Ricky Church chats with The Heretics stars Nina Kiri, Ry Barret and Jorja Cadence…
Last week Flickering Myth got the chance to see the world premiere of The Heretics, the next film from Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Entertainment, at the Canadian Film Festival. Directed by Chad Archibald, the film sees Gloria the victim of a kidnapping by a cult and used in a self-sacrificial ritual. Years after her ordeal, she’s kidnapped again by a surviving member of the cult to complete the ritual as her girlfriend races to find her before its too late.
Before the screening, we got the chance to sit down with the three leads of the film: Nina Kiri, who plays Gloria, Ry Barrett, playing kidnapper Thomas, and Jorja Cadence, playing Gloria’s girlfriend Joan. Barrett was able to join the discussion midway through, but we spoke about the arcs the characters go on, the amount of practical effects used and how close-knit the crew became. Check it out below…
Ricky Church: Why don’t you start off by telling me a little bit about your roles in the movie?
Nina Kiri: My character, Gloria, she is a young woman who goes through a really traumatic event. She gets kidnapped by a religious cult. When she escapes from that, she kind of finds solace in a relationship and she, through a night of trouble, finds out a lot of secrets of her past and just goes through a big journey.
RC: So how do you deal with the themes of abduction and moving on from that? How did you tap into those feelings and the themes of the movie?
NK: I think it was the idea of strength and vulnerability mixed together, the way a person can emotionally be vulnerable and seek help from other people, but at the same time find themselves in situations where they’re the only person that can help themselves and be really strong. Being strong and vulnerable is a big theme for me.
RC: And how about you? You’re there as her emotional support and partner?
Jorja Cadence: Yeah, I play Joan who is Gloria’s girlfriend. She comes along a year after the cult capturing and we date for a year and the plot takes place on our one-year anniversary. We know each other really well and have fallen in love and when Gloria goes missing again, I start to really look for her and its terrifying to me that the love of my life is gone.
RC: Now I remember the cabin that was built and how creepy it was and that was during the daytime! How did you both feel about that place and filming at night for hours on end?
JC: (laughs) We were just talking about how the only thing we can remember from the shoot is being caught up in that cabin for a month!
NK: Yeah. I feel like its different because when we were they’re we’re surrounded by people. I remember one time everyone went outside for a second and I was inside alone and I was like “eek”. But it’s because there was never a second when we were alone, it couldn’t have been creepy for us.
JC: The only scary thing for me was walking through the woods to the cabin from where we were being held. And sometimes I’d walk alone because everyone was shooting in the cabin or somewhere else and I’d have to go to it on my own and that was terrifying, especially because it was bear season! They were coming out and I’m not from Canada and there were bears! Save me! It was really great to have a set like that though because it made our jobs a hundred times easier.
RC: It was all practical and everything.
JC: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. We didn’t have to use much of our imagination because it was all there.
RC: Let’s just talk about the religious cult in this movie because the masks that they have, how Vince made them himself from sticks, bark, wood and all that. What’s the point of this cult, why do they kidnap Gloria? What’s their ultimate goal?
NK: I think the religious connotations in the film are really strong because they kind of delve into human psyche when you deal with religion on that level and the way it can be used to manipulate people, the way it can be used in relationships to manipulate people. That manipulation of the human psyche is a prominent theme and I think Chad really wanted to bring religion into that as a layer. I think that’s a really big part of the religious connotations in this film, this fear that is based in really strong, culty religions and the fear that comes with being part of that.
JC: It’s also a made-up religion, the cult in the film and it’s interesting that they could just create one. I think its poignant that they use so many other things as inspiration for this imaginary religious cult and ended up working so well. It says a lot about extremism and how different elements can make up that.
SEE ALSO: The Heretics teaser trailer
RC: Going off of that, you’re talking about how Chad and them created this cult and everything. What’s it like to work with Chad and the others on a creative level and bounce ideas back and forth?
JC: They’re pretty hands on. We had to do rehearsals before we started shooting. I remember going through the whole script with Chad and he nutted out everything. It’s not a real cult I could go home and research so he really helped me to develop my character and backstory and reasons why I was actually fearful that Gloria was taken by going through everything with me. He had this vision of what it all was and helped me understand it too. It’s great when a director can put that much effort into it.
NK: Yeah, Chad’s really gentle. He’s really patient with his actors and during the whole, crazy process that comes with making a feature film he’s so relaxed and calm that it makes everybody relaxed and calm on set. I never felt pressure. The fact is we’re working within certain time constraints and a certain budget so you’re going to be rolling into long hours of the night and it just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have someone so kind and patient and relaxed through the process. It didn’t make it stressful. I wasn’t stressed at all when this could be potentially a really stressful thing to do, especially with the themes we’re dealing with and always shooting at night. People are stressed out, people are tired, and just to have someone whose so relaxed makes it flow so easily and conflict-free. Having a conflict-free set is so nice.
JC: Yeah, it makes it feel safe for us. We can do our job and really explore everything and not have any boundaries.
