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‘Scream’ Star Jack Quaid on Toxic Fandom and Loving ‘The Last Jedi’

The actor tells TheWrap how he first got into scary movies and how he welcomes the conversation about toxic fandom

What is a “Scream” movie without some new blood?

Among the young cast members joining the franchise for this, the fifth (!) installment in the outrageously popular horror series that began with Wes Craven’s stone cold masterpiece in 1996, are Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega and, of course, Jack Quaid. Quaid plays Richie, the boyfriend of Barrera’s Sam, who gets roped into a murder mystery connected to events from the 1996 original. As it stands in the “Scream” universe, good-natured boyfriends are either sadistically evil (Skeet Ulrich in the original film) or brutally killed (Jerry O’Connell in “Scream 2”). But Quaid walks a fine line, never showing his cards or leading the audience on in one way or another.

TheWrap spoke to Quaid about what it was like joining such a revered franchise, how it felt sharing scenes with legacy “Scream” performers like Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette, and what he really thinks of “The Last Jedi,” a movie that, if not namechecked in the movie, is certainly invoked.

What was your relationship with the “Scream” franchise before signing on?

Jack Quaid: My relationship with the “Scream” franchise was, I had kind of an interesting thing with it where, when I was about four years old, I went trick or treating for the first time. And I saw all these other kids dressed as Ghostface because it was the year that “Scream” came out and it traumatized me. It absolutely scared me shitless. And there was this one mask that this one kid had, that I’ve seen since, where you can pump fake blood through a see-through Ghostface mask. Just complete no. I looked at that and I was like, “No, I want no part of this.” So if you would’ve told my four year old self, that one day he’d wind up in a “Scream” movie, he wouldn’t have believed you.

But then, I got braver and I started to dip my toe in with stuff that was funny and scary, but mostly funny stuff like “Shaun of the Dead,” which I loved, but then, I got to “Scream” and I just fell in love with it. It’s kind of a gateway drug to the whole horror genre because it references so many horror movies whilst also being a movie that’s amazing in its own right. After you watch it, you want to go watch all the other movies they reference in “Scream” and I did. It made me a horror buff.

Do you have a favorite scary movie now?

I do, “Alien.” I think “Alien” is probably the movie that when I saw it scared me the most. I saw it kind of young. I saw it at 14. And that one really, really got me really stuck into my memory.

Well, was there any trepidation on your part joining something that has this insane fan base?

Of course there was trepidation. It’s something people care about so much. And that fear while making it was there. We don’t want to let the “Scream” fans down and I hope we didn’t, but it’s one of those franchises that people care so much about and there is a pressure there. I think that that was tampered down by some of the legacy cast members who were just encouraging us to have fun and were also so nice and welcoming. You could learn so much just by looking at them and watching what they were doing and watching how they were both conducting themselves on set and in their performances. So of course there’s pressure, but I’m of the mind that if you’re not a little trepidatious, if you’re not a little bit fearful going into a project … Those are the kind of projects you want to go into, the ones that scare you a little bit, so I’m happy I didn’t let the fear get the best of me.

You’ve been a part of these franchises, whether it’s “Star Trek” or even “The Boys” and now this, that people care so much about. And this “Scream” really talks about the phenomenon of toxic fandom. Have you ever been a part of that dialogue and are you excited to have “Scream” open that conversation up a little bit?

Paramount Pictures/Spyglass

I’m happy that we’re talking about it because it’s an interesting thing because obviously I think the toxic fans are kind of a very vocal minority in the grand scheme of things. I think that most fans of most things just love what they love and are really just genuinely into whatever media they’re consuming. And I grew up as one of those people. I was such a “Star Wars” nerd growing up and I know what that feels like. And I really do love it. If you’re a fan of something, I feel like I’m on your side, there’s something about just being genuinely passionate about something that’s so endearing.

But then, again, there is a vocal minority, I think there’s kind of an entitlement sometimes if something isn’t exactly what a so-called fan wants something to be. You can definitely not like something, of course, and you can have your opinion, but when you stretch it to death threats on the actors, or just bombarding people with hateful comments … And then obviously these so-called fans love the franchise so much, but you see some racism in there, you see some homophobia in there, you see all these terrible things.

