The Natural Aristocrat caught up with Darlin’ visionary and Walking Dead star Pollyanna McIntosh before the NYC premiere of the film at What the Fest!?
Pollyanna McIntosh’s picture Darlin’ debuted in the big apple last Thursday (3/21) to a warm reception at the What the Fest!? film festival. Screening in New York’s renowned IFC Center, mere blocks from NYU and beautiful Washington Square park, the film was comfortably home at the art house cinema. The eloquent McIntosh would later do a Q and A with fans post-credit roll, with more than a few Walking Dead devotees of Jadis/Anne in attendance!
The Natural Aristocrat had an opportunity to speak with McIntosh who starred in, directed, and wrote the picture just a few hours before the film’s smashing NYC premiere on the silver screen.
Interview with Pollyanna McIntosh on Darlin’ :
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: You wrote the script for Darlin’ and following in Jack Ketchum’s [Dallas Mayr] work, who sadly passed away last year. I was curious what that was like?
Pollyanna McIntosh: It’s a good question because I first started coming to the character of ‘The Woman’ by doing Offspring which was based on novel of his. The Director / Producer of that film just sent me the book and said “Read this” which is very smart. It wasn’t with an offer, he just said, “Read this,” and I was like, “Do I get to play that woman? She’s amazing!” So I love Dallas’ writing and him as a person. I have so much respect and love for the man. Lucky (McKee) and Ketchum and co-wrote The Woman together. And of course Lucky directed it, that was the second one, and then now with Darlin’.
I was very conscious that it was gonna be the third in a series inspired by Ketchum. In many cases, written by him. But I was also aware that I really wanted to make it my own and make it really personal. And as a Writer / Director, that it had to come from my experience somewhat. That I had to be really grounded in it as my own story. So I spoke to him about what I was going to write and the idea that I had, and actually Dallas wasn’t so keen on writing about religion. It was something he didn’t want to do in his work. But I absolutely got his blessing to explore that part of the world in this story.
We had him visit on set that December that we were shooting in. So only a month before he passed away he came to visit us from New York, we weren’t sure if he’s going to be able to with his health. It was so great to see a great big smile on his face and grinning away! He absolutely loved the experience of being there and seeing it come together. So I feel like we’ve honored him with this film and it’s dedicated to him. But yeah… It’s no small thing to follow The Woman!
That’s one of the reasons I made it very much my own like I say but also there’s some homages to Lucky’s work as well. To that Ketchum / Lucky world that they made in The Woman, which I won’t say anything about because that will be for fans to find out.
The strongest line of the movie for me was when the Bishop [Bryan Batt] said, “There’s no after without a before.” Especially, the whole scene where they tarnish Darlin’ [Lauryn Canny] and dirty her up for the camera. How often do you feel that happens in the entertainment industry in general?
In the sense of trying to make somebody appear one way for their own benefit? It happens all the time. I think it’s unfortunately, a very human thing we do. Where we try and manipulate others to be what we want them to be, often for nefarious gain. That goes along really well with the larger theme of the film, which is the idea of the church taking over a woman’s body. Which is unfortunately a very real horror in our world today still.
As far as shooting that scene, I could feel that it was really working! I mean Lauryn Canny’s performance is so incredible and she really went there in that cage. She absolutely went for it! It’s funny that you bring up the line, “There can’t be an after without a before, just ask Jesus!” (laughs) Bryan Batt who plays the Bishop is one of the most fun people to work with. He would often say, “Just ask Jesus!” as kind of a one liner. (laughs)
It was also a line that was actually questioned whether it should be cut from the film… I fought very hard to keep that line in because it is ironic and it is slightly cheesy. I was well aware of that. But the bishop’s denial of who he really is, also in his sort of dad-joke references, and his absolute assurance of himself, makes it a ridiculous line to say under the circumstances. I also thought it made sense with his belief that he was doing a good thing, him trying to mask his work in that.
