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Kate Arrington talks making horror movies with husband Michael Shannon

We spoke to Kate Arrington about her new horror movie Night's End on Shudder, and what it's like working with her husband Michael Shannon

Kate Arrington on making horror movies with her husband Michael Shannon

Kate Arrington is an actor known for a wide variety of roles across film, television, and theatre. She currently stars in the horror movie Night’s End, which is available on the streaming service Shudder, performing opposite her real-life husband Michael Shannon. Arrington has also appeared in Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman, and the TV series Mare of Easttown, along with lots of other independent movies.

Night’s End is a modern haunted house story, telling the tale of a man affected by mental health issues and terrifying visions of ghosts and demons, who ultimately seeks an exorcism. The movie is directed by Jennifer Reeder, and stars Geno Walker, Kate Arrington, Michael Shannon, and Theo Germaine.

We recently spoke to Kate Arrington about her role in the movie, her thoughts on the horror genre in general, and what it’s like to work with her husband, Michael Shannon. We also touch on her experience on Mare of Easttown, The Irishman, and a little look at what the future holds for Kate Arrington and Michael Shannon’s next collaboration.

The Digital Fix: Hi Kate, thank you for taking the time to chat today, really appreciate it. So, in Night’s End, the story depicts a fairly healthy relationship between your character and her ex-husband, which I feel is quite a rare thing to see in film. What do you think that dynamic brings to the story?

Kate Arrington: Well, it’s such an interesting story. I mean, obviously it’s a horror movie, but it’s really depicting a man in crisis, and struggling with mental illness. I think it’s one of the things I really love about the film, that he has this ex-partner who longs for his well being, safety, and happiness.

It is rare that it’s depicted, but it’s not rare in real life, I don’t think. I certainly saw it in my parents’ marriage. I think there is another chapter to these separations wherein, especially if you’re a good parent, you want your children to have two healthy, functioning parents. That kind of thing is such a gift.

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Speaking of relationships, obviously you’re working with Michael Shannon, your real-life husband on this project. What was that like?

Oh, it was hilarious. We’ve been working together a lot over the last year. We enjoy it, we like to get that time together, as well as all the time we have as a home and a family.

This one was funny, because it’s such a Chicago project. Our dressing room was just upstairs, with the women who live in the apartment, and we were watching soap operas, hanging out, and looking at their son’s wrestling pictures. Obviously that’s not the norm for Mike, but he’s always willing to jump in for his old friends. It was fun and silly, and just great.

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I’m curious too, how did this collaboration come about – did you get cast first, and then Michael joined, or the other way around?

It was actually a collaboration between two people, one of whom Mike is very close with, and has been for many years, Brett Neveu. They’ve been in a theatre company in Chicago called Red Orchid for a long time. Mike’s been in it for his adult life, and Brett has been part of it as long as I’ve known Mike, so like, 15 years.

Jennifer and I have a separate relationship. We worked together on Knives and Skin, and kinda fell in love with one another and have been very close ever since. So, it was this interesting thing where two people who we have separate relationships with, decided to collaborate.

I did decide to do it first, but then as soon as I did, I think they started thinking about getting Mike in as my husband.

See, you paved the way for Michael’s role then. So what about this role, how much research and planning did you go into around the element of ghost-hunting and haunted houses?

I had to pretend that this movie wasn’t about what it’s about. I cannot deal with any of that stuff. I have never finished a horror movie in my life, including this one, to tell you the truth. I got to the end and I was like ‘I can’t do it’.

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But, I like that part of my character where she’s like ‘I love scary things!’ It’s so completely different from me. So no, I did zero research, I literally can’t. I’ve never, ever managed to watch anything scary. Mike is kinda the same, he might be even worse than me actually!

Oh really! Cos Michael has been in quite a few dark films?

Dark, yes. But monsters, (laughs) no!

Fair enough. Keeping on the theme of horror, women in horror has always been a thing, but in particular women filmmakers being involved in horror is really on the rise right now. How important do you think it is to have that perspective on the genre?

What I like about a woman’s perspective in the horror genre is – well actually I’m sure many men have done this very successfully, too – but what I love about this film is how the horror is linked to the conflict of everyday life, of reality. So that the horror actually just becomes an extension of a very real place we can all relate to.

Night's End on Shudder

That’s my favourite thing about horror!

Absolutely. And that’s why I aspire to one day finish watching a horror movie!

