“I got through it with a lot of coffee,” said Brianna Hildebrand on spending her days working on the sequel to Deadpool, while working nights on the TV show The Exorcist. “The same way I’m getting through today,” she laughed, saying, “I am so jetlagged.” During her panel on the Saturday at the main stage at MCM Birmingham Comic Con, hosted by Stuart Claw, Brianna was asked questions about her time on the films Deadpool, its upcoming sequel, the horror comedy Tragedy Girls, the show The Exorcist, as well as British TV, dream projects and singing. The following were the main highlights.
The panel began with how Brianna managed to get her big break with the role of Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool. “My manager got me the audition,” she said, adding that she did not even know during the audition process that the role was for Deadpool. “I was just told that I was auditioning for a moody teenager. I got a callback after a couple of weeks. I went back into the room to read again and then that’s when I figured [it] out. [Director] Tim Miller and Ryan were in there.”
Asked on if she was aware how big the fanbase for Deadpool was before filming, she said, “Yes and no. I had talked to Ryan and he let me know how long he had been trying to make this film. I knew it would have a huge following. But before Deadpool, I didn’t know anything about superheroes. I still don’t really know much about superheroes.”
Asked by an attendee how much of her own personality she brought into the role of Negasonic, Brianna responded with, “So much. I was a very bad kid, I did not do well in school, I did a lot of things I should not have been doing. So when I got the role I got really excited. I was like, ‘Ooh, I feel like I know exactly who this girl is because I was her, like six, seven years ago.’” She also revealed that she couldn’t really draw a lot from the comics (since Negasonic is hardly in it), but it allowed her to create her own backstory for the character.
She also revealed that during the production of Deadpool, they were running out of time, suffered budget cuts and no one outside of the film really believed in it. She recalled how only after test screenings did people get really excited, saying, “I remember talking to Ryan and Tim about it, and them being like, ‘Oh, everyone’s loving it. I think we’re doing a great job. I think we’re really onto something.’”
Moving to the topic of her Deadpool co-star Ryan Reynolds, it was revealed that when Brianna was younger, she actually had a crush on him. So much so that she photoshopped herself into one of his photos. “In the photoshopped photo I’m still in the back, just freaking out that he’s there,” she said. She took the photo to the set of Deadpool, describing it as, “a super cool full circle moment. I printed out… probably 50 of them and I brought them to the set with me on my first day. I just gave them to everyone. I was like, ‘Look at this! Isn’t this funny? That’s me!’” Of her lead star’s reaction she said “Ryan thought it was kind of weird. I gave him the photo and he was like (does an impression of Ryan Reynolds), ‘Oh, thank you… am I supposed to like, keep this, or…?’”
Having grown up in Texas, she explained that she moved to Los Angeles when she was 17. “My dad hated me,” she said, explaining that she convinced him to let her move, but he told her to get something going within that time, or she would be coming back home. “That specifically lit a bit of a fire under my butt,” she said. “Like, I really have to be doing this if I want to stay here, which I did.” When she told him that she had landed a role in Deadpool, she said, “I felt so accomplished. It was cool to hear my dad on the other side of the phone be excited. And secretly in his head, he’s like, ‘I didn’t waste my money for nothing!’”
She also got to invite her father and grandmother to the premiere of Deadpool. “Her husband is a pastor,” said Brianna of her grandmother. “They’re from a very religious town. So that was interesting. My grandmother was like (puts on a southern accent), ‘Oh, sweetie, that was just so nice. My favourite thing about that whole movie was that you did not cuss one time.’”
She was then asked about her role in the horror comedy Tragedy Girls, where she and Alexandra Shipp play the role of two teenagers looking to boost their social media profile as amateur crime reporters after a serial killer stalks their local town. Calling it “so much fun”, she highlighted just how much she enjoyed working with the prosthetics for the film. She also noted that during the majority of the production, she and Alexandra lived together. “I love her,” said Brianna of her co-star. “She’s the best.”
She was then asked if working on Tragedy Girls changed her own perception and use of social media. “It kind of did,” she responded, saying she wasn’t sure if the director of the film, Tyler MacIntyre, had intended to spread a message about social media. “What I got from it was that social media has as much power as you allow it to have. Recently I’ve been posting less because I realise that there are other things I could be doing that would make me more happy. You don’t have to be proving to everyone that you’re having a great time, all the time.”
