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The found-footage Paranormal Activity film series is a machine: since 2009, there have been five films released thus far, with at least two more yet to come. But in the latest installment, the spinoff The Marked Ones, new characters pick up the camera where their predecessors left off, this time following the transformation of a high school graduate named Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) into the minion of a dark and evil force, as his two friends Carlos (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) try to help him.
Spinoff recently sat down with the film’s director, Christopher Landon, for a quick chat, and also caught up with the three stars of the film. All of them are newcomers who did their first interviews ever on the Monday morning after The Marked Ones opened nationwide. In addition to talking about their own fears about leaping into the franchise, the trio revealed some of the behind-the-scenes details about how the films are made, and confessed to the few things their characters do in the name of helping their pal that they definitely wouldn’t do in real life.
The first four Paranormal Activity movies put the characters through a lot of torture. When you were cast, what was the thing you were most excited, or most scared, to get or have to do?
Gabrielle Walsh: Just with the spirituality of everything, I kind of have a thing about that. I was kind of wary of that sort of thing; for our screen test, we had to work with a Ouija board, and I was just like, oh, if I touch this now, am I going to…? I’m that superstitious, because I hadn’t explored that.
Jorge Diaz: I was more intrigued with how do they do these found footage movies, you know what I mean? I wasn’t sure how they did it – like, what was the process like? Are they just really going to pop out of a closet and scare us in real life? I wasn’t sure how much fun I was going to have, because I’m like, am I going to be frightened through these next couple of months? But I was surprised that I actually had way more fun than I thought I would – I enjoyed every single minute of it, absolutely.
Audiences don’t know much more about the process of making these than you do. How much of the camerawork are you as actors doing yourselves? And how do you throw yourself into these moments where someone is next to you but you have to be surprised when you turn to face them?
Diaz: It’s actually all storyboarded. We know what we’re getting ourselves into, but also Chris, our director, have us freedom to bring our personalities and whatever it is so we had creative freedom while we were shooting. And he would set up shots, like, “and I want this,” but he wasn’t like, “this is exactly how I want it.” There was a lot of freedom to it, which made it beautiful – a lot more organic.
Walsh: We got to work in a lot of cool places that brought their own energy to the set and to what we were doing, just like working together and doing it. Of course, after doing it a bunch of times, you’re like, okay – I need to keep up the energy. But it was a lot of fun and it got to be scary at times.
Diaz: Like, the botanica, that had its energy – that whole little shop had an energy of its own.
Diaz: If you every get a chance to go in one, it’s awesome! But it’s very, like, whoa. It’s overwhelming.
One of the things audiences do while watching these movies is compare what they would do in the same situations the characters deal with. What is the one thing your character does that there’s just no way you would ever do?
Walsh: Going into that basement.
Andrew Jacobs: Yeah, the basement.
Walsh: I would, no. I would have been like, “no, you guys – no!”
Diaz: Actually, my character says, “I’m not going down there! I’m not setting foot in that apartment again – are you kidding me?”
Walsh: And I’m like, “Do this for Jesse – we’ve got to support Jesse.” I mean, if I had a friend who was going through that, I don’t really know what I would do, but I would think that I would be by their side, of course.
Walsh: So I think that’s what propels us to do these crazy things.
Diaz: Because I feel and I hope it shows on camera, but I feel like if these are people you grew up with and you love with all your heart, you’re not going to let him go through anything. So it would be awful to see your best buddy going through such a transformation. So I feel like that justifies a lot of the actions. Not a lot of the goofy stuff – a lot of the goofy stuff, I’d do, all of those stunts.
Walsh: You think it’s all fun and games, until it starts going down.