'I have always yearned to play characters that manage to be heroic in spite of their failures,' says Adrien Brody who plays the lead in Chapelwaite
Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody and Schitt's Creek's Emily Hampshire play the lead roles in the new horror series, Chapelwaite, an adaptation of Stephen King’s Jerusalem’s Lot
Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody and Schitt's Creek's Emily Hampshire play the lead roles in a new horror series, Chapelwaite which is an adaptation of Stephen King’s short story, Jerusalem’s Lot. The artistes open up about shooting at a haunted mansion and with real worms
The Boone Family has blood on their hands. That’s what people of Preacher’s Corner, a small town in Maine, believe. When the heir of the family, Captain Charles Boone, along with his three children, arrives at Chapelwaite, the mansion that has been passed onto him by his deceased cousin Stephen, it’s clear that they are unwelcome. Rebecca Morgan, a writer by profession, is the only one who comes forward to support them and becomes the governess of the children. Her father had served the Boone family as their attorney, and now, Rebecca is keen to learn more about the Boones and their mansion so that she can write a story about the infamous and dreaded family, for the Atlantic Magazine.
It’s with this premise that the 10-episode horror series opens. Based on Stephen King’s 1978 short story Jerusalem’s Lot, the story of Chapelwaite is set in the 1850s. Playing Charles is the Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody. In 2002, at the age of 29, the actor won the Oscar in the Best Actor category for The Pianist. He followed this up with commendable performances in films such as Midnight in Paris and The Grand Budapest Hotel. His most recent outing is in The French Dispatch, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, in July this year. An artiste who has always been selective about the roles and movies he picks, Adrien has not only acted in Chapelwaite, he also took on the role of being an executive producer for the show.
Starring opposite him as Rebecca is Emily Hampshire. The Schitt’s Creek actress who is better known as the reserved and reluctant Stevie in the multiple award-winning comedy series, plays a diagonally opposite role as the dynamic, intelligent and ambitious Rebecca. In a chat with Indulge, both stars tell us more about their roles and their experience working on the horror series.
Captain Charles Boone is a father, a sailor, a businessman and has a troubled past to deal with. At times he is strong, but he also has his weak moments. How did you approach the role?
Adrien Brody: Charles Boone is a remarkable human being. I think part of what attracted me so much to Chapelwaite is the challenge of portraying a man who in spite of all the trauma and turmoil within him and around him, manages to persevere and prevail. He is somewhat deeply damaged and the narrative rightfully unravels more of the complexities of Charles’ visions and the significance of that. But if you think at a human level of this man whose childhood was so traumatic, and who now loses his wife and finds himself raising children alone in an inhospitable place, I think it’s already full of drama and tragedy. That was very interesting to consider and portray. I have always yearned to play characters that manage to be heroic in spite of their failures, their own pain and suffering, which is very human and those are the heroes we need in life. Real heroes aren’t perfect.
Rebecca Morgan’s character is quite modern for the age she lived in. She’s independent, ambitious and willing to take risks. Tell us more about the impact she’s had on the entire narrative.
Emily Hampshire: Everything about this character was special to me because there were no strong female writers in historical stories because there weren’t any back then. They were traditionally just mothers and they wouldn’t be as fortunate as Rebecca to be educated in Mount Holyoke College which is this real school that I didn’t even know about. As Rebecca says in the story, ‘It’s very difficult to push beyond the paradigms that people have set for us. I know this well being a woman,’ and this line can be said in today's context. It is sad, but it’s changing. I loved the idea of having this smart and educated woman at the centre of this narrative. She wasn’t in the original Stephen King story — Jerusalem’s Lot. It’s interesting because the author usually has a writer at the centre of his stories, so I like to think that if Stephen King was a super smart woman in the 1850s wearing a corset, it had to be Rebecca Morgan.
Adrien, you chose to work with real worms (that come out of your nose), instead of computer graphics. Why did you opt to do it this way?
AB: Well... I think all worms should have the option of having work and it shouldn’t be left to some technicians to draw a worm. I actually feel bad for the worms that they had to go into my nose. On a serious note, I am willing to sacrifice a little bit to ratchet up the stakes both for me and my own interpretation, and according to my level of discomfort. I believed that this might yield something (interesting) in my work to share. Also, it’s better to know that what you are watching is not completely fabricated, it maybe fictional or an interpretation of someone else’s writing. What you experience should feel real. If it is meant to be upsetting there needs to be a level of reality that is upsetting to watch. It shouldn’t just make you say, ‘Wow! How did they do that.’ The joy is in suspending disbelief, the more you have to interact with, the greater the connection. I did another film years ago in which I ate a worm for a shot, that was worse than putting it into my nose. But then it’s part of the job, I guess! I also bathed in a tub full of worms which was better than putting them into my nose. I guess I get some perverse pleasure in this but I can’t keep doing this.
