The stars of the new gothic horror thriller The Nun chat with members of the press about their roles in the new upcoming film and the faith-based themes of the movie. The film stars Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, Bonnie Aarons, Charlotte Hope, and Jonas Bloquet. The film takes us on a journey during an investigation after the mysterious suicide of a nun in an Abbey.
The press junket took place at the mysterious yet beautiful Ex Convento Desierto de los Leones in Mexico City, and added a supernatural ambiance to the press junket. I should also mention that it rained and thunder claps intermittently penetrated throughout the experience. It’s almost as if the weather knew what kind of scene this junket would be. Thankfully nothing too spooky went down over at the 17th-century convent. Shortly after the screening of the film—which took place inside of the convent—press was given the experience to wander throughout the halls and catacombs in a haunted simulation based on real scenes from the movie. You can check out our Instagram page for more photos.
Below is a snippet of our roundtable interview with Taissa Farmiga and Demian Bichir.
Taissa how did you prepare for this role? And what was your experience while working on the project?
Taissa: I wasn’t raised Catholic, I didn’t have much experience with nuns. But I really wanted to provide authenticity to the character, because you are playing someone who is so specific. It’s someone who’s chosen this life of dedication and commitment, and that takes a very specific strength. An inner strength to have, and I really wanted to know more about that. I wanted to know the details of the day to day struggle.
I learned, from when I watched The Nun Story with Audrey Hepburn, which was actually quite informative. I learned that the life of a nun is a struggle for self-perfection, which I don’t know anybody that wants to try, and be perfect every single day. It’s physically impossible. So, one thing I really wanted to incorporate, that I learned, was the physicality of it. You are always sensing, or you’re always watching yourself, and correcting yourself. Am I walking humbly? Am I walking close to walls? Am I closing doors quietly? Am I walking with purpose? Are my hands being useless? Am I used them for work?
It’s little tiny things that you realize you’re thinking about on a constant basis, it actually takes a quite a bit of mental space, and time throughout the day. So, while playing Sister Irene I really wanted to make sure I was incorporating all those little corrections.
Did you get any tips from your sister Vera [Farmiga] while working on this?
Taissa: I think the main thing she told me was don’t bring home work with you. You don’t want to bring home any spirits, or demons, or any of the sort. Lucky for me, a lot of Vera’s research was with demonology, and exorcisms, which luckily I didn’t have to do. I got to look at more of the holy side of it, what it takes to be a nun. So, I didn’t have to delve too deep into that dark world, truthfully I don’t like that. I took her advice, and I did not bring home Bonnie Aarons. The demon out of me at all, because I didn’t need that in my life.
Did working in a movie like this change your point of view on religion, exorcism, this kind of stuff?
Taissa: For me, it really opened my eyes to how much it takes to be someone who has so much faith, and so devout. I was sincerely impressed by it. I’m not scared of commitment, but committing yourself to the Lord, and committing yourself to struggling to be a perfect being in His honor, that’s scary. I don’t think I could ever do it.
So, I’m not sure if it validated anything for me, but it really opened my eyes. Made me really respect them, these religious figures, and how they commit their lives to this.
Demian: That’s pretty much the same thing. It is very truly remarkable how these people become soldiers, just like in any army. It doesn’t matter if you have fears. If you have doubts. If you have your own demons to explore when they call you, and you are required you have to get up and perform.
Talissa: It doesn’t matter what fear feelings you have, you have to put that aside.
Demian: Exactly, that’s truly remarkable. We can always say, “Nah, thank you I’ll pass.”, you know what I mean? That’s what makes you powerful. That’s what makes these characters, at least I’m talking for Father Burke. That’s something that was really, really interesting and clear.
In terms of how powerful knowing that the worst thing that can happen is that you will lose your life represents when you don’t care. Once you’ve reached that point that it’s for a greater good for others, in this case, humanity maybe, then you become truly powerful. Almost invincible, because anything in your fears, especially your fears, are beyond yourself.
To me, that’s what we’ve been talking about the whole day today, that’s something that is really, really impressive right now. A lot of kids are fans of these franchises, horror films in general. They will go and have fun, and they get scared, but they will also remember that faith is much more needed now than ever before. That it’s faith in humanity, and our fellow humans, that’s going to save us. That’s what keeps us standing up with some instability going on everywhere. With so much horrible stories written courtesy of the White House, and beyond. You know what I mean? Yeah, right?
So, it’s faith in us that keeps us going.
Did you feel scared when you were shooting the film? Or having any thoughts something would happen?
Demian: I’m not a fan of horror films. I know that might sound contradictory, but I don’t like to sit in a place and be scared. I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like to pay to be scared. Yes, it’s because of that. I already saw this film in a small little room, and of course it wasn’t finished yet, but still, I was like oh fuck ghosts.
Things that I didn’t do, scenes that I wasn’t in. It was caught me off guard, and that makes me very mad. It pisses me off that I did get scared, I jump, fuck man. It doesn’t matter if I prepare for it, because I heard the sound, the music. Here it comes, here it comes, oh nothing, AGH! Yeah, there was something there. I’m not going to sit through it, no. I will go only to the premiere in Los Angeles on September 4th.
Taissa: So, you will watch it with us?