That was important to him to be in that denial. And it’s often an abuser’s perspective that they have to find reasons that what they’re doing is right, in order for them to live with it. Which sounds ironic. But of course, it’s not a black and white being a bad guy.
“It’s not a black and white thing being a bad guy.”
For your Walking Dead fans, you have three cast members (Cooper Andrews, Sabrina Gennarino, and Thomas Francis Murphy) in the film, and especially I felt Cooper Andrews had a major role. You have great chemistry with him on-screen! I loved the scene in the car, it was quite funny. ‘The Woman’ was looking almost like a walker.
Oh thank you! Yeah, I know it’s funny that there was an image that went out online recently of me as ‘The Woman’ and a lot of Walking Dead fans were saying, “Oh, she looks great as a zombie,” and then I’m like “I’m not a zombie!” (laughs) But there kind of is a little bit of an undead look to her for sure.
Being a Director is typically pictured as this creative authority figure. Many will visualize that symbolic Director’s chair when imagining it. Is it surreal to direct your old cast mates, your peers, and friends?
Yeah! It should should have been maybe weirder than it was. It felt very natural and right. I felt very confident in my role as Director on the film, especially with the actors because I’ve been there. I’m from that world. And of course, I was in that world in the film playing ‘The Woman.’ So it was like we were all in it together. I thought it was really ironic that I cast Sabrina Gennarino and Thomas Francis Murphy as a prostitute and a cardinal respectively because there’s a kind of British party theme that we have. It’s called “Tarts and Vicars.” And so I really cast them in the right and left of that and very different roles for them than the roles they’re playing on The Walking Dead with me.
Sabrina is such a delightful and excited fun actor, very focused into what she’s doing. She was a delight to to direct for that reason. Cooper wants to hear it straight like it is and one of the things he compliments me on is that I always did that. I think that’s one of the benefits of being friends as well. But also just being an actress, knowing that I’d rather hear it straight from the Director than be sort of babied in any way.
Cooper (Andrews) wants to hear it straight like it is.
So if something wasn’t working for me, I’d be quite clear with him, like this physical things happening or whatever and he appreciated that. I don’t want that to sound like he needed it or that he was doing all sorts of things wrong. (laughs) We all need direction, that’s the point. And that was something that worked pretty well. We just had such a laugh! Me and Cooper in that car is such a fun scene to shoot.
We were really enjoying it, actually we went too far in that scene. We lost our police escort and we got pulled over by the cops, me and Cooper with no driver’s licenses. Looking the way I did, and him being a big guy they thought that we were in a real fight together.
Was that police car chase in Darlin’ legit then?
No, not the car you see! (laughs) But it did turn a fake cop car chase to a real cop car chase with another cop car getting in between us, and not realizing we’re filming. The car was swerving, you know? So that was that was bizarre.
I’d be remiss without going on about Thomas Francis Murphy, who’s just an incredible character actor. Though he doesn’t think he had much to do in the movie, it was so important that the Cardinal was believable and I thought he did a great job!
How do you compare directing Darlin’ to your directing experiences in the early days like The Woolgatherer?
Oh, thank you for your research! (smiles) I think the same joy, the same excitement, the same adrenaline rush of seeing people achieve great things. Which I definitely had on this film as well. But it’s very different directing theatre to directing film. Of course, I’m glad that I’ve had so many experiences as an actor on sets, where I sort of got free training in a way.
How do you feel you’ve evolved as an actress starting from the age of 16 to now?
I think I’m less self-conscious. I’ve gotten more brave and I guess just the same experience of growing up that most people have has happened for me and my career too. I feel more confident in what I’m doing and less afraid to take chances.
Whats it like meeting fans at the conventions, Walker Stalkers, and all that?
It’s the biggest joy meeting fans especially of this show. I mean with The Woman fans I always go, “Oh God, you love The Woman!” because you know I have such a loving connection with that film. And it’s the same with Walking Dead. I absolutely love respect the show and I think anyone who loves that show like we’ve got lot to talk about. We’ve got a lot in common.
