Many of us were either cheerleaders or spectators of the sport. I was not a cheerleader in high school, but actress Erika Prevost plays one on the USA Network/Netflix series Dare Me, which airs December 29th. I recently spoke with Erika, and we talked a bit about Dare Me, her role as Brianna Bradley and her work in theater.
You’re starring as Brianna Bradley on the show Dare Me. What can you tell us about the show?
About Dare Me as a whole, it is a show based on cheerleading, and there’s a lot of power dynamic between women. I’m trying my best to describe it because it’s a really difficult show to actually pinpoint. So, it follows the story of this coach that arrives at this small-town high school and there’s a bunch of cheerleaders who are all those no-good cheerleaders, not working really hard. And she kind of comes in and whips them into shape. And from there, lots of drama starts unraveling and friendships start to get complicated. There’s a lot of issues and tensions that start from her arrival.
And the show as a whole, I think is great, because it does portray really realistically the life of cheerleaders and how much it’s an actual sport, and all the prejudice around it, it’s kind of brought down. And you see the realness of it, what it means to be a woman in high school, and there are teenage girls and the struggles that you go through. So, it really shines a light on that, and at the same time, following the storyline of the coach. What it means to be a woman and having that kind of responsibility and all the prejudice that’s kind of put upon that of being a strong woman and a capable woman and the difficulty that comes with that. And because it is set in a small town, there’s that small-town feeling of people wanting to get out of town and how to manage to do that and how to follow her dreams. Yeah, it kind of shines a light on all those topics.
What was the audition process like?
So, the audition process…first, I submitted a selfie, you know with a casting call I got from my agent, and I lived in Montreal. So, I submitted a selfie, and then—as one does, you audition and you forget about it and move on and do your other projects. And then I get a call saying that I got a call back for it. So then, I have a second audition which was in a room, so that’s when I met the directors. I met Steph Green at the time. She was the director so I met her. And then Gina, and Megan. Gina is the writer and is also the showrunner. And Megan and they were in the room, and I auditioned for them. And it was just this kind of mock scene I created, and I just kind of stepped into the Brianna character.
So, that’s when I auditioned for Brianna specifically for the first time. And when we did the scene, I could tell already the atmosphere was very nice. It was warm and welcoming. And then it was great and I didn’t hear back for a couple of days, and then I get a phone call back that I got a dance call. So, because it is a cheer-heavy show, they wanted actors who could also pick up on choreography. So, we had a dance call, and that’s when there was a whole bunch of—that’s when I saw all the other women that were auditioning for parts.
Another time, they were looking for five girls who could kind of fit into the friend group of the lead. So, then we get the dance call. The choreographer is Amy Wright. And so, she showed us the choreography, we did it a bunch of times. We got to meet the casting director and it was a couple of hours. We all got to meet each other. It was just a fun relaxing environment. It wasn’t too hectic. Yeah. That happened, went home. And then I got another call, and then that’s when it was like, the final cut of the callback. So then, we were auditioning again in the room, and it was a selective few people. They were called in, and then I was auditioning again for Brianna, the scene I had auditioned for, and yeah. And then it’s kind of similar process as the second round. And from there, I got a call a couple of days later that I had booked the job and we were going to shoot the pilot at the end of summer, and that was summer 2018.
So, there were a couple of layers of auditions to it.
I didn’t realize so much went into auditions.
Yeah, yeah. Additionally, they submitted a casting call, and everybody across the country and the state could audition and it was all self-taped and then after that, my main auditions that I did, later on, were in Toronto, because that’s where we were filming. So they were hosting the casting calls there towards the end.
Without giving away any of the show, can you describe what your experience was in filming?
The main thing that I retained from is the fact that it was a woman-run show, and that was my first experience in the industry. So, while we were filming it, the showrunners—one of them is Megan Abbott, who is the writer of Dare Me, the novel—and our first director that was we had, Steph Green, was on the pilot. And most, majority of the directors that we had throughout the episodes—we had a new director for every episode—most of them were women, and our DOP was a woman. And so, that was the atmosphere of the whole time we filmed. We shot the series for…we worked on it for five months, so we had one month of cheer camp, we had a bunch of rehearsals and training, and then we actually shot the series for four months. So, yeah, it was really interesting. We had those days that were strictly acting scenes and then other days it was cheer-heavy, so we would do our choreography and routines and stuff like that. So, it was a really fun balance of being able to act and do cheerleading.
What made you decide to go for the role of Brianna?
At first, when they set up the casting call and they were auditioning, there were two characters that were—if you know the book, there’s Addie and Beth that are there, obviously. And that’s kind of the casting call that went out first. So, we all either auditioned for Addie or Beth and then from there they started creating characters suitable to us, like pulling out what they saw in us and what they wanted to create from there to build a full squad. And some of them are real cheerleaders and some of us are actors that can learn to cheerlead. But, I thought the characters were really interesting, because at first when I saw the breakdown, it was “high school cheerleader, cool, what else is new?” It kind of felt like a repetitive thing that I’d seen before, but getting to see the script and getting to read the full pilot, it was a lot darker than what I thought it would be and we could kind of see in the trailer.
