Renfield: Exclusive Interview With Awkwafina

Renfield: Exclusive Interview With Awkwafina

Renfield, starring Nicholas Hoult as the infamous lackey of Count Dracula (brilliantly played by Nicolas Cage) finally hits theaters this weekend. A few months ago, we were lucky enough to visit the set of the film, and shortly afterward, we got time to record some pretty extensive interviews with Cage himself, as well as director Chris McKay. We also got to sit down with Awkwafina, who co-stars in the film as a cop Renfield finds himself falling for. While she’s got lots of experience in big-budget action, having co-starred in Shang-Chi, here she’s at the center of much of the action, which brings with it certain challenges, she discusses here. She also tells us about some of her recent favorite genre movies and even gets her mind blown when we reveal one of her idols, Tom Waits, played Renfield in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I got lucky enough to see I got to see filming happen. I didn’t get to see him in person, but through a wall, basically. What was your first reaction when you saw Nicolas Cage in full regalia as Dracula?

Oh, man. There’s like a silence in the room, I think, when he walks in, because it’s still Nic under there. So it made like a big impression. I think it was like, to see it in person. I think when you’re meeting with Chris in the prep phases, you’re seeing, like, drawings of it, sketches, like ideas, maybe, of references on the wall. And then when you see it in front of you, it really does. It’s scary. It’s scary and cool, is what I’ll say.

What are some scenes that shocked you that they got away with? And what are some of your favorites that you can share without getting in trouble, you can be as vague as you need to be.

That shocked me that they got away with? Well, I think there is a pretty big introductory kind of when Rebecca and Renfield meet and that fight scene took place at a real restaurant. That when I went back to New Orleans to film, like, a month later. I was like, I cannot eat in there. What we were doing up in there? Like, I can’t but, yeah, it was, like a very, very long and very intense kind of scene. But it’s, like, more of a sequence that we actually started on. So I think it was our first big production fight, and I think it was really cool. It was like, one of the first times that I was really working with I forgot the word. Oh, my God. Like practical effects. And that’s crazy because it almost feels like you’re in the ride, you’re at Universal, you’re on a ride, and all these things are going off next to you. So that was really crazy. And also the synchronicity of how the crew needs to work, the stunt team, the effects team, the camera. That was a really insane, ambitious everything was kind of done as a onener. And I remember that it was very intense and there was, like, cinnamon popcorn everywhere. But, yeah, I feel like it’s going to look so cool.

How were the action scenes and the stunt scenes in this? Because when I was on the set, I got to watch Nic do, there was a fire scene where he actually ran through stuff that was on fire, and they choreographed that, and it was just an absolutely gorgeous set. I was curious how it was to film some of these shots, because in the trailer, I think we see that scene you’re talking about where there’s like, mass slaughter with dinner plates. How was that for you to film? And did you do any of your own stunt work in this?

I did do some. Honestly, for me, personally, they were definitely the most intense action scenes I’ve shot. And I’m coming from the Marvel world, right, where obviously there’s a lot of action in that, but this was different in that. Like I said, there was a moment in the restaurant where all of the kind of squibs were going off and everything is timed and everything. Like, the guys be careful about leading on this poll, because this poll is rigged and you don’t really understand what’s going to happen until it all goes off. And you finally do feel like you’re making how they used to make movies, like how they probably made, like, the original Draculas, which were very real effects, and the mixture of that and also the mixture of, obviously VFX, too. I think it was like a really cool balance of both that I really hadn’t seen before and obviously, yes, very ambitious and definitely I don’t know if I was there when Nic ran through fire, but that doesn’t sound like a surprise to me. I can totally envision that he had to run through fire.

from left Dracula Nicolas Cage and Renfield Nicholas Hoult in Renfield directed by Chris McKay

He had choreographed it, too. I was watching and thinking, Oh, he’s got the floppy hair, that’s… that’s getting really close to that flame there.

That will going to burst in flames. Trust in us, too. Which as an actor is really a compliment. And I think Nick, at least I would hope that I would be called a good sport, but I know that we both definitely went into it with that attitude. We want to do cool stuff that you feel that we’re capable of doing.

Because when we were there, we got to eat bugs with him. Did you try one or I didn’t eat real ones. I ate fake very real looking bugs.

But you ate our gummy bugs. What you’re saying is you came to visit and you ate gummy bugs. Okay. Yeah, I think I might have maybe like, at one point. What is that? The mixture was pretty cool, though, like, how they did that. Because actually, when you look at it, it’s like, oh, my God, those are real bugs in there. And then they’re like, oh, that dirt. It’s graham cracker. And you’re like it is? That’s so delicious. I have at the Hall of Science, when I was a kid, eaten one of those, like, lollipops, where there’s a bug inside. But actually, since I haven’t, I wonder if Nick has, though. Did he eat real bugs?

