Steven Cree on Shudder’s The Twin and getting the horror bug

Steven Cree, known for his work on Outlander and A Discovery of Witches, talks about horror and future roles in our interview for Shudder's The Twin

A family’s grief has dire consequences in the newly released Shudder horror movie, The Twin. Directed by Taneli Mustonen, the film is a moody psychological horror that weaves Finnish folklore with familial trauma and shows its actors reach new heights in emotionally charged roles. In our interview with Steven Cree, we learn the ins and outs of working on The Twin, and learn how the spooky genre affects its stars.

Telling the story of Rachael (Teresa Palmer), her husband Anthony (Cree) and their son Elliot, we witness the family move to a secluded Finnish town after the death of their son – Elliot’s twin, Nathan. However, the past has a way of coming back to haunt them, as strange supernatural feats and paranoia start to take hold of Rachael’s life. Steven Cree plays the calm husband, Anthony, who must navigate his wife’s deteriorating mental state. Cree is no stranger to family roles or Shudder. Previously he has appeared in the film Martyrs Lane, and popular TV series such as Outlander, and A Discovery of Witches.

During our interview, we discuss how The Twin differs from Cree’s past work, how the horror genre is gaining popularity, and, as an actor, what is his plans going forward after gaining the horror bug.

The Digital Fix: Hey, how are you doing?

Steven Cree: I’m good. Thanks. How are you?

Very well, thank you. Congrats on The Twin. It’s really hard to explain, but I really enjoyed it.

SC: Yeah, it’s hard to explain without giving much away, I guess [laughs].

Definitely! How did you first come about this project, and what drew you to it?

So, I was doing the final season of A Discovery of Witches, which is with Teresa Palmer. We’re filming in Wales. And then the project came to Teresa, I think, kind of roundabout November 2020. And she mentioned to me straight away that she had been offered this project called The Twin, and explained to me that she thought that I’d be a great fit for the character of Anthony and said I should read the script.

At that point, we were still in lockdown. I’ve been away from my family for quite a long time or back and forth. And the film is going to be in Estonia. So I just didn’t really engage at that point. I was like, ‘Okay, that sounds great’. And then, a couple of months later, Anthony’s role had to be cast very last minute because the actor that was playing it had to pull out. And so, Teresa put my name forward, sent me the script, I read the script, and I was like, ‘fuck, I love this’.

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And I love the character. And I could understand why Teresa thought of me. And fortunately, Taneli and Aleksi, the filmmakers, went for it. Very, very, completely unheard of for me; I didn’t have to audition for it. And they just offered me the role. You know, which makes it quite weird, because I’m so used to always auditioning, it’s like, ‘Oh, are you sure? You don’t want me to do anything? Okay.’

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You spoke briefly about Teresa and you guys working together on A Discovery of Witches in the past, but in The Twin, your dynamic is very different. What was that like? Working with her again, but in these new roles?

SC: You know what? It was exactly that: it was brilliant. And it was fantastic; we had this shorthand conversation right from the beginning. But as you say, the dynamic is entirely different. The dynamic between our characters is entirely different. You know, we’re both playing American now in The Twin as well.

The Twin’s tone is entirely different from A Discovery of Witches; I found that normally on jobs, and between takes, or in between scenes, I feel like I just switch in and out of it pretty easily or quickly.

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You know, I don’t stay in character or anything. But on The Twin, I found that really hard. And especially as the movie went on, not to be affected by what was going on and what we were, as characters, what you’re kind of thinking about in your head all the time. I became very, very introverted and very quiet on that, which is, as Teresa knew from Discovery of Witches, is very different from what I’m normally like.

So, yeah, totally, the dynamic was entirely different, which is really interesting. You know, because we just finished A Discovery of Witches one month before, it’s kind of fascinating to see how a film or how a job can change the dynamic like that.

The Twin Steven Cree interview: A family by a small gravesite in the winter

Yeah. You talked about how the character affected you. And Anthony is like this kind of tragic figure, and without giving too much away, We see different versions of him in the Twin. It is very clear about how emotionally impactful this whole situation is for him. How did you prepare for such a heavy role?

SC: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to repeat this again, because it was in lockdown. I was away from home for two months. So I didn’t get to see my daughter for two months. You know, previously, I’d only ever gone maybe a week at the most away from home for work. I’ve always tried hard not to do jobs too far away. So, that really kind of informs or made me feel even more kind of isolated and lonely out there, which actually, in this kind of perverse way, helped my character mindset for Anthony as well.

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Because like, obviously, they’re going through the loss of a child. I knew that I was going to get to see my daughter again. So it’s an entirely different circumstance, but it was still incredibly tough. And yeah, you have to, like any acting role, whatever it is, you have to kind of imagine and think, ‘how would this, how would this affect the character? What would your mindset be?’

And he’s like, to me, he’s kind of like a tightly coiled drum almost, trying so hard to keep everything together, and doesn’t really, really know what the best thing to do is. But you know, he loves Rachel so much and loves her family that he’s just trying to do the best that you can, despite the fact that the best he can do is questionable.

