Slayers Star Jack Donnelly on Embracing Challenge of Horror Comedy

Jack Donnelly is always looking for new opportunities to challenge himself as an actor, and he found one in K. Asher Levin's action horror comedy Slayers. The film follows a group of superstar influencers drawn to a reclusive billionaire's (Malin Akerman) mansion only to find themselves trapped in the lair of an evil vampire. The only way out is to be saved by a famous online gamer (Kara Hayward) and an old-school vampire hunter (Thomas Jane). The Atlantis star spoke with Bleeding Cool about his vampire fandom, working with his wife, and filming during the pandemic.

Slayers: Lydia Hearst on Vampire Action Horror Comedy & Screamfest
Lydia Hearst and Jack Donnelly in Slayers (2022). Image courtesy of The Avenue

How 'Slayers' Became a Family Affair

What intrigued you about 'Slayers?'
Donnelly: I liked the original take on the vampire film, and I'm a big fan of the genre. I loved 'Interview with the Vampire' and the 'Blade' movies when I was a kid. I even watched 'Twilight.' When I read the script, the idea of throwing YouTube social media influencers into that world and having these extreme characters in the vampire mix made me laugh. It was an excellent opportunity for comedy there. I'm hoping when you will see the final movie that we delivered.

What was it like with Thomas and Malin leading the ensemble cast?
It was amazing. Malin and I are married, so any opportunity we get to work together, we always love it because it means we can keep the family together and travel together. The cast in this movie was fantastic. You've got Lydia Hearst, who is so predominant in this genre as a scream queen, and horror fest, and just watching her work and what she brought to the role was amazing. Kara Haywood, this up-and-coming young actress, played my sister brilliantly. Thomas Jane was just incredible. Asher [Levin] created this role as the director. He let us improvise a lot and play with the scenes. The person who ran with that the most was Thomas, who had us laughing the whole time. You can credit him for giving the movie the feel it has at the end, and we all worked off that. It was brilliant and a lovely cast to work with, especially considering it was during the pandemic at the height of lockdown. We were trying to make it work, and everyone was just in it together, which was lovely.

Slayers: Lydia Hearst on Vampire Action Horror Comedy & Screamfest
Malin Akerman, Lydia Hearst, Jack Donnelly, and Ashley Reyes in Slayers (2022). Image courtesy of The Avenue

Any prep you had to do for the role?
Compared to what some of us have done in the past, there wasn't much. This is one of the only projects where I've not taken my top off at any point [laughs]. Having said that, this is the first time I've done an American accent on camera. I've done it on stage in the past. This is my first film work, and I was blond for this movie, which is a whole new thing for me. Other than that, it was just a case of filling up and doing it. It was more research than anything. I'm not really on social media with Twitter, Instagram, or anything. Asher told me, "You're playing a YouTube influencer," so I took this deep dive and discovered and went into that world and went, "Wow! This is a million miles away from anything that I know."

Is horror something you want to try to do more in the future?
I had such a good time doing it. Working with these guys and Asher, I would go back to this team and do more horror. Neither Malin nor I were huge horror fans in the past, but after doing this and exploring it, it was more like, "There's stuff here that we'd like to get into again." It's so specific, and it can be brilliant when you can do it well, but it's not as easy to get right as everyone might assume.

Slayers Dir Asher Levin on Howard Hughes and Vampires Inspirations
Cr: The Avenue

How do you break down Asher's directing style?
Asher's laid back, and he's a lot of fun. Since we're filming during the height of the pandemic, COVID restrictions on us had a knock-on effect. What Asher was so brilliant at was being able to pivot on set and go, "That's not going to work," or "We can't do that now. So this is what we're going to do." The whole thing felt like playing, and he allowed us as actors to improvise, change, and try things out. Coming from the background that I do, that just puts you at ease and be like, There's freedom [creatively], and it's not rigid. That's great." I loved the script on the page when we were shooting it, but seeing the final version, the vision I had for it, and what it turned out to be, I would love to go back again. It turned out even better than I imagined, so that was a nice surprise.

The Avenue's Slayers, which also stars Abigail Breslin and Lydia Hearst, are currently in theaters, digital and on-demand.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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