Given that her manager put her forward for Deadpool, a question from an attendee had Brianna being asked how she actually got a manager. She explained that when she was in Texas, she took part in a competition for acting, modelling and talent. “I spent a couple of months preparing stuff for that, I performed at that,” she said. “My manager just so happened to be in the audience. I guess he was just talent scouting. After that, he was like, ‘Hey, you should move to LA. I think you have potential’”
Asked by an attendee what her favourite thing is about being an actor, Brianna said, “You know what’s really cool about acting? You can work with all of the other actors, really get to know everybody. You make a little family with the people that you’re making art with. I never really understood that side of it until I got into Deadpool. The relationships that you form are really nice.”
With Disney’s recent merger with Fox, Brianna was asked if she was approached to appear in the new X-Men: Dark Phoenix film. “If they had asked me, I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” she said. “But I would definitely be up for that.” Similarly, she was asked how she would feel if her character Negasonic became a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying, “I would feel pretty good about that.”
Away from superhero films, an attendee then asked her if she would be interested in starring in a James Bond film. “Absolutely,” she smiled. “That sounds amazing. Are you offering me the role right now?”
“I’m going to tweet this and make this happen,” responded the attendee.
Asked about her favourite moment during the production of Deadpool, she chose the moment she opens the front door at the X-Mansion. “We had a lot of improv and I had a really hard time keeping a straight face through that scene.”
When asked if there was a particular bit of improv from Deadpool she incorporated into the film, she responded with the line, “Fuck, you’re old.” – Negasonic’s line after Deadpool compares her to Ripley in Alien 3.
There then came the inevitable question, as Brianna was asked what she could tease about her role in the Deadpool sequel. She laughed and said, “It’s a sad question. I never know what to say.” She explained that she had not been given a list of things that can and can’t talk about, but did say that “she’s still cool, she’s still my favourite character.”
Of the Deadpool sequel, she noted that with the exception of hair and make-up, the entire crew is different. “It was a bit like… a new family. We had to establish new relationships. But it was still fun. Everyone on the set of the second one is just excited to be on the set of Deadpool 2.”
An attendee asked what it was like working with Josh Brolin on the Deadpool sequel, who stars in the film as Cable. She mentioned that she didn’t work with him that often, but called him, “super sweet”, recounting how the first time she met him he was making a Bitmoji of himself in the make-up trailer. “I was like, ‘What are you doing bro? You’re a little old for that.’ But he’s really funny, a great guy, so talented.”
One member of the audience raised to Brianna the news about reshoots for the Deadpool sequel, asking whether she was involved in any of them. “I think it’s a common misconception, that people think that reshoots are usually just to fix things that people didn’t like,” she said. “A lot of the time reshoots are to add more of the things that people loved. Usually [studios] hate it when you talk about their reshoots, solely because people think that it’s because the film was bad for the test audience. But it was all good.”
Looking to the future, Brianna was asked if there was a particular genre she would like to work in which she has not done yet. “Actually, I would love to be in a musical,” she smiled. “I think they’re really fun. That would be cool.” She also said that it would be awesome to at least get to audition for the upcoming remake of West Side Story.
An attendee then asked if Brianna could give the audience a sample of her singing vocals. She sang a rendition of Amazing Grace, which received a huge round of applause.
Of her character Verity from The Exorcist, Brianna was asked if she was likely to return to the show in the future. “I don’t know,” came the response. “I would be down to come back though. I had a fun time shooting that. Maybe not all the night shoots, but it was fun. I really loved my character in that too.”
She then went into the main differences of working on TV when compared to film, calling TV “a lot more stressful.”She said, “I did not understand before how much hard work television actors put in. It is insane.” She compared her experience on Deadpool with her time on The Exorcist, saying, “On a film, especially a film as big as Deadpool, we will spend two to four hours on one scene, getting everything set up, rehearsing everything. So we maybe do two, three scenes a day. On TV, you spend 15 to 20 minutes rehearsing, getting everything set up and you try to smash through as many scenes as you can. So it will be more like six to eight scenes a day.”
Asked if there were any British TV shows she has enjoyed, she replied with The Office and Skins. She added that she didn’t know if the US gets a lot of British shows, saying, “You should write me a list, or tweet me a list of them because I’m so down to watch them. But only the good ones.”
A question from an attendee had Brianna being asked which other Marvel character she would most want to appear alongside. She revealed that her answer would be biased, as she chose Alexandra Shipp’s Storm. “We have a good friendship and I think it would be fun to be a superhero with her.”
She was finally asked if there was a dream project she would love to do. “I read a really good book a while ago,” said Brianna. “It’s about a woman named Tania Aebi,” referring to the novel Maiden Voyage. “She was the first American woman to sail around the world at the age of 18. I think that would be a cool story to tell and I would like to tell that story. She’s cooler than me, but I would feel good to pretend I was her for a little bit.”
By Shalimar Sahota