Set in 2007, Mosquito State is a moody psychological mind trip, where blood-sucking insects are used as a living metaphor for Wall Street’s financial crisis and personal freedom. Directed by Filip Jan Rymsza, it is a horror movie that is full of art house appreciation, and as actor Charlotte Vega tells us, Mosquito State is also the kind of film that “she has never been in before.”
Telling the story of Richard (Beau Knapp), a Wall Street data analyst, we witness the young man’s expensive New York apartment rapidly become overrun by mosquitos and watch his mental state slowly start to deteriorate. Charlotte Vega plays Lena, a young woman who becomes the key to Richard’s metamorphosis, and a central figure throughout the feature. Vega is no stranger to Horror or complex roles. Previously she has starred in the film The Lodgers, a supernatural gothic thriller, where she appeared alongside Bill Milner. She was also part of the recent Wrong Turn reboot, directed by Mike P. Nelson.
During our interview with the actor, we discussed the ins and outs of her time working on Mosquito State. We also talked about what the horror genre means to her personally and to her career going forward. And finally, we discuss all the exciting projects the star has lined up in the future.
The Digital Fix: Morning! So Mosquito State is quite an out there movie. What first drew you to the script?
Charlotte Vega: Well, just even the name of the script and the script itself really drew me. I had never read anything like it; I don’t think I have really seen anything like it either. It is one of those films that can be done in so many ways as well when you are reading the script. I didn’t have any idea how that world of Mosquito State was going to be created. So, I read it and had a chat with the director Filip on a Skype call, and that’s where it really started to come to life for me, and just him describing his vision and seeing his passion for the project, it just made me want to jump straight in. It was the script and Filip.
Obviously, you are no stranger to horror. We’ve seen you in The Lodgers, Wrong Turn, and it is interesting seeing you in this kind of film. I saw it and thought you have completed the Bingo card for horror now. We’ve seen you in a supernatural thriller, a slasher, and now with Mosquito State, a psychological art-housey horror.
Haha, That’s a good point, actually.
Out of all your experiences in the genre, which sub-genre do you personally enjoy the most?
I think acting wise it is really fun to be able to try different genres and try different things. I honestly have so much fun doing all of them. That probably sounds really cheesy, but I do, and it is about the team you get to work with and the role you get to play, rather than the sub-genre itself. And haha, I don’t have much experience, I just have one in each, so I feel like it is too soon to say, but all those experiences were amazing.
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I kinda always finish a film thinking, ‘oh my god, that was the best experience’, and then I go onto the next one and say the same. That probably sounds really cliché. Then watching wise I just like to be surprised, I guess, and Mosquito state definitely does that. Even having been in it, even having read the script, even having been there for the whole production of it, it completely surprised me when I watched it.
Talking about your time acting in all those movies, Barbara Crampton recently told us that horror has given women really big and bold roles to play. And I feel like your character in Mosquito State shows that. She is very complex and is the emotional catalyst for Richard’s change. How do you feel like this genre has treated you as a young woman?
Yeah! I’m incredibly grateful to the genre, and it is one that I didn’t really know much of growing up. I wasn’t a horror fan, I was actually terrified by horror films, and I didn’t know much about the genre. Once I started working and the work coming my way was horror, the directors you work with always recommend films, and that is when that world started to open up for me. I think sometimes that there is a bit of a view of horror not being the top genre, like it is not up there with top-quality films, and that kind of thinking is so wrong.
There are so many incredible films; there are so many genres within horror; it is such an interesting world to get to play with, especially when you are acting, and being a woman like you say. It has given me lead roles that other genres haven’t, where you are playing the love interest or the sister. Horror gives you the opportunity to really play complex characters. So I am incredibly grateful to the world of horror. And like you say, Lena in Mosquito State is very complicated, she is very mysterious, we never know much about her. We just meet her in the moment, in this place.
There is a little that she shares, like her studies, interests in life and where she wants to get to, but other than that, you don’t know where she is from or what she is doing in New York. She is just kind of there to be on this journey and experience everything with Richard, and just responding to him and being fascinated by him. But yeah, she has her own story as well, and her own mystery and she is a bit of an enigma as well, so I really appreciated that in the script.