One day! And Jennifer, the director, obviously you have worked together previously. What is that working relationship like? Why do you keep working together?

Oh I just love her! She is just such a badass of a human being. She is so smart, great to work with. She is a mom in all the ways that moms are amazing. She is aware of everything, she cares about everyone, she is incredibly conscious and capable. Multitasking on every level. She is just fantastic. I love her sensibility – she goes to such incredibly dark places, so easily, which I respect.

She is a name to look out for in the horror world then, for sure! Moving away from horror for a moment, you were involved in the drama series Mare of Easttown as well, right?

A little bit. I shot a lot more actually. That was an interesting project. They switched directors, and then right after that they had to shut down for Covid. I actually went to Australia for Covid and couldn’t come back. I think we had shot ten episodes, but it ended up being six, so a lot of the stories of the townspeople were lost, unfortunately, including mine.

That’s such a shame! I believe the plan was initially to keep it as a limited series, but there’s been murmurs of a season 2. Can you see that happening?

I don’t have any inside information, but I certainly think it could! It seems to have spoken to people in terms of the environment and the lives it was capturing. It’s different from what we usually see on TV. You know, weird shit goes down in small towns like that, so I’m sure there’s plenty of stories to tell. And the female detective element too, I love it.

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So if there was a season 2 you would be open to a return?

Totally! I loved working on it! I fell in love with Pennsylvania oddly too, you know Philadelphia. The people working on it too, the cast and crew, were fantastic. So yeah, definitely!

What was the transition like from shooting a drama series, to shooting a horror project?

The main thing that was weird, with Night’s End, was you’re not really acting with anyone. You’re working with the camera more than anything. We stuck around and supported each other, but in a way, that made it harder. The instinct to play with your scene partner is so ingrained as an actor, but there must have been so much footage they couldn’t use.

If Geno [Walker] was in the room, I wanted to talk to him, but due to the story I couldn’t, because he wasn’t really there. When you do any genre, you have to approach it the same way to some degree, but there is a slight difference between a drama movie and a comedy movie for example. There’s a huge difference in the way it manifests in the end, but in terms of approaching it, as a character you have to just find something that’s real.

I wanted to touch on another project that you were involved in, albeit to a limited capacity – The Irishman. What was that experience like?

I really can’t speak to that, I wasn’t really in it enough. I mean it was a fun day on set, working with some really amazing, iconic, talented people. But no, I didn’t really have much to do with that.

That’s a shame. But still as you say, to be on set with those people at least, must have been incredible.

Oh absolutely. It was one of those things like ‘of course I’ll do it!’

For sure. If Scorsese calls, you turn up!

Yeah! I think the plan was to have a little more of the daughters actually, but it didn’t work out that way.

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I also wanted to discuss another project you have coming up – Abandoned. Another horror project, what’s going on there?

Yeah! I had never done a horror before and then I did two in a row!

You must be beginning to enjoy horror movies now then?

As long as I don’t have to watch it (laughs). No, there’s just a lot of horror being made now, and I think something about Covid really oddly sparked the creative juices for filmmakers in the genre too. So it’s sort of the zeitgeist of where we are, more than me necessarily seeking it out.

And you’re in that movie with Michael again, right? So you’ll both be making the movie and then never watching it I assume?

Yes exactly! Another small project, with old friends, and you know the other thing about the horror genre is it can be sort of contained, small stories, and tends to be single location, so it was a good Covid choice in that respect.

I was actually going to ask you what your favourite horror movie is, but I know that’s not possible, so what horror movie have you got the furthest into before switching off?

Well, my dad was an Alfred Hitchcock fanatic. He actually taught it, went to conferences, and gave papers on Hitchcock. So, I actually saw every Hitchcock movie before I was like nine years old, and I think they count as horror, some of them?

Oh definitely. Psycho! And The Birds is terrifying.

Yeah I’ve seen all of those, so many times.

So any horror movie after 1960, is a no?

Well actually there was this television horror movie that I watched when I was like nine years old, too. I think this is the one that started it all actually. It was a remake of The Bad Seed.

I think the original is supposed to be a classic, but the one I watched was a crappy TV remake. It’s about a child who is literally a psychopath, and it’s terrifying, and it kept me up for months. That was the one. I still think about it, and haven’t watched a horror film since.

I will try and check that out on your recommendation.

Oh don’t watch the remake (laughs), but I bet the original is good!

Original it is. Thank you so much for your time today.

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