But there’s this tone to the show that’s very realistic and a lot more grown-up. So, even though it is a high school cheerleader that I’m playing, it didn’t feel like it was a two-dimensional character. It did feel like there was a lot to it and having read the novel before, I could see the arc of the character. So even though my character specifically wasn’t in the original version of the novel, just based on how every single character in the book was written, I could already tell that—well, obviously the writers are brilliant, so, you could really tell the arc of every single character and where their journey began and the complexity of it, and the three-dimensional aspect of it. So, when I auditioned, I didn’t exactly know who I was auditioning for. That’s the funny thing because you usually know who you’re auditioning for, and that wasn’t the case for this specific project.
You’re also starring in Dimension Films’ new thriller Polaroid. Can you tell us about that?
We actually shot that three years ago. It’s been a little while. That was really fun. That was my first time doing a horror film. Me personally, I’m not a person that’s able to watch horror films, because I get really, really scared. But that was interesting.
It was filmed in Halifax and I got to work with Madeline Petsch, who’s on Riverdale, and that was a good experience. The director’s name is Lars, and it was his first big project, so it was nice to be on a project where it’s somebody’s passion project. It was originally a short film that he had created and then he turned it into a full-length feature film. So, it was really nice to be on a project where you could really feel like it was his baby, you know? So, I made a lot of good connections through that and got to really experience what it was like to be filming away from home for a while because I had mostly filmed in Toronto and Montreal then. Toronto still kind of feels like home because I’ve been there a lot.
But it was nice to be in Halifax. I’m not sure when it’s supposed to come out now, because of the whole—Weinstein had a big hand in Polaroid. He was one of the producers, so that was why the film got postponed for so long, with good reasons. But yeah, so I’m not sure when it will be coming out in North America, but it did come out in Japan. And I’m half Japanese, and my mom lives in Japan right now. So that was quite exciting. It came out on my mother’s birthday on July 19th, so it was an exciting event, but I’m looking forward to it coming out here in Canada and in the states.
I think it’s sweet that it came out on your mom’s birthday.
Isn’t it funny?
I would say that’s a nice birthday gift.
Yeah, it really was. It’s just funny how things line up sometimes. Yeah, it just fits. It was nice.
Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
Right now, I’m attending the National Theater School, studying acting and I’m in my third year. So, I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to work on these projects and how it kind of fits into my schedule. We usually run our training for eight months out of the year and then we have four months off in the summertime, and my project happens to fit into those time gaps, and I’ve been blessed enough to do them. So right now, I’m in my last year and we’re all doing our productions. So it’s theater-heavy, and I’m now working on a play called Burning Vision by Mary Clements, and it’s this beautiful story.
I’m actually on my dinner break while I’m talking to you, and we open our show next week, running a full week before the holidays. So that’s what I’m working on right now, and as we move forward in the new year, I’ll be doing the play called Mel Glynn, and then I’ll be working on another play in the works. So, they’re new works by merging playwrights and merging artists, so we’ll be working on those later in the year, so that brings me all the way to May.
And then, I’m just hoping that Dare Me will have a second season and I’ll be back in Toronto. So that’s kind of where my next couple of months are lined up.
That sounds good!
It’s quite exciting to do both film and theater.
For anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give?
That’s a good question. I think whatever the medium is—even if it is theater or film or tv or YouTube, or whatever the creative medium is, I don’t think that’s really what matters, as long as the project you’re doing is what you want to do. And I have this advice, this is advice that I’ve received from many mentors that we’ve got at the school. One of the things we learned was there’s a pyramid. There’s the experience; you know, the project itself. If it’s a really great project.
And then the next point is money. How’s the money in it? And then the next point is exposure. Does it bring you connections? Does it bring you someplace else? So, you want to look at those three points always, and make sure that it always fits at least two out of the three. So, that’s the advice I was given, so I always want to carry that forward with me whenever I’m faced with a project.
When we’re starting out as actors, it’s so easy to say yes to every opportunity that comes along, because you just want to work. You love what you’re doing and you just want to make it. But, I think it’s really important that you be selective of your work and make sure that it lines up with what you’re beliefs are and what your values are and keep the integrity. So, even if it is a really, really great paying job, even if the money is good if the project is really not something you want to do and it brings you zero exposure, it’s like is it really worth it? And all the other areas I mentioned too, the same thing applies. So, I think I’m giving you a very long answer, so let me summarize what I’m trying to say.
I think my advice would be to keep your integrity; to ask yourself if you want to do it, why you want to do it; to really do it for yourself and not based on what everybody else—in this industry, the noise around you is so loud so, to stay focused on your own lane and listen to yourself, to not let other people’s voice cloud your mind and what you actually want.
Be sure to check out Erika Prevost on the cheer drama Dare Me beginning December 29th on the USA Network and Netflix.