Michael Myers from Halloween, Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, Freddie Krueger the
villain of A Nightmare on Elm Street. What do all of these iconic figures have in
common—they terrified us! The incredibly versatile actress Nadia Alexander gives an
equally chilling performance by transforming herself into Mina for The Dark. In this
interview Nadia gives us the inside scoop on what it takes to horrify an audience.
You have a really impressive portfolio, having worked in many different genres.
Was working in a horror/thriller something you were excited to explore?
To be completely honest, I actually usually shy away from the horror genre. Part of
that has to do with the fact that I’m a big ol’ scaredy cat who doesn’t tend to stomach
gore too well, but I have also found, in the past, that a lot of the horror scripts that I
have read tended (unfortunately) to rely on some seriously outdated tropes around
women and violence. So, when The Dark came my way, I was completely blown
away. I had never read a horror script with such a powerful and important social
message underneath and seen an allegory about abuse told in such a poignant yet
tasteful manner—even with the blood and guts! So I was utterly obsessed with the
script from day one and was beyond thrilled when I got the role!
How was it different from working on a drama?
The Dark actually has a fair amount of dramatic elements, which was great, because it
made the transition a lot smoother and the material more easily accessible to someone
like myself, who is less familiar with working in the genre. But horror films certainly
present their own unique challenges. For example, on The Dark, I was a head-to-toe
monster, which meant sitting in the makeup chair for 2 hours every morning getting a
prosthetic glued to my face, having a lens technician put in special zombie-esque contact
lenses that brought my visibility down to about 40% (or about 5% in darkness), wearing a
retainer that made my teeth appear rotten but also gave me a slight speech impediment
(meaning many of my lines had to be re-recorded in post production or pulled from a
handful of retainer-free takes on set when my back was to camera), and having three-inch
long fake, decaying nails on my hands and feet that had a penchant for falling right off
during my more physical scenes! So needless to say, trying to focus solely on the
emotionality of the scene can be a little difficult when battling all of that—but the final
result makes it perfectly frightening!
How do you prepare for the role in The Dark?
With every character that I play in a film, I create a character bible. This is a document
that ranges from about 25-50 pages depending on the size of the role (so with The Dark,
it was a pretty big one!) and contains everything from breakdowns of each scene and the
emotional arc to personal backstories and family history to their favorite food and what
Hogwarts house they would be sorted into! It’s basically my way to make the character
feel like a real person—no different from you or I—with their own history and
personality. I can then read the bible any time while shooting if I start to feel a little bit
like I’m losing sight of the character. On The Dark, it was particularly helpful because
the story is so centrally focused around my role (Mina), so it was really important to me
that the character was deeply solidified in my psyche.
Did you watch other horror films before filming The Dark to help prepare? Do you
have any favorite horror movies/shows?
I didn’t watch any other films to prep for The Dark, in part because I didn’t want to end
up unintentionally emulating any of the characters that shared similarities to Mina (for
example, one of director Justin P. Lange’s main inspirations was Let The Right One In). I
wanted to make sure that she felt singular and unique, so I tried to craft her in a bit of a
bubble. As far as favorites, as I previously mentioned, I’m a pretty big wuss when it
comes to horror, so I don’t watch a whole lot of it. I would say the closest I can get would
be something along the lines of Pan’s Labyrinth or, more recently, Get Out.
While filming, did you ever get…spooked?
As I was the one playing the monster, it was pretty hard to get spooked, because I was
doing all the scaring! Although it would be pretty jarring anytime I’d accidentally catch
my zombified appearance in the mirror. Honestly, the spookiest part of filming for me
was that there had recently been a few bear sightings in the woods where we were
shooting and I was quite afraid I might come face-to-face with a grizzly! Thankfully, no
bears or zombies were harmed in the making of the film!
Tell us about what it felt like to see yourself gored up with the special effect
The first time I put it all on it was pretty terrifying—it definitely had the right effect! But
then, so long as I wasn’t in front of a mirror, I pretty much forgot about it. Of course, this
would have an interesting effect when we broke for lunch and we’d head into town to the
dining hall and random passersby would spot me! I don’t think anything will compare,
however, to the poor hotel nightdesk manager the last day of shooting. We had to film my
murder/burial (which is shown in flashback in the film), which was by far the most gored
up I ever got to be. The makeup team wasn’t even able to remove the face prosthetic until
I showered off all the fake blood and “dirt” (which was primarily made of ground
coffee!). So we had decided it would just be easiest if I went back to my hotel down the
street to shower off. We wrapped filming around 4am, and I stumbled into the hotel
desperately hoping no one would be in the lobby so I didn’t give anyone a heart attack. I
had almost made it to the elevator when the nightdesk manager stepped out from his
office and the noise he made still haunts me to this day! I had to quickly explain it was
for a movie and that I wasn’t some poor girl who had just been mauled by that grizzly!
Did you have any reservations before shooting?
I was definitely a bit nervous—this was the first film where I felt the story really rode on
my performance and it was up to me to never drop the ball or slip up. So I put a lot of
pressure on myself both prior to and during shooting that I think was a bit unkind. I’ve
since learned to be a lot gentler with myself and trust that I can have a bad day without
ruining an entire movie! In the end, I’m really proud of the film and what it stands for,
and extraordinarily thankful to have been a part of it and gotten that unique life
Are you brave enough to be involved in another horror film again?
Sure, if it’s the right kind of script. I really like horror films that go a bit deeper than your
typical slasher—stories that use violence and gore in smart, metaphorical ways rather
than just for jump scares or nausea-induction! I think we are definitely seeing a rise in
that more recently in the horror genre, so I’m excited to see how all of that unfolds in
What would you like to work on next?
The Dark was actually the last film that I worked on (which we filmed all the way back
in November 2016), so I’ve been almost exclusively working in TV the last two years.
I’d love to change that up a bit and get back into an indie film, because there’s such a
sense of camaraderie and dedication that I just love in that environment. But we’ll just
see where the wind takes me!
What other projects are on your bucket list?
As a film actor, that’s such a hard question to answer because most of those projects
don’t exist yet! But I’ve recently started writing professionally, which has been a bit of a
surprise—I always loved writing but never thought anything would leave my laptop! This
year, I sold a miniseries that I am co-writing to a new studio, which was super exciting.
I’ve found it quite empowering to write my own material (even if I’m not going to be in
it), because there’s a real sense of control that is often missing from the actor life. So I’m
really excited to see what happens with the series as well as whatever other projects come
out of my brain!
Article by Lauren Frances Stannard
Lauren, when not chasing her three sons, writes. Her experience includes work in marketing, education and
screenplay writing. She's been known to ditch the carpools and escape to the nearest mall, concert or comedy show.