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Exclusive Interview: Ivana Baquero on “BLACK FRIDAY,” fighting alien zombies and “PAN’S LABYRINTH”

Monday, November 22, 2021 | Interviews

By MICHAEL GINGOLD

Actress Ivana Baquero has faced numerous cinematic perils in her native Spain, most notably the supernatural menaces of Guillermo del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH. Now she’s embroiled in that uniquely American horror known as Black Friday, in the film of the same title (now in select theaters and debuting on VOD tomorrow, November 23 from Screen Media). RUE MORGUE got some time with Baquero to discuss her latest genre vehicle.

BLACK FRIDAY, directed by Casey Tebo and scripted by Andy Greskoviak (see our review here), casts Baquero as Marnie, one of a group of disgruntled workers preparing for the madness of Black Friday shopping at the We Love Toys store. When a meteorite disgorges an alien malignance that turns the customers into murderous monsters, the employees and their boss (Bruce Campbell) face a Black Friday that’s literally life-and-death–and streaked with blood. After making her acting debut at age 8 in Paco Plaza’s ROMASANTA (a.k.a. WEREWOLF HUNTER), Baquero did a string of Spain-lensed fright films including Brian Yuzna’s ROTTWEILER, Jaume Balagueró’s FRAGILE and Plaza’s A CHRISTMAS TALE, part of the 6 FILMS TO KEEP YOU AWAKE series. At 11, she entered the remarkable world of PAN’S LABYRINTH, winning worldwide raves and several awards for her portrayal of the intrepid Ofelia. Since then, she has divided her time between Spanish- and English-language projects, the latter including the 2009 Kevin Costner-starring chiller THE NEW DAUGHTER and the MTV fantasy series THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES.

Was BLACK FRIDAY as crazy and fun to make as it is to watch?

100 percent. Obviously the script was quite fun as it was, so it was hilarious for us actors to be put in those situations, but it was also quite the experience, since we were shooting during COVID. The protocols were very strict because this was before vaccinations, so we were wearing face shields and masks, and were separated by glass and plastic sheets, and we couldn’t really bond off set because we had to isolate. It was a very interesting and unique experience, but we all managed to make the best of it. The cast is amazing, and I was lucky to work with actors like Bruce and Devon Sawa.

Can you talk some more about the Bruce Campbell experience?

Growing up, I hadn’t watched many of his films, and as I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve learned to appreciate them. It’s funny, because I believe he was shooting [ASH VS. EVIL DEAD] in New Zealand at the same time I was doing THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES there, but I hadn’t met him. And even though we’ve been circulating through the genre for some time and doing conventions, I had never run into him. It was quite intimidating at first, because he was this figure I admired, but it was a great experience. I remember asking to take a picture with him, and he was so gracious and kind. He’s funny on and off the screen, so it was a delight.

Tell us about the character of Marnie, and how you approached the role.

Marnie is a very strong-willed, independent woman. She’s also very patient, and caring toward the people around her, because she has to deal with so much stuff. She has to put up with a lot, both before the invasion, when she’s just working, and then when all hell breaks loose. She carries herself with a lot of grace, so I really loved the character. But although the groundwork was laid for all of us, and Andy wrote an amazing script, I needed to know more about Marnie’s background, because she doesn’t get the kind of intro that other characters like Ken [Sawa] and Chris [Ryan Lee] do. So I came up with this history for Marnie, her whole life, to understand where she was coming from and do her justice. I would call Casey all the time at the beginning, to ask him if I was on the right track, like a student almost: “Am I doing this right, am I getting it?” And at one point, he told me to just dive in on my own and have fun. That was very special, to be given that freedom to do my thing.

Given that you’ve been acting from a young age, have you ever been in a work situation that allowed you to relate to what the characters are going through before the invasion?

In real life, I’ve never worked in retail. But Andy’s whole background is in retail, so I basically shadowed him. He shared his experiences with me, and I learned all these horror stories. Growing up in Spain, specifically, there wasn’t a Black Friday, so I’ve never been put in a situation remotely similar to that. But I have been put in very stressful circumstances, and I don’t know if I would act as graciously as Marnie does during the movie, where she puts other people in front of her, to save them.

How was it working with all the makeup effects?

That was a lot of fun too. [Creature and special makeup producer] Robert Kurtzman is a master of his craft. On movies that are smaller and more independent, you’re always worried that they’re not going to hit the mark in terms of the effects, but in this case, Robert was obviously so experienced and amazing that there was no doubt he was going to deliver. I truly appreciate this film and his craft in it, because I miss those ’70s/’80s movies that were all practical effects, given that everything is CGI nowadays. I didn’t get to be part of it, in terms of wearing a lot of prosthetics, though I did get a lot of blood on me [laughs].

There’s one scene where I hit an alien zombie with a wrench, and beat it up real bad, and that was so much fun! I remember Casey was like, “I want to hear you grunt! I want it to be super-violent! Don’t give me a pretty face, this has to be ugly!” And I was like, “Don’t you worry about it!” and definitely released a lot of energy. Those moments of getting to be a little more of a bad-ass were always the greatest.

There were always small hiccups because of all the COVID protocols, though. For example, you’d have blood spattered on your face, but then you were expected to put on a mask, so you had to be constantly touched up, and it became a bit of a drag sometimes. We couldn’t complain, though, because we were, at the end of the day, able to make the movie and didn’t get shut down, so we were grateful for that. I also remember the floors were very slippery because of all the blood, and we had to be careful not to fall or ruin the blood on the floor when we were running.

Did PAN’S LABYRINTH spoil you, in a sense, working with a great director on such a beautifully crafted project? Have any of the genre movies you’ve done since lived up to that?

I don’t know if the question would be whether anything has lived up to that, because I have had amazing experiences on other genre projects, like THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES, which is also big and visually stunning. But the fact is that Guillermo did such a unique job with PAN’S LABYRINTH that nothing has ever come close to it in terms of its style and its story. Being 11 and part of such a special movie, with Guillermo and the amazing cast and all the sets and creatures–it was like a master class. So I was spoiled in that I had already seen so much and learned so much at 11, and that was also a great age, because I was ready to learn. I was like a sponge, just absorbing everything. After that, everything seemed a little bit easier. Once you’ve had to fake a tennis ball in front of you being a fairie, everything else is no problem!

How do you divide your time now between Spain and the United States, in terms of the work?

I would say it’s 50-50. Sometimes it changes, but I love working in the States. I’ve always been drawn to the U.S., and I went to an American school from when I was 3 years old, so I’ve been interested in American culture and cinema since I was young. It was always a place I wanted to be in. But I love working back home; I love being in Spain, and I believe that with time, and all the platforms giving it visibility, more and more Spanish and European movies and shows will be sold internationally, and seen internationally. Now more than ever, it’s all becoming global, and I’m lucky that I can dabble in all these different industries.

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and spent 28 years as a writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. In addition to RUE MORGUE, he currently writes for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM, IndieWire.com, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM and others. His book THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press) is out this fall, and he has contributed liner notes and featurettes to a number of Blu-ray and DVD releases. Among his screenplay credits are SHADOW: DEAD RIOT and LEECHES!, and he is currently working on THE DOLL with director Dante Tomaselli.