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Kevin Bacon on playing villains and returning to horror in They/Them

In the past, the horror genre was populated by actors who were newcomers looking for their big break. As the genre became more respected by critics and audiences, more established actors appeared in these films to take advantage of their critical and commercial cachet. For Kevin Bacon, starring in the new Peacock slasher They/Them is a return to the genre that made him famous and one that has evolved to become an effective way to comment on social issues.

In an interview with Digital Trends, Bacon and co-star Carrie Preston (The Good Fight) discuss how They/Them both honors and transcends its genre, the appeal of villain roles throughout Bacon’s career, and how the movie spotlights the real-life horrors of gay conversion camps.

Digital Trends: Kevin, this is your first outright slasher since the original Friday the 13th in 1980. What made you want to return to the genre?

Kevin Bacon: John Logan. I’ve known John for a long time. He just called me up and said, “I’ve got this character who I think you can play really well. What do you think about it?” And he’s such a good writer and such a great dude.

Kevin Bacom stands in front of a cabin in a scene from They/Them.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Also, I wanted to be part of his first directorial effort. And I was touched by the things that he said about what it was that he was trying to bring attention to with this movie. So I felt good about that to return to the genre.

Carrie, your character Cora is sort of like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How did you approach portraying her?

Carrie Preston: You start with the script and what’s on the page. And obviously, we have a brilliant writer in John Logan. So, you know, the character was there. Even though you don’t see her that much in the movie, she does pack quite a punch when she does show up.

I have this big conversion scene in the film, and it ended up being the last thing that I shot. So I had a really long time to get to know the characters that the other actors embodied. That’s the way John Logan works.

By the time I got to that scene, there was a lot of buildup in the narrative. As a result, I was really nervous to perform it because I wanted to make sure that I was honoring what he had written. And so he took great care of us that day. I did research and they provided us with a lot of research about all of the horrors of real-life gay conversion camps. It was illuminating and terrifying, which allowed me to bring that to the role as well.

They/Them | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

Kevin, you have played your fair share of villains in your career: Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man, Sebastian Shaw in X-Men: First Class, and Wade in The River Wild, to name just a few. Why do you like to play such terrible, awful people?

Bacon: It’s not that it’s a draw. I became an actor so that I could explore all the possibilities of the human condition. You’re right, I have played people who have done terrible things. But it’s not because I’m necessarily drawn to people doing terrible things. It’s because I’m just not afraid of that.

I think there are people that are actors who really look at that and believe it may not be good for my own self-image or the way that people think about me as a personality. I can’t go down that road and I feel exactly the opposite. I’m just going to do whatever I do in my life that I’m the only one that has to answer to that and let the work just speak for itself. There was no part of me that would go, “Whoa, I’m good with gay people. I don’t want to play this part.” You know, that’s not what I do.

They/Them is currently streaming on Peacock. For more horror films, check out these horror movies on Netflix and Prime Video.

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Jason Struss
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