Great White Star Katrina Bowden on Surviving Sharks for the New Thriller

Katrina Bowden's breakout role came in the sitcom 30 Rock, starring as the aloof and endearing intern Cerie. Over the course of six seasons, she held her own with comedic heavyweights like Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan, leading her to make the jump to the big screen. Understandably, her comedic timing and sensibilities made her a perfect fit for joining horror-comedies like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Piranha 3DD, and Nurse 3D, before going on to tackle more dramatic opportunities. Her latest film, Great White, sees the actor channeling a much more unsettling performance, as her character is forced into a horrifying survival situation. Great White hits theaters, On Demand, and Digital July 16th.

In Great White, a blissful tourist trip turns into a nightmare when five seaplane passengers are stranded miles from shore. In a desperate bid for survival, the group tries to make it to land before they either run out of supplies or are taken by a menacing terror lurking just beneath the surface. The film was directed by Martin Wilson and also stars Aaron Jakubenko (Tidelands), Kimie Tsukakoshi (Riptide), Tim Kano (Neighbours), and TeKohe Tuhaka (Love and Monsters, The Dead Lands).

ComicBook.com caught up with Bowden to talk her interest in the project, the challenges of the production, and whether she could return to another horror property in the future.

katrina bowden great white movie interview
(Photo: RLJE Films/Shudder)

ComicBook.com: We're here to talk about Great White, which is not named after the '80s hair metal band Great White. It is about the great white shark, of course. I didn't know what to expect going into it. I thought maybe it would be that you're stuck on a raft and then a Great White tour comes through, you guys get mixed up in rock and roll, but, no, a shark shows up in this movie.

Katrina Bowden: I mean, that would've been a very interesting twist.

I would love it if you signed on for a movie called "Great White," assuming it was a shark movie, and then all of a sudden the band, Great White, shows up. But hey, sequel, right?

Then I show up on set and I'm like, "Wait a second."

Aside from the band Great White, when it comes to sharks themselves, I know they typically have a bad reputation. What was your connection to sharks? Do you think they're awesome? Do you think they're terrifying? Do you think they're both?

A little bit of all of it, to be honest. I've always been pretty fascinated by them and also very scared of them. But I also love the beach. I love the water, but I feel like there is ... Sharks are scary because, when we're in the water, we're on their turf and we have no defenses, really, which I think is what makes them so cool and so interesting. I'm scared of them but also fascinated.

You are so hilarious in so many movies and in 30 Rock, of course, you're just such a talented comedic performer and you have dabbled a little bit in horror. Are you personally a big horror fan or do you just pursue one project to the next, regardless of what genre it might be?

I am a big genre fan. I love horror. I love thrillers. I also, just personally, as an actor, really love taking on roles that are different and something that gets me out of my zone, which is what has led me to do a lot of the genre films that I have done. Because, obviously, I've done a lot of comedy and I love comedy and it always holds a very close place in my heart. But the genre films are really fun because you get out of your normal element and shooting those movies is usually more physically challenging and I really like that, too. So, especially with this movie, we shot a lot in the water and it was pretty grueling at times but so much fun just because of all of that.

Based on some of the previous projects that you've been involved in, like Piranha 3DD, as soon as people found out that you were starring in Great White, it sparked this big debate, this big controversy. So hopefully you can set the record straight about what is scarier, a great white shark or prehistoric piranha?

Oh ... I would say a great white shark, to be honest. I mean, they're both pretty terrifying but I would vote for great white shark.

That settles it. That's a good enough answer for me. I have not personally experienced both, unlike you.

Because, normally, if you think about it, there are lots of great white sharks out there. You could actually come into contact with one. I feel like a prehistoric piranha is a little bit more out in left field where you're probably not going to tackle one.

Fair enough. Yeah, odds are in your favor, I would say, of avoiding prehistoric piranha from a subterranean lake or what have you. We're talking "horror, horror, horror," but, clearly, this film is more than just a horror show. It's not just a gross-out, bloody mess. It's about characters, it's about tension. What was it specifically about this project, about this story, about this character, that really -- pardon the pun -- reeled you in?

Well, it's exactly what you said, that so many movies in the shark genre are ... It's a lot of jump-scares. It's that classic type of shark thing that we've seen time and time again. And, with this movie and with the script, when I read it, I realized that it was very character-driven. There were a lot of those really tense, quiet, thrilling moments that really add to the tension so that when the big jump-scares do happen, it makes them that much more impactful. And then our director, too, took so much time to really build out these characters and make sure that we are all on the same page with who our characters were and how they thought and how they operated so that we could really make that a big part of this movie.

Because it's not about the gore and that aspect of it as much with this film. Of course, there are those moments and there's a lot of action and thrilling moments, but I thought the coolest part of this movie is the quiet tension that lingers between. And this character, Kaz, she's such a strong female character and reacts really, really well under pressure and tension, but there's only so much any human could take in this kind of environment, in this kind of scenario. So I think our characters had a lot of layers and that really attracted me to this project.

