On Sunday at Comic-Con, when many people were already leaving San Diego, I got to interview the cast of the new fox series Scream Queens. It was worth sticking around for and I ended up at a table with only one other reporter, from People Magazine, asking questions.
Scream Queens is a horror-comedy set in a sorority and it clearly knows the legacy of scream queens. Creator Ryan Murphy had the foresight to cast Jamie Lee Curtis herself as the dean. I was in a press corps of two asking Jamie Lee Curtis herself questions about Scream Queens, which premieres September 22 on Fox.
People: From day one, you always owned the “scream queen” title, your mom obviously being one of the greatest of all.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Thank you. Miss her.
People: What’s fun to revisit the “scream queen?”
Jamie Lee Curtis: I’ve always tried to maintain the idea that we’re all trying to get our footing in show business. I don’t care who you are. You start out young. You try to get your footing in show business. For me, I landed on a mountaintop at 20. What supported me was a genre that I don’t particularly like. I’m not a horror film fan, but the genre supported my work. So for as long as I’ve been working, I understand that without them I wouldn’t have a career and I’m grateful. I’m grateful to this unbelievably loyal, devoted fan base, gentle fan base. So for me it’s a return to them and it’s like going home again. It’s like coming home to your very big, crazy, loud, fun extended family who loves you. That’s how I feel.
Nerd Report: What I love about horror movies are they’re about the survivor. The survivor is usually not the big strong jock. It’s usually a girl and maybe the girl that no one ever noticed. Has that been important to you?
Jamie Lee Curtis: It’s not about the end result for me. It’s not about being the survivor or not. I don’t get that involved in it. I’m not that psychologically involved in the genre. I just know that the people who support these movies have supported me since I was 19 years old. That has given me something that a lot of young women don’t get, and I’m grateful for it.
Nerd Report: Halloween H20 was your idea, to show Laurie as a traumatized survivor 20 years later.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Well, no. It started with “Hey, we’re all still in show business 20 years later. Why don’t we take advantage of that.” That was honestly the pitch. Then the pitch was: If somebody’s been traumatized, what happens with trauma is you end up self-medicated. If she had basically self-medicated, then how do you face your fear? How do you face fear, and you face fear by confronting it.
Nerd Report: So I’ll change my question a little bit. Almost another 20 years after H20, is Scream Queens another chance to say, “Hey, we’re still in show business?”
Jamie Lee Curtis: No, it is a wild ride and it has no reflection on a classic horror trope. It is wickedly funny and deeply dark and a little violent, and super fashiony. Everything you think about a character does not add up. You think you know Dean Munch and then by the end of the episode you’re like, “Oh?” It is not a classic horror trope at all
People: What’s been interesting to you working with these young actresses?
Jamie Lee Curtis: By the way, I’m 56 years old. I have a 28-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son who’s walking around Comic-Con dressed as Trafalgar Law from One Piece. Believe me, I’m going to nest with my little birds. The first day, the first scene I have is with Emma Roberts in my office and that was the first scene we shot. It’s a six page dialogue scene, ping pong match between the two of us. I’m telling you, we kind of were like, “Hi, I’m Jamie, I’m Emma.” Sit down, Ryan’s like, “Okay, let’s shoot this.” And it was like okay, boom, hit it. This girl starts hitting ping pong balls at me and I’m like whoa, dayum. I’d better pay attention here. Like no warmup. She is firing aces at me and I’m thinking I’ve really got to be on my game here. 7:15 in the morning in New Orleans, first day, I’m like whoa. And that’s how it’s been with every one of them. Each of these girls has inhabited these people. They’ve eaten them and it’s like garlic breath. They are just giving it back to you every second. It’s really extraordinary and I think it just is a testament to a professionalism that young people actually do have that we kind of take for granted. I think it really speaks to Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck and Ian Brennan who have created this sort of triumvirate of talent that are very clear. We will give it to you. You need to give it back. Therefore it means give it back, know your sh*t and deliver it. That’s how I’ve had an experience with every one of these girls.
People: Did you and your mom ever have a conversation about the genre?
Jamie Lee Curtis: No, never. She was always grateful for it, I’m grateful for it.