In the slasher comedy “Freaky,” the notorious Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) targets highschool student Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton). The Butcher’s magic dagger causes the two to switch bodies on Friday the 13th, and Millie — now in the Butcher’s body — must find a way to reverse the switch before it becomes permanent and before the Butcher kills any more victims. “Freaky” will be released on Friday the 13th.
The Red & Black participated in a virtual roundtable with Vaughn and Newton to discuss the new movie, character development and what the actors learned from playing characters with different genders.
The Red & Black: You both portrayed two different individuals. What was the character development like for both characters, and did you guys work together on finding the identities and the mannerisms of each?
Vaughn: It was really unique to have someone to build up the characters with. Kathryn was terrific and had great ideas. We both had done a lot of preparation, and then when we met, we rehearsed and both worked emotionally and physically and found common threads between the characters. It was a blast to do it with her.
Newton: I had no idea how to play a serial killer and did not know what (director) Chris Landon was thinking. But he said he saw a killer in me, and he thought I could do it, so you just have to trust that. I didn’t know that Vince was going to have so many brilliant ideas because you just don’t have any expectations. All three of us created these characters together, starting with who they are. We talked about their backstories, with how they might carry themselves or walk, so with that kind of support you feel like you can do anything. And then on the day, you have to be ready to change and take a lot of risks.
The Battalion, Texas A&M: You both embody two characters — one a man and one a woman — in one movie. How did playing within the concept of gender allow you to learn about the different strengths of any identity?
Newton: Millie is the same through and through. When she sees herself from another perspective, I think it’s less about what she looks like, but she looks at herself and it's the first time she’s seeing herself and the power that she can have. The movie is about seeing who you are and celebrating it because that’s your power. Everybody has gifts, so a lot of it is about learning about yourself and figuring that out.
Vaughn: I agree. The movie does a good job of setting up Millie going through situations with people who are harsh on her, so when the characters switch bodies, you’re sort of rooting for the serial killer in her body in some of those situations which I think is very unique. I think [the movie] is about being comfortable with who you are and owning it versus becoming someone else.
U.C. Berkeley, The Daily Californian: One of my favorite parts of the movie was [Vaughn’s] portrayal of Millie. It would have been really easy to just play that for very simple laughs about how silly it is to be a teenage girl. But a lot of your scenes as Millie were very earnest. What did you draw on to make sure that your character didn’t come off as one-note?
Vaughn: My intention was to build it as a real character. I didn’t watch any other performances because I wanted to take an authentic journey of creating this character and having emotional depth, so that when I was in scenes with [Millie’s] mom or the boy that [she] had a crush on, that I was really present as the character. The more you’re grounded and emotionally available and honest, it helps the audience buy the stuff that’s more elaborate or out of the box. I really did try to approach the character building Millie as an honest character. And I think Kathryn does such a lovely job in the opening of the movie of walking through those experiences that we can relate to.
The Chicago Maroon, University of Chicago: We see Millie become empowered throughout the movie after inhabiting the body of the Butcher, but the Butcher himself at the end of the film has some choice words for Millie about her life and gender. But we don’t get to see his learning experience throughout the film nearly as much as we do Millie’s. What do you think the Butcher learned from inhabiting Millie’s body throughout the movie?
Newton: How powerful a teenage girl is. I think as soon as he switches back, he’s like, “I had so much fun as a teenage girl.”
Vaughn: Yeah, I think the Butcher’s a predator. So, he is the extreme of someone who is looking to prey on people’s self doubt or weakness. You see, sadly, that he is acutely attempting to find any way he can to destroy somebody. And I think that’s a lesson for everyone in life that, sometimes when people are saying things to you that feel very personal, they’re actually just looking for buttons to push to see if they can get you to doubt yourself. It’s not that they’re right. They’re just that type of energy that’s looking to get you to be self destructive. So it's really about, are you listening to your own voice in self love? Or are you giving the power to someone else who's only saying what they're saying because they want to have a negative impact on you?