Stefanie Scott
Stefanie Scott (Photo: Brett Erickson)

In Peacock’s new supernatural teen drama The Girl in the Woods, there’s a door—which is also in the woods—and behind that door there’s a dark dimension filled with monsters and demons and other scary stuff. And the only thing standing between those horrors and the rest of us is one very messed up young woman. Stefanie Scott plays Carrie, a member of the isolated Pacific Northwest cult that guards the door, keeping the evil behind it at bay. But when the series starts, something has happened to Carrie that makes her abandon her post and flee her insular community. That act of defiance has terrible consequences, and she’ll have to team up with new friends Tasha (Sofia Bryant) and Nolan (Misha Osherovich) to fend off both the monsters that emerge from behind the door and the cult members intent on dragging her back home.

Scott, who starred in 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3, is no stranger to supernatural horror. The 24-year-old actor joined GRAZIA on Zoom recently to chat about her latest bone chilling role, working with director Krysten Ritter and the adrenaline rush that comes with getting punched in the face.

The Girl in the Woods is based on a pair of short films. Is the series a continuation of those or something else entirely?

It’s definitely inspired by them. But [head writer Jane Casey Modderno] totally built on the story and built their own world in the show—created its own universe that wasn’t really in the original two shorts. Carrie grew up in this wild cult in the middle of the woods. They basically train kids from birth to fight to the death so they can win a spot to guard the door. So, I’d say it builds on the shorts quite a bit.

Stefanie Scott
Stefanie Scott (Photo: Brett Erickson)

Who is Carrie and where does she come from?

I’m gonna try my best to answer this for you. [Laughs] The cult is called the Colony, [children] are trained from birth—they’re not raised by their parents—to become really brutal fighters. And they have to win a “guardianship,” which is to guard the door. It’s intense because to guard the door you’re living in complete isolation in this other world, trying to keep the monsters from escaping.

How has the Colony shaped her? Who is she when we first meet her?

She comes from two years of complete isolation. She’s in a very wild place, because she hasn’t really had any human contact in a long time. So, when we first meet her, she really is a little crazy. It’s her first time stepping into the world outside of the Colony. It’s an incredible shock, seeing what real life is like and what real teenagers are like—what they look like, what they worry about.

Why is Carrie on the run from the Colony, which is really the only community and family she’s ever known?

So, I can’t really say what makes her break. But she does make a run for it, and it comes right off her period of isolation, which made her absolutely insane—as I’m sure people probably understand a little bit even in our reality. She was really in a room by herself for a few years just trying to survive. Most people who had her job before didn’t survive—except for one person—because of these supernatural monsters and demons. So, she comes from a very intense place when she makes it out and sees what the real world is like.

We see flashbacks to a past relationship she had with another girl in the Colony. What role does that play in her desire to escape?

Carrie…she’s very loyal, and she’ll do anything she can to protect the people she loves. She’s pretty hard on the outside, but you see in the show she really is quite soft and loyal. I guess that’s something that’s interesting: she comes from this very isolated world, but because there are no distractions and she’s so focused, she really does get drawn into people and wants to do anything she can for them. You see that with Sara (Kylie Liya Page). But you also see how [Carrie] is brainwashed to…be the best. When you’re trained from birth to kill, as she has been, there’s this switch that can happen of maybe betrayal. But ultimately, she wants to do what’s right for the people she loves.

How dangerous is Carrie to those around her?

Carrie is probably the safest person you could be around. Simultaneously, though, she probably is kind of dangerous because she’s in quite extreme situations. There is a switch when she gets into fight mode, and it depends on what’s in the way of her target. But at the same time, she’s quite safe to be around because of those reflexes. I guess it just depends on whether you’re on her side or not.

The series is quite action heavy. What kind of fight training did you have to do to prepare?

