The Final Girls is an unconventional horror comedy centered on Max (Taissa Farmiga), a high school senior, who is mysteriously transported with her friends into the 1980s horror film Camp Bloodbath, that starred Max’s mother (Malin Akerman), a celebrated scream queen. Once trapped inside the movie, Max is reunited with her mom, who she lost in real life, and along with Max’s friends, they must survive a machete-wielding killer with no conscience and find a way to escape and make it back home.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Nina Dobrev (who plays mean-girl-with-a-heart Vicki) talked about how she came to be a part of The Final Girls, the director’s vision, what she thinks will most surprise people about the movie, how much fun the cast had bonding, and which movies she’d personally like to jump into and interact with the cast. She also talked about the importance of balancing work life with personal life, her current work goals, where she might be headed next, and what spending six years on The CW series The Vampire Diaries means to her.
NINA DOBREV: I was sent the script along with Todd Strauss-Schulson’s shorts. The director had made a few shorts, and he is such a talented young filmmaker with such a clear vision, unique perspective and stylistic approach. Once I’d seen the shorts and read the script, I was able to visualize how the movie would turn out and I really was excited about it. He’s young and ambitious. He really wanted to make a great film and I wanted to be a part of it. I gravitated toward the Vicki role because she’s the mean girl, but she’s the misunderstood mean girl that ultimately we learn to love and understand. I’d never had that opportunity before. And usually the mean girl is very one-dimensional, so I was excited to find one that had a little bit of heart and sadness. She really goes through an arc that is understandable, and I thought that was really fun. The script was fun and unique. It’s challenging and interesting for me to work on projects that are unique and unconventional. I’m so bored with seeing the same recycled material.
This film is very inventive and different and probably sounded totally crazy on paper. When you read the script, did you immediately get what it was going for, or did you have questions?
DOBREV: That’s why it was a good thing that they sent me Todd’s shorts before, and I implore you to go on his website to check them out because they’re all available to watch for free. When you watch the one called All’s Fair and you see how he made it, you can visualize how this movie was going to be. If I hadn’t seen that, I would have been like, “Wait, what?! I don’t get it.” But I had seen the short, so I immediately got it. And of course, there were a million questions once I got there, which there always are.
Because of the mix of tones and the approach to the story, it’s a very challenging movie to describe to people, especially without giving anything away. What do you think will most surprise people who decide to check this out?
DOBREV: I think what will surprise people the most is that whatever they expected going into the movie will not be how it turns out. I think they’ll be surprised at how surprised they were that it’s nothing like what they expected. In trying to explain what the movie is about, it’s a challenge because so much happens and it’s so many different genres in one with so many different elements. Nothing can really encompass the experience you have watching the film. I think for a lot of different people, depending on what you like and no matter what you like, there’s a little bit of something for every single person because there’s so many genres mixed into one.
There are two groups of friends in this story – the ones who are the characters in the film, and then the ones who end up in the film. Did you guys get time to hang out and bond and find those relationships before filming started?
DOBREV: Yeah, we had a week before shooting. We were staying in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but not even in Baton Rouge. We were 20 miles outside of Baton Rouge, in the boonies. Other than Subway, which closed at 5 pm, and the gym at the residence that we were staying at, which closed at 10 pm, there was nothing to do, so we hung out together all the time. Aside from that, we really did care for each other a lot, and we hung out and had game nights and barbecues. We became really good friends, and I think we’ll remain that way. It was really good to get that time together.
In the slasher movie within the movie, there’s this maniacal killing machine with no conscience. When he was on the set coming after everybody, did that ever get a bit scary, or were you able to have a laugh about it?
DOBREV: Well, he didn’t have the mask on, all the time. And the guy who was playing Billy was actually a very sweet, timid, nice man with a kind face underneath that. He was not very intimidating or scary, but he was very tall and large. You definitely had to look up and crane your neck to speak with him.
If you could jump into any movie and interact with the characters, is there a movie that you would want to jump into the world of?
DOBREV: Yeah, I feel like there’s a couple of movies. There are so many movies. The 15-year-old me would say Interview with the Vampire because of Brad Pitt in his heyday, or Fight Club for that same reason, or Troy for that same reason, or any Brad Pitt movie. Sign me up!
The one thing that’s really evident from looking at your social media is that you’re taking some time to be silly, live life and hang out with your friends. Is that something that’s really important to you, especially since you just came off of a TV show where you were working many hours a day for many years?
DOBREV: Yeah, I really do think it’s important. Eventually, it should be a balance. People should take notes from the Europeans and balance out work and play. You should work to live, not live to work. I definitely did work for years and years and years, and I’m making up for that now that I have some time off. But, I’m actually getting back into it now. I do think it’s important to be smiling and not make it all about business. You’ll look back and regret it later, if you don’t take advantage of your youth and your ability to travel. And it gives you something to pull from and inspiration to play your characters, and for your life and your development as a human being.
If you’re jumping back into work, do you already know what you’re going to be doing next?
DOBREV: I do. I’m just not allowed to talk about it right now.
Could you, at any point, see yourself jumping into another TV show, especially if it was a shorter run series, or would you want to do some guest arcs on TV?
DOBREV: That’s part of what I’m not allowed to talk about.
You’ve talked about being business-minded, but goals shift and change, as you get older. So, at this point in your life and career, what are your goals for work?
DOBREV: It’s not one thing in particular because there are so many different things that come to you, on a daily basis. I love period films and TV shows. I love comedy. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying the experience and the people. It’s fun to smile, instead of crying and running away from vampires and killers, all the time. It just depends on the material, the director and the cast. It’s very, very circumstantial, but it’s good to be challenged. I want to keep moving forward, and keep being inspired and scared. I feel like, if you’re not afraid of something, you shouldn’t do it. If you’re just coasting through things, what’s the point? You’re not learning.
You were so good on The Vampire Diaries, and so great at playing a variety of compelling characters on that show. How did that experience change you, as an actress?
DOBREV: It was a great learning experience. I often say that it was like actor boot camp. I got to do everything. I got to experience multiple characters, do VFX, practical effects, stunts, action, comedy, and exercise every muscle that I could, in the acting world. I can confidently say that if you threw anything at me, I could do it in a heartbeat. From this point forward, I’m just ready to try it all and have that opportunity.
At a time when most shows don’t stay on the air as long as The Vampire Diaries has, when you look back at the time you spent on the show, what does it mean to you and what are the memories that will stay with you?
DOBREV: It’s crazy, when you think about it. It was a long time, and it was a beautiful time. It was my formative years, and I got to experience it with a great group of people, in a unique situation and in a unique place. I look back at it with a smile on my face. It was such a great period in my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I really am so lucky to have had all of those people and all of those experiences in my life.
The Final Girls is in theaters, on VOD and On-Demand on October 9th.