Yeah, there was something that really struck me about her. She presents herself as a free spirit, and it is shocking to learn that she is almost trapped in a sense by her finances and Richard’s boss. How did you prepare for such a nuanced character?
From what I remember, there wasn’t that much time. We kind of jumped straight in. I think after the chat with Filip, I was on a flight the next day or after two days. We had a couple of days of being on set and going through the scenes a little bit and meeting everyone. We did more than rehearsing; we really chatted about the world of Mosquito State because we really had to be on the same page. I think it would of really stuck out if one of us wasn’t in that atmosphere. And then I talked about Lena with Filip, but we never really discussed specifics about her, and that’s what I really liked. It was like he had his idea, and I had mine – they were probably very similar – but because the audience never really knows, you don’t have to be specific about it.
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Obviously, I know her, because you need to have a bit of a character study to know where you are coming from and where you are going. But I like how each audience member can have their own ideas of who she is and why she is there. In terms of preparation, it was just that, chats with Filip, and really being responsive to what Beau was giving me through Richard because that is where it all is. In those scenes and in that kind of film, you have to be really present; you just can’t turn up with your idea and do what you had in mind.
You know Richard is such a unique and incredibly complex character as well that it was just so much fun being present and responsive to what he was giving me. That’s the fun in acting, I feel, when you really connect with someone and just go with it, and let yourself kind of flow. You prepare certain things; in rehearsals, you set the tone and objectives that each character wants to get to, but then you just have fun with it. It was definitely a lot of fun with Filip and Beau.
I wanted to know if there were any challenges on set. We see you in a dream sequence wearing nothing, and I mean that flat looked cold.
Also, without giving too much away, all the mosquitoes in the movie are CGI. Watching them, I just kept thinking, how do you know where to look? So what were the big acting challenges you had on set with this movie?
Haha, I think one of the challenges was spending most of our time on the same set. Coming from horror, I’m quite used to being on location, being outside and not being on a soundstage. But it really helped getting into this character. I mean, the apartment is a character within itself. It has come out in a time where we are all used to isolation and being locked in one place for a long time, so I feel like we can all relate now. But at that time, I did find it weird being in that same space all the time, in that same atmosphere. It was like every time you walked on set; you were straight in it – which is weird but also wonderful.
Haha, in terms of having to look at the mosquitos, there are always moments like that when you are acting, when you have to look at something that isn’t there. Still, it is also hard when someone else is looking in that direction so it is just about finding that little mark on the wall, where they put orange tape, and you both just look in the same direction. But it is really fun. It is just playing, right? You just get to play.
You know we talked about your character a bit. With her, the complexity is delicate and subtle, in a way that many may not be able to recognise straight away. But Filip’s direction, along with your impressive acting, really helped bring her out, especially through his cinematography. What was it like working with him as a director?
I have never worked with anyone like him. He is incredibly meticulous, and pays unbelievable attention to detail. He doesn’t miss a thing. He is involved in literally everything on set. From where a glass is placed, he sees everything, as if he is always looking through a camera. But he is also very involved in actor directing as well. You know, you don’t really get directors who are both technically and really involved in the acting side of it, so that was really interesting, just watching him do everything. It’s like he has this incredible vision where he knows exactly where everything is going to be.
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With the acting, obviously, it is a little bit more open to things changing and different ideas and trying things, but it was incredible to watch him like that. He is an artist. It has been incredible through the whole process, not just being on set with him, but then also being blown away by the film itself, and seeing all the post-production that has been involved and editing. It has been a long time as well, you know. It has been a couple of years before we got to see it. I’m just fascinated by his mind and vision.
Would you like to work with him again then in the future?
Yeah. I’m really, really curious to see what he does next. I feel like it will go in a completely different direction, and that he will completely surprise us.
Like you said, the movie finished last year, and you had Wrong Turn come out before Mosquito State released on Shudder. Have you peeked at all the reviews for the movie coming in? The Guardian gave you a great review. You must be really pleased with the reception.