Demian: I will either just a really nice nap, or go, and have a nice dinner.
If you had to create your own worst nightmare in a horror scenario, what element would be in there?
Taissa: Oh man, you could literally drop me in any scary situation, and I would panic. If you ask for a list of my fears it’s so long. I mean, I don’t live a life of fear, but I’m just super sensitive. I don’t like the darkness. I don’t like nighttime. I don’t like being alone. There’s a lot of scenarios that you can do with that. Take your pick, don’t invite me.
Demian: I think a very scary scenario for me would be being trapped in a coffin. Having these hands coming out of nowhere, you know? Get in my face like a man where are these coming from?
How was it to work with Bonnie? She’s terrifying.
Taissa: Oh my gosh, I have a strong affection for Bonnie. She’s so passionate.
Demian: She’s great.
Taissa: So passionate about the characters, and the creatures that she plays and creates. I mean one of her favorite past times on set was scaring me. She would just be sitting in the cast chair across from me, and she would be like, “Hum.” I was like, “What? Why are you laughing?”
Honestly, it was a blast. It’s fun working with people who are so excited by it. Most of our crew was. Corin [Hardy], the director grew up creating these monsters and wanting to do this for a living, and now he has the chance. You give someone this opportunity for something that they’ve wanted to do since they were a child. I mean the energy they put off, it’s amazing, it’s infectious, and I love working with those kinds of people.
Demian: Yeah and Bonnie, I mean, she is such a beautiful lady. She has this beautiful, fabulous face, and she’s a sweetheart. So, it’s all days the best part of any shooting is the time you spend with your teammates. Everybody, crew members, and actors, and directors, and everybody. We spend a lot of time having breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, and that was always fun. She’s a crack up.
Corin famously talked about having a supernatural experience on set at Comic-Con. Did either of you guys have any sort of supernatural experience, or if not was there a time when you were genuinely scared?
Taissa: I did not have any supernatural experiences on this particular show. I’ve had it on season three of American Horror Story. It was the one time that I ever experienced something, but I went into this project adamantly telling myself, “Okay, you’re going to come home. You’re going to be in Romania. You’re going to be in a hotel at night. You need mental strength. You are not going to let anything in.” And it worked.
I mean, I had to do like a whole lot of meditating and just focus on breathing. Not let the little demon that’s knocking on my head to let me in, but I’m really happy I didn’t have the experience. I probably would have wanted to go home.
Demian: Yeah, and some of the locations we were at they were one, the real thing, and second pretty creepy. Some of those places were, and you could feel that they’d been there for centuries.
Taissa: There’s so much history.
Demian: There was so much history, and so much energy going around. You can feel that. Just as Taissa, I did this work previously thinking, “Thank God I’m Father Burke. Father Burke is unbreakable. Father Burke does not get scared of anything.”. So, he’s ready.
I guess, like we were saying that faith makes you powerful. Faith makes you invincible, and invisible too for ghosts and all those kinds of things. Right?
Did you have to learn Latin prayers?
Taissa: There’s the perpetual adoration scene where we’re praying in Latin, the Santa Maria. So, actually that was my audition scene, but it was in English back then. When I read the script, and I’m like oh this is actually in Latin, but luckily enough the production sends me little audio clips of someone saying it in Latin. I just rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed it, but it’s such a beautiful language.
As soon you’re in this church, and in my nun costume, all of a sudden you assume the prayer position, you start doing it…I don’t know, just feel something magical about it. It feels real. Obviously, I’m saying the words, and I’m praying, but there’s just something about that. It was almost peaceful inside, even though it was such an intense scene.
Demian: It was enchanting when you see it. It was so beautiful. The effect of seeing this beautiful creature praying Latin was really wonderful. In a horror film, you know there’s that oh something’s coming.
Was there any specific times where you had to walk the line between faith and fear?
Taissa: Oh man, I don’t know. It was interesting, it was something when I was filming, when I was Sister Irene one of the things that I kept writing down on the script was to remember, oh okay. There’s the stage directions she looks over her shoulder terrified, I was like okay this one is terrifying. But a nun who’s devout, and has faith, but she’s terrified. What do you do when you’re afraid? You pray, so I always wanted to incorporate that into my performance, and remember as soon as you feel fear. Okay, when Taissa feels fear I run, but when Sister Irene feels fear-
Reporter: Faith has to kick in.
Taissa: Yeah, faith has to kick in. In that in itself was a really moving experience.
Do you feel more comfortable now in the horror genre? Congratulations I saw that today you’re going to reprise both your role in [American Horror Story] Coven and Murder House.
Taissa: Yes, yes, thank you. Feel comfortable? I mean it’s surprising I don’t think I ever feel comfortable in a horror set, because it’s always doing the thing I don’t like, being scared. But for me what I love about it is the atmosphere on set, the energy of the crew. When you’re doing something so grotesque, and gory, and dark, and heavy the energy on set is always the complete opposite. That’s what drives me. I don’t know? It’s almost like a shot of something. I love that happiness and that feeling of comradery. Just enjoying life. It’s funny that’s where I find it on a place where we’re doing such dark things.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
The Nun arrives in theaters nationwide September 7th.
What's Your Reaction?
Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and multimedia space for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association and executive producer of the Black Girl Nerds Podcast.