It’s been an honor to experience it through other people’s eyes, their love of the show, by them just seeing you and going “Oh my god, it’s you!” I know that’s because of a bigger thing and it just feels really cool and lucky. It’s like a giant connector with people.
Do you feel you would do such a project like Darlin’ again where you write, direct, and star in it?
Yes, I love it! I love it! I did want to ensure that ‘The Woman’ wasn’t the lead in this film, partly because I felt that we’d done such an amazing thing with her in The Woman (film). Taking a silent character into the city is gonna be a difficult way to do something new and to keep people for a whole feature with somebody who really doesn’t speak that much. I didn’t want to do the same thing that we’d done in The Woman. But I also was aware that I wanted to make sure I was behind the camera as much as possible.
I think there’s a good balance where she’s this shadowy figure and then she really lets it rip as well but she’s not the lead. So Darlin’ was that for me.
Did you select Lauryn Canny yourself for the role?
Yeah, I mean we had a great cast director David Guglielmo in L.A. who brought in a bunch of different young women for me to meet and audition. Lauryn was the first one that came in the room and she was the first one I met downstairs. I thought if she’s half as talented as she is beautiful, interesting, cool, kind and down to earth, somebody you really want to work with… You can see what a hard worker she is just from meeting her.
And I thought if she’s all those things and a great actor, please let her be! Lauryn was amazing and blew me away with her performance! We auditioned a bunch of other people after but I really wanted her. She was the one.
We spoke a bit off camera about how fantastic you are at expressing a character on-screen through facial expressions and body language. Even if you don’t have many lines for a scene. How are you able as an actress to convey characters like Jadis and ‘The Woman’ so strongly without having those monologue-like lines to win the audience over?
Thank you, I’ll take the compliment! I think honestly, if you’re connecting and you’re feeling a great sense of reality and the experience that your character is going through. Who they are, what they want and what they’re trying to get, then you’re always alive with the character and with the drama of the situation. So to me it doesn’t feel that different doing that with less words than it does doing it with dialogue. Those are the kind of performances that always grabbed me when I was younger.
I’ve always wondered, why didn’t they pair Jadis up with Rick?
They tease it a lot with Rick! (smiles) They probably did me a favor because those Michonne fans, they they love themselves some Michonne! You know it’s a beautiful love story and it always has been. They’re so equal in their relationship and they work so well together. I think that would really tear people apart, if he were to just cheat on her with somebody else. I mean that just seems crazy!
I think you could have ruined it a bit.
Well, people have their different opinions. (laughs) But I think that toeing the line in the way we did with it was really fun and took it in unexpected directions. And I don’t know because of course, the continuation of the story may happen with the films that they’re making. So Rick and Jadis/Anne may very well be reunited in the first feature that’s going to be made.
We’ll have to see. But I don’t know if they’re necessarily going to be in a romantic relationship.
They should be!
Do you think so? (laughs) Do you want to write some fan fiction?
If you had to describe Darlin’ in one sentence for people who didn’t catch The Woman or Offspring, what would you say?
I would say it is about a teenage feral girl coming in from the woods and the Catholic Church getting hold of her, and wanting to prove their miraculous work through conversing her into a good girl and taking her to our holy communion.
I could really just say a sentence as long as I wanted! You said a single sentence, I really could just carry on right saying a whole paragraph! (smiles)
Is that an arrow on your finger by the way?
Yeah, I have an arrow here, these four quivers are for me and my three sisters. This is all the sisters. The moon is for my boyfriend who’s called Van Madden, his last name is Van Madden. He’s not called Van Madden that sounds like I’m dating Vin Diesel or something. (laughs)
Awesome, thanks a lot Pollyanna!
Pollyanna McIntosh’s Darlin’ is a Hood River Entertainment Production.