Yeah, I try not to read too much, but I always do. But yeah, I have been pleasantly surprised at how people have warmed to it. It was released at the Sitges Film Festival, it is just outside Barcelona, and it is my home town, so it was really great to invite lots of my family and friends. But none of them are really film fans. By that, I mean that they will watch films and stuff, but I wasn’t sure what they would think about this kind of film.
I didn’t think they’d watch anything like it – I mean, probably none of us have. I was really pleasantly surprised to see how people got it, and they all had their own ideas, and they all took different things away from it. Each of them came up to me and asked me about different things, or they had their own different theories about Richard, or about Lena, or about this and that and the mosquitos. They all had their own metaphors that they had seen, and that is what I really love about a film, when it just makes people think about it for days and ask lots of questions and have those kinds of debates with their friends over dinner about it.
You have another film coming out that is currently in post, Burial.
From what I understand, it is a thriller. In a year of lockdown, and in that year sticking almost exclusively to horror, was that genre shift a bit disconcerting when you went back to set?
Burial is so different to anything I have done before, and that’s what drew me to it. Getting outside after being in lockdown for a year also, this film was all outside, it was all in the forest. We were playing soldiers at the end of the Second World War, so just jumping into this whole other era as well was amazing. The only things I could take with me from other shoots was a little bit of the action from Wrong Turn; you know, rolling down hills. But still, this is completely different. That’s what is really exciting about it. It is a bit of a thriller, but it is a war movie as well, and there is a lot of action. So it is different, but it also has its similarities to Wrong Turn as well.
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Also, getting to play a female soldier during the Second World War doesn’t really come by that often, so I grabbed it with both hands. I don’t think I will ever come by that kind of role again, so I really made the most of it, and I really enjoyed it. It was really nice because I got to coincide with Bill, who I worked with on The Lodgers, he played my twin brother, who is a really, really good friend of mine. It just felt like I was out there making a film with friends, which is amazing.
One thing I love about Mosquito State, like you said, is how much subtext you can take away from it. It has so many social and political undertones, such as the entrapment of the psyche caused in the pursuit of money. Also, the breaking out of the worker 9 to 5 mentality and the mundane. What do you want people to take away when they see this movie?
I want them to all take away different things. I feel like there is so much in the film, and like you say, so many subtext, that depending on where you are in your own life and who you are, you are going to take away totally different things. You are maybe going to see yourself reflected in certain things, and that’s what I really love. But I just hope that people go and enjoy the whole experience.
The visuals, the sound, everything about it really rather than looking for a deep political message right away, or any kind of moral to the story. Just go and enjoy it and be blown away, be surprised, weirded out, and creeped out. Take your own messages away from it. I think Filip had a lot of ideas, and from what I have heard him say, he is just very much about putting things out there and then letting people take away whatever they want from that. I think that is really cool.
Do you have any newfound appreciation for mosquitos? Because for me, as someone who grew up in Africa and had them buzzing around my head every night, although this film is beautiful, I still think they are annoying as heck.
Yeah, definitely not, aha. I live in Barcelona, so from June to September, it is just about living with that sound, and you just don’t get used to it. It is crazy how Filip can make something so creepy look so beautiful. I don’t know how he does it.
Going back to our horror conversation, your first film was REC 3. What made you gravitate towards this genre straight off the bat?
Well, it was my first role. I hadn’t really done anything before, just a couple of short films and some commercials because that’s what came my way. What I really wanted to try was film, and I just got this tiny part. I didn’t have any lines in it. I was pretty much an extra. I didn’t really watch that much horror when I was a teenager, and I did REC when I was 17.
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So it was really interesting for me, who had always been such a scaredy-cat, to actually be on set and watch it and to see how fun it was to be in a zombie movie. So that started to change my view on horror. Maybe that was the catalyst for it all down the line, haha—that little tiny part in REC. I went on to do other things in Spain so far away from horror, kind of dramas and period stuff, and then a teenage film. It wasn’t until The Lodgers when I came back to it. So yeah, I think I have a very special place in my heart for horror because that was my first film.
Do you have any exciting projects that you are working on that you can tell us about? Besides Burial?
Yes! I can’t really say much about it because we are just about to start, but it is not very cheery, but it is very exciting, and it is a female writer and director, so I am really excited about that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
Thanks for the chat. It was great!