We've also heard that you agreed to come onboard the project when you were trekking in the Himalayas? Also, why did you choose to be an executive producer on the show apart from playing the lead?
I always wanted to take a trek, I had been to Nepal to the foothills of the Himalayas before but I had never trekked. So, I went again and was there for at least eight days trekking. It was challenging but incredibly beautiful. It was a spiritual journey to be then handed an opportunity to think about this character. I found Charles to be a challenge worth exploring, maybe partially because I was on the edge of a mountain. There was a lot that was unknown but then hearing thoughts of the creative people gave me comfort to come in as an EP (executive producer) as well. I do have a lot of experience in this profession. I appreciate having a voice in the room and being able to helping the navigate the ship at times. I am a valuble asset to the production in that capacity and it comes with a different set of responsibilities.
Emily,how scary was it to shoot the horror scenes?
EH: We were acting in a studio, so it was all fake, however, the house that played Chapelwaite was like a ‘method actor’ house because it was haunted for real. It was like the Daniel Day-Lewis of houses. There was a plaque on the wall that talked about everyone who lived there. Everyone who lived in that house died a tragic death and they seem to be still pissed about it. They were slamming doors, and all of us actors who were sitting in our chairs were like ‘this house is perfect for the show.’
Were you excited to wear the costumes and pretend to live in a small town in the 1850s?
EH: It was such a dream for me (to wear such costumes). When I was a kid, I went to this camp for a week where you had to pretend to live in the past. You had to churn your own butter, sleep on hay and wear a corset. I was in heaven, but most kids were not like me. Most actresses don’t like wearing corsets, but I love it, so I even took one of the costumes home. I feel the corset also did 70 per cent of the acting for me, the other 30 per cent was done by just looking at Adrien Brody and talking to him.
What was your experience working with Adrien?
We hated each other! He made me call him Academy Award winner Adrien Brody, every day (laughs). So the truth is, when I heard that I was going to work with ‘the Adrien Brody,’ I was thrilled! I believe great actors make you better, and I spent a lot of time watching him. He is such a professional. I just love him. What most people don’t know about is how funny he is. I learnt a million things from him. If I had to pick one thing, quite honestly it is his confidence. If he messes up, he just stops, takes his time and does another take confidently, and that’s such a pro-move. He knows the camera so well, and how the lighting is affecting him, so I spent a lot of time observing him. Off the sets, he is just hilarious. But I must also mention the kids in the show — Sirena, Jennifer and Ian blew my mind as actors. They don’t have the experience as Adrien has but they were very professional. People must watch their performance. I feel like they too made me better.
After playing Stevie in Schitt’s Creek, a comedy, was it a challenge to play the more serious and determined character of Rebecca?
I have to credit my agent who has been with me since I was a kid, for getting me this show. As a child actor I was part of shows which were miniseries and these were usually stories about farms in the 1800s. I remember, when I was 15 years old, I played the mother of 10 children, wearing a corset. I did quite a few roles such as these, then I grew up and Schitt’s Creek happened, and things changed. When the show ended, my agent said, ‘I want you out of those plaids and baggy jeans, and back in a corset.’ She literally said that to me. So that was what made me move on from Schitt’s Creek to this. But I also feel Rebecca is like the adult version of Stevie, who could never have been on Schitt’s Creek. Stevie takes this journey - she starts out like this hard shell and slowly starts opening. I feel Rebecca has that shell but she is confident. I aspire to be more like Rebecca, I want to take up roles that will teach me something and Rebecca definitely taught me a lot. She's way braver than me! If a vampire comes my way, I would probably run the other way, but not Rebecca!
Adrien, what are your thoughts on how the concepts of masculinity and feminity have been dealt with through your and Emily’s roles?
I think that Charles and his children have such a different perspective from the people of Preacher’s Corner because of their travelling around the world and not conforming to societal pressure. Therefore, he finds Rebecca’s character very impressive because she is quite liberating, intelligent and free-spirited. What I like was how it was woven into the storytelling, how atypical it was and how difficult it was for a woman to get an education. The show also highlights the inequality faced by people of colour or those who appear different — like my character’s children who are biracial — these references show how far we’ve gone and how we continue to fail in contemporary society and how work needs to be done. I don’t see Charles as overly sensitive, I see him as a stern father who is a sensitive human being, and due to all the forces conspiring against him and because of the time he lives in, his sensitivity is suppressed as well. Men were also not able to be sensitive. I would say he is an empathetic human being and is a very intuitive person. But I think it was hard for him to talk about how he feels. He’ll say what needs to be said, but he won’t necessarily say how he feels. I do feel that he has a lot weighing him down to even be able to express himself.
Premieres on August 23. On Sony LIV