I sat down with talented actress turned director Pollyanna McIntosh to talk with her about many things, including her role on “The Walking Dead”, in The Woman and her directorial debut Darlin’ which we gave a rave review.
Darlin’, the sequel to 2011’s intense horror film The Woman, centers on a young feral woman (Lauryn Canny) who finds her way into a hospital. She is whisked off to a care home run by The Bishop (Bryan Batt, AMC’s Mad Men) and his obedient nuns where she is to be tamed into a “good girl.” However, Darlin’ holds a secret darker than the “sins” she is threatened with, and she is not traveling alone. The Woman (McIntosh), equally fierce and feral, who raised her is ever-present and is determined to come for her no matter who tries to step in her way.
Horror Fuel: “How has playing Jadis/Anne affected your life?”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Wow, good question. I think that being on a show like The Walking Dead – there really is no other like it, it’s the biggest show in the world – whose reach is so wide, it opens you up as an actor to being more well known there for opening the door to more in your career, the most obvious thing. It’s a joy.
Just as far as the work is concerned, I went in to audition being told that the role was for a man or a woman, they weren’t sure what they were going to end up with. I was so intrigued by their open-mindedness. They were already thinking outside the box. I really didn’t know where the character was going to go in the world of The Walking Dead, like wearing Rick’s boots or tying Negan up and taking his bat, and all the emotional stuff like losing her people, or becoming Anne. It’s the most unpredictable arc I’ve ever played with a character. Normally, you know where your character is going to go but not with The Walking Dead. I’m used to having all the scripts, knowing where my character is going to go. It’s affected me as an actor to find a different way to work where you don’t know what the outcome will be. I think that’s been quite good for me.
And I’ve met more people than I thought I’d ever meet in my life. The fans are so widespread you know. I’ve met all sorts of people that I normally wouldn’t get the chance to meet, talking about the fans of the show. You know, you have to take up that space like you haven’t before. I’ve met so many people who were going through terrible turmoil. I spoke to a woman in her hospital bed who was three days away from dying. I don’t think would have been as comfortable for me before The Walking Dead. The caretaker side of me would have felt that I needed to help in some way that I’m not capable of. Now, with the incredible Walking Dead element that brings all together with something in common, I’m far more comfortable. I’ve been exposed to so much that I can connect in ways that I haven’t been able to before.
I’ve also met this cast family that I hope to have forever. That’s changed my life in a lot of ways. Too, this has been the first time as an actress that I’ve known what I will be doing for the next year or more. I have a schedule and steady wage coming in, which is golden for an actor. You can take a breath, you know.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s fantastic. The Walking Dead is epic and it’s great that it has helped you grow as both an actor and as a person.
I’m glad that fans have given you so much love, but I have to ask, well, I’ve seen some pretty terrible things on social media when characters do something bad, like when Jadis betrayed Rick. Did you catch hell for that?”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Yeah, people were mad and I knew that they would be. I had watched the entire series up to that point and I knew it was going to be a thing after she treats him the way that she treats him, and I know that he is our hero, but it was fun to do. I did get a lot of warning that people would want payback. I didn’t get them on my own page but when you look at other pages and what they were saying, but when you stay on your own page it’s not bad.”
Horror Fuel: “It has to be disturbing to read some of the ugly things.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Yeah, yeah. Nobody wants to read something like ‘She should be raped and killed.'”
Horror Fuel: “Wow!”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “But not everybody is a psycho. There are people who like to push boundaries. It’s disturbing, but if you were to let them get to you, you would think really ill of the world. I’ve met thousands of people in person and I’ve been able to connect with them.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s nice to hear, but I’m really sorry that there are psychos out there who write those types of things. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “It’s a lesson you know? There’s a lot of people who have been raised very badly. There’s a lot of people who are very angry and they don’t have a place to get it out. It’s a lesson about naivety. There’s a lot of pain out there.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s very true. Speaking of disturbing, The Woman is intense.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Yes. It’s a movie that I am very proud of and everyone who made it. Is a very intense film, but I don’t feel that it is an exploitation film in any way. I think it’s rightly a tough experience. You have to gird your loins for that one, don’t you?
