“I am not a million other girls.” In Starry Eyes, aspiring actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) feels like she’s destined for more than bit parts in movies, a degrading day job and settling to make small films with her friends. Sarah believes that Hollywood has great things waiting for her, if she can just catch her big break. And after a promising audition turns into the role of her dreams, Sarah soon realizes the horrific lengths she’s willing to go in order to make her dreams of stardom come true.

Directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, Starry Eyes is arriving on Blu-ray and DVD this week courtesy of Dark Sky Films and Daily Dead recently had the pleasure of speaking with Essoe about her breakout performance in the film, why she gravitates towards playing the anti-hero, and much more.

Great to speak with you, Alex; the movie is fantastic and a big part of why it succeeds is because of your performance, so congratulations. Can you start off by discussing what your initial thoughts were on Starry Eyes when you first read the script?

Alex Essoe: Thank you so much! I was frothing at the mouth when I first read the script. Much like my character in the film, I was ready to do whatever for this role (laughs). I really love this whole ‘psychotic women’ subgenre, like Carrie or Possession, so I really wanted this role badly. It had everything I loved about horror too.

Was the character of Sarah as fully-realized on the page as we see in the final version of the film then or did Dennis and Kevin let you make some tweaks to her?

Alex Essoe: Most of the character of Sarah was there in the script so it was great to have that as a resource to draw inspiration from. There were certain behaviors and minor tweaking to her mannerisms which was all me though. The script really had a lot to it though and I think that the hair pulling and alienating herself from her friends were things I tapped into just because I understood where Sarah was coming from and why she’d do those things- to other people and ultimately, to herself.

Was it cool to be able to play someone who starts off as essentially the heroine of the film but by the end, you begin questioning whether or not you should ‘like’ her just because of her heinous actions later on?

Alex Essoe: Nothing appeals to me more as an actor than a deeply-flawed character. I don’t want to be the ‘perfect’ hero and Sarah was the perfect opportunity for me to become this really compelling anti-hero that you want to root for but you know that she’s doing some terrible things so you feel kind of bad about enjoying what she’s doing. I loved that though.

Both Dennis and Kevin seemed to throw a lot at you and you really took it like a champ- was that the biggest challenge for you on Starry Eyes?

Alex Essoe: You know, the more that Dennis and Kevin threw at me, the more I loved it, and the deeper we went down the rabbit hole, the more excited I would get. It was so amazing to dig deep into a character like this and was overjoyed at how dual-sided she was. What’s great is that at the beginning, you think she’s just this shy, innocent girl but as Starry Eyes goes on, you realize that’s not the case at all. She’s just that way because she has such contempt for everyone and I think a lot of that comes from her own self-loathing.

When you’re making a movie like this, you just have to let the story work on your body and let yourself go physically in order to push things physically and emotionally. I was totally exhausted at certain points when we were shooting but I think that being in that state for most of the time really lends itself well to the madness of the character.  I will admit that I was fully emptied inside by the time we wrapped but I think that only helped inform the character of Sarah and I’d do it all over again if given the chance.

You had the opportunity to work with some incredible talent in this movie- how was it collaborating with your co-stars?

Alex Essoe: It was an interesting experience for me because everyone on Starry Eyes had so much more experience than I did and I think that helped shape the relationships I had with everyone on set. In fact, some of the cast already knew each other from different films they had worked on together previously so because they had those connections, and I didn’t, I think that also helped me with creating a little distance and so I drew on that while we were filming.

But everyone was so generous with me and so delightful to work with and Pat Healy, who plays my boss, is a hero of mine so when I found out I’d be working with him, I told myself- “Don’t fuck this up” (laughs).

I know that Sarah’s journey is a metaphor for what most creative people go through while working in the business but I also thought it was something to could relate to pretty much anything- love, success, money. Was that something that you recognized as well?

Alex Essoe: I’d agree- I always thought that this was much more about the human condition than it was a statement on the politics of Hollywood. That aspect was just a vessel for what Dennis and Kevin were trying to say about how we damage ourselves in order to live up to others’ perceptions. Sarah’s own tragic flaws and obsessive nature evolved because she couldn’t live up to the high standards she set for herself and that’s how she is able to be so easily exploited by the Hollywood system. We all have these preconceptions of happiness, success- that kind of stuff- and really, those things are just ideas.

What was the biggest thing you took away from your experiences on Starry Eyes?

Alex Essoe: I feel like I learned a lot and deepened my understanding for what I do as an actor and just why I do it in the first place. It was an amazing first project for me and everyone who worked on it was so passionate about making sure it succeeded. I was extremely lucky and grateful to be working in a genre that I  love so much. I know it won’t always be like this, but I hope it’ll always be like this (laughs).


  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.