Interview: Aidan Devine, Ava Preston and Jess Salgueiro talk ‘I’ll Take Your Dead’October 17, 2018
Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2018
Recently we had a chance to talk with Aidan Devine, Ava Preston and Jess Salgueiro before the screening of I’ll Take Your Dead at Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The cast members shared stories and talked about their love for the script and the characters they play.
What were your reactions when you read not only the script, but the characters you were going to play?
Ava: The first thing I thought was wow, this looks really cool. I was reading the plot and thinking about how unique the storyline was, how different it was from things I’ve heard before and seen. I’m not really one to go see horror movies, I mean a couple of weeks ago I was forced to go see The Nun with a couple of my friends and I watched it but my eyes were closed a lot. This was definitely interesting though, when I first read it, very cool.
Jess: I really loved the character of Jackie when I read it, I thought it was an interesting decision to have someone so foreign in this space. She was a gang banger from the streets and then ends up in this farmhouse with this odd family dynamic. Yeah, it was something that just screamed unique story to me.
Aidan: I just liked the fact that my character wasn’t set in one particular genre. You’re not sure if he’s a villain or a hero, a bad guy or a crazy guy, and that’s always a fun thing for me to do, to play a part that has these juxtaposing or opposing aspects to him, to try and make the whole thing come alive. It was a really challenging role and I’m always drawn to that.
You all have a relationship with death in this movie, in different ways. One of you sees people who are dead, another kind of comes back from the dead so to speak and one of you dispose of the dead. What was it like for all of you to play these characters with the theme of death so prevalent in the movie?
Ava: I’m not much of a horror person but when I got the part I was really excited to be introduced to this, to read up on different things and get started on it. When I got there, there was like prosthetic legs that were cut off, a severed head and the thing is it wasn’t scary to film the movie but for Gloria to be around death all the time, it’s so much different than me just filming it and I wouldn’t say she’s scared of it but more scared of death coming to her, because she sees it all the time and doesn’t want it to happen to her or to have her loved ones in that position so yeah, I think that’s her biggest fear.
Jess: What you said was interesting, coming back from the dead, I never really thought of it that way. Obviously, this character has a major survival instinct and fighting spirit and I do love how there is something about her being literally restrained for much of the film, that she has to surrender at some point to these people. It’s almost like a lesson she had to learn and the reason she came back from the dead, she needs to learn how to trust certain people. Also, thinking about her relationship with death in the film, she kills someone in the film and probably has killed others in her past, so there is that as well.
Aidan: One of the things we’re forgetting, one of the death’s in the film, is my character’s wife, Gloria’s mother, so we’re dealing with death from the very beginning of this film before the film actually even starts. The fact that he deals with death, death is one of the only things that all human beings have in common. We are all going to die and we are going to experience a lot of death in our life because everyone we know, at some point, is going to die. In this film, as you said, death is a strong theme throughout for everybody but it’s normalized, it’s humanized and that’s another reason why I like this script so much.
All three of you share some kind of relationship with each other and that dynamic throughout the film is very interesting. As actors, how did you find jumping back and forth between these relationships?
Jess: That was another reason why I loved this part so much. It could be easy to fall into the trap of oh, there is this man and woman in the house, are they going to fall in love, (not so much) and I love that Jackie and Gloria find this connection, this female connection. Gloria lost her mother and now there’s this older female presence in the house, it really was an interesting and fun relationship to explore.
Aidan: I think in some instances on set we mirrored those relationships. I felt kind of fatherly towards Ava, she wouldn’t like me saying that, and I was worried about Jess because she was tied up all the time. I felt bad, I was always like you know, are you guys aware she’s still tied up, can someone bring her water, things like that. Often times on a film set the relationships that are in the script do get mirrored and with these two, both of whom were total professionals, it was easy to just slip into our characters as soon as they said action. That being said, no matter how heavy or hard the scene was, as soon as they said cut we were laughing like idiots, it was really amazing.
Ava: Something that I really found interesting about the process was whenever Chad called action it felt like Ava left my body and Gloria came in, so I was no longer looking at Aidan I was looking at my dad. When Jess came into the storyline she was wearing my mother’s dress and I was like, who is this woman and why is she wearing my mother’s dress and the first thought that Gloria has was I want her gone, I hate her, I wish she stayed dead. However, as the story progressed things changed very rapidly between the two and it was neat to see how they both figured things out between them, how Gloria began to look at her as both a mother figure and a friend, giving her someone to talk to where there was no one before.
From a viewer’s standpoint, the characters seemed very natural, very real. Did you have time to work on scenes one on one or was it basically Chad saying action and it was off to work?
Aidan: We read through the script and whenever you’re filming you’re not on the film set acting all the time, it’s actually a very small part of what we do. We wait while they set the light, fix the set, and while we wait together, in costume, we talk about the film, the characters, we goof off but even the goofing off helps the relationship that you see on screen.
Jess: Exactly, I couldn’t agree more. The more comfortable you get with each other the better the performances are, the more believable they are. I actually did a lot of research on female gang members because I was curious about that experience, how different it is than being a male gang member, how you have to assert yourself more to earn respect. I went on a total YouTube spiral, watching everything I could get from the nineties up to now.
Ava: Through the process, Jess and I were talking about this particular scene at the end of the movie, it was something that captured both of us and without even going through the lines together it seemed as if we both knew what to do. I think that’s basically what it was throughout the entire film, the connection with the other actors and how it felt so natural and easy.
Now, Jess, you spend a lot of the movie tied up before you get on back on your feet so to speak. Was that difficult, being in that position for so long, and still needing to deliver a believable performance?
Jess: Truthfully, it was kind of difficult. I had bruises on my wrists, you can’t fake that tension, especially when you have nothing to grip on, it was quite violent. I remember the first week, in the first couple of days of shooting, it was mostly stuff in the bed, which was a cool sequence to shoot in. It was interesting to try and find the character while being tied up, settle into her while she’s literally settled into a bed. I remember in between takes sometimes I would stay tied up, it was just easier, and I would be sitting there observing, watching, taking it all in, like adding another layer, it was almost a blessing.
Even with the bizarre circumstances that brought him to where he was, do you think at any time William should have taken a step back and take stock of just what he was doing?
Aidan: There was no opportunity to take a step back. It may appear that he didn’t know how bad it was, or what he’s exposing his child to, but he does and he feels bad about it and at that moment, there is nothing he can do about it. He’s in a trap and that’s one of the tragic things about this film, about the trap that he’s in and it involves his daughter, which is the most catastrophic thing about it. When you’re in a situation where there’s no way out and you know you’re hurting someone else, someone you’re responsible for, it’s devastating. However, you can just live that devastation constantly because you will not survive, you have to somehow compartmentalize things. That is actually what everyone in this film does, compartmentalizes the horror in order to live a life, that’s why my character tells my daughter to eat her pancakes, finish her veggies, really, what else are you going to do?
When I finished watching this movie, certain aspects of it stayed with me for a while. Is that what you hope the audience takes away from this film, scenes or characters staying with them long after they’ve left the theater?
Jess: Oh yes, definitely. That’s what you want every audience to feel like after every film. Ava and I talked about this earlier, how this film really resonates after it’s over, kind of like a ‘mic drop’ moment.
Aidan: We would love if that would happen, we’d love it.
Ava: Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to get from the audience, that moment of wow, what a great ending and also, what happens next, what is to come?
I want to thank Aiden, Jess, and Ava for taking the time to talk with us.