That was the best part! A few weeks before the show—because it all happened very fast—I worked with a stunt trainer, an MMA fighter. He really taught me a lot of techniques and got me started, being comfortable rolling around on the floor and doing these messy fights so I’d be ready when I got to Portland to work with our actual stunt team and my stuntwoman, Amy Johnson. Once I got there, we started training every day, learning different routines and sequences and getting those ready for the actual shoot. That was pretty fun and quite intense. I had so much fun doing that.

The fighting in the show is quite messy, and that’s the whole point. They just learn how to fight dirty from a young age. When we actually filmed, we were kind of down to get a little bit hurt. We were totally fine with being a little bit aggressive with each other to make it look really good. That was our goal. And I did get punched in the face once or twice. It kinda felt good, to be honest! It was really invigorating! We were, like, high afterwards!

Stefanie Scott in The Girl in the Woods
Stefanie Scott in The Girl in the Woods (Photo: Scott Green/Peacock)

You also have to work with some visual effects. What’s that like—especially the scenes in which we see that Carrie is missing her left arm?

We did mostly everything pretty practically, which was super helpful. When you see Carrie without her arm, that scene was quite intense, because the makeup for that…it took quite a long time. You can only use all that blood so many times while cleaning it up in between takes. It kinda stains. So, though it was practical—which was the best part for acting, having things to actually react to and work with—it was also intense because you really can only do it one time, maybe two, but that takes a long time to reset. And you don’t want to break the prosthetics and stuff—which is also very expensive! [Laughs]

I’m a huge fan of Krysten Ritter. What was it like working with her on the first four episodes?

She’s fantastic. I’m such a big fan of hers just for who she is and watching her in Breaking Bad. I just think she’s so talented. She’s a super cool person. She’s bringing this really cool energy to the set and to the project. She has so much experience, she brought that to the set: knowing what she likes from directors and how she wants the energy to be. She really did have every shot set up when we came to set. She was super on-it, but things don’t always go as planned and she was really great at improvising and rolling with the punches. I love her!

Stefanie Scott in The Girl in the Woods
Stefanie Scott in The Girl in the Woods (Photo: Scott Green/Peacock)

I’m sure it’s not as rare as it used to be to work with female directors on TV, but I wondered if you feel like there’s any meaningful difference working with a woman directing you on an action/horror show like this?

You know…I don’t know. First off, I don’t know what anyone else’s experience is, but I’ve work with a lot of female directors now. Especially in the last, maybe, three or four years. I don’t know if it has to do with anybody’s gender, but something I specifically admired about Krysten was that she was very adamant about…not that anybody was trying to, but I think she was very aware of how people in this genre, and especially with girls this age, kind of sexualize the characters a little bit more. Which, partially is fine. Sexuality is a part of everybody. But I think she was very aware of the way people take advantage of that sometimes. So, there’s a scene where I’m in the shower and a scene where Sara and I are in a bath together and she’s washing some wounds on my back. And even though in those scenes you just have to not really have any clothes on, or pasties or a stick-on bra or something—which we did have. But she was very cautious of not making it… It’s just very easy to make a scene like that look a certain way. And she was very cautious of that and making it a very genuine moment between these two people. Even when I had the wounds on my back, she didn’t want us to be too revealing. Or when we did girl-on-girl fight scenes, it wasn’t like we were wearing crop-tops and had fake sweat on our chests. She wanted it to be gnarly.

Carrie is a very un-glam character. What went into creating the look for the character and how she would present herself?

In the Colony they don’t pick their own clothes or have their own style. There are no dresses in the Colony. There’s really no gender in the clothes. It’s a lot of beige basically. [Laughs] So, she didn’t have any style and then she comes into this world where she doesn’t even know what people wear. And I think what she feels most comfortable in is just baggy stuff. Anything to hide. I think Tasha gives her some of her dad’s clothes to wear, and that’s what she wears in the show. Maybe it makes her feel like she can blend in a little bit. But I don’t think she has any personal style yet. Just, What can I use? What’s practical? As opposed to cute.