are you hoping to go from here?
This movie has really just opened up so many doors, and I’m meeting good people and reading scripts and getting auditions that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I just want to do good work, whether it’s TV or movies. I just want to work with smart people so that I can learn from them.
Do you worry about being pigeonholed with horror stuff?
I think my manager and agents have probably been thinking about that. For me, I can’t worry about that. I just need to focus on promoting this movie as much as I can and doing whatever they need from me and also taking a bunch of auditions and just working hard. Because I don’t have any control over how people will see me. So I’m just going to hopefully do a wide variety of things. That would be ideal. We’ll see.
You also filmed a movie called “Walking Distance”?
That was quite a while ago. Maybe a year ago. A friend of mine produced that film and invited me to be a part of it. It was a fun project to work on.
Did anything freaky happen during the “Paranormal” shoot?
There were lots of noises that weren’t created by Oren, our director-slash-technical mastermind, and we would always respond to it. We were kind of living in that zone, so if something happened we would just go with it, and some of that actually made it into the movie. But it’s funny, because we kind of scared ourselves. We were shooting such long hours, day after day, and it became really easy to be scared because we were just kind of living in that space. And we rarely left the house ourselves. The movie feels kind of claustrophobic, and we were feeling that way too.