Interview By Paul Salfen
For Erin Sanders, being able to be a teen for a long time on screen has been very fruitful. Now at 29, Sanders can somehow still pull it off, as she does so well in The Call, the new horror flick from director Timothy Woodward, Jr. and producer Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination). Starring genre legends Lin Shaye (Insidious) and Tobin Bell (Jigsaw) as well as Texas native Chester Rushing (“Stranger Things”), the film follows a group of high school kids in the late 80s that must survive the night in a spooky house owned by a creepy older couple that has sinister plans for them following a tragic accident.
Sanders had previously been seen in teen shows “Zoey 101,” “Big Time Rush,” and soap opera staple “The Young and the Restless,” and has also appeared on “Mad Men,” “Weeds,” and “CSI: Miami,” but now gets to enter the world of horror that she has enjoyed watching for years. And just in time for Halloween, too.
Here’s more from Sanders:
AMFM Magazine: We really needed a good scary distraction in 2020, so thank you for giving us that, but also giving us something somewhat familiar – because we don’t get enough creepy haunted house movies anymore.
Erin Sanders: I appreciate you pointing that out. I feel like in this film you get a lot of things that are satisfying to watch and we got to put our own spin on that. We have classic high school archetype characters, a classic scary haunted house with some creepy old people where you don’t know what their deal is and you smash those things together with a self-awareness: it’s not like we’re taking ourselves so seriously or acting as if we’re reinventing the wheel here, but to take these satisfying old familiar pieces and place our own emotional intention on them and take us on a journey somewhere unexpected.
AMFM: Don’t you think we need some escapism like this right about now – and not just because it’s Halloween?
ES: I couldn’t agree more. We shot this film right before the pandemic hit before there were even talks of coronavirus and a few weeks later, we were all on lockdown. Because of that, I didn’t even know if the film would be completed anytime soon. To find out that it was completed and was going to be released for our fans the day before Halloween was a dream. We definitely need all of the escapism we can get. It’s been a trying year to say the least for everyone. It’s really strange that we’re all having this similar experience but we’re all coming to this pandemic and quarantine with different levels of privilege, so some people feel like they can never go anywhere and others are trying to figure out how that can interact with the world in a safe way and how to keep a job – if they even have a job, so to be able to entertain people and give them a little escape is a blessing and I’m glad I can be a part of it.
AMFM: Tobin and Lin are so sweet in person – much different than their characters but isn’t it nice to know that they’re quite the opposite?
ES: Oh yeah – could not be more different. If they were anything like their characters, probably no one would want to work with them and they would not be where they are in their careers. [Laughs] I’ve met people in the entertainment industry that are not cool or sweet, so it’s refreshing to meet people that are just real people. I felt a sense of comradery with them that we were on a level playing field. They didn’t place themselves above the younger actors that were working with us so that felt nice to get that recognition from actors who have been working in the industry for as long as I’ve been alive. They’re really dedicated and focused and create a strong emotional world that I got to lose myself in with them. We built this emotional arc and let it take us someplace to where we could be spontaneous and evolve.
AMFM: You’ve had such a cool career with TV, films, commercials, and soaps. I’m sure kids have been looking up to you, so what advice do you give them>
ES: My advice is do it if it makes you feel good and be really honest with yourself ongoing if it still feels good – and there should be more than just feeling good. I’ve been acting since I was very young and as a kid, you’re always told, “keep doing it as long as you enjoy it” and parents are always told, “keep doing it as long as they enjoy it,” but there’s more of a nuance to that: you can enjoy it and also have anxiety about it and enjoy it and also be depressed by it. Prioritize your emotional well-being and recognize that other people’s interest in you for a role has nothing to do with your worth as a human being and should never be reflective as such because if you’re always waiting for other people to validate you to be happy, you’re never going to be happy and that’s something that I learned the hard way and I think I’m a better person for it.
AMFM: We always ask people their Hail Mary Moment, the moment in their life or career where they just had to go for it and it worked out for them. What do you suppose that was for you?
ES: My Hail Mary Moment thus far in my career is my role on “Zoey 101.” That was my first big series and I was 13 years old. I had never been a series regular on something before. I was written into the show at the last minute. A lot of fans don’t know this, but not only was I written into the show, but because it was such a last minute ask that the producer and creator of that series wanted to create this character and wanted me to play this character that I wasn’t a series regular – and they weren’t actually able to give me that the first season. It was a Hail Mary Moment for that reason specifically because my representation at the time didn’t think it was smart for me to come on and be the only character in an ensemble that wasn’t a series regular and I was just a “recurring guest star,” but they ended up placing me in the opening credits because they loved my character so much and wanted me to be involved and starting that season, I was signed on as a series regular and that was a really big choice because it was against what my representation recommended taking that role and it was the most iconic thing I’ve ever done.
AMFM: ‘Tis the season for horror, so we have to know what some of your favorite scary movies are.
ES: I love The Ring – so classic. Love Halloween, love The Shining, and as far as newer films, love Creep and Creep 2, actually, by The Duplass Brothers. How often does that happen that the second one was great, too? I thought at first they should have left it with the first one when I heard about it, but it was fantastic. Loved it. Get Out is a total modern classic. Unforgettable. There are so many modern horror movies that I love. Oh, like The Invisible Man – but something about the way it was portrayed in trailers, I wasn’t expecting to be as wowed as I was. It was absolutely perfect. I wish I could watch it again having not seen it and watch it again for the first time. Love it.
AMFM: This one seemed like it was a lot of fun to work on but what was it that stood out to you the most about the production that you’ll always remember?
ES: What stands out to me in a huge way was working with Chloee [O’Hayon-Crosby], our costume designer. She did things that seemed really insurmountable. The production was really spontaneous. There were times when she stayed up literally all night organizing outfits for 20 kids in a scene because they suddenly switched the days around. She entrusted me to wear this iconic patchwork vest that actually belonged to her mom and it was one of the pieces I wore throughout the film and when there was blood and guts involved, she stood off camera and came in with wipes to clean every little blood droplet off. It was insane. In so many ways, the film would not be the same without Chloee and that stands out to me so much and I’m really grateful to her. She’s amazing.
The Call is available on premium VOD and digital now.