Shock Interview: Katharine Isabelle of American Mary recently spoke with the lovely Katharine Isabelle. The Ginger Snaps star is making another big splash on the horror scene as the titular character in the Soska Sisters’ new film American Mary (review).  Isabelle plays Mary with a dark, edgy and intoxicating flare. She effortlessly makes the role her own and has left a lasting impression on those who’ve had the opportunity to see the film. If you have yet to check it out, American Mary hits VOD May 16th with limited theatrical engagements beginning May 31st. 

Ms. Isabelle gave us the lowdown on working with the up and coming directorial duo known as “The Twisted Twins,” her deep bond with the Mary character, the duality of playing both the hero and the villain, and emerging as a feminist horror icon. She was a joy to speak with and she loves swearing. Head inside for the goods.

The story of American Mary follows a medical student, Mary Mason, as she grows increasingly broke and disenchanted with medical school and the surgeons she once admired. The allure of easy money and notoriety send Mary into the shady world of underground surgery and body modification.

Shock Till You Drop: You have starred in two highly influential feminist horror films: Ginger Snaps and American Mary – do you fancy yourself a bit of a feminist icon these days?

Katharine Isabelle: I would gladly take that title. I’d be fucking enthusiastic as hell about that. I was gifted with the role of both those characters. It was just a fucking blessing to be involved; to be given the characters that I have is terrifying. Mary is so fucking great and I loved her so much.  I really didn’t want to fuck it up. It’s funny. She really has no redeeming qualities. I think she only smiles twice in the film. It’s very rare to see a female character portrayed on screen that isn’t one of the five main stereotypes of women in film. [She is] someone who is so smart, so interesting, so quirky, so dark, and so loveable. It’s hard to define why you feel the way that you do about her. I hope that everybody finds some kind of power in watching what Mary goes through – especially girls. I would love to have that title of feminist icon. I don’t even know what that means, or how to properly take on that title and live it, but I would be fucking stoked to try.  

Shock: I think you just need to keep up the good work. 

Isabelle: Thank you. Hopefully I will be blessed with more awesome female characters like Mary and Ginger. 

Shock: As Mary, you were kind of both the hero and the villain. How did you navigate that duality?

Isabelle: It was tough. We shot this movie in 15 days. They would be rushing me from one location to the next and nothing is shot in sequence. I was worried about watching the evolution of the character and having it make sense and feel cohesive and organic. I didn’t want it to feel forced or pressured or confused, at all. The girls [Jen and Sylvia] did really good with keeping me informed on what had happened in the scene before and what was about to happen in the scene we were getting ready to shoot. The genius in that character is in the script. I didn’t do fucking anything. I didn’t have to sit there for months and work on my character. It was all on paper. Jen and Sylv are such geniuses that everything they did felt organic. It flowed. I never questioned anything. To have a character with so many layers that you don’t have to question, that just comes off the page, and you don’t have to do anything is genius on their part. I like the fact that she is not charming and adorable or an innocent wallflower at the beginning. She’s already fucked at the beginning. I love that. I love that it’s not your typical story of an adorable girl that gets fucked and gets mad. She’s a very smart, interesting, chirpy, original character that gets more original and more chirpy.  

Shock: Was it was it liberating to work with a creative team that sees the beauty in cinema and wanted and appreciated your input?

Isabelle: It totally was. They are definitely my favorite directing experience that I have ever had. I’ve had lots of really great directors, but Jen and Sylv are absolutely my favorite. It can be tricky when the director has written the film. The characters can be really close to their heart. They want to trust you, but it’s harder for them. The girls were so trusting, generous, and enthusiastic. Every day, I felt more confident and felt that I had more freedom to become the character. It’s terrifying. I didn’t want to fuck it up. I didn’t want to fuck up Mary or let her down. I didn’t want to let the girls down, either. I just felt free the whole time. All they did was encourage and make me feel high on inspiration and enthusiasm the whole time. They are fucking gifted geniuses. Anyone that gets to work with them is lucky as shit. They are going to take over. I love them. 

Shock: When I interviewed Jen and Sylv at Comic-Con, they mentioned they wrote the part for you. How did knowing that affect your performance?

Isabelle:  I didn’t know that at first. But, after reading the script, I immediately became obsessed. They hadn’t met me [prior to me coming on board]. They didn’t know what I was really like. They were fans of Ginger Snaps. I could have been wearing pink and being a silly giggly girl with a Chihuahua. They took a chance writing the part for me, because they didn’t know who I was. Fortunately, we were meant to be together for the rest of our lives and it all worked out. It’s weird for someone to write a movie for you when they don’t know what you are really like. Sylv was terrified when she first met me. She wouldn’t sit next to me. She was terrified that I was going to be a complete bitch or really annoying. She was scared that she was going to hate me. Thankfully, we all fell in love. She had this image of who I was based on films I had done and characters I had played. If I ended up being totally different, it would have been awful. You take a chance when you write something for somebody that you don’t know. It could totally blow up in your face. 

Shock: Given your camaraderie, is there any chance that you will take part in the Soska Sisters’ next project, Bob?

Isabelle: Uh, YES! It’s a male protagonist, so I will not be the lead, obviously. They’re not technically legally, emotionally, or spiritually allowed to do anything without me for the rest of their lives. It’s impossible. I will be a part of everything they do forever, if they will have me. 

Shock: You got to partake in some amazing effects in the film. Do you have a favorite effect or effect related experience that you were involved with?

Isabelle: Todd Masters is amazing. His whole team is great. My favorite thing was the Dr. Grant prosthetic puppet. I would have to interact with this puppet that’s mouth is sewn shut and cannot talk. The puppet would respond to me and to what I said. Most of that scene was actually improvised. But, I would forget that it was a puppet that I was talking to. I was in such awe of the prosthetic itself and the way they can make somebody like that come to life. Interacting with the Dr. Grant puppet was my favorite thing. I would sit there are just watch the puppeteers. They were fascinating. 

Shock Till You Drop: I know that horror fans would love to see you back in another high profile genre film. Are you open to the prospect of continuing to work in horror fairly regularly?

Isabelle: It’s weird. I don’t watch horror movies. My favorite horror movies are films like The Exorcist, Alien, and Jaws. I like the really suspenseful films. I get really scared in films that are really gory. But, shooting them on the other hand, is so much fun. I love acting, in general. A job where you are sitting around in a room with a bunch of characters, talking – that’s interesting, but, it’s nothing like running, screaming, fucking, killing people, being dark, and being interesting. I love that. It’s so much fun to shoot. I can’t watch other people’s horror movies, though, because they scare me. 

Shock Till You Drop: Well, when you are connected to the project, it takes the element of terror out of it. 

Isabelle: Absolutely. It’s other people’s movies that I chicken out on. Mine are fun to watch and they are so much fun to shoot, too. It’s hysterical. 

Shock: Thank you so much for talking with us. You are terrific. 

Isabelle: Thank you! 


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