RC: So Nina, this is your second time working with Chad and everybody? I remember you had a supporting role in Let Her Out. What was it like to go from a supporting role in one of their other movies to now leading role? What was it like for you?
NK: It was great! It’s so nice because, like I was saying to be comfortable is, to me, the most important thing. Getting to work with a group of people I spent so many hours with was like coming home. It was just a really comfortable experience for me. That’s the word I would use. I guess it was different in the sense that it was obviously way more intense. I remember in the first week I thought “Now I know how Alanna (LaVierge) felt on Let Her Out”. I remember getting to the set of Let Her Out like ‘la la la la la’ and so happy and Alanna just being so drained, having a good attitude, but saw she was tired. I was like “Hm. Anyway I’ll just do my thing” and I never had to wear any weird make-up like Alanna did and I was just so happy.
Then all of a sudden I’m on Heretics and specifically thinking now I know what it felt like to always be in a lot of the scenes and always be up, always have this crazy make-up on. So it was more intense, but again just because of the group of people I was working with it was so fun. For example Carly, who does the make-up, I worked so many hours with her and you spend the most hours with those people doing make-up and wardrobe on you, we roomed together just because we were so close anyway. Comfortable, but way more… what’s the right word…
NK: Yeah, way more demanding.
RC: Now let’s talk a bit about Ry’s character. He’s the one who kidnaps you again and he’s an actor who I’ve seen do a lot of different stuff and has a physical presence. What was it like to work with him primarily in this movie for the kind roles you have, as abductor and abductee?
NK: Yeah, you’re right, he does have a very specific presence. That, again, having Ry be the person I have all these scenes with, and especially in the cabin, he made it so easy because he was so good in his character and playing Thomas. I feel like as soon as we got on set the very first day we had this really interesting dynamic. I had worked with his girlfriend before so I knew him, but I was glad I didn’t know him personally really well because we just created this really amazing dynamic. Even when we weren’t saying anything, as soon as the cameras were rolling our relationship just shone because we were both, obviously, knew what we were doing and because he was so good with his character I just responded to it. He played it so well.
RC: And did you have many scenes with Ry or spent much time with him on and off set?
JC: I think I spent, like, one day with him on set. I barely even knew him to the point where I saw him at a party a few months later and was like “wow you look so good!” because on set he had a scar on his face the entire time and looked worn out, dirty and rugged. I had only seen him once, maybe twice, on set. I really didn’t have anything to do with him.
RC: Now you’ve both said that your characters have dated for a year. It’s not very often that we see a horror movie where the two lead characters are part of the LGBT community. What was it like for you both to represent that community in the lead roles of a horror movie?
JC: It felt good. It hasn’t been focused on too much in the past and we were able to incorporate it into our movie and it’s not what the movie is about, you know? This is a love story and its two girls and love is love is love. It doesn’t matter which gender it is or who loves who. The plot and the story happens despite that. I’m not part of the LGBT community and this is my first time playing a character who is and going into it I wondered what it’d be like and it was not a big deal.
NK: It was so not a big deal! That’s the main thing for me. It was just a love story. I agree with everything you just said. It was what was and it was so nice to be able to represent that in this.
JC: And for that not to be the main point of the film, that they’re gay, I love that. Stories should just be able to have anyone in there.
RC: A couple of minutes ago you were talking about the make-up and how much time you had to apply it and I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve heard it gets a little crazy towards the end.
JC: She’s literally covered in goo!
RC: What was that process like for you to go through that make-up every day and how practical it was, with no CGI?
NK: I didn’t realize how much of a different it makes on you when you go through so many hours everyday. Sometimes I couldn’t handle it and it was like being stuck in this wardrobe, thinking “Am I crazy for feeling so claustrophobic?” But it really added to the character and the surroundings. Being in the make-up made is easier for me. I mean, it was really annoying having to sit through 7 hours of make-up everyday, but we had a really great team and it helped me get into character.
SEE ALSO: Our set visit to The Heretics
RC: Going into this movie and doing rehearsals and all that, was there any movies or performance that influenced you or stuck out at all?
JC: Not really. I didn’t really draw any inspirations from other’s performances, but I did watch a lot of movies on this subject matter and they inspired me, but from there I created it myself.
NK: I went through the script a lot and worked on the character a lot, but I wasn’t drawing from other places mostly because I didn’t really want to. I think I’ll always have inspiration in my head from movies that I’ve seen because I love films and I’m always watching new ones. I think if that comes, its something that will happen anyway.
JC: But nothing as specific as I want to copy this person’s performance.
At this point in the interview Ry Barrett was able to join us.
RC: We were just talking about your roles in the movie and I just asked them if there was any specific influence you had going into rehearsals that made you think “I want it to be a little like this”. What did you do to make it your own creation?
Ry Barrett: Yeah, there were a few inspirations. There were a lot of unique character quirks and characters within the genre, like Cabin in the Woods type films. I try to create something new and different. Thomas is a bit of a mystery throughout the film so I didn’t want to go too far one way and give anything away so it was taking little pieces of this and that and letting it come out through the film.
