Ellen Adair has made a serious name for herself as an actress on television in the big-name likes of The Sinner, Billions, and Homeland. But Trick, the latest offering from horror heroes Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, marks her first foray into the wonderful world of horror.
Adair plays the formidable Sheriff Jayne in the Halloween-set slasher and, as Wicked Horror found out, not only did she freeze her butt off during the shoot but she was genuinely scared too — in spite of playing the only character who keeps a cool head throughout.
WICKED HORROR: I love your character, Sheriff Jayne. It’s so cool to see a female sheriff in a horror movie. How would you describe her?
ELLEN ADAIR: Well, the clue is in the name, Sheriff Jayne, she is the sheriff of the town where all the spooky things are taking place and she is tough and she’s smart, but I think that she also really cares about the town and she cares about Detective Denver and her deputies and I think that she… She certainly starts the film tough, but not hardened, and she grows a lot through the course of the film because she’s the sheriff of a small town and a friendly community, and this horrifying thing happens, so she calls in her mentor, which is Detective Denver, to help her out with this. But when it keeps happening in her town and in the area, it ends up really changing her life and changing her viewpoint on humanity [laughs].
WH: She goes on quite a journey over the course of the film, doesn’t she?
ELLEN ADAIR: Yes, she definitely does. And it was a lot of fun to go on that journey and I also felt very supported in all of the film-making and storytelling about her. I think transformation is a strong word but it was a very fun story to tell.
WH: Omar Epps, who plays Denver, is ostensibly the lead, but you have the more interesting character, because she changes so much over the course of the movie. She leaves him behind in a way, because he can’t move on, he’s still stuck in this time.
ELLEN ADAIR: That’s very interesting of you to say. I don’t know if I ever felt like she leaves him behind necessarily – I’m trying to delicately talk about this without giving away any spoilers! – but I think that because he pretty early on has a certain view of what the situation is, and she has the more pragmatic view on it, and is a little bit of a naysayer. So, getting to really understand his point of view and getting to understand what actually is going on sort of gives her farther to travel over the course of the film as opposed to Denver, who’s more of a man on a mission, a man who people don’t necessarily believe in. He’s just trying to prove himself. I definitely felt like Jayne, whose first name is actually Lisa, so Lisa Jayne, had further to travel over the course of the film, which was just so fun to do. Even though she’s the sheriff of the town, there’s more room for her to develop.
WH: How was it finding that sense of camaraderie with Omar Epps? ‘Cause you guys have a very natural rapport onscreen.
ELLEN ADAIR: It’s so easy, honestly, it was effortless with Omar. He’s a great guy and what I really admire about him as an actor, working with him, was just how real he is and that made it so easy for me to just be in the moment with him and to argue with him. He was so fixed on his character’s point of view that it just effortlessly grew, you know me trying to draw him out, like “Dude, look at what’s around you.” I feel like at its best acting is easy, and it was always very easy with him. I always really felt that there was something very real going on with him that I had to seek out. Working with him was one of the many things that made the film a great time.
WH: What about the shoot itself? It looked completely freezing, at least to me.
ELLEN ADAIR: What are you basing it being cold on, was it the film itself?
WH: Any shots of the river, and the area surrounding it, made it look really cold. Also you guys were in layers and big jackets constantly. That just gave it a chilly feel to me, but maybe it was because of the time of year it was set?
ELLEN ADAIR: It was very cold, however, I run colder than any human being I have ever met. I run ridiculously cold, so I was freezing for a lot of the shoot. We were shooting in Newburgh, New York, which is a little bit upstate, and it was March, which is basically still winter even though everybody wants to pretend like it’s spring but it’s not. I think there’s even snow on the ground in certain scenes. Certainly, those scenes on the water, which were some pretty long days, running back to back, those were some of the times I’ve been coldest in my entire life. But then I also know that, when I get into a place where I’m really cold, I can’t remember anything else that’s previously existed. So I do remember a time when I was doing an overnight shoot for a pilot outdoors and it was November but we were supposed to be pretending it was May so we were dressed in appropriate attire. Anyway, with the proviso that I run colder than anyone else, I was very cold shooting this. I was wearing two sets of long underwear in probably every single scene we shot, and when we were outside I would also have warmers for my hands, sometimes attached to me, and when we went inside the costume people were like, “Oh, you don’t need the long underwear anymore” and I was like “No no, I do.” I’m gonna be warm and continue wearing two pairs of long underwear and also my shirt, my jacket, and my pants and be warm as opposed to outside when I’m wearing all of those things and I’m still cold. But seriously though, I run so cold that sometimes if I’m shooting inside, on a stage that’s well air-conditioned, I spend 70 percent of my meager acting power just pretending I’m not cold. It’s the cross I have to bear.
WH: Well, I feel your pain, I run incredibly cold too. Maybe that’s why I felt cold watching this actually?
ELLEN ADAIR: Thank you for your very intuitive empathy. I was just wondering if you’d maybe seen pictures of me inside wearing a scarf while shooting this or something [laughs].
See Also: Trick is a Festive Treat [Review]
WH: Your background isn’t really horror. Why this particular project? Are you a horror fan yourself?
ELLEN ADAIR: I’m very easily scared so, for that reason, I’ve always said I should do a horror movie because I would just be so genuinely scared. All somebody has to do is tell me a scary story and I’m horrified. So, the joke is that I play the least scared person in this movie probably, but part of it is, weird biographical fact about me, I grew up without a television so we would go to movies but because it was a rarer thing, I was, from a very early age, just incredibly scared by anything that was in a film. Because I was less sensitized to the moving pictures in the little box, I was just afraid of everything. But now that I’ve had a television for, like, ten years — which is only the length of time I have — I can deal with slightly scarier things than when I didn’t have one. I asked Patrick for some recommendations for films to watch to get in the mood for Trick, which is just something that I love to do when I’m working on something, and I was just unbelievably scared by a lot of them but I watched them and that’s when I realized, you know, I can do this. The thing that really terrifies me, though, is possession so I’ve always said I will not watch The Exorcist for less than $5,000, which is what I value my mental well-being at, I guess, I’ve put a price on it [laughs]. So the fact the films I was watching for this didn’t deal with that particular issue, and the fact Trick doesn’t either, made it slightly easier for me. Although, I’d be happy to do a possession movie because I would be genuinely terrified the whole time. So the acting would be really easy. But, to answer your question, I was attracted to what a strong and interesting person Sheriff Jayne is, and the script as well, the fact that – and I hope this isn’t a spoiler – there aren’t really any scream queens in the movie. Both myself and Kristina Reyes, who plays Cheryl in the movie, are both strong women in our own right, so I liked the sort of quiet politics of that, too. I always want to play strong female characters, all day long.
WH: What are you working on at the moment, what’s coming up next for you?
ELLEN ADAIR: I am going to be on season four of Bull, the CBS show, which is currently airing. I think the episode I’m in should be airing in a couple months, though I don’t know the exact date.
Catch Trick in Theaters, On Demand and Digital HD now