We’re just a few days away now from the arrival of The Possession of Hannah Grace in theaters everywhere, and to get you ready for all the supernatural spookiness, Daily Dead recently spoke with the actress behind the titular character, Kirby Johnson, whose physical performance in Hannah Grace is both creepy and jaw-dropping at times. During the interview, Johnson discussed digging into her mysterious character, how her background in dance helped her throughout the filming of The Possession of Hannah Grace, and more.
Great to speak with you, Kirby. I’d love to hear about coming into this film and playing this character from your perspective, because it's a largely physical performance, and while we get hints at who she was before she became possessed, we ultimately don’t know much about her.
Kirby Johnson: Yeah, exactly. A lot of people have [been] asking me, "How did you go about the process of dissecting the character?" And I'm already a huge horror fan, so how I did it was I watched all these classics, like The Exorcist of course, and I took what they were doing, and I found a way to spin it to make it my own on a physical level. What I really liked about this role is that there are only a few key moments, and it even shows it in the trailer, when I say "Dad," where you know she had a real life, so it makes you feel a little bit for Hannah Grace. There’s some life that is hinted at, but it’s still a mystery and that's what I really liked about this role.
Do you think it's scarier then, in a way, to have this character who all we really know about her is that she has this family connection, that she's very young, that her life was taken away? And now she is just this relentless force?
Kirby Johnson: I don't know if it makes it scarier, but it is interesting. To me, I think it also makes her situation a little more devastating because it's so sad in a way. The one person she has is her father, and he just wants to kill her so that way she can be free. That’s so tragic to me.
Can you talk about the physicality of your character? I read up on your background, so I'm guessing some of that stuff was your cup of tea, but I'm sure it was still pretty grueling to go through during production.
Kirby Johnson: Yeah, it's just funny because I grew up as a dancer. I always wanted to be an actor, but there were no acting opportunities where I'm from. I'm from a teeny tiny island of Key Largo, Florida, so I was just very involved in the dance world, but it's nothing I ever really wanted to pursue. Somehow, I always knew I was going to move to California and become an actor. So, with this role, I got to mix the two together with my dance ability, and it's funny because everyone's like, "Oh, you're a contortionist," and I never really considered myself a contortionist. Just from a very young age I knew I could pop my shoulders out of their sockets. It's kind of like a party trick, where I’m like, "Oh, look what I can do." But I'm a little older now, so whenever I'm on set, once you start doing it over and over and over, by the end of the day, I'm like, "Oh my gosh. I'm in pain." It was a lot to take on, but I am so glad I did it.
Can you talk about building this character through the way that you carried yourself? I know there are a lot of scenes later on when you’re just there on the slab, but when you're upright or moving around, I thought the way you carried yourself was really great.
Kirby Johnson: Since this was such a physical role, I realized that I had to do whatever I could without ever really saying anything, so there was some pressure on me, because I had to be able to portray something without saying anything. That was, to me, very fun to get to do that because this is not a normal character. I’m playing a demonic creature, so you almost have to embody animals more than you would a human being. So, I had to think, "Okay, how would a snake move in this situation?" And there were all these different little nuances that I wanted to bring in to add to the creep factor of my character.
Even though it seems like you probably had a pretty intense shooting experience with this film, did you have any sort of fun memories from set?
Kirby Johnson: I had a great time on set. It's funny, because everybody has said to me, "Oh, the makeup process must have been so hard." But the makeup process was my favorite part because I spent four hours with my two makeup artists, Ben Bornstein and Adrien Morot. They were the funniest people ever, and I am so glad that they were assigned to me because if I would have had boring people, that would have been the most miserable, longest four hours to get through, but it just flew by. But also, we filmed the possession scene in Amsterdam, and I brought my mom with me to Amsterdam. It was so much fun. That's an experience I will never forget. I had never been to Amsterdam, so I'm so glad I was able to bring my mom with me, so we could roam around when we weren’t shooting. That was really cool; I just had so much fun.
Check here for more of our coverage of The Possession of Hannah Grace, including Heather's video interview with star Shay Mitchell and our set visit interview.