ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with The Visitor‘s lead actress Jessica McNamee about creating intense horror and her work on Mortal Kombat as Sonya Blade. The Visitor is now available on digital storefronts and through video-on-demand.
“When Robert and his wife Maia move to her childhood home, he discovers an old portrait of his likeness in the attic – a man referred to only as ‘The Visitor,’” reads the official synopsis for the film. “Soon, he finds himself descending down a frightening rabbit hole in an attempt to discover the true identity of his mysterious doppelgänger, only to realize that every family has its own terrifying secrets.”
Spencer Legacy: What was it about The Visitor that drew you to the project?
Jessica McNamee: I had worked with the writer Adam [Mason] before on another project and had a really great time with him. So when it came into my inbox, I was like, “Well, there we go. We have that connection.” I was also familiar with Justin’s work, and I thought he always brings something that really adds to these genre movies … a bit more nuanced. He can make a movie look really beautiful by the way he shoots. He’s very artistic in the way that he presents his projects. I just loved that about his work. I loved that — without giving too much away — there’s that great twist at the end. The build-up is such that it’s unexpected, and my character ends up not being exactly who you think she is. I thought that was a really cool concept. That twist.
In the beginning, you think you know who she is, and then she reveals stuff about herself. What did you think of the character when you first heard about it or read about it?
I thought there was gonna be some interesting stuff to film, particularly at the end when she flips. I don’t know how much I can say in terms of revealing that, but obviously, there’s a birth scene in there that’s fairly graphic, and, for me, I was like, “Oh, that scares me. I don’t know how I feel about doing this scene, but I’m willing to rise to the challenge.” And it ended up being a really fun scene to shoot in the end. To be honest, what I saw on the page and what we brought to the screen are kind of two different things. At first, I had words with Justin about not making her too two-dimensional. I didn’t want her to be too passive, which kind of came off a little bit on the page at first. When we got on set, and we really worked through developing our characters, myself and Finn working on his role and our relationship as a team, we really started digging into more layers of these people, and as a result, I think it pays off in the end when this reveal comes.
When you first read the script, what were your thoughts on those intense reveals at the end?
I was terrified. I didn’t want to do it! I didn’t not want to do the movie, but I was like, “Oh no, this is pretty graphic and full-on.” But I leaned in and just was like, “Well, it’s going to get weird, and I’m pretty weird, so let’s just go for it.”
That chemistry you mentioned earlier with Finn Jones, did that come naturally or did that require work between you two?
Oh yeah. He’s so unattractive that it really was tricky for me. He’s so ugly, I just couldn’t handle it. But it was my best acting, my best performance.
No, he was great. From the second I met Finn, we really hit it off. We got together to go out for dinner and immediately we were like, “Yep, you are my people.” We have a very similar sense of humor. He’s English, I’m Australian, so we’re both in America. I was pretending to be an American. I guess he’s still English in it, but we do have a similar sense of humor and he has a great love for music and I love music, so we spend a lot of time listening to music and him sending me songs and it was great. We really hit it off. We were very lucky, because on these movies when you spend so much time, if you don’t have that chemistry or sometimes you don’t really hit it off as well as you’d like, that can be tricky. So we were very lucky.
As an Australian in a different place, did you experience any sort of culture shock when you started working on films and shows in the United States, not unlike Finn’s character in the film?
Yeah, I mean I’ve been here a while now, so I feel like that’s maybe all past, but when I first got here, yeah. To be honest, it was a lot to do with the American accent, but there are certain words I’m like, “why do Americans say it like that?” One of them being Whole Foods. I say Whole Foods in American accent and people here say Whole Foods, like they put an emphasis on the Foods and I cannot wrap my head around it. I’ve had to say it in a TV show before and I swear to God I could not get it. But it’s stuff like that when I’m like, “What does he mean? That doesn’t make sense. Why do you say it like that?” That’s what people think about me all the time. They’re like, “What are you saying?” So I guess it goes both ways.
You were also great in Mortal Kombat as Sonya Blade. She ends the film having killed Kano and getting his dragon marks. So what did you find the most fulfilling part of her storyline?
Killing Kano and getting my mark for sure. That was so fun because he’s such an asshole in it, you know? He’s just so brutal throughout and there’s that massive big fight scene right before. That fight scene was added later in the piece, I think as they started seeing mine and Josh [Lawson, who plays Kano]’s dynamic come to life on screen, they were like, “We need to give them a really good fight.” So that was brutal to film as well. I got banged up shooting that scene and we didn’t have a lot of time because they squeezed it in. So at the end when I got to kill him, I was like, “oof, that felt good!”
What do you personally hope is in store for Sonya in the sequel?
There’s a lot of discussion from a lot of the fans about bringing Johnny Cage in. I haven’t seen the script. I don’t know what’s coming, but it would be really fun if they did lean into that. That would be great and fun for my character. I’m really interested to see if they’re going to bring characters back as well, or if those that have passed are resting in peace. But I would miss a second movie without Kano in there, so we’ll see. I don’t know. They’re not telling us anything, but I’m really excited to read the script when it’s available.
Yeah. Here’s hoping you get to kill Kano again.
Oh, wouldn’t that be great ? He might kill me though, and that wouldn’t be so great.
Yeah, that would not be good. What was the experience of being in an episode of White Collar like?
Oh my God, so funny. It was great. I was just thinking about that the other day. That was so long ago. I forgot that happened. It was great. And that was my first and last time that I’ve ever shot in New York and I am desperate to go back and shoot in New York. I’m like, “I’ll do anything to spend some time in New York again.” I loved shooting that. The cast was so friendly, I think the nicest class I’ve ever met. They constantly have guest stars coming in, so they could just be like, “who’s this random person that’s turned up for a week shoot,” but they was so kind. Shooting in New York was a dream of mine, so we were all in the streets of Soho and it was so cool. I was like, “Wow, this is fun shooting in this chaos.”