RC: How do you play with that kind of character who remains mysterious throughout most of the movie without giving too much away through dialogue delivery or physical performance?
RB: It’s tricky because you don’t want to give away which direction he’s going in or with the twists that do come. It’s a lot of restraining. You can’t go too much one way or the other, but you want to hint at either way too so its kind of going in one direction, pulling back and restraining and keeping a mysterious tone to it. Even in going into the dialogue, story, backstory, the characters and scenes we share together, a lot of it was the writing and only giving enough at a certain time in the film.
RC: I asked Nina this a little while ago, but how do you two work together since its primarily the two of you in the movie and strike that chemistry between your characters and play with the abductor/abductee roles?
RB: We had a lot of fights. The scars I got, I had to get plastic surgery.
JC: Oh that’s what happened, you did actually look like that.
RB: Yeah, I got some work done.
NK: Everyday, fisticuffs!
RB: It was pretty natural. Nina’s pretty easy to work with and we both have our own ways of doing it, but it naturally flowed together. We allowed each other to do that and working with Chad, it came naturally. I think we both understood the characters well enough that it came as it was. There were days we’d experiment and try different things, if something worked it worked, if not its cut. I haven’t seen the film yet so…
NK: Let’s hope it worked!
RC: Now Thomas is a religious cult member. Did you much research into that kind of mindset of someone who was moulded by a cult and then got out?
RB: There’s a lot of specific case studies that you could study, but obviously they’re all different. I did a lot of reading and watching documentaries and biographies about former cult members and how they affected people and their post-traumatic stress. It is a thing that affects many people very differently. Some people get out of it, some people go back to cults. Its pretty interesting, but I didn’t base any of it on one particular cult or experience.
RC: One question I asked Nina a while ago, this was her second time working with Chad and the Black Fawn team. You’ve worked with them quite a lot too. What’s it like to have this team you can go back to regularly and work the creative process of your character with them?
RB: Makes things, for me, a lot easier to communicate. A lot of times you’re working with a new team or director sometimes the communication can be a bit more difficult or take more time. Like you can still convey the same thing, just takes more time. With Chad and the others, we’ve known each other and worked on so many things together, we have quite a bit of a shorthand at this point. He can say one sentence and I’ll know where he’s going with it and I’ll try something out and if he doesn’t like it I’m open to what they want to try. I know Chad pretty well so I know what style and what he’s going for pretty quick. That saves a lot of time and there’s just a trust in it that you don’t have from past experiences. It’s always different depending on what the project is though.
RC: And Jorja, this was your first time working with them?
JC: Yeah, it was.
RC: What was that like to come into this film knowing these two have worked with them before?
JC: Well I didn’t expect it to be so much like a family. I thought it’d be like other sets I’ve gone to where people have worked together before, but not literally everyone. Not only was I one of the only people who had never worked with anyone before, but they also started like 10 days before me. I wasn’t there for at least the first week of shooting.
NK: You fit right in too!
JC: Yeah, the first day I was like “What is going on?” Literally this is the biggest family ever and I just slithered in right there! Now they can’t get rid of me!
RB: You did it pretty seamlessly.
NK: No, actually though! Jorja was part of it immediately.
JC: I think it’s because there’s a lot of downtime when you’re on set and especially for my character I’d have to wait around a million years for Nina’s make-up to be done and mine would take two minutes. We all had plenty of time to mess around and make friends. Except for you, Ry, I had only met you once.
RB: Yeah, I was tucked away in a corner reading a Stephen King book being a loner.
RC: I asked Nina and Jorja earlier, but what are your thoughts on how much of the movie looks practical? They built the cabin and masks from scratch, both of your make-ups were done practically without CGI. What are your thoughts on that?
RB: I’m a huge fan of practical, everything practical. I like in a film where there is practical effects assisted with CGI, but I like when there’s a practical base. The cabin that Vince built is a character in itself in the film. It adds to the claustrophobia and paranoia just as much as any of the characters do. The make-up itself, the stages and characters we come across, it adds so much to work with as an actor. It’s a tool in itself. I love anything to do with that and I love when people take the time to do that, like the guys did growing up making all the films we love and why we do it. Yeah, I love it.
RC: What’s one thing each of you would want the audience to take away from the movie once credits roll? Is there anything you want the audience to say, like “I really liked ‘blank’ about The Heretics?”
JC: I want all my family and friends to never be able to look at me the same again!
RB: I guess just to appreciate the trip of a film it is. The characters all go on different journeys and we get to go with them on different ways. For them to just go through that and experience the jumps and the twists, the arcs the characters have and appreciate it.
NK: I would say the same thing. I guess specifically with my character, the whole idea of getting out of something and being able to turn to yourself when you’re afraid or in a moment of weakness. And also just having a good time watching the movie, escape from your world because that’s what movies are for. I hope people really find escape in it and enjoy it!
JC: Find escape in a cult movie… sounds good!
Many thanks to Nina Kiri, Ry Barret and Jorja Cadence for taking the time for this interview.