Books of Blood Star Britt Robertson Details the Process of Portraying a Conflicted Character

The new horror film Books of Blood hits Hulu on October 7th and was inspired by Clive Barker's series of short stories of the same name, which contains dozens of installments. Rather than merely bringing those stories to life, the project also offers audiences all-new tales of terror, one of which stars Britt Robertson. The role required her to play a figure with a complicated and mysterious past, requiring her to hint at deeper turmoil without offering exaggerated interpretations of the inner struggles her character was facing, a daunting task for any performer, but a necessity of the complex role in the film.

Written by Brannon Braga and Adam Simon (Salem) and based on a short story by Barker with contributing original material, Books of Blood takes a journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three tales tangled in space and time. The film stars Andy McQueen (Fahrenheit 451), Freda Foh Shen (Ad Astra), Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci's Inquest), Anna Friel (Marcella), Britt Robertson (For the People), Rafi Gavron (A Star Is Born), and Yul Vazquez (Midnight, Texas). recently caught up with Robertson to talk about the new project, prepping for Halloween, and her experiences with Wes Craven on Scream 4.

books of blood britt robertson interview horror
(Photo: Hulu) This film was inspired by Clive Barker, who is considered by many to be one of the most prolific names in horror, so are you personally a fan of horror movies? Do you check out horror movies and TV shows on your own time?

Britt Robertson: Yeah, I do. I grew up in a household that loves horror films, "scary movies" we call them. But yeah, I've always been a really big fan of the genre.

And this film kicks off "Huluween," offering audiences a number of Halloween-themed programming to embrace the Halloween spirit. Growing up in a house that loved horror, how will you be celebrating this year?

Well, this year will be a little different. I'll carve a pumpkin or two or something. I mean, you can't even have trick-or-treaters, which really bums me out. I think I'm going to carve up a pumpkin, which I like. Normally, I love a Halloween party. I'm not great at dressing up, to be honest with you, I hate dressing up. It's a big part of being an actor, so whenever I can swear sweatpants, I always try to find a version of the costume that's the most comfortable. So, I don't know, but it always ends up being a giant onesie, a felt costume. I love the idea of just make-believe and scary stuff and I love candy and I love pumpkins and fall and horror mazes and stuff like corn mazes. Just everything we can't do right now.

As far as comfort goes, at least audiences get to check out Books of Blood from the comfort of their homes. And now I can't help but wonder, your character looks pretty comfortable in her outfits the whole time, did you have an influence on your character's look?

I always try to add the element of comfort whenever it makes sense or whenever it's possible. But then when I was doing the wardrobe fitting for this film, I was pleasantly surprised by all the comfy, cozy outfits they put me in because it was a big part of the character, too, because she has this hatred of sound, all the other senses that she experiences, she leaned into. So this idea of touch ... I think comfort was a big thing for the character.

Well I like how this character, you could say, "I wanted her to look comfortable so the audience can relate to her and empathize with her," but also, "I want her in sweats so I can be comfortable."

Yeah, It's always great when you can justify it with real rational thoughts.

Your character in the film is clearly struggling with some mental issues, but most of the movie we don't quite know what those issues are, other than she was in some sort of facility at some point and was taking medication. What was your process of delivering a character who clearly had some issues, but with the restraint to not just show a caricature of someone who is "crazy"?

I think, for us, it was based on the scene. We obviously knew what we were building to and how we needed to justify where this character goes and the points in which she gets to and what is ultimately revealed about her later, but I think the idea was having a lot of different reasons for why it may appear to be that Jenna's losing her mind. You may think that it's because her mom is so crazy and she doesn't have a stable home-life, or because she wasn't able to have a good experience in school and that she's running from everything in her life. But, ultimately, I would often try to bring this idea that the thing that she was really trying to escape was her own mind and she was just trying to escape herself.

Her struggles with sights and sounds and sensations were heightened a lot through visuals and the sound design, but as someone who will get irritated and anxious when I'm in a quiet theater and I hear people loudly crunching on snacks and popcorn, you definitely effectively conveyed that unease.

Yeah, our director Brannon Braga also suffers from a similar issue, maybe not to the point of it being diagnosed with misophonia or a true hatred of sound, but he was very hypersensitive to those things as well, which I think helped guide me throughout the process.

Speaking to the difference between being on set and the edited film, you encounter some really grotesque things in the movie, were those effects and prosthetics just as convincing on set?

Yeah, definitely. I think the special-effects makeups were really terrifying, because it's a hard thing to pull off when you're seeing things that you're not used to seeing. Oftentimes it's easy to write it off like, "Oh that's not scary because that's not realistic," but, for me, I think even just as an actor playing the role and just being there every day, the realness of all of those things helped me lean into the scariness of it all.

This isn't your first horror film, as you have the special distinction of being a performer who was killed off in the opening of a Scream movie, having been killed in Scream 4. Director Wes Craven passed away in 2015, but do you have any memorable stories about your time working with him?

I knew what sort of a legend he was at the time, but I didn't know anything about his personality or his directing style or anything. But he really was just a very calm, gentle, soft-spoken person in the few moments that I spent with him. But I think one of my favorite moments that I experienced on that shoot was when they, and I didn't know this because all of our stuff was isolated from all the other stories, they had the real [Ghostface] character hiding in a closet and in the scene, I go to open the closet and he jumps out and scares me. And so Wes would coordinate these different scares with each actor. This is all what I found out after the fact, but I just thought it was so cool that in the last of the Screams he was still taking the time to give everyone a personal connection to this horror identity that he had created.



Books of Blood hits Hulu on October 7th.