You mentioned it a little bit earlier about shooting this on the water and when I spoke with the director, his whole thing was wanting Australia and those coasts to be almost like characters themselves. And so I was hoping you could talk a little bit about what your process was like of, probably similar to the character, arriving in these majestic, gorgeous locations and then that transitions to, "Oh no, this is not just a vacation. This is like a grueling, physically demanding shoot."

I'm sure you can imagine, as an American, finding out we're going to go shoot in Australia was pretty exciting. I've been to Australia before but I hadn't been in a long time. I was so excited and I thought that it was going to be such a beautiful backdrop to this film, which it ended up being, what Marty said, a very big, important part of the movie that we had this gorgeous location. But, on the flip side of that, it was a very intense shoot. So we had our fun when we weren't shooting, especially we're in the area and everything. When we were shooting, we were all just really dialed in and really making sure that we were all physically able to do it because it was a lot of work. We were all, really, myself and the other actors, we're all so down for whatever, we really all got along so well. Which, also I think was very, very important because we're all stuck in pretty tight quarters, the whole movie.

We all really had to band together and be a team, which I think is so important on any project, whether it's a film or a television show. If you can all be a team and you're in it together, it always turns out better. It's a beautiful backdrop and then all this horror can start happening. So, similarly, we all fly to Australia and we're having the time of our lives, then we're on set and it's pretty intense. But that's what also made it so much fun, because of that.

Do you remember, was there either a specific scene or a specific day on set that took the cake of, "I love my job, I'm happy with this movie, but this is not entirely what I knew I was signing up for,"?

I never had a moment like that because I'm pretty cool when it comes to that stuff, but we definitely had some stuff go wrong. There were two days in particular that I remember. We were shooting on this seaplane, if you recall, from the beginning of the movie, and so we're in the ocean and they're setting up the shots for the seaplane and they're supposed to be shot inside the plane when we land it. We're all, the whole cast is inside the plane about to shoot and the plane starts sinking and it wasn't supposed to sink yet. Our safety team was in the water nearby, but we all started to panic because it really started to sink pretty fast and it tipped over.

So we all had to jump out and evacuate really quickly. We were all laughing about it afterwards, like, "You should have had the cameras rolling on that because that was a real sinking of a plane that we could have caught on camera." Then that held us back because we couldn't shoot that plane the rest of the day while they were fixing it. But, in a weird way, it did prepare us for when we had to shoot the scene where the plane actually sank. We're like, "Oh, we remember how this felt, so let's just try to recreate that."

Then there was another day where I was shooting a lot of my underwater scenes and there's a scene where I have a pipe and I'm hitting a piece of wood underwater, which is really hard to do because just doing things underwater, it's just so much harder because a pipe won't swing underwater the same way it does out of water. So there were a lot of just very technical things that I had to do and, when it's in the heat of the moment, I accidentally smashed my hand underneath the pole. I had my hand in the way and had to come up and my finger was all bloody and it was a big mess, but things like that happen, nothing threw us off too much.

I mean, it's Australia. I'm sure there was a Hemsworth brother there to save you in that moment of peril. They're all over the place. They're like kangaroos down there.

If we needed to call them, we could have, yeah.

Speaking a little bit larger to your interest in horror, since you have had so many cool opportunities, is there a favorite franchise or movie or anything like that, that would be a bucket list opportunity? Like, "I want to face off against Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger or whatever,"? Do you have any dream projects like that?

That would be so cool. I would love to, it would be very, very cool to be a part of a reboot of one of those franchises, would be so fun. A Friday the 13th would be so, so cool to be a part of. Additionally, my favorite horror movies as of late are Get Out and Midsommar. I would love to just be a part of a movie like that. It's more of a creepy, intense, thrilling horror, so those would be the ideal projects. I also just really like action. So, on the flip side, a really exciting action movie would be an ideal project, as well.

If they do a Midfall or Midwinter or what have you, I feel like you could fit in with the Scandinavian population.

I think so, too.

Before I let you go, I'm a huge fan of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. I remember seeing it in theaters, having no idea what to expect, and it was just such a blast. You're so funny, Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk are so funny in that movie. Has there ever been any talk recently of returning to those characters or, if not, can you picture what your character's life would've been like after? What a sequel would be for your character?

There was definitely talk of it, especially when it first came out, which was quite a while ago. Now, at this point, I don't have any news. Do I think it could happen? It could, but it has been a long time. It would have to be the thing where it's, like, flash forward 15 years and where are the characters now? And, I also will say, it would be so cool to do a follow-up on that movie, but there is something really, really nice about not messing with something that turned out so good.

So I would be very pleased if we were to do something, like a sequel of some kind with it, but I would be equally pleased that the movie lives on in all of its glory as it was. And, as for Allison, I mean, I don't know. I would like to believe that her and Dale lived happily ever after with some things, maybe, that's going wrong, but I would like to think that they were still together.

*****

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Great White hits theaters, On Demand, and Digital July 16th.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.