From the start of our conversation, it’s pretty clear that Bianca Bradey is in good spirits. It’s early in the morning, the weather is nice, and she laughs as she recalls going out the night before. This is a huge relief for me. Going into this conversation less than a week from my introduction to Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, the delightful zombie film in which Bianca stars, I am in some ways more intimidated by my interview subject than I have ever been.
My nervousness is informed by Bianca’s onscreen performance as Brooke, a tough-as-nails zombie apocalypse survivor. Brooke falls in with a long line of horror heroines, of which there seem to be two clean archetypes. The first is the trademark Scream Queen, the type for which Jamie Lee Curtis famously released the blueprint as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween. But Brooke belongs in the second group, the one perhaps most famously exemplified by Sigourney Weaver’s Alien-exterminating Ripley, and, more recently, Natalie Mendoza’s Juno from Neil Marshall’s 2005 masterpiece The Descent. Like these characters, Brooke doesn’t scream. Not in fear. She reacts. She fights. Even when she’s trapped, it never feels like Brooke is vulnerable. As Brooke, Bianca’s range of horror acting swings from badass to unbelievably badass. She is strong, intense, and, at times, scary in her own way.
And that’s why I am so relieved to hear Bianca laughing before we start the interview. It turns out she is actually quite fun and funny. Below, you can read as Bianca talks about her experience with the film, provides her take on the type of character she played, and admits how she feels she would hold up in a real zombie apocalypse
David Shreve (Audiences Everywhere): Let’s start from the very beginning: when you were pitched this movie, and provided with the maniacal plot summary, did you ever think “…what the hell,” or were you immediately on board?
Bianca Bradey: Honestly, I saw their seven-minute trailer online. And they approached me with the character description, what Brooke was like, but at that stage there wasn’t a script. So, there was no story. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or where the character was going to go. It was still definitely in the ideas phase. It was a bit of an adventure, kind of. We’d sort of shoot something and they’d go away and write the next bit, and we’d shoot that bit and then they’d go write the next bit. It was constantly evolving.
AE: And when they came back with the zombies breathing the gasoline that fuels the trucks, you were on board?
BB: Yes! That idea was there right from the start. And Brooke being able to control the zombies was there right from the start as well. And I thought, “These ideas are sooo cool.” And I loved what they had already shot and put online. I thought it was amazing and I could see they were going to make a great film. I jumped on board with a bit of blind faith. I wanted to be involved.
AE: Was there any moment during filming – maybe while you were working with Berryn Schwerdt’s mad doctor in a room full of tied up zombies – where you thought, “This is going to be insane on the screen?”
BB: I thought it was going to be so cool! Berryn is an absolute genius. I was so lucky to work with him. He’s such an experienced actor out here in Australia; he does a lot of theater. In real life, he’s such a calm, gentle, beautiful soul. For him to get on set and just be huge and scary and psychopathic was so good to watch and so fun to work with.
AE: Did he ever scare you?
BB: Oh, absolutely. That’s the great thing. We got to work with each other and bounce off of one another for different takes. All of our takes were very, very different. We were just reacting to each other.
AE: Was it difficult acting while in restraints?
BB: I’ll be honest. I wasn’t actually tied up. It was all acting. I know, I know.. Kiah [Roache-Turner] thought it would be too much to tie me up for hours up against the wall. We just sort of wrapped things around my wrists and I held them up toward the restraints. I would have much prefer to be tied up, because then as an actor, you get to be fighting against something. Instead, I was just pretending to fight against something. The face mask, that was a challenge. It was uncomfortable and we shot twelve hour days over the weekends. That was long and tiring. And just trying to do as much as I could through using only my eyes was really hard. I kept going up to Kiah going “Am I doing enough? Are you seeing enough?” And was like “This is why we hired you. Because you do show everything with your eyes and it is coming through.” Not being able to speak or move makes it hard to show exactly what your character’s going through. That was what I was most worried about through the whole shoot.
AE: You mentioned 12 hour days, and I’ve read that this movie took a little while to film. How long were you working on it?
BB: I think I was on the film probably only 18 months, all up. I know that the boys did a lot of work before I came on board and was cast. But most of the film sort of evolved after I was cast and after Leon was cast after me. The film kept changing and evolving, and even the characters kept changing as well. Jay Gallagher, who plays Barry, was originally meant to be more of a love interest for my character Brooke. Brooke was originally meant to be married to his brother, but we cut that whole thing after the first shoot. Kiah called me up and said “I’m going to change things. Barry is not your love interest. He’s going to be your brother. How do you feel about that?” And I was just like… “Okay, yep, that’s different.” So then we went from there. But we’d just shoot every couple of months on the weekends. They’d plan one shoot, go away, think about the next one, and plan the next one. It was very sporadic.
