From writer/director Joey Klein, the indie drama Castle in the Ground follows Henry (Alex Wolff), a teenager who’s also the caretaker of his chronically ill single mother (Neve Campbell) that he’s trying to nurse back to health while she’s more concerned about her stash of Oxycontin. When he befriends his troubled next-door neighbor (Imogen Poots), he finds himself falling deeper into the world of drug dependency at a time when opioid abuse runs rampant.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Neve Campbell talked about tackling the important subject of opioid abuse, the emotional toll it took to tackle this material, the beautiful experience she had working with co-star Alex Wolff, and why it took some time to shake this project off after the shoot finished. She also talked about the Party of Five reboot and a new take on The Craft, why she’s interested in being a part of Scream 5, and wanting to get more involved behind the scenes of her career, as well.
Collider: This film explores such an important subject, but also such a difficult subject. How hard is it to tackle something like this and approach it through this one character?
NEVE CAMPBELL: For me, I knew a bit about the opioid crisis and about the effects that these medicines had on people, but I certainly thought it was important to do some research. I watched some documentaries about the effects that opiates have on people and about the addictive qualities of them. It’s a very easy slippery slope that one can go down, if you start these kinds of medications, or start to abuse them. Also, Joey Klein, the director and writer of our film, his father is a doctor in Montreal, Canada, and I spoke to him a lot about his experience with people on those medications. I really wanted to get a good sense of the physicality and the mental state of people with these challenges.
When you read this script, what was it that you wanted to dive into and explore?
CAMPBELL: The subject matter was prevalent to today and an important topic to bring out into the world. Joey’s take on it was very interesting. He was obviously very passionate about it, when he spoke to me about it. For me, I thought the depiction and the writing of these characters and their struggles was strong.
At the same time, when you read something like this and it’s darker and heavier subject mattered, do you have to prepare yourself? Do you have to have a conversation with yourself to decide whether it’s something you really want to put yourself through?
CAMPBELL: Absolutely. I knew that this was gonna be a short shoot. If I had thought the shoot was gonna be five months, I may have had a longer think about it, but because I knew it was only gonna be a couple of weeks shoot, I thought I could handle it. Because I’m a mother of two boys and I was playing a mother of a young man, and what he goes through is very sad and very challenging, I knew that it was gonna be emotionally difficult, but at the same time, I did feel it was an important story to tell. I just make sure that, when I’m on set, I’m going what I need to do, and then, when I drive back to the hotel, I lift my spirits by putting on a comedy and talking to my husband, and I just try to let it go. I can’t live in that state of mind, 24 hours a day. I know method actors work in that way, but that just does not work for me, emotionally.
What was it like to go through this with Alex Wolff, and explore that mother-son relationship with him and have him as a scene partner?
CAMPBELL: Alex is incredibly talented and very dedicated to his work and really able to be vulnerable, which was so important for this character and for the audiences to take this ride with him. When someone is that devoted, it’s not difficult to jump in with them and make it very real. We had a really good dynamic between us, immediately. We both had an understanding that it’s okay to be vulnerable and allow each other that space. It was quite a beautiful experience.
When you do something like this, aside from trying to separate from the character, every day, when you leave work, do you also have to do something when you finish a shoot like this? Do you intentionally take time off to really separate from it?
CAMPBELL: This one was quite harrowing. It took me about a week to really come down from it. That’s not often the experience, but because this was such an emotional one and close to home, as a mother, it did take me about a week to get back into a completely healthy, happy state of mind. I allowed myself the time. I didn’t have to jump into something else. I was able to spend time with my children. It’s project to project, though.
I’ve been a fan of your work for many years, from Catwalk to Party of Five to the Scream franchise and The Craft, and you’ve had such a wide variety of characters that you’ve played since then. Are you surprised now to see more than one of the projects that you’ve been a part of coming around again, with the re-imagining of Party of Five, a new take on The Craft and another Scream film?
CAMPBELL: Well, it’s flattering, to be honest. And it’s nice to see a younger generation is getting a version of these films, as well, and the stories that we told.
Is it something that you’ve watched, or would want to watch and are curious about yourself?