And I’m glad that we’re talking about it because I think that sunlight’s the best disinfectant because no matter how much something disappointed you, I don’t think anyone has the right to make someone feel that awful or to threaten their life, which has happened. I’m against toxic fandom. But what makes me so mad about it is that I think fandom overall is a good thing. So, the vocal minority coming in and messing it up for everybody, I’ve never appreciated.

As a “Star Wars” fan, what did you think of “The Last Jedi”?

I really loved “The Last Jedi,” actually. I know we talk about Rian Johnson in our movie too, a little bit. As a guy that just re-watched “Looper,” I just think he’s amazing. But that movie, that was one of the first movies I ever went into without … I consciously did not watch any trailers for it because I realized that when I watch trailers for movies, maybe the suspense kind of goes out the window. I’m like, “Oh, is the movie about to end? No, we haven’t got that scene I saw on the trailer where they’re on the desert planet.” It doesn’t ruin anything, but I wanted to know what it’d be like to go into something without watching a trailer.

I went into “The Last Jedi” with that and I was blown away. I thought it was so surprising. I liked that they were trying something new and I saw it with my little sister who, she’s native to China, but we adopted her. And there was something so cool about the idea that you didn’t have to be a part of some grand family in order to be special. There was something so cool about that idea of specialness can come from anywhere. And I remember us really, really bonding over that. So, I really enjoyed “The Last Jedi” a lot.

These movies are known for their secrecy. How much were you told beforehand? Did you read the whole script?

Here’s the thing, when I first read the script, I think it might have been before I auditioned. I figured that it wasn’t correct because I know these things are super secretive, but the first script I read was not the right one. It had different people dying, it had different people being the killer or killers, it had different survivors, different kills. But here’s the thing though, they sowed the seed of doubt, so we all thought different things were happening. I was talking with Dylan Minnette recently and he was like, “I didn’t know what the real deal was until the week before we wrapped, basically.” The secrets were kept, and I thought that was just so cool. We’re making a whodunit and we’re also trying to figure out who is playing the killer or killers. It was really interesting.

If you’d been told everything beforehand do you think your performance would have been different?

I liked working this way. But it did sow the seed of doubt where I thought I had it figured out at one point and I just kept asking them like, “Is this true? Is this real?” I couldn’t really trust anybody. When script pages came my way, I couldn’t really trust them because I just to know the lengths they’ve gone in the past to kind of fool everybody.

Can you talk about what it was like working with the legacy performers?

It was amazing. I mean, the OG three, David and Nev and Courtney, they’re incredible people. I don’t know how else to put it. They’re so nice. They were very welcoming. They didn’t need to be as welcoming as they were to all of us newbies, but they just went above and beyond for us in a way that I’m so grateful for. David led us in this Bob Ross painting class, because he’s a certified Bob Ross painting instructor.

He actually went to Florida and got a degree of some kind so that now he can teach this class. So yeah, we were all in the common room of the hotel we were staying at, painting happy little trees and mountain-scapes. And David led us through this course and it was towards the beginning and I still can’t, to this day, figure out if it was supposed to send some sort of message, like don’t overthink this and just be free. Intended or not, I think it did send that message and made the environment a lot more relaxing. The environment was great offset, and onset, but offset it was just so great to hang out with this community of people, especially after being in isolation for so long.

There was a lot of love there, especially coming from the OGs. And it’s a movie about murder, so it was a really weird contrast, but no, they’re all amazing. Nev had us all at her beach house in Wilmington and we just all got to hang out there. The two of us had a conversation on her porch that I’ll never forget. It was just so awesome. She’s the best. And Courtney would invite us out to dinners and she’s maybe the sharpest person I’ve ever seen in my life. She has the quickest wit out of anyone I’ve ever encountered. So, nothing but good things to say about them and I fanboyed out the entire time.

“Scream” is now playing exclusively in theaters.