AE: Are you putting the Barry/Brooke lover stuff on the blu-ray as a deleted scene to freak people out?
BB: [laughs] No, the good thing is, we hadn’t shot anything to do with that yet. It just affected my character, her backstory, and who I thought she was. I just had to change that.
AE: Are there any crazy stories about filming the more intense action sequences?
BB: I loved that. I love the stuff on the back of the truck. Where Brooke finally escapes and she’s standing in the back of the truck with the zombie truck behind. I just loved that I got to actually stand up there in the back while we were driving along. I think that was one of the coolest moments of my life.
AE: So the truck was actually moving?
BB: Yeah! I was harnessed in and very safe, but it was still an awesome moment. But I didn’t get to do the jump from my truck. That was my stunt double, who was amazing.
AE: So I’m going to shift gears. You have a couple of movie makeup credits on your IMDb. Brooke has a very distinctive sort of apocalyptic badass aesthetic, and makeup is kind of a part of that. Did you have any input into the character design?
BB: Yeah, yeah! I did my own. I decided what she looked like and did my own hair and makeup for the whole shoot. I had this image for what I wanted her to be. We had this makeup artist onset who mostly did zombies, but she would also do my character’s special effects stuff. So the blood, the sweat, and the dirt. And the tattoos as well…
AE: The tattoos are fake?
BB: The tattoos are fake. I have no tattoos.
BB: Yet! [laughs] Yet. I think it limits you starting out as an actor, but I love tattoos. So I’d definitely get them after a while.
AE: When Halloween comes around and Wyrmwood has spread as a hit: what is the most important part of making a Brooke costume?
BB: I think the Brooke costume is… the insane push-up bra and the tiny little singlet [laughs]. The dark eyes, the tattoos, and the braid. That defines who she is.
AE: Part of it is attitude, right?
BB: Oh, hell yeah! She’s a badass. She’s amazing. She’s a dream role. It’s one of those things as an actor where you say, “This is not real life. I’m just going to go for it.”
AE: Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, at least through Twitter interaction, that fans have taken to both the sex appeal and the ass-kicking elements of Brooke. What do you think is the key to finding that necessary balance within the horror survivor template?
BB: In all my discussions with Kiah, we really wanted her to be not just a pretty girl. She couldn’t be the one who needed to constantly be saved or rescued. We wanted her to be really tough and independent. We saw her as the secret hero from the start. We didn’t want her to show weakness. We wanted her to be a real person but she couldn’t be running around trying to look sexy all the time. Whilst you have to have a little bit of sex appeal for the main female character for the male audience, we didn’t want to pander toward that. Kiah’s wife Emma, she’s definitely a staunch feminist, and she definitely had a lot of say in that. She kept saying “No, that’s too sexy.” That really helped draw a line between grotesque sex and a really tough, strong female role model for women.
AE: Historically, horror movies have been exaggerated in their misogynistic consumption of female sex symbols and progressive in their writing and filming progressive female, survivor strong roles. Was that something you had in your mind as you filmed?
BB: I definitely wanted her to have some balls about her. I didn’t want her to make all the stupid decisions. You know when you watch a horror film and you say “Oh god, why is she doing that? Why can’t she get it out of it herself? Why does she need the guy?” I definitely wanted her to hold her own. My inspirations for the character: I was studying St. Joan at the time, Joan of Arc in an acting class. And I just saw elements of her in it. She’s this savior in the piece, a crusader. And I’ve always love Lisbeth Salander in Girl with a Dragon Tattoo because I see her as not feminine or masculine, just sort of androgynous, and I wanted to add an element of that. We wanted her to be a character of few words as well. Anytime there was dialogue, me and Kiah were like “Does she really need to say that?” Because she doesn’t need to say a lot. She’s so strong without words. We even discussed the fact that she could never cry. Because Barry had a few moments of emotional stuff and we decided she just can’t. She would hold it in. She was the complete opposite.
AE: So, intentional or not, you’re making a strong campaign to have Brooke included in a long history of cult horror icons. Do you have any thoughts in regards to this type of character in the broader horror culture and landscape? Is it changing? Does it need to change?
BB: I think there’s a definite movement towards stronger feminine heroes. These strong heroines that carry the film and they save the day and they’re the ones who survive in the end. I think I’m just kind of blown away that my character has had such a great response with that as well. It makes me so proud that the audience has gotten it and see her the way I wanted her to be seen. I’m so humbled to be included in that conversation.
