By DAKOTA DAHL
Social media is a part of our lives now, especially now that we’ve been reduced to cave people desperate for human contact, like a race of Oldboys. As has been said before, social media is a double-edged sword, connecting us with each other across the expanse of the earth, while also giving us the anonymity to generally treat people like shit with impunity. The consequences of social media, especially when it’s utilized for slut-shaming, are the central focus of INITIATION, and it’s a surprisingly fun time. One of the victims of cyberbullying in the film is Kylie, played perfectly by Isabella Gomez, best known for her role on the sitcom One Day at a Time, who was kind enough to digitally connect with us to answer some burning questions about her first foray into the horror genre.
What attracted you to INITIATION?
The first thing that attracted me is actually, a friend of mine, I ran into them and they said to me, “I’m making this movie and you would be perfect for this film.” Any time an actor friend of mine recommends anything, I obviously really respect their opinion. But once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down, and I think that’s kind of a telltale sign of a good script. If you cannot put it down and you don’t know what’s going to happen, then you are locked in. I was really locked in, and once that twist at the end happened, I never saw it coming and I just thought it was such a different kind of horror film. Get Out and films like that have been coming out, where it’s like, “horror films have something to say” and this kind of felt that way too, in its own way. I just really enjoyed the concept.
This being your first horror film, what was it like working in the genre for the first time?
SO MUCH FUN! So much more fun than I thought it would be. I’ve mainly been working on sitcoms for like half a decade, so it’s very different from what I’ve been doing but it’s actually more of what I pictured myself doing, since I’ve always thought of myself as a dramatic actor. In a way, it kind of felt like coming home, and it also felt like stretching and pushing my limits in a very safe environment, since everybody that was working on this film was so lovely and so gentle and so willing to collaborate. It’s kind of the best way to transition to another genre, and honestly, I’ve always wondered how they do all the blood and the guts so it was so fun getting to see all of that.
Do you look forward to doing more horror movies?
Absolutely. I literally was just talking to a friend of mine and we were toying with the idea of producing something together, and we were toying with the idea of making it a horror. I think it’s so fun, and I think the people who love the genre are so passionate and so in it, I feel like it’s a great way to talk about things in a fun way, and I think kind of what we did. Norman Lear, what he thought about touching really important subjects with comedy, I think this is like the same thing but on the opposite end of the spectrum, talking about really important things through horror. I think it’s fun, and it’s a whole challenge. I love being covered in fake blood and I love being able to scream and sob and run. So, I’m into it.
What are some acting inspirations you brought to the role of Kylie?
I don’t know that I had acting inspirations [from] actors [so much] as real people. The cast actually all went to a fraternity, and we all got to walk around and talk with the brothers, I think they’re called. We got to live in that world for a second, and that’s where I drew most of my inspiration. And also, life. I think that the more life you live the more you’re able to portray different kinds of characters because you’ve gone through more things. And then, obviously, always looking at all the greats and seeing how they are able to ground and make everything threaded and make it all make sense within the circumstances.
The film deals with the theme of cyberbullying. As someone with a tremendous online presence, did this echo anything you’ve had to deal with in real life?
Thankfully not, luckily. Although I am a huge social media person that wishes they didn’t have to be on social media. I think I see a lot of the bad in it, and so it was really interesting to show it in that way. I feel that, in our age especially, people are so inundated with social media. We’ve kind of grown up with it [so] that we see no other way, it’s kind of what we’ve always done. To put it into perspective and show the bad in such a way that is so clear was really interesting. But, thankfully, I have not had to deal with anything like that.
What steps do you think society can take to stop, or at least mitigate, the kind of cyberbullying and slut-shaming that occurrs in the film?
I think it all starts with conversations and being open with each other. I think if we keep topics like that in the dark, through shame or guilt or whatever keeps us from talking about them, then we can never move forward. Our hope is to really start conversations, because once that starts, then we can get into boundary setting, talking about consent and explaining all of that, and the power of words even when they are behind a screen. We can’t do that, especially if we want to get to legislation or anything like that. It takes culture. There’s this incredible study that shows that culture and policy are linked by ten years; anything that changes culturally, in about ten years, [it] will change within the government. We have to start talking about it for anything like that to take force, especially [with] social media being such a grey area. Starting conversations, teaching our kids from a young age about respect and consent, and that there are humans on the other side of those screens, is really important.
What future projects can we look forward to seeing you in?
So obviously, INITIATION on May 7th, and then I will be beginning my new show Head of the Class for HBO Max, which we start shooting sometime in the summer, so I assume that by some time in 2022 that will be out.
INITIATION will be available in theaters and on VOD and Digital May 7th, 2021