Jessica Lowndes got her start in horror, with an episode of the Masters of Horror back in 2005. Television served as her bread and butter for many years, notably on the 90120 reboot, where she appeared for many years, but also in projects with more genre appeal like Kyle XY and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. She plays the lead in the new horror film Abattoir, a period piece that returns her to the genre where she began. In an exclusive interview with the Sci-Fi Movie Page, she spoke about the film and her role in it.
Question: What attracted you to the project?
Jessica Lowndes: It had a freshness that I really enjoyed. It’s a horror movie, but it really has a lot in common with film noir, with the period setting and rapid-fire dialogue. You don’t see projects like that come along very often.
Q: How does the stylized approach to noir affect your approach to the character? How do you find the reality in a piece that’s embellished like that?
JL: Shooting it in New Orleans helps. That city has so much atmosphere, and you don’t feel like the style or romanticism is out of place there at all. Then you look for things like the status of women in the era, which helps ground you and get you into that head space. You have to find what’s truthful. The style gives it flair and makes it engaging, but it’s just empty without the truth. If I can believe in the character and understand what she’s saying and doing as the actions of a real person, then the artifice BECOMES the reality. It’s definitely a balance, but you could see the different layers in the script right off the bat.
Q: Both film noir and horror have very interesting relationships towards their female characters. They’re often considered exploitative, and yet they also produce very strong and empowered characters.
JL: It’s a lot to process! But in this case, it’s absolutely right. My character is very strong. She doesn’t crumble in the face of tragedy and horror. She stands and fights back. The period costumes really helped get into that mindset. They’re very strengthening, very empowering. It wasn’t hard to find the character’s heroic qualities.
Q: How much research do you need to do for period roles like this?
JL: As much as I can. You do reading on the period, but you also watch a lot of movies from the time, which helps inform things like the dialogue. I watched a lot of Lauren Bacall movies. The dialogue from that period is close to what we had here, and you get a good sense of how to deliver it, to make it feel natural and normal, by watching performers of the time.
Q: Were there any particular challenges during the shoot itself?
JL: Every day! [Laughs.] The character is traumatized and her emotions are close to the surface. That’s tough energy to live in every day. At the same time, it was a tremendous learning experience. You have to challenge yourself as a performer, to grow and learn and find new sides of yourself that you can bring to the work. You can’t do that if you’re not a little bit scared to come into work every day. You use the fear. You find the truth in the fear, and you channel it into the character.
That’s actually part and parcel of being an actor. If you read something and think, “this is great, but I can’t do it,” then you have to do it. I’ve been like that my whole life. I made a film called Altitude where I played a pilot, and didn’t think I could do it. So I took the role! I’ve played a UFC fighter, and that was, frankly, terrifying. The more I can push those boundaries, though, the better I can become at my job and the more I can step up when the project demands it. It’s one of the things you need to do if you want to do this for a living.
Abattoir is now playing.