You might know them as amazing X-Men, but Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse‘s Storm) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool‘s Negasonic Teenage Warhead) have joined forces as Tragedy Girls. The horror-comedy directed by Tyler MacIntyre stars this dynamic duo as charming cheerleaders who aspire to be the greatest serial killers their Midwestern town has ever seen. Ahead of the film’s World Premiere as part of SXSW’s Midnighters’ section, Screen Rant sat down with Shipp and Hildebrand to talk Jeffrey Dahmer, representation, and where Tragedy Girls might go next.
In the film, Shipp and Hildebrand play MK and Sadie, best friends who not only capture a local slasher to serve as their mentor/scapegoat, but also “have a show about the horrors that go on in their town, and they post all of it online.” Seeking Internet fame drives the pair down some pretty dark roads, where they slaughter crushes and prom committee rivals. But do these affable actors share a dark side with their characters?
Hildebrand confessed to having a fascination with true crime, sharing, “When I was in high school, I was really obsessed with Jeffrey Dahmer. I was really interested in–not necessarily how the murders had taken place–but more in the mind’s of these people who committed these crimes. I think it might be different if you are more interested in the psychology of it versus, ‘I need to figure out how I could do that to somebody.’ Because why do you need to know that?”
For Shipp, she’s more into horror than true crime, admitting, “True crime is twisted. It’s very twisted. It’s not my genre.” However, she explained, “I have a fascination with murder when it comes to movies. But in real life, I would throw up. My fascination with murder is more, ‘Oh my god, is this the world I live in?’ Especially right now with the amount of murders and injustices that are happening, especially in our country, I just try to steer clear. But when it comes to movies, I love murder. I love the bathtub filled with blood, the floating bones in the acid. I like seeing all of that and recreating that.”
Both actors relished the gore present on Tragedy Girls set. Together, they recounted the day a life-size and eerily realistic Craig Robinson dummy was brought on set for one of the movie’s most gruesome scenes.
Hildebrand: It was a lot of fun to film with all the prosthetics and stuff. I think the minute we were all blown away was the minute they brought a giant Craig Robinson, a giant prosthetic Craig Robinson. And they laid him out on a table near the gym. And we were just working, and somebody was like, ‘It’s Craig!’ And so we all like run–
Shipp: We ran!
Hildebrand: And we all just start poking him.
Shipp: It felt so real!
Hildebrand: Those things are crazy man. (The practical effects team) people are so talented, I could not!
Shipp: I can’t even fingerpaint.
Hildebrand: (Laughing) Exactly!
Throughout the interview, it was clear these two get along as well as the onscreen BFFS, and both spoke of how the friendship element of the script was what really stood out for them. “That’s why I fell in love with this movie when I read it,” Hildebrand declared. “It’s because they have each others’ back more than like anyone’s coming to save them, or more than they’re searching for someone else to be dependent on. They just like genuinely have each other’s backs and care about each other. I think that’s super awesome. It’s like girl power!”
Shipp concurred, “Yeah, and women should support each other. Even when we’re mad at each other, we should still be supporting each other. I could not agree with you, but still be like, ‘But you’re my bitch.’ You know?”
“Right,” Hildebrand replied. “Like the thing you said earlier, ‘Your friend is always going to be with you, even when your boyfriend goes.'”
Like most slashers, Tragedy Girls ends with the possibility of seeing more from its charismatic killers. So where might a sequel go? Hildebrand revealed, “There was a lot of talk about Tragedy Girls at college, when we were filming.” But Shipp’s dreaming bigger, exclaiming “space” and “Tragedy Girls Vs. Alien,” before suggesting, “What if they went on a Eurotrip?” Hildebrand smiled, “That would be–that would be awesome!” Then the pair fell into a frenzied exchange of increasingly silly pitches that peaked with Shipp’s idea for “Tragedy Ninja Girls,” spurring Hildebrand to tease, “Somebody write that down!”
Lastly we spoke about another issue close to both exciting ingénues hearts, representation. With Shipp being biracial and Hildebrand being openly LGBTQA+, both have considered what their onscreen careers mean to the marginalized groups they represent. “Representation–for me–is very important,” the Deadpool star explained.
“I grew up trying to get my hands on gay or lesbian films, and then realizing slowly somewhere along the way that we had nothing in common somehow. They were always so much older than me, or they were sure of who they were. I never got to see a young girl’s journey like that. And that’s what I wanted. And even if it wasn’t a young girl’s journey through discovering her sexuality, I wanted to see her know who she was in that way and handle other things, like a normal person would. Representation is really important to me. It can make a lot of people feel less alone. I think when people watch movies, they look at you and they see themselves in you. And I think that’s super important.”
This is part of the reason she signed on to the teen drama First Girl I Loved, which follows the blossoming romance between two girls. While she’s outspoken about her identity, Hildebrand isn’t particularly interested in labels, refusing to pin herself down as bisexual or a gay, saying, “Who the f**k cares? Not the point,” and tweeting:
I date whomever I please regardless of their gender identity 🦄 https://t.co/6xqmnoScAc— Brianna Hildebrand (@briannahilde) March 11, 2017
For her part, Shipp explained her passion for representation, saying, “That’s definitely the excitement for me, being able to be a part of a little bit of Black history/Black history adjacent. For me, when it comes to representation, I represent many sides of the spectrum. I’m half-White and I’m half-Black. I’ve never been treated like I’m White, but I’ve definitely had lots of experiences with both sides of the spectrum.”
She went on to share a story and some words of advice from storied performer, Andy Garcia, saying:
“What’s beautiful about representation, my girlfriend–her name is Daniella Garcia, she’s Andy Garcia’s daughter–an amazing actor. We talk about this all the time because she’s Cuban. And she’s like, ‘I go out for Latino roles.’ But she’s got blue eyes and auburn hair, and she’s like, ‘But I don’t look Cuban. And everybody doesn’t understand that I am actually Latina!’ And they’re like, ‘No, I can’t.’ But her dad was like, ‘Hey, as an actor, you would be lucky to convince someone that you are not who you are.’ And that is our job. That’s the most exciting thing about our job, that we get to challenge those norms. We get to change and evolve and kind of chameleon ourselves into these different roles and different viewpoints of the world. And I think that’s why we’re so lucky. You don’t have to play gay or straight. You don’t have to play Black or White. You’re that character. You’re that person. And if you can convince someone that you’re not you, you’ve done your job.”
Tragedy Girls premiered at the SXSW film festival. It has yet to receive an official theatrical release date.