MTV Scream’s leading lady Willa Fitzgerald is on this summer’s must watch list. As Emma Duval, Willa takes control of the screen weekly, acting as a voice of reason among her friends throughout some pretty chaotic times. I got a chance to talk with Willa about her life and what’s in store for Emma for the rest of the season. Here’s what she had to say.
First of all congrats on the news! I just read Scream got renewed for its second season. Going into it did you expect it to be such a big hit?
“You know I really didn’t know. I obviously knew that it was coming from a HUGE franchise that has so many fans. But, I didn’t know that people were going to be so invested in the show. It’s one of those things where before you start a project you can never really be 100% sure of what it’s going to be like. I think it really did exceed all of our expectations!
All of the scripts were so smart and so new. Not only were they updated with the technology and pop culture bits, but also the entire franchise was updated for a new audience in a way that was really smart.
I think that’s why we have had success. We aren’t just doing Scream the movie as a TV show, we’re doing Scream the TV show! It means that we have infinitely more things to play with. Since it’s a TV show, we have more time for story telling, character development and for playing with things that people originally loved when they saw the Scream movies.
The show obviously isn’t exclusively about this, but it has to be noted that checking in on Facebook or Twitter with what you’re doing can somehow be helping someone stalk you. I think anyone who really uses the phone can’t help but notice the similarities between our characters and their every day life. I think that adds to the eeriness of the story.”
I just read that you graduated from Yale in 2013 which is obviously a HUGE accomplishment, I know you had work before this, but what’s it like going from such a prestigious school to a different kind of prestigious status as the lead on a hit MTV show?
“I really kind of just had a lucky break, I think. I was intending to go to New York to try to do theater actually. I worked a lot in experimental theater when I was at school. I was really expecting to come to New York and do the starving actor thing. I was expecting to have five other jobs. [Laughs]. Then I was actually doing a show, I had an agent at that point, and I got a call about Alpha House. That was the first TV show I did. Things kind of just snowballed from there.
What was most interesting for me was learning how to act on camera. It is so different from theater. The past two years have been an amazing journey of coming to understand how to tell stories through pictures and not words. TV and film is more about the pictures you’re making with the camera than it is what you’re actually saying. I find that fascinating. It’s been really exciting.
I’ve been really lucky to learn so much on the job because everything that I’ve done has been a huge learning experience. For that I’m really grateful. Acting on TV is a totally different language that you have to learn. There’s a lot of times where on the road to figuring out something you feel completely lost. It’s just like college and real life, when you make a break through it’s completely satisfying and super exciting. It’s been fantastic.”
Ok, now I have to ask you what your favorite play is.
“Oh gosh [laughs] that’s really hard. It probably wouldn’t be a musical! Musicals aren’t really my genre. I’m assuming you wouldn’t know this play, but one of my good friends Mary Laws is a playwright and a screenwriter. She wrote a play called Blueberrry Toast that I did when I was at Yale, in the drama school. It is absolutely fantastic. Of writers that you might know, I think Sarah Kane’s work is pretty spectacular as is Suzan-Lori Parks.”
Coming from a theater background, what drew you to audition for Scream?
“I read the scripts and like I said before it just seemed so amazingly smart. I got them and I was like “I wonder what this is going to be.” It just totally exceeded my expectations. It was smart and funny and full of characters that I could just imagine doing great things over the course of seasons! I did a self tape at home and then got a call for a screen test in LA. The rest is history.”
A lot of the fans have taken a liking to the Emma/Audrey relationship. Going into that did you expect the fans to enjoy their dynamic so much?
“One of the best scenes in the pilot to me is the pool scene with Emma and Audrey. It’s such a beautiful scene. Not only back story and getting to know these characters, but it’s very real. It’s like something that most of us have gone through in our lives. Whether that was in middle school to high school, or high school to college, or college to the real world. You just kind of fall out of touch with people who you don’t mean to fall out of touch with. When you reunite it’s this kind of awkward but wonderful moment.
We knew that there were going to be things in store with that relationship that people would be into it. I didn’t know that it would happen so quickly. I remember watching the pilot. We were all live-tweeting together, because we were still shooting in Baton Rouge. It was crazy the amount of people who were tweeting at us about how much they love Emma and Audrey. How they were excited to see those two characters. It was really exciting to hear that people were already so invested in something just from the pilot. I think the rest of the season will really pay off for them.”
Some of the other actors that I’ve talked to have mentioned that they like to create a back story for their character going in. With Emma did you like to build up a big back story in your head before tackling her character?
