If you’re looking for a good Halloween-timed binge, Slasher: Guilty Party is the ticket, with all eight episodes of the second season available now on Netflix.
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
A combo psychological drama and gorefest, the series follows five former summer camp counselors who return, in the dead of winter, to the scene of a crime they committed five years earlier. Once there, their plans are derailed when they find themselves being systematically dispatched by a killer.
The instigator of the quintet’s return is Dawn, played by Paula Brancati, who you may recognize from her stints on Being Erica, What Would Sal Do?, and Degrassi. In Guilty Party, Brancati gets to go dark as a woman who’s seemingly buried her past misdeeds only to find that she’s not immune to feeling guilt, shame, and remorse at what she did then, especially as she now fights to survive. I spoke with Brancati by phone earlier this week about the new season.
Brancati was thrilled to jump into the role. “I’d actually done a small cameo in [Slasher‘s] last season because [series creator] Aaron Martin and I are buddies and I worked with him on Being Erica years ago. I played Jenny. We never crossed paths on Degrassi. I have a long relationship with Shaftesbury, who produced,” she explains.
“When this came to me, I heard Aaron wrote Dawn with me in mind. I was really pleased and surprised because I had never played anybody like this [who] leads with aggression. The man has a dark, beautiful mind. I was flattered that someone could see me playing someone so dark. I got to channel all my…there’s a mean girl and mob boss combo thing going on.”
Last year, Brancati was working onstage in the musical Matilda and found herself watching Scream before Guilty Party was on her radar, which then came in really handy. “[This was my] first horror, completely, in every way. I can barely watch The Sixth Sense. The last horror movie I saw in theater was Boogeyman and I remember being terrified,” she says.
“I had rewatched Scream right before hearing about this job. It was on TV and I was feeling in a mood to be watching something different from what I was doing and little did I know I’d be watching that Drew Barrymore scene for inspiration. I’m a bit of a crier, as anyone will tell you, so it doesn’t take much for me [to] just [be] freaking out. It’s very easy for me to respond and act scared.”
Brancati enjoyed the character-driven aspects of the role, and the series. “[Martin] didn’t create a clear hero. Everyone has their own dirty laundry. He let all of the characters be very flawed. You believe that Dawn and [her friends] have been mean girls before together. There’s a sort of shorthand [among all five] and they obviously take it incredibly far and then have to carry this heavy load together,” she points out.
“I really like that bit of writing. I like a lot of the writing. Each of these characters have the opportunity to show another side. It’s a different outlook on a story that we we’ve seen before. At the beginning, [Dawn is] leading the charge into the campground. She’s got a plan. And she’s aggressive.”
In the latter episodes, there is a shift in Dawn, who strikes up a friendship with and confides in Peter, one of the current camp residents, played by Paulino Nunes (Shadowhunters). “I really enjoyed [working with him]. He was amazing to work alongside. It was a really nice treat to just sit in that,” she says.
“They were some of my favorite, but weirdly some of the easiest, [scenes] to do. They were emotional, but after shooting high stakes screaming, yelling, killing, there’s something really nice about having someone unravel and really open up.”
“[Dawn is] very coiled up and high-strung throughout it and edgy. I think of her as freshly burned, like her response to things. She’s immediate and [in] attack [mode]. When she gets to sit and choose her words, when we hear about her childhood and why she is the way she is, those things are super appealing. A character that is very textured is really interesting to me.”
“We block shot the whole thing. We shot all eight hours out-of-order. I’m a bit of a textbook high school nerd who really relishes the homework part of it. I have my big binder with my Post-It notes. I thought it was a really cool challenge to do all of that and shoot out-of-order.”
“Our director, Felipe Rodriguez, had such an amazing handle on each character. There are so many characters, and everyone has a lot going on that they’re all unpacking and we all did our homework of where we were coming from.”
“He was really such an excellent guide and certainly kept me on track with tone. I would give him a look and he’d tell me, ‘Yeah, that wasn’t the one.’ We had that shorthand by the end, or we could raise the stakes a few notches. You want to be working with a team where you can feel like you can really play and not be embarrassed if you take the performance a little too far. Or, you don’t give enough and you know that they’ll push you to your edge. I felt really challenged in a really great way.”
Photos Courtesy of Netflix and Shaftesbury TV