Call Answered: Sarah Withers: "Nightmare Cinema"
Sarah Withers is a rising actress who’s making her horror movie debut in Nightmare Cinema, five tales directed by some of the industries biggest names in the horror genre.
Sarah is in the first story, A Thing in the Woods, which plays upon campy horror of the 80s. Equally funny as it is dark and unsettling, We immediately follow a beautiful homecoming queen Samantha (played by Sarah) through the woods as she’s being chased by the Welder. Terrified and alone, she has no other option, but to devise a plan to take down the evil that’s destroyed her group of childhood friends. Through facing her deepest fears, she kicks some ass, and takes some names. She is not only terrifying, but a wonderful rising talent that is taking the horror industry by storm.
Nightmare Cinema will be released in theaters & On Demand Friday, June 21.
1. On June 21, your latest film, Nightmare Cinema is set to be released. This film is comprised of five tales directed by some of the industries biggest names in the horror genre. How did you come to be involved with this film? What was the casting process like? I got the audition from my agent, and I immediately noticed that it was a short, and of course a horror film, so I knew I was in for something very fun and unique. The casting process was truly memorable haha.
My first audition wasn’t anything quite out of the ordinary. The casting directors were two very lovely ladies, who instantly made me feel at ease. I got a callback, which is where things started to go awry! I knew it would take 30 minutes to get to my audition, so I gave myself 45 minutes to get there, which was cutting it a bit short, but I was also a junior at USC at the time, and I had to perform in my Stand Up Comedy class that day. So right after my set, I got an Uber. Well, for some reason, the Uber driver started to take me in precisely the opposite direction of the casting office. The man was elderly, and wasn’t very familiar with the app. I called my agent and manager giving them updates as I hopped out and hastily called another Uber. I knew I would be there 10 minutes after the session had already ended. But I made a conscious effort to focus on my breathing (thank you meditation) and let go of things outside my control. I told myself that everything happens for a reason, and the silver lining could be that I would be able to profusely apologize, thus showing that this was not at all my idea of professionalism! Alejandro was there with casting, and he was great from the onset.
2. Can you tell us the concept of this film and your role in the film? The Thing in the Woods, a film within a film, is the third act of a slasher film, which takes the nostalgia and campiness of 80’s horror, and brings them to a gory climax. I play the protagonist, Samantha, who is running from and trying to defeat the malicious threat known as The Welder - who as you can imagine goes around burning people.
3. One of your co-stars is the legendary Mickey Rourke. What was it like to work with him? What did you learn from him? I unfortunately did not get to work with Mickey! He was on set the day after me. I did hear that he brought his own costume however! He is the character that ties together all the stories.
4. What do you relate to most about your character "Samantha"? I’d like to think I’m similar to Samantha in that she faces her fears head on, and while I do find sneaky ways of circumventing the things I need to face, I do realize that there’s no way out but through, and Samantha is a beautiful example of that.
5. What is one characteristic of hers you are glad you yourself do not possess? Well, her taste in men leaves a little something to be desired haha! My co-star Kevin Fonteyne plays her boyfriend Jason. Jason is way less mature than she is, but I think it’s the allure of the young alpha male, and his playfulness that draws her to him. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s raucous and reckless for sure.
6. What do you like about filming horror movies? Everyone who works on horror films are so nice! And who doesn’t love nice people? I noticed that immediately. It’s hysterical and awesome - because while courtesy and professionalism tend to be the norm - the warmth was palpable. The crew were very seasoned in the genre, and said that it’s a great perk of working in horror - the theory being that as a horror fan - one can expel all their darkness vicariously through the films, so everyone is in a great mood!
7. Did you ever have trouble sleeping or get scared easily after your days of shooting were done? If anything, I slept like a baby. Some of the days went pretty late, and it was an hour drive to and from set, so I was pooped, especially after all the screaming. There was also so much levity in seeing what goes into making something appear scary. The smoke and mirrors of it all was incredibly reassuring for someone that gets freaked out super easily.
8. Any fun behind-the-scene memories you can tell? I can definitely say it was amusing how I would have to peel my t-shirt away from my tummy every ten minutes as it was covered in glycerin, so that the fake blood on my shirt would look fresh. And let me tell you, glycerin doesn’t dry quickly, so I had a wet, sticky t-shirt for most days of shooting. But I was having so much fun I hardly even noticed.
9. Since this film shows the characters their deepest fears, what is something or multiple things you are afraid of most? Ugh I don’t even like to talk about them! I am a little superstitious! I only want to put out good vibes haha. But I will say some sort of scenario like in Split or Room or any episode of Dateline. That’s gonna be a no from me dawg.
Let's end this interview on a bit of a lighter note...
10. What are some other upcoming projects you have? I recur in a coming-of-age 90’s show called Play By Play, in which I play an emo, deadpan Blockbuster manager. It was fun for multiple reasons, but mainly because I had to really work hard on the material, since my natural state is pretty sunny and light, and I had to be the epitome of angst. Hopefully that will find a home on a streaming service this year!
11. Who or what inspired you to become an actress? Hands down, Hilary Duff. I was watching Lizzie McGuire when I was 8 years old, and I thought, “You know, I think I could do that.” It was the beginning of summer, so my mom signed me up for classes at A.C.T in San Francisco, and the rest was history. I knew in my bones it’s what I wanted.
12. What advice would you give to aspiring actresses? The best advice I think I’ll ever be able to give is to accept and love yourself. Not only will you feel joy and freedom in your personal life, but it will free you up in your work as well, as self-judgment falls away.
Along with that, life is a journey. We always strive to get somewhere else, some point in the future, where we think we’ll find peace and finally be OK. But life is happening right now, and when you relax into that fully, you will find peace within yourself, and peace in what you’re doing. This takes so much pressure off in auditions too. Be clear about what you want, work hard, be kind, and the rest will come. I’m a big fan of meditating, and I especially recommend it to actors.
13. Where can we find you on social media? My instagram is @sarahewithers. Follow along for acting updates, and quotes about self-love :)