They actually had real bugs there, and one of the gals that was with us actually ate one

She was like, These are my personal bugs

I want to say it was a potato bug of some sort, which is not a play on words. That’s really what I think they’re called

Sounds more delicious.

Yeah, you would hope. But I watched her face as she was and I’m watching her regret her decision almost immediately because she realized, I’m not going to get this out of my teeth without some pliers.

Oh, man. Maybe that’s why I didn’t make the decision to do that.

Don’t do it.

I love that.

You’ve done Sci-Fi as well as fantasy, but I think this is like the first horror project that you’ve done. I was curious, as an actress and a writer creator, what are your thoughts on the horror genre and how women have really come into their own within it over the last 10,20 years? You’ve got Mia Goth kind of coming out there and just being everywhere, Jamie Lee Curtis showing that women of any age can kick ass. I’m just curious about your thoughts on that.

Yeah, that’s such an interesting question that I’ve actually yeah, that’s so cool that you brought that up. Obviously, you’re very well known in the genre, but horror is one of my favorite kind of movies. I sometimes have trouble paying attention, which is obviously a horrible thing to say. As someone who’s in this field, in the theater, and horror consistently holds my attention in this way that I am super fascinated by it. I think that it’s a really underrated genre that really can in so many ways that other genres can’t involve aspects of drama, involve aspects of comedy, involve aspects of even like romance. All kinds of things can meet in the horror genre. And some of my favorite movies of recent are like Barbarian and Titane. And I super agree with the way that women are kind of taking back the genre. And I think that filming horror, it was my first horror movie. It was actually so fun. Like, there were moments where I know what that line is. I know what that line where I am as an audience member when this line is delivered. And it’s mysterious. And I often felt like when I was going around with my partner, Adrian, he plays Chris.

He plays Chris in the movie. It really felt like I was investigating. So I think in that way, it was actually really cool to do horror. It’s really fun to do horror as an actress. But it definitely is dark. The material you’re working with is dark. You kind of go home with a little bit of a dark feeling. But I think that that’s another thing that makes it kind of a transcendental experience. But I really, really like horror. And I’m going to continue thinking about what you said about women taking place in the last ten to 20 years. That’s like a really cool observation.

One thing I was curious about, too, because I’d seen that you loved Tom Waits and that he was one of your inspirations growing up. I was curious, did you ever see him as Renfield in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula? And what were your thoughts on that?

No, I didn’t see that.

Oh, you need to see that he plays Renfield.

Wow. What? Okay. Yes. I should have known that I’m looking that’s crazy. That’s so cool. Wow. That’s so cool. I love him as an actor, so that’s amazing.

Oh, he’s fantastic. Put that on your list. And on top of it, it’s Nick Cage’s uncle who made it.

What? Yeah. Right. Okay. Sorry. Right, okay. Yes, that makes sense. Wow, that’s very cool. Blown my mind every corner.

Well, my last question for you, because I know I’m about to lose you here, but I wanted to ask you about because, again, you’ve done a lot of Sci-Fi this is your first horror film, but you’ve done fantasy and Sci-Fi within your work in animation and everything. I was curious about your thoughts on using genres like those to sneak in, talking about issues and ideas that people might not realize they’re thinking about or talking about, because we kind of covered that a little bit with the toxic relationship within Dracula and Renfield’s life. But can you speak to that? Because Shang Chi broke down a lot of boundaries and barriers for people, and it really opened eyes, I think, to a lot of fans that may not have thought about that culture and Asian Americans so I was just curious what your thoughts are on using those genres to kind of let people see.

Sure. I think that any good story is going to say something universal. It might be political, it might be something that has to do with representation. It might be something that has to do with just human nature. And I think horror as a genre, I think it really often explores that. And I think especially with Renfield and what it’s saying about what it’s saying about justice, what it’s saying about toxic relationships and complicated people. I think that sometimes those things, those kinds of like those kinds of representation or those kinds of stories get told, sometimes accidentally, simply by casting the right people in a place, by who they are. I think that those things are told. I mean, in Shang Chi, the fact that we were all Asian, I think, tells a story in its own. And I think that, you know, you have a good story when it often thinks about those things too, and how it’s telling the story and obviously how they fit into the larger piece. And I think that horror is honestly a really great genre for that, too, because it often shows you a kind of, like, nightmare version of what we are, who we are.

And I think that in itself is a comment on stuff. That’s a really good question. I’m going to think about a lot of what you said today. Thank you.

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