CAMPBELL: I’ve watched the new Party of Five and I think they’re doing a great job with it. I love the new concept. Now, it’s more timely. It’s a Mexican family whose parents have not passed away, but are sent across the border. I think that’s such a great take on it and I think they’re doing a great job with it. With the new Craft, we’ll see. For me, I didn’t really wanna be a part of it, but I think they’ve got a very interesting take, and I hope they get a chance to do something great. I think the timing might’ve been challenging with COVID, but hopefully they’ll be able to finish the film. Scream is coming around again. They’ve approached me about it. Again, the timing, right now, is challenging. There can’t have a negotiation, at the moment, ‘cause we don’t even know how the studios are gonna open up again. But in time, hopefully, we’ll figure that out. As I said, it’s very flattering that these things are being brought around again, with hopefully really good quality projects.
You’ve said that you were initially reluctant to do another Scream without West Craven, which is very understandable, but what ultimately you changed your mind and got you interested in that possibility?
CAMPBELL: Well, I’m not a hundred percent on it, but to be honest, the two directors (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) have made some great work. I’ve watched their films, and they’re really talented. They wrote a letter to me, expressing what great fans of Wes’ work they are, and how honored they are that they’re getting the chance to make Scream 5 because the Scream franchise is the reason that they’re directors now. So, that was really sweet. They really wanna honor Wes’ style of work and honor the movies. That was a lovely thing to hear. So, we’ll see. Hopefully, we can all see eye to eye on everything and make something great, but it’s a process.
Have you always felt like there was more of Sidney’s story left to tell?
CAMPBELL: I think you can always tell them more with these stories, and they’re such fun films. There’s obviously a huge audience for them, and the audiences wants to see more of them. You can always go further with the journey. Certainly, with Sidney, she comes to some new shift in her life, every time, and I don’t know. We’ll see.
You’ve had a really long-standing career, with a wide variety of projects in various mediums. Has your career path been anything like you had hoped it might be, when you started out, as an actor? What would that younger you think about the career that you’ve had?
CAMPBELL: I think the younger me would be blown away that I’ve gotten to work for this long. Especially as a woman in this business, it’s challenging. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the career that I’ve had and that I’ve had the opportunity to play so many different kinds of roles in so many different genres. That I continue to get to challenge myself is great fun. I can only be grateful. There’s nothing to whine about, that’s for sure.
Where does the artistic and the creative fulfillment come from, at this point? Is it the experience of doing whatever the project is, in the moment?
CAMPBELL: I love many different aspects of the business. I’m really enjoying developing projects now, as well. I’m looking into writing more. I’ve enjoyed producing, in the past, and want to do more of that, as well. I really enjoy the process of creating a project, and working with writers and producers, and having a seed of an idea and going from there. It’s a beautiful opportunity. So, I wanna do more of that. I wanna keep doing acting, as well. I’m really enjoying expanding my horizons.
Have you thought about directing, as well?
CAMPBELL: I’d love to direct, at some point. People often ask me, if I’m going to. Right now, as a mom of young kids, it takes up so much time, directing. It takes much more time than it does, as an actor. There’s many more hours, with pre-production and post-production. I would like to, at some point, but right now, I’m really enjoying putting my kids to bed. While they’re this age, I think that’s really important.
Because working does take time away from your family, do you feel like the projects have to be more important to you than just a job?
CAMPBELL: Absolutely. The decision-making process is completely different now. It has a lot more to do with the location that it’s shooting in, how far away I’ll be, how it will affect my family, time wise and life wise, and if it’s something that I want them to see or not see, in the future. It really, really does affect your choices as an artist, but I’m grateful for that. The great thing about having kids is there’s something greater than yourself and you’re handing your life over to that. That’s a good thing.
As you get more involved in developing things, are there genres that you feel like you haven’t gotten to work in, or a specific type of character, that you’d like to develop for yourself to play?
CAMPBELL: There’s not a specific person or character, necessarily, that I’d want to play. I just enjoy challenging myself, in different ways. As projects come along or I find them, I’m just looking for something that excites me. There isn’t one specific job that I wish I’d had, or a genre that I wish I’d been in. I can’t think of a genre that I haven’t been in.
Castle in the Ground is available on-demand and on digital.