Interview: Anna Camp on her new film, “From Black”

Anna Camp Explores New Territory in “From Black”

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Anna Camp is an American actress, singer, and producer. She was born on September 27, 1982, in Aiken, South Carolina. Camp is best known for her roles in various films and television shows, including her portrayal of Sarah Newlin on the HBO series “True Blood,” Aubrey Posen in the “Pitch Perfect” film series, and Gwen Grandy in the television series “Good Girls Revolt.”

Camp began her acting career in the early 2000s, appearing in various theater productions before transitioning to film and television. In addition to her acting work, she has also recorded music and has made several appearances on Broadway.

Camp has received critical acclaim for her performances in various roles throughout her career. She has been nominated for several awards, including the Screen Actors Guild Award and the MTV Movie Award.

This has been a meaningful season for Anna Camp. While the veteran actress is grateful for the years of work that defined her Hollywood career so far, it also largely meant she was typecast into comedic roles in popular projects like the Pitch Perfect series, The Mindy Project and more. In the last few years, Camp has been pushing to break out from the uptight blonde roles that quickly come her way, and she’s been rewarded with a string of appearances in varied genres—from suspense to drama to Western—and her latest was one of her most fulfilling experiences to date as an actor, as the lead role in the horror film, From Black.

From Black features Camp as Cora, a drug-addicted mother who becomes undone by the grief and confusion of the disappearance of her young son. It’s a spiraling descent on paper that allowed Camp to take new risks and showcase new sides for the camera. It was unexplored territory for Camp, but the trust between her and co-writer/director Thomas Marchese allowed for the creative chemistry to pull it off.

We recently sat down with Camp to hear more about the challenges of making her new film, her desires at this point in her career, and why she calls this entire experience “life-changing”.

From Black allows you to explore a leading horror role, but has this been a fulfilling season because of that?

Anna Camp: Definitely! I’ve been trying to do a variety of different things. For a long time, I was getting offered roles that were very similar. They were that Type-A, perfect, almost Mean Girl kind of blonde woman that I loved playing and I had the best time playing, but I was really, really searching to also do things besides that.

I didn’t know the trajectory of my career once I got out of college. These are things that I auditioned for and I booked and then Hollywood starts to say, ‘Oh, she’s really good at playing that. Let’s keep casting her as that.’ That’s okay for some people. [Laughs] But I was like, ‘I’m starving! There are so many facets of me as an actor and artist that I haven’t gotten to show yet, that I haven’t gotten to create yet, that I haven’t gotten to experience yet.’

So I’ve been fighting for different roles. I’ve been out there saying, ‘No, I’d rather not work and wait for the role that will help me evolve as a person.’ So it’s awesome you see these different things, because they’re things I’ve actively worked for. Even though they are not quite the typical things that people are used to seeing me do, I’ve never been more creatively fulfilled as an actor in my life.

It’s also scary to say goodbye to your comfort zone, right? [Laughs] It’s like, ‘Oh god, I’m gonna die my hair back brown. I’ve been dying it blonde since seventh grade.’ Until people see me in this new light, it’s a bit of a risk. But I’ve been very fortunate that people have taken the chance and they have trusted me with this. So I’ve been working my butt off to try to experience new things and it has been really exciting.

Was there a defining moment where you realized you had enough credibility where you began to push back? 

Anna: I don’t know if there was a point. I’m still discovering that now. I’m still going through it now. I don’t know if there was a defining moment, but there came a time where I was on set on a job I can’t remember. But I was on set playing that same role and I was miserable. I was pretending it was exciting and fulfilling, but I was going thinking, ‘I’m so much more than this!’

From that point on, I just said no when I was getting similar roles. But it was definitely scary. I’m out here on a limb going, ‘Will you trust me with this? Because I know can kill it. I know I can.’

I think a lot of my theater work in New York City before I came to L.A. was what was pushing me and encouraging me to seek out different roles. I did a lot of different roles that a lot of people have never seen me do on stage. And I recently got to do a play in L.A. where I chopped my hair off and got to play this alcoholic-raised woman. It was just so exciting for me to get to do.

Because I’ve said no to things I don’t want to do, the door has opened for me to receive these roles that I actively want. So I’m still searching. [Laughs] I’m still going through it. The path is not completely paved.

Thomas [Marchese] wrote that he wasn’t wanting to give in to genre tropes when making this movie. Was that something you talked about in advance?

Anna: Well I got sent this script because a producer friend of mine who produced the Western I was in reached out to me asking about another actress. I said, ‘They’re good.’ Then she asked about another and said, ‘You’ve worked with her? How is she?’ So I asked, ‘What’s going on? What are you casting?’ She said, ‘I’m looking for an actress who can play a mother who goes through hell and back in the course of this film.’ I said, ‘Send me the script now.’ [Laughs]

She sent me the script and I read it in literally an hour because it was that good and that this role was something I’d been aching to play. I’d been so hungry for a role like this. I also knew it wasn’t your typical horror movie. It felt like it was working on this metaphorical level, with hints of Pan’s Labyrinth in here, which I found really cool.

It’s really a statement on grief and guilt. There are poetic moments in this film, but it’s coming from a different place than your typical horror movie. Then when I met with Thomas, who was also the co-writer, he’d also been through a lot. He’s an ex-cop who’d been through a lot and knew all about the police and procedural side of things. But he’s also a very soulful person. So when I met him, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be really magical if this is executed properly.’

It was a little of a meeting of the minds in a way where I trusted him, he trusted me, and we knew we’d make something that was very different than the typical horror movie.

How much did the experience live up to what you pictured? 

Anna: There were definitely challenges every single day, but it was more of an excitement of getting to shed the skin of these characters that people are used to me seeing. I was really excited to play Cora, not only because it’s such a well-written role, but… all the characters I play sit up straight and they’re perfect. They have hair and makeup. But I got the chance to inhabit this person that I don’t normally get the chance to.

Even talking with the costume designer, I’d say, ‘Cora wants to disappear. She’s hunched over. She’s walking around trying to hide herself. She’s full of this guilt.’ It became this really wonderful character exercise for me to even physically play somebody so different. My body welcomed it, if you know what I mean. Everything just fell into place in this very relaxed, incredible way, and then I got to build the emotional resonance on top of it.

It was a very creative, fulfilling experience for me. And I don’t watch the things that I do. I haven’t watched some of the movies or TV shows because Im like, ‘Oh, I know how that goes.’ But this one, I was never and excited to see if I what I was doing and what I was feeling was translating. I watched the movie alone in my house and I was watching it like this [covers eyes]. But I’m proud of myself. For one of the very first times as an actor, I felt proud. It was a life-changing moment for me as an artist.

You can stream From Black exclusively on Shudder.

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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