Horror Fuel: “Tough is a good word for The Woman. I went through a gambit of emotions while watching it.”Did you ever struggle with emotion or scenes while filming it?”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “You know, I had been in such intense conversations over four months before filming, really since writer-director Lucy McKee sent me the script. He wanted notes on everything, not just the character. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. He and I were on the same page with what the action signified and how to take care of this character. Things like the rape scene are not something I ever wanted to do. There’s some exploitation of the pain, suffering, the violence in it. I really thought that we were on the same page and I’m very proud of that scene. It’s a tough thing to read when you are going into a scene like that, but when it came time to shoot it I was very comfortable and I knew we were getting what we wanted. That helped a lot. I gained a lot of strength from her strength.”
Horror Fuel: “Your character had to have a lot of strength just to survive.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Yeah. Instead of thinking ‘Poor me,’ which is human. She’s unusual as a character, she holds herself up with that strength. She’s got almost this shark-like determination.”
Horror Fuel: “Darlin’ is coming out soon, with it being your directorial debut, how are you feeling?
Pollyanna McIntosh: “I feel really good about it. I think the people from the film festivals who have seen it get a lot out of it. Luckily, I get people like you who love the movie. I’m sure there will be people who speak out about it, we do tackle some tough subject matter in a horror movie, but that’s par for the course. I’m so grateful to have been able to make this film with the people I made it with. I’m just excited for people to be able to see it, especially for Lauren. The Woman did so much for me and I hope with Darlin’ to see Lauren get the attention that she deserves and help her in career. To see that would mean the world to me.”
Horror Fuel: “There’s such a difference between the scenes that The Woman is in and the scenes with Darlin’. With The Woman, everything is dark and dirty and with Darlin’ it is clean, almost sterile with almost a dream-like haze. I love what you did there.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Yeah, absolutely. That scene where the woman goes into the hospital, I’m really looking forward to showing that. She’s very filthy, very animalistic as is Darlin’ when she first arrives at the hospital. She’s found a place where she can fit in amongst the women who are homeless. There are addiction issues, there’s where they can survive outside of society. It’s a great place for her to actually be accepted even though she’s a killer. You don’t get to wash all the time like those living in a home do. They also might be more accepting. That was the sort of thinking behind that.
With Darlin’, you talked about it being sterile, I wanted it to be in the girl’s world where she is being oppressed in what she was expected to believe, but also in the way those girls are being held back from their natural growth. Natural growth for me is also their sexual growth. In that place, with the original sin of just being born already being damning, being human and having carnal lives damned. Then there is the abuse. Making them into little girls is a way of showing that perversion and the squeezing of their sexual identity. That’s the sort of pastels and the dreamy sort of look.
I wanted the Woman to represent the primal fury at that and us finding our freedom, albeit viciously. She’s an allegory in many ways.”
Horror Fuel: “That what I thought. Both The Woman and Darlin’ are incredibly strong characters. While The Woman isn’t verbal she speaks volumes.
Lauryn Canny does an amazing job as Darlin’. The way she played both ends of the spectrum, feral and pure innocence was fantastic. Don’t see a young actress that can do that often. What made her stand out during casting?”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Lauren Canny, she’s such a talent. Just meeting her before she came into the audition, I thought, ‘God, I hope she’s as good as an actress as she is a fun open person.’ I really got the sense of her from just talking to her that she was very grounded and connected to her feelings, she cared a lot about the work and really loved the script. She was this dark-haired girl and she looks great with the red hair, without question. Sure enough, she absolutely nailed it. She did a really feral scene and even though I had many more people to see, she was our girl. She’s our goddess.”
Horror Fuel: “I was very impressed by her performance. She has a great range, that’s not easy to find.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “It was a challenge. She proved herself and more. You really care about her [Darlin’], that’s not easy to do either, especially with limited language. For me I think, the heartbreak for me is watching her think she’s bad. And because we care about her watching her journey, but we get…I don’t want to spoil it… her win. ”
Horror Fuel: “I know. I think the ending is perfect. I cheered for her.
Oh, and I love that you have your fellow “Walking Dead” actor Cooper Andrews in there too. I’m a fan of his work.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Cooper Andrews is so much fun. It’s funny, he went straight on to play another father figure in Shazam. We’re good friends and before we talked a lot about how people keep wanting him to play gangsters or ‘ Oh, it’s Chinese, but you can play it’. We talked in general about the roles that keep coming up for him and I said to him “You’ve got a lot more to offer. people will see that.” Sure enough, before Darlin’ came out he booked Shazam.”
