Genre legend Lin Shaye is having an incredible year in 2019. Her stellar performance in Room for Rent is garnering rave reviews, and Gothic Harvest co-starring Bill Moseley is just gearing up with its recent release on digital streaming platforms.
She hasn’t taken a break, however, and fans can look forward to seeing her in the upcoming reboot of The Grudge as well as her role in the new series, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels on Showtime.
Despite that inordinately busy schedule, filming for Penny Dreadful is ongoing, she took some time out to speak with iHorror about these projects and as always, it was a treat to dive into Shaye’s process with her. She is a masterful tour guide into filmmaking and acting and we were all ears.
We began our discussion with Room for Rent, the story of a woman who is left floundering after her husband dies. He has always taken care of everything, paid the bills, and to an extent kept her locked away and under his thumb. She sets out to create a life for herself but soon things take a dark and heartbreaking turn.
Surprisingly, she almost walked away from the film completely when it was first presented to her by director Tommy Stovall, with whom she had previously worked on Sedona and Hate Crime. In fact, it wasn’t until he asked her to reread the script that she decided she had to be a part of the project.
“Tommy sent me that script quite a while ago, actually, and I read it and just didn’t like it,” she said. “I turned it down but a year or so later he contacted me again and asked me to take another look. So I reread it and I kept thinking, ‘Why didn’t I like this?!'”
To be fair, the character of Joyce was different in that early iteration of the script. In that version, she had murdered her husband and it was very dark from the beginning. It was something we had definitely seen before and so she talked to Stovall and really dug into the character from a different direction.
“What if she’s just this woman who is sort of disenfranchised, who’s lived with a man who has sort of kept her under wraps, and then suddenly he dies and she’s left with no tools to navigate life,” she suggested. “From there we started developing Joyce and the more I thought about it the more excited I got about it. Even with all that’s going on with MeToo and women’s movements and all of this that’s going on in the political spectrum, there are a lot of women who fall through the cracks. They live in the world who are kept under wraps by their men who control them and who they have to navigate around to live.”
The work that she and Stovall put in together on the film shows on screen. Joyce becomes a layered, complex character. Not only does it make the story more rich and fulfilling for the audience, but it also leaves us conflicted as she makes decisions that leave us shaking in our chairs.
This complexity elevates the material and also allowed Shaye to make daring decisions during filming, some of which even she didn’t know she would make until she was in the moment.
In the story, Joyce eventually rents out a room in her home to a handsome younger man with a troubled past. Over time she becomes obsessed with him and on one particular occasion, while he’s out of the house, she goes through his things, touching his clothes, and in a particularly disturbing moment, running his toothbrush over her own teeth.
“We didn’t rehearse that and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie,” Shaye said. “I have things happen like that in the moment and that’s the gold of exploration and creating a character. I love the process, but I’m always scared to death, even after all these years. But fear can be your friend. You have to ride that wave.”
Fear is more present and external in Gothic Harvest, the new horror/thriller from Ashley Hamilton. It’s the story of a family under a horrific curse who must carry out sadistic and terrifying rituals in order to stay alive.
Shaye plays Griselda, the family matriarch, and she joined the project when the film’s writer contacted her.
“Chris Kobin is an old friend of mine,” she said. “He was responsible for 2001 Maniacs with Tim Sullivan and he brought the project to me. We talked about the idea of the film and worked out the character and some of those moments together.”
In many ways, Joyce and Griselda are so completely different that it’s hard to believe they are played by the same actress, but that’s the beauty of a talent like Shaye’s. She commits completely to her work and looks for the reality and the “moment” in every scene.
“I don’t really have goals,” she explained laughing. “I work really hard trying to figure out detail and I guess the detail is what makes the work stand out.”
Whatever the reason, her work continues to shine and fans will have more chances to see her in new projects soon including The Grudge which she calls a “very upsetting movie” that is going to “knock people onto the floor.”
She’ll also be appearing in the new iteration of John Logan’s Penny Dreadful subtitled City of Angels which leaves behind Victorian London for the gritty streets of Los Angeles in 1938 where Nazism has become a terrifying and insidious presence.
The actress is excited for the world to see what they have been creating calling Logan a poet and a true artist.
“He picks a word and writes a word and creates a rhythm within a sentence that he wants in the show,” she said. “If you say what he wrote and put the punctuation exactly as written, you get a meaning and a substance to what the character is saying that you wouldn’t have in any other way. He’s the real deal, and I play a character who is a Nazi Hunter with Nathan Lane. What could be better than that?”
Room for Rent is currently streaming free for Amazon Prime customers and Gothic Harvest is available to rent or purchase on digital platforms as well. The Grudge is currently slated for release just after the first of the year on January 3, 2020. Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is still listed as In Production on IMDb with no exact release date set at the time.
It seems that no matter what kind of scary story you like best, Lin Shaye is there, and there’s a sort of comfort in knowing that. Honestly, we can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!