Interview: Keegan Connor Tracy on What She Does to Prepare for a Role and Her New Horror Film, ‘Z’

Keegan Connor Tracy talks about her role in Z, her move to to directing, preparing for a role and her worst audition.

“It’s just about breaking it down and knowing your moment before, where you were, where you’re going, what you want.” – Keegan Connor Tracy on Preparing for a Scene


Keegan Connor Tracy (Once Upon A Time, Bates Motel, Final Destination) stars in director Brandon Christensen’s new horror film, Z, about a family who is terrorized by their son’s imaginary friend. Tracy’s character, Elizabeth, is put through hell throughout most of the film, so it’s understandable when she said that the whole experience was a “huge emotional journey” for her,

In this interview, Tracy talks about her role in the film, her move to to directing and preparing for a role and her worst audition.

How did you originally get involved in this?

Keegan Connor Tracy: I just had a script come to my agent and they said, “Are you interested?” And I once I looked at it I could see places that I could go as an actor. I really knew where I could dig in and that’s what made it interesting to me.

This isn’t your first horror film. Is this a genre that you like to watch?

Keegan Connor Tracy: No, in fact I got off the train of that after The Ring. The Ring scared me so bad. I was like, “I’m out.” And I had to revisit since then and kind of happily so. I really see the place of the horror genre and I’m directing one hopefully later this year. It doesn’t get the credit it deserves, I think. It’s a hard genre to get right and it really evokes a lot of big feelings for people. I think it gives people a really great release. I liken it to being on a roller coaster and when you get off, you’re laughing with your friends. “Oh my God, that was so great!” You didn’t think it was great while you’re in the middle of it. It’s when you get off that you laugh that you survived it is what’s great about it. I think horror has the same kind of element.

I think horror films are way more fun to shoot then they are to watch.

Keegan Connor Tracy: I wouldn’t call this a fun shoot for me. This was such a huge emotional journey for me and I had to sort of sequester myself a lot to stay in that woman’s mental and emotional space. Which isn’t to say that we didn’t have fun, but you know, it’s much easier for me to go and shoot Descendants and just laugh and hang out at craft services most of the time.

This was a fast shoot. How do you keep your bearings of where you are in the script because everything is so disjointed when you film?

Keegan Connor Tracy: Homework, homework, homework. I have my scripts, and I have little tabs that I put all through my scripts where I can divide. I always know where I am in the trajectory, especially because I knew her crazy had to kind of build. I really just did a lot of homework. Kind of the same kind of homework I’m doing as a director and what I will do for all my scripts, it’s just about breaking it down and knowing your moment before, where you were, where you’re going, what you want. The same elements that I do for anything as an actor, but just on a much more detailed scale.

What do you like about directing?

Keegan Connor Tracy: Oh, I I just love that you really get to get into the nitty gritty of the storytelling. I love being able to create the scene, that everything you see in that in that frame is what was chosen by that director. And I just loved being able to build that and I really look forward to doing that more and more.

With a feature you get to do start to finish, which is different from coming in as a hired gun, where on television where you’re serving their vision to be able to do it on a feature, I think is special because it’s your vision from beginning to end of the whole thing.

As an actor, you don’t always get to tell the story like that. A lot of times, you just fly in and you do a day or two. And especially as a recurring, oftentimes you don’t even get your own story lines. So, I just really love being able to tell the story in a much more detailed way.

Are you going to star in the film as well?

Keegan Connor Tracy: Originally it came to me as, “Do you want the lead in this film?” And, “Oh, you direct? Why don’t you direct it too?” I just knew I couldn’t really serve both at 100% capacity, so I declined to be the lead and chose to direct instead. But I will do a cameo in it, that was something I agreed to from the beginning and look forward to. The part that I’m gonna take is a cool one so it’ll be fun.

How prepared are you when you get on set? Are you ready to go and know what you want to do? Or do you kind of like to play like it by ear?

Keegan Connor Tracy: Both. Both. And it depends on what that scene is. Ultimately, I do my emotional work the night before. I know where I have to be the next day and I focused my energy. Leslie Linka Glatter calls it the dollars scenes versus the quarter scenes, if I remember that right. You focus on your dollar scenes and I let the quarter scenes kind of have a little bit more organic nature to them in the moment.

When I have taught acting in the past, one of the things I likened it to is you get on the plane, you packed your bag, put all your stuff in your suitcase and get to the airport and you give them your bag. You let go of it. But you packed it and that’s how I believe the work comes out. I packed my bag and then when I get on set, I let magic happen where it can. Where hopefully there’s room for it depending on schedule and the other actor and all the pieces that go into it, obviously. So, I would say it’s a hybrid.

What was the first professional job that you booked? How was that feeling when you got the call?

Keegan Connor Tracy: Ha! It was a show called, Two? I did a show called Two and I did a show called Three. I think it was Two and it was a guy where he had like some doppelganger going around committing crimes and he was going out looking for him. And my line was, “Don’t Tommy. Don’t start World War Three. OK?” That was my big moment, but I remember. Yeah, I just was excited because I felt like this was my destiny of what I wanted to do and here it was starting so was it was exciting.

What’s been your worst audition?

Keegan Connor Tracy: Oh gosh. I can’t really remember one where it was like, “Oh my God, that was the worst!”  Oh no, I do!

One was that I when I auditioned for First Wave, I was working on her inner work and I was struggling with getting it to come and I felt like it should have come organically and it just wasn’t. It was one of those things where, especially as a new actor you don’t trust your tool kit necessarily. I didn’t get where I wanted in the scene, no matter how hard I try I couldn’t find it. I walked out of the room and I was so frustrated, I kicked the wall and I put my foot right through the wall.

I remember there was one other guy in the room and he sort of looked at me and I go, “You didn’t see anything!” I left and then I called my agent and I was like, “I’m quitting. I can’t do this!” And she was like, “OK, just calm down. Just go home and calm down.” Then I get home and she calls me back and she’s like, “You dummy. You booked it.”  I don’t remember what she really said, but something along those lines.I guess they just saw the struggle and it was enough of a mystery. And then I called the casting place and told him that I was the one that kicked a hole in the wall, which they found was very amusing. And I brought them a case of beer.

I think a case of beer usually solves most problems.

Keegan Connor Tracy: Yes, it made them happy.

Z is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and VOD Platforms


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