Danielle Panabaker is part of the new class of Scream Queens. With roles in The Crazies, Friday the 13th, and the upcoming Piranha 3DD, you would not expect Danielle to be as cheery and bubbly as she is. We chatted with Danielle about her current role in John Carpenter's The Ward. She plays Sarah, a bad girl locked up in a mental institution. She tells us about working with the legendary actor and working in a running mental hospital.
How did you get involved with The Ward?
My manager sent over the script for me to look at. I was out of town shooting The Crazies at that time. I flew back to LA for a weekend and had tea with John Carpenter at Hamburger Hamlet. And he offered me the role!
What was it that drew you to the role?
It's a really great opportunity for me to do something different. My character, Sarah, is a little snobby, a little self-centered, and a little more flirtatious than anyone I have ever played. The concept of the movie is really cool. On top of that, getting to work with John was such a wonderful opportunity. I was actually quite nervous when I first met him because he has such an incredible body of work.
Did working with him live up to your expectations?
It was fantastic! He is such a pro. He's so experienced at what he does that working with him was a breeze. I feel like he knows exactly what he wants and when he gets it, he moves on. He works quickly and our days were incredibly short - probably the shortest days I have ever worked. On some films you can work 18 or 20 hours a day. To have 10 hour work days is pretty unheard of - and pretty wonderful as far as I'm concerned.
You guys were filming at a real, working mental hospital. Did that add to the creepiness? Did anything weird happen?
It definitely added something. While we were still rehearsing, we had to go through the protocol of what to do if someone escapes. They're not really going to send anyone to help - you have to lock yourself into your trailer and hope you are alright. The people there were not only criminally insane, but some were dangerous. It added an element of reality to the whole thing. We were surrounded by people who were mentally unstable. It definitely created a... unique energy.
I heard that on one of your last days of shooting, a patient actually did escape. Were you around for that?
I had left by that point. But that was a big deal - they covered it on CNN. I'm pretty sure the person who escaped had killed some people. It was big news. I was just grateful I was home at that point. I didn't want to be anywhere near him.
The cast of The Ward is predominantly female. Were there any problems on set with so many women?
It was definitely a concern before I got to set. I actually asked John, "Have you given any thought to the fact that you are about to have six young women - who all have the same, competitive career - all on location together?" It had the potential to be explosive but it couldn't have been better. All the girls are such professionals, and so incredibly talented. I think the world of everyone I was working with. We are all still quite friendly.
You are part of a new class of scream queens. Was that by design? Do you enjoy horror films?
No, not at all! Up until a couple years ago, I don't think I had seen any horror films. It wasn't until recently that I began to appreciate them. I think it is the business we are in. Horror movies are really successful, and they usually aren't very expensive to make, so they are very popular. I know I have done a handful of horror films in a row, but it wasn't intentional. I am grateful for the work.
Are you watching more horror films now?
I'm trying to. I am still a chicken. I can't watch them at night, and they still give me nightmares, but I have seen my fair share.