Adrienne Kress, the multi-talented author and actor, delivers a compelling performance as Amy in the psychological thriller The Devil Comes at Night (Check out our review). Kress recently discussed her complex role, the challenges of filming such an intense story, and collaborating with the director and crew.
Kress found Amy to be a “three-dimensional character” who is both “competent” and “vulnerable.” Unlike stereotypical female characters in horror films, Amy is neither a “damsel in distress” nor a “bad ass.” Kress sees her as an “everywoman” similar to Wendy from The Shining, a character who struggles yet perseveres against terrifying circumstances. As a librarian, Amy is also a “superhero” figure for Kress.
Preparing for this emotionally demanding part, Kress focused on “finding the humanity” of Amy. She relied on her co-star Ryan Allen, whom she described as a “talented,” “generous” scene partner. Having worked together before, they brought natural chemistry and levity to their intense scenes. While staying in the moment, they had “fun” exploring the characters.
Kress thoroughly enjoyed reuniting with director Scott Leaver and Allen. She noted Allen’s humor and improvisation helped relieve the tension on set. The main challenge was “not laughing” during emotional takes.
Filming in a “lovely cottage” made “ominous and spooky” through lighting and atmosphere, the setting intensified the fear and mystery. The darkness outside, almost like another character, created anticipation for both the actors and audience.
As an actor and writer for the film, Kress understood more about her character and the plot than revealed on screen. However, Kress focused on portraying Amy’s discoveries “moment by moment” to keep the mystery alive for viewers. Though the role allowed changes based on insights from filming, Kress aimed to depict only what Amy would know at each point in the story.
Kress delivered a memorable performance in The Devil Comes at Night. By peeling back the layers of her complex character, she gave a master class in crafting a compelling final girl in a psychological thriller. Kress’s enthusiasm and insight into her creative process reveal her passion for storytelling and collaboration.
You can read the interview with Adrienne Kress in its entirety below.
What initially drew you to the role of Amy in this film? What interested you about playing her character?
I love that Amy is a three-dimensional character. In a lot of these kinds of films, female characters can often be categorized as either damsel in distress or a bad ass. But Amy is just an average person thrown into extraordinary circumstances. I liked being able to make her vulnerable and scared, because certainly the situation she and Ben are in is terrifying, but also confident and competent. She’s able to solve problems, and she isn’t so afraid that she won’t fight back.
Interestingly, her look was an homage to Wendy, Shelly Duval’s character in The Shining but I also think her everywoman character acts as a similar inspiration. Wendy goes through so much and finds it hard to fight back against Jack, but she still does what it takes to survive. Amy is the same way.
Also she’s a librarian. And, as an author myself, I can tell you from personal experience, librarians are superheroes, so I was excited to do right by them as well .
How did you prepare for such an emotionally demanding role? What challenges did you face in portraying Amy?
The important thing for me was finding the truth in the character, the humanity. Once you understand her motivations and why she is how she is, you can take each scene moment by moment and know how she’ll react. It was also extremely helpful that I had Ryan Allen as my scene partner throughout. He is such a talented actor, and he is so generous when you work with him. Being in the moment is a pleasure with him because you know you are in safe hands. And we had a lot of fun together.
What was your experience like working with director Scott Leaver and co-star Ryan Allen on set?
It was so lovely. I’ve worked with them both before and have known them for quite some time now, so I knew that everyone was really going to bring their A game to the table. It’s also just a lot of fun getting to collaborate with them. Ryan is a very funny person as well and does great improv during a take, so I guess the hardest part for me working with him was not laughing in those moments!
The house itself becomes an ominous character in the film. What was it like filming in that space? Did the set help build atmosphere?
It’s a really lovely cottage but it can become very ominous and spooky because of how dark it gets outside at night. And considering the dark was essentially an additional character in this film, it definitely helped to build atmosphere. Watching someone in a scene just walk outside into the dark and vanish? That is definitely fuel for any actor playing a character trapped in a scary situation.
There are many unanswered questions in the movie that add tension. As the actor, were you given additional context and backstory, or did you also face some of that uncertainty about what was fully happening?
I was in a unique position with this film in that I not only starred in it but was also one of the writers on it. Normally I’d say as an actor I like to get whatever information the character has, so for example: backstory, history, what got us to this point just before the movie starts. It’s important too to know what the character knows in context of every scene. That being said, I do come from a theatre background so this does mean I am used to reading full scripts and knowing the bigger picture, so I am comfortable knowing things the character might not as well.
Of course, again, all that is beside the point when you are one of the writers on the film, because then you most definitely know all the things, about yourself, and about the other characters too of course! Ryan, who played Ben, is also a writer on the film, so there would be moments for each of us on set where we’d discuss the writing with Scott Leaver, the director and our co-writer. And together we made sure that the characters and audience would “discover” things together and keep a sense of mystery throughout the film. Some things definitely did change in the moment as we got to know the characters even better through playing them.
But you could say we were a very informed pair of leads in this case!
Psychological horror film The Devil Comes at Night, starring Adrienne Kress and Ryan Allen, arrived on Digital and DVD on June 6, 2023. In the film, Ben, a former boxer, finds himself trapped in his late father’s farmhouse and fighting for survival against a sinister cult that has hunted his family for generations. With the help of Amy, a quick-thinking librarian, Ben works to defeat the cult’s leader, Mason, once and for all. Directed by Scott Leaver, the film also features performances from Jason Martorino, Elias Zarou, Shawn Ahmed, Todd Campbell, Dana Fradkin, Ty Andrassy, DL Macdonald, Jeremiah Sparks, and Julie Cohn.
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