Horror Fuel: “He’s so great at as a good guy.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Yeah. I love that as a straight man he was perfectly comfortable playing a gay role and it didn’t matter either way. It wasn’t a difficult thing for him to figure out. And of course it should be, but it’s not that way for every actor. There are still fears of that. He’s the perfect guy for the role.
We also have Sabrina Gennarino and Thomas Francis Murphy, the Cardinal, and Charity, the homeless woman who had to prostitute to get by, She and he were my right and left on The Walking Dead in the junkyard. They look very different in Darlin’. Yeah, they are in there.”
Horror Fuel: “It’s so great that you had the chance to work with them again.
I have to ask, with the film ending the way it did, is there a chance we will get a sequel?”
Polyanna McIntosh: “It will be the fourth, the first was Offspring, The Woman was second, and she was supposed to die in the book, but as the producer and director I was having too much fun. They wanted to see what happens next. But yeah, I wrote it with that in mind. The series has been done by three different directors, each should be different. Lauryn has been joking about it, I’ve been telling her, ‘Yeap, lady you’re going to do it.”
Horror Fuel: “I hope that someone makes it. Truth be told, we don’t get enough strong female characters in horror., but it’s getting better.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Isn’t it funny and fucked up that we are still having this conversation? I remember coming into the horror genre and people were going, ‘Oh, it’s so great to see a strong female character.’ and I was like ‘Isn’t it? Let’s keep doing that. It’s a funny fucking time right now. It’s a time to be genuinely agitating right now I feel, and using your voice, especially as a woman, is important right now. To have this movie coming out now, unfortunately, it feels more relevant than ever. Unfortunately, it feels right now that unlike with Rosemary’s Baby, where the devil takes over a woman’s body, now the church is trying to take over a woman’s body. That is the reality that is happening right now. It’s like we’re going backward, it’s not going to fly is it?”
Horror Fuel: “I don’t think it will fly for long. It does feel like things are going in reverse, between politics, sexism, racism. It’s disturbing.”
Horror Fuel: “You’ve already started on your next project, haven’t you? Deathcember?”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Yeah, it’s a horror anthology coming out this December. It’s got Lucky McKee and twenty-two directors. They are doing it like an advent calendar with twenty-four short films. I had loads of fun shooting it. It also features my fiancee and he’s not normally an actor. I’m really excited about it. It’s kind of a dark-comedy, horror. It’s called Getting Away From It All. It’s about a guy trying to escape for Christmas.
Now, I’ll be shooting a show for AMC, Lodge 49.”
Horror Fuel: “I love that show!”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Oh, good. I play Clara in it. She comes in at the beginning of season two. I love it too. I’m so glad that you watch it. It’s so brilliant and human and funny and weird. I just love it. I had great fun on that. One of my favorite actors ever, I got to work with on this show. It’s so cool.”
Horror Fuel: “I can’t wait for Lodge 49 to come back on. I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “Me too. It comes back on August twelfth.”
Pollyanna McIntosh: “I want to get funding for the next film which I want to shoot in Spain later this year. That’s the next thing on my mind. I made a thirty-five minute short of it and I want to turn it into a feature. I’ll be a writer, director, and actor on this one. Then, I’ve got a lot of ideas. I want to get back to writing. I’ve been doing a lot of shooting lately. I want to sit down and my desk and do some writing.”
Here is where Pollyanna and my conversation trailed off to the wonders of small-town America, luffa (long story), dogs, movies and the wonderful aspects of being part of a community.
Before I do an interview it’s not clear who an actor really is, but after my conversation with Pollyanna, I can tell you this, she’s a warm, funny, strong, talented woman who loves being in both in front of and behind the camera. She was truly a pleasure to talk with.
I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on Darlin’. I can’t wait to see her in action on “Lodge 49”, and seeing her segment in Deathcember. I also recommend you check out “Hap and Leonard“, in which Pollyanna plays a complete badass and psychopath! FYI, it’s now streaming on Netflix. To stay up to date on all of Pollyanna McIntosh’s projects please visit her pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and visit her website.