Accomplished actress Barbara Hershey is no stranger to psychological thrillers. Her recent turn in the mind-bending drama BLACK SWAN earned her critical praise and her intense performances are always riveting to watch. Opening Friday is her new film INSIDIOUS where Hershey plays a grandmother to a young boy who is being haunted by spirits that are placing the whole family in danger.
This isn’t the first time Hershey has been involved in a paranormal film. She was a mother disrupted and sexually assaulted by a spirit in 1982’s creepy cult classic THE ENTITY which was based on a well-document true story here in California.
To discuss INSIDIOUS, the interview took place in a perfect location – The Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Hershey spoke openly about her beliefs on the paranormal, compared her experiences on making THE ENTITY and INSIDIOUS, and talked about a lot of different challenges and obstacles to overcome in acting as she Takes Five with us.
On her previous experience in the film THE ENTITY and whether that informed how she approached this movie and her own paranormal beliefs….
“You know I didn’t think of THE ENTITY at all in terms of that,” says Hershey. “I have no problem believing in paranormal things. I have a lot of theories that I’m not sure are correct, but there are probably a lot of extraordinary things that going on that we can’t explain. I’m kind of open in terms of all of that anyways, which I think helped more than playing a part in THE ENTITY. I didn’t have a barrier of disbelief in approaching the subject matter. I have had experiences. I’m totally open to telling the story, but the problem is that it takes a long time. It’s not something I can tell in a couple of sentences. Mine was sort of humorous. I don’t know if I would say it was a ghost but it was some kind of spirit. It definitely happened and it definitely was not normal. ”
On her experience making THE ENTITY…
“I didn’t meet the woman I played,” says Hershey. “I met some of the investigators who worked on it. It was an interesting case because it had two very different interpretations. One was psychiatric and one was paranormal. The paranormal people I met a bit, but the psychiatric was taken from a bunch of cases. Both ideas were really interesting to me. Whether it was happening to her or whether she was so insane that she was creating this and raising marks on herself. That was probably more fascinating to me. Not to be critical of the movie, but I guess it is, I would like it to have it more in the middle. We don’t know and that’s more interesting.”
On taking her acting roles home with her…
“To me acting is opening doors inside of yourself,” she explains. “It’s not like I’m taking a character home, it’s that the character is home. You’ve had this experience playing this person, so it’s not like I’m trying lose the character or that I can’t be me – it’s just that I’m more of me. I’m wider and I have more girth as a human being just having played these people. I talk to defense lawyers a lot about how they defend someone who is guilty. They tell me that everyone deserves a defense under the law and I ask them how they emotionally defend someone they know is guilty. I had a public defender who said it best that you have use empathy to find the moment in their history where they changed. I use that so much as an actor, playing a character that is somewhat negative. You start at that place of empathy and its different than a kind of judgment.”
On the practical usage of actors in makeup as the spirits in INSIDIOUS as opposed to having CGI ghost to react to…
“We had the advantage of having the real people there,” she says. “We had the people, whatever you want to call them, right there. We had real things to react to and that was really helpful. I maintain somewhere in the middle being around them. I don’t want to see it too much, but it’s inevitable that they’re hanging around having coffee [Laughs] at craft services so what are you going to do?”
On joining the production of INSIDIOUS part way through and possibly returning for a sequel…
“I’ve often come into a movie part way through,” she admits. “In BLACK SWAN I came in the last three weeks, it’s always difficult when you’re not initiating with everyone else. It’s always weird coming on set and they’ve been filming and you have to have a history like I had to have with Patrick [Wilson]. That’s always a hurdle. On BLACK SWAN I only had one day to rehearse with Natalie Portman. We had to have such a history so that the audience would feel that symbiotic relationship. Less so in INSIDIOUS because the stakes weren’t as high in that sense. Patrick [Wilson] is a professional and we both talked about it and knew we had to get to this place really fast. It just happens. I hadn’t thought about returning, and we didn’t ever talk about sequel stuff while we were making it. Several people have said that to me now, and I think ‘yeah it is open ended and yeah they could.’ It would always depend on what they write.”