“I think as an actor one of the most important things is knowing where you’re going and knowing where you came from as your character. I did a lot of inventing in my head. We got a script at a time so we were constantly shooting with new scripts.
It was exciting to be on set and to constantly be discovering new things about Emma.
There was constantly stories that I had made up that had to be rewritten in my mind. That was really exciting. It always ends up tying together and the journey is really exciting.”
You mentioned that you had an idea on who the killer is, has your opinion changed since then?
“Oh, no! My idea is still the same [laughs]. But I can’t tell you! I will say that over the course of the season it was a constant guessing game between us. When we had down time we would be arguing among ourselves about who the killer was any why [laughs]. We made up these crazy conspiracy theories. It’s great to hear fan’s theories too! Some of them are really thought out and spot on.”
I’ve noticed a lot of duality. No one is really who they seem to be on the surface. Emma seems really sweet and I really felt for her in the first episodes. She has this asshole boyfriend, she seems to have lost a close friend (Audrey), her mom is keeping secrets, and her other friends are dropping like flies.
In last nights episode and we saw her get a little angry at Will, but at some point will we see her full on breaking point? Will we see a darker side to her?
“Over the course of the season Emma is constantly coming up against her edge and what she’s comfortable with. There will be several moments where things kind of fall apart. It was really fun to explore with her. She starts off in episode one as a high school girl who is insecure and unsure. She’s in this group of friends who she likes, but also feels slightly out-of-place with, she’s in a relationship she’s unsure of.
By episode 5, which you all saw on Tuesday, she’s already a different person. All of the things that the killer has done to her has vastly affected her journey. That will definitely continue to snowball and escalate throughout the rest of the season.
We’ve already had some really traumatic huge things happen. Things are kind of only going to get worse. I THINK it’s going to be an exciting journey to watch her get more confident and badass.”
A lot of times on scary movies we’ll hear stories about haunted sets do you have any scary stories from things that have happened on set?
“Oh my god yes! We shot in the creepiest of places. Like the abandoned hospital from episode 4, was actually an abandoned hospital. It was SO creepy. One of the PA’s was walking me to set, and we walked by this room that had a pair of shoes on the floor and those exposed wires. The lights were flickering.
I looked over to her and I was like “is that a set piece?” and she was just like “no.” [Laughs] I was SO creeped out. There was a lot of that. We were constantly coming up against our own fear to be in these places. There’s also some pretty gnarly stuff coming up in the episodes that were actually kind of scary to shoot! Get ready for that.”
What do you think the biggest change in your life has been since you started acting on Scream? Do you now get recognized on the streets?
“I think social media. Before Scream I didn’t really use Twitter. I had one, but I had like seven followers. [Laughs]. Now, learning how to use Twitter has been this huge thing over the course of shooting Scream. I want to personally respond to every one who tweets at me but it’s so hard. I think I’ve kind of given up a bit.
I’ve learned that the most I can do is occasionally mass tweet like “thanks for all the support everyone!” It’s overwhelming! I don’t know how people do it. Bex is like a Twitter inspiration. She’s on a different level. We all tried to learn from her.
I feel pretty anonymous in the streets of New York. I think New York is pretty different than LA. I’ve only had someone say something to me on the Subway. It’s never really a big deal. Im grateful for that.”
I also heard that you guys grew really close as a cast. You actually group message each other when each script is released. I have the hardest time keeping up in group messages. I know you use it for mainly work purposes I’m assuming, but who do you think is the worst at replying?
“Oh, definitely me [laughs]. I think I may be the lightest phone user out of all of us. Actually, me and Amadeus [Serafini]. Amadeus and I are both pretty bad at texts. One time we had this massive miscommunication moment. I tried to text him and he tried texting me and it was just a mess when we finally saw each other we were just like “what happened?!” I think we’re tied for worst texters.”
Now that you wrapped for this season you get to have a little time off I’m assuming. Are there any shows that you’re binge watching?
“I’ve kind of just been vegging out and like trying to read I guess. I didn’t have time before because I was reading scripts and shooting. I’m so far behind on Game of Thrones! I’ve been doing a lot of catch up with that. My friend is on the show Younger, which is on TV Land and I’ve been watching that! It’s pretty addictive.”
I know you had a small role in Gotham. If you had to choose a superhero universe to be a part of would you choose DC or Marvel?
“That was so fun to play in! I don’t know! I think definitely Marvel. [Laughs] Yeah I’ll stick with that.”
Do you have a favorite episode coming up that you can hint towards?
“I think episode 7. Episode 7 will be quite a shocker!”
Don’t forget to tune into Scream Tuesdays at 10pm on MTV!