AE: Is this your first horror experience?
BB: Yes it is my first horror. I kind of love it. In my life, I’m a little bit of a scaredy cat. I watch horror films with one hand over my eyes. It’s awesome to somehow be in those films now.
AE: Did you have any favorite horror queens going into this movie?
BB: I do love Mila Jovovich. Alice [Resident Evil] is amazing. It’s weird. It’s not my genre and I’m amazed that this is how I got cast because I never would have picked it, I think. I never would have picked that this is where I’d go with my acting career. It’s mind-blowing.
AE: Would you want to do more horror now?
BB: Yeah. Absolutely. I love it. I definitely hope to do more films in this genre.
AE: Horror is a genre full of remakes. If they reboot Resident Evil, would you consider the role?
BB: Hell yeah! Are you kidding? That would be amazing! I don’t know anyone who would say no to that.
AE: That would be a great next step!
BB: Yeah, no one can leave anything alone. I know that they’re making a new Assassin’s Creed. That would be a dream to be involved with.
AE: Some of the best shots of the film were you controlling the zombies. How did you establish the mind-control look?
BB: I wanted it to be really intense. Like something is taking over her whole body. Vibrating through her. Like something has come over and taken control. Almost possessed, that kind of thing. I really wanted it to look strong, deliberate, and kind of intimidating almost.
BB: [laughs] I’m actually very different in real life. I don’t think I could ever be mean to anyone ever. I find it hard to send back something if it comes out wrong.
AE: You’re never going to feel temptation to scare someone with that look?
BB: No, oh gosh no. Well, maybe when I’m drunk and lose my temper.
AE: Can you talk about what it was like when you saw the film for the first time.
BB: The first time I saw it, as an actor, you sit there and pick apart your performance. But seeing it come together was amazing. I was so impressed with what the guys had done. It has such a great frenetic energy to it. I think the color is amazing and the pace. And all the performances are just phenomenal. A cast of complete unknowns here in Australia and they just delivered. I think that’s what raises it above other B-grade horror films. The performances are brilliant.
AE: I said in my review that it feels like this movie is elevated because everyone involved gave everything in joy for their involvement and the form. Is that true?
BB: Hell yeah. The crew is like a second family. We spent a lot of time together. We were all doing it as a love job. We’d go and stay in the Blue Mountains for the weekend and just hang out on set. It was very silly, and very fun. It was long days and cold and uncomfortable but no one cared because we were creating something that was going to be fucking amazing. You could tell that Kiah and Tristen had such vision and you trusted in them. Everyone would do anything they asked because we knew it was going to be special.
AE: What do you think of the reaction to the film so far?
BB: It’s been amazing. You do this film and you think it’s going to be great and you wonder if anyone will even see it. You don’t know if it’ll even get distributed. But the fact that people watch it and respond to it and connect with it and just love it. It’s just mind-blowing. It’s so exciting. Most people absolutely love it. There are a few who hate it, but the majority get what we’re trying to say. It kind of still blows my mind every single time anyone comments on the film. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing people
say that they love Wyrmwood and they love Brooke
AE: In full candor, I’m a bit of a horror elitist, but I see your movie as the latest I’ve seen in a string of incredible horror movies over the last two years. To me, it feels like we’ve turned an important corner in horror films and things are starting to feel new and innovative and substantial again.
BB: Definitely! I feel like there’s so many great horror films at the moment. It feels like a resurgence of the genre. Also, there’s a lot of great horror movies coming out of New Zealand and Australia, starting with The Babadook. Housebound out of New Zealand and What We Do in the Shadows. A huge resurgence.To be included in that list is amazing.
AE: Do you want to tell our readers what’s next for you?
BB: Well I’m going on Monday to come to the U.S. and I’m going to hang out in LA for a bit, have some meetings and see what’s happening. I would love to keep the momentum going after Wyrmwood and work internationally.
AE: For the last question, you can’t pause. You have to answer instinctively.
AE: Let’s pretend the zombie apocalypse is starting right now. You just got the call. Without thinking, what three objects are you grabbing and where are you headed?
BB: I’m taking my dog, first of all. And then I’m also taking a giant bat to smash people with. And I would take my car. Let’s be honest, I think anyone that doesn’t get in a car is so stupid. And I’m going to go and get on a boat. I don’t think zombies swim. I don’t know why anyone has never thought of that before. So you just go jump on a giant yacht and you’re set.
AE: Brilliant. You weren’t even acting in the film. You were a survivor the whole time.
BB: I would totally survive the zombie apocalypse.
You can watch Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead on Netflix Instant right now.