“It was honestly one of the best locations I’ve ever worked on,” says actor April Pearson of the stunning lighthouse in Jersey where psychological horror Dark Beacon was filmed.
“When you drive up to it, it’s so stunningly beautiful. Obviously, the causeway being completely submerged every single day was a hazard, and a nightmare scheduling wise. But actually being surrounded by the environment, rather than a green screen backdrop – I really was running along with my feet in the water, trying to not drown – how can that not help to inform a performance? It was really amazing. We even saw a school of dolphins one day! We were at the top of the lighthouse and there were dolphins – it was magic.”
Well, mostly magic…
“It was easy to get zonked. We were out in the sun all day every day,” she tells MyMBuzz.com. “Fresh, non-polluted sea air, and constantly in the sunshine, so we were knackered every day. But I had a great tan by the end of it.”
Dark Beacon is released today in cinemas and on digital download on 27 March 2018: pre-order now on iTunes.
The main lighthouse location was amazing. But when we spoke to Dark Beacon director Coz Greenop, he told us it was a properly dangerous area…
I think there were three fatalities when we were there because of the strength of the current.
What was it like to film the finale, when you had to run across the causeway before the tide went completely out, with lots of emphasis on safety?
We called him Jersey James, I think he was from the Film Council. He had his safety head on, that’s for sure. And obviously for low-budget filmmaking, health and safety is paramount, but sometimes there’s just no time. There might be an occasion where I’d try running across the causeway and he’d be like, ‘No! It is not safe. Stay back!’ And we’d have to stop. It was pretty full on but so worth it. I absolutely ruined my favourite pair of converse because I stupidly suggested I wear my own shoes. I’m still waiting for that gift from [producer] Lee [Apsey] by way of apology. It’s only been 18 months since we shot the film. [Laughs]
You stayed in a great house in Jersey. Were the internal scenes of the lighthouse actually filmed there?
I believe the interior was initially supposed to a different location, and quite close to the beginning of the shoot that fell through. Lee and Coz had the genius idea of shooting in one of the outhouses in the grounds of where we were staying. [Production designer] Bryony [Neylan-Francis] and the art department turned up there and I think she had about 12 hours to convert this annexe building into the interior of a slightly run down, in-the-middle-of-nowhere lighthouse. So all of the interior scenes were shot offsite. But that was great, because the commute was about 12 seconds.
In another script your character Amy might be the bad guy, because she’s the interloper in a marriage. What was your take on her?
As much as you can read into a lot of the subtleties of the script, really the way I attacked the role was as a girl who fell in love with this incredibly charismatic personality, who she looks up to and completely idolised at work. They had an incredibly passionate romance and then obviously the relationship didn’t end how she wanted it to. So as a desperate romantic, she followed her out to where she was living. And I think she genuinely has the best interests of both characters at heart – Beth and Maya – throughout the film. So it was important for me to play it from a place of honesty and realism. Lynne Anne had a big task playing someone with a serious psychosis and I think if I was playing the bad guy as well it would have been confusing.
You share a lot of screen time with Kendra Mei. What was she like to work with, especially as her mum Lynne Anne was there beside her to help with that dynamic?
Kendra’s going to be a superstar, there’s no question about it. She knows herself, she’s got a cool thing going on and she isn’t afraid of anything. And I think having her mum there really empowered her, as they have such a great relationship. When it was scenes with just myself and her, Lynne Anne would step back and let Kendra do her own thing. She’d give her maybe a few tips and then walk away, leaving her to find her feet, which I thought was amazing. They say never work with children and animals but I couldn’t complain at all.
You do both in this film, although one of them is very inert…
We didn’t quite expect that giant dog to be delivered to Jersey when we needed a dead dog. Laura [Odette Phipps], the special effects and make-up artist, said, ‘I know someone who’s got a dead dog, let me give them a call.’ And then that giant bear turns up. But we weren’t allowed to get sand on it. So we’re manoeuvring it around the beach and there’s me with a spade over my shoulder to bury it, and all these holidaymakers looking at us wondering what on earth is going on?
Are you a fan of horror?
I’m a chick flick girl for sure, so I wouldn’t necessarily sit down in front of Netflix and scroll through and find horror. But there is something to be said for that feeling of being scared and I think that’s why horror is so popular. The feeling of being frightened and that horrible sense of dread and suspense is universal.
I’ve been part of many horror films now and you don’t get that same experience with any other genre. So I have a huge amount of respect for it. And Get Out, which my friend Daniel [Kaluuya] was in and was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA, has broadened the horizons of the horror genre. So I think it’s a really exciting place to be.