The Twin Steven Cree interview: a family earing dinner at the table

It was really refreshing to see you in this role. I think everyone’s gotten so used to seeing you as characters that we know from books such as Outlander and A Discovery of Witches, which have a lot of expectations thrown onto them already. So what was it like playing a character again, which you could basically make your own?

SC: I have to say, I mean, exactly that it was refreshing. Listen, I loved them, though. Outlander, it wasn’t that different, because, with Outlander, I wasn’t in social media at that point. And also, Ian Murray, is also a kind of a different kettle of fish. So the expectations around Ian Murray were different. Gallowglass and Discovery of Witches, the expectations around him, certainly from the really hardcore book fans, were huge.

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And I do you know; we shouldn’t do this as actors. But I do read things on social media. And when I got cast, it was…Listen, most of the reaction was positive, but there was a lot of the reaction that was like, ‘who and why?’ and ‘he’s tiny’. He’s not big enough. He’s not this enough. He’s not that enough.

Obviously, you shouldn’t get affected by that, but I was a bit. I loved the books as well. I loved the books, and I loved the character. So, I wanted to service the character as best I could, and portray him as best I could. So yeah, I did, like I put a lot of pressure on myself with that one.

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So definitely, it’s nice going into something like this. I mean, there’s a different pressure in The Twin because you want to do the best job that you can. And there’s, you know, you want to do the best accent work that you can, etc. But at least there is no, like you say, there’s no outside expectation.

The Twin Steven Cree interview: the family standing outside in Finland

You originally got your start with comedy, with G-force? I want to know, as an actor, what’s the differences between comedy versus psychological horror, like in The Twin?

SC: Hmm, that’s really interesting, actually scripted, right? I actually find the comedy that I have preferred doing in my time, or that I think I’m better at is improvised comedy. And the great thing about improvised comedy is, you know, because I think quite often in life, the things that make you laugh the most are when something unexpected happens.

So that’s what’s great about improvised comedy, you can just throw in a way that the other actor isn’t expecting, or the audience isn’t expecting. Scripted comedy is harder, I think, and really hard because it’s all about the timing and all about the rhythm.

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And yeah, and horror is. I mean, it’s interesting, because in The Twin actually, and also in Martyrs Lane (a horror that I did a couple of years ago), my character is different. Teresa plays the more archetypal horror character, if that makes sense? To me, Anthony was kind of in a drama until we get into the thick of it. You know, obviously, it shifts gears towards the end of the movie, but I approached it very much as if I was doing a drama about a couple going through grief.

The Twin Steven Cree interview: Teresa Palmer in a boat

You mentioned Martyrs Lane, another Shudder horror movie. You’ve done A Discovery of Witches, Martyrs Lane, and now The Twin, which kind of feels like you have almost finished the Shudder bingo card. Can we expect more projects from you in the future with the streaming service?

SC: Well, funnily enough, I’m doing a TV show right now. That is not horror related or anything. It’s set in Barcelona, set in the British consulate’s office.

It is called The Diplomat, right?

SC: Yeah! It’s, you know, crime and political intrigue. But I am doing a movie after that. I don’t know if it went up on Shudder, but it’s definitely of that elk again. [laughs]

So you have got the horror bug, is what you are saying?

SC: [laughs] Yeah. I don’t know why. What’s going on? I don’t know why. It’s weird. It’s funny. I think it’s just coincidence in a way, but also, I think it’s because right now, the horror genre is so popular and feels like it’s as popular as ever right now.

And also, it seems to be that people only go to the cinema these days to watch big action movies, or Marvel movies, or horror, maybe. So that market is huge. And also I think with horror films as well, you can tell brilliant human stories. Martyrs Lane is about grief as well. You can dress it up in this quite sort of fantastical and elevated way, which makes it very dramatic.

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In The Twin, we see your character kind of has a Jack Torrance Shining moment with his typewriter. We also got some Rosemary’s Baby references, and I wanted to know, with all of these classic call-backs, what’s your favourite horror movie?

SC: Favourite horror movie? Right? Well, you know what, I’ll tell you the two that come immediately to mind. But I don’t know if they’re my favourites. But it’ll come immediately to mind, maybe because they had a big impact on me. The first horror that really really, really, really, really terrified me for years was A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3.

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I watched it when I was about ten years old. And I was scared to close my eyes at night for about six months. And still to this day, if I hear the [sings] ‘one, two, three,’ I mean, yeah, whoever came up with that tune is a genius. It’s so creepy. And as an adult, I absolutely love The Conjuring.

When I went to see that in the theatre, I was so scared. I was absolutely shitting myself. So yeah, I’ll say those two. I don’t actually know if they’re my favourites, but I’ll say those two. What is your favourite horror movie?

The Twin Steven Cree interview: Steven Cree as Anthony

Oh The Shining! [laughs].  Thank you so much for speaking with me. I’m so excited to see how people react to The Twin.

SC: Yeah. I’m looking forward to hopefully, people enjoy it. Hopefully, people watch it.

The Twin is now available to stream on Shudder. for more thrills and chills, here is our list of the best horror movies of 2021.