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Q&A: Actress Ashley Hinshaw on “THE PYRAMID” and “TRUE DETECTIVE”

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When you hear a title like THE PYRAMID, any horror fans mind will go to the usual suspects: mummies, scarabs and all sorts of ancient Egyptian curses. However, horror fans who checked out last fall’s THE PYRAMID were surprised by a whole different kind of horror, with an experience made even more visceral by a handful of strong performances. Among these performances was Ashley Hinshaw, who adds an emotional dimension and physical commitment to a role that in the hands of others could have been merely another screaming victim-to-be. FANGORIA recently caught up with Hinshaw and talking THE PYRAMID, her horror fandom and her participation in TRUE DETECTIVE’s second season…

FANGORIA: How did you first get involved with THE PYRAMID?

HINSHAW: It came to me kind of like any other movie, I read the script and I was really impressed with it right away. I’ve always been really interested in Egypt, in archeology and the pyramids, and I also have a real love for horror films, and this was a perfect marriage of the two. So I was really on board from day one.

FANGORIA: Having been a fan of horror films, what was it like getting on the set of THE PYRAMID and seeing how they constructed everything?

HINSHAW: It was interesting, because THE PYRAMID was the first movie I had done that was truly in the genre, and I wasn’t sure if I would really be scared on set, I didn’t kind of know how that went, and it was really interesting. As a fan of horror films, it was a bit of a letdown to be on the set of one and realize it’s not scary at all [laughs]. But it’s really cool to see how it’s done.

One of my favorite films that kind of put me in the mindset for this movie was THE DESCENT, and I remember many years ago on the DVD watching the “making of” feature, and it was really interesting and really in-depth, and when I was doing THE PYRAMID I was remembering the making of for THE DESCENT. The reason I think it’s hard to make a great horror film is that it’s not really scary on set; it’s all in the editing, it’s all in the writing and the performance, and all that stuff, so it was definitely interesting to see what I thought it was going to be and what it turned out to be.

FANGORIA: Considering Gregory Levasseur was the director of THE PYRAMID and it was produced by Alexandre Aja, were you familiar with their work in the genre otherwise, or was this a completely fresh experience with these two filmmakers?

HINSHAW: It was definitely pretty new for me, but I knew who Alex was, and I knew of his films, and I was definitely a fan of them. Starting the process was so interesting, and I’m glad it was Greg’s directorial debut and THE PYRAMID was the first time he could do his own thing. Greg is so amazing since he’s got a lot of the qualities Alex has but then he has new ideas. I can see that they work well together, but they have a little bit of different viewpoints on things. Working with them was really great, and the most interesting thing for me to do now would be to actually do a film with Alex and to really see the difference.

FANGORIA: You said before you’re interested in the subject matter, the mythology behind the pyramids and Ancient Egypt. What was most enticing for you as an actress coming aboard this project? Did you learn anything about some of some of the mythology they were talking about or in your own research for the film?

HINSHAW: Yeah, being genuinely curious about it, I had very little knowledge of it, but I knew a little something about the conspiracy theories, and a bit about the different theories about “Why the pyramids were built? How they were done?” and all of that stuff. But when I was planning for the film, I was excited to play an archaeologist, but I was a little bit freaked out by it because I wanted it to be believable, and some of the dialogue I was saying, at first, I didn’t really know what I was talking about.

So I really tried to read a lot and watch a lot of documentaries, so that when I would say all of these intelligent, archeological terms, I’d know what I was talking about. It made me more curious about pyramids, to be honest. I think its such a fascinating topic.

FANGORIA: The marketing for THE PYRAMID might have made some think this was a Mummy project, but when you actually get into the film, the danger is something much different. When you received the script, was that a surprise for you as well?

HINSHAW: Yeah, y’know, I actually did think that’s along the lines of what it would be, a scary movie in the pyramids, that’s what you’re gonna get. It’s interesting, and I think that depending on what type of viewer you are, you can take different things from it. If you just want to watch and be scared and not really get into what they’re talking about, you can do that, but if you’re actually interested in the Egyptian myths, there is real information you can get and it’s really fascinating.

I saw THE MUMMY when I was younger and I loved it, but I didn’t want this to be a cheaper sequel to that, so I was really stoked that they went in a different direction.

FANGORIA: You got to work opposite Denis O’Hare, a great actor who has really been blossoming in the genre lately. What was it like working with him?

HINSHAW: He’s so great, I feel like I got very lucky to work with him. We became very close, because we were in Morocco, pretty much alone, making the movie, so we got really close. It was a great experience. Denis is so good at everything he does; he knows how to take it to the exact level it needs to go, but not push it over, which is often done in the horror genre. It was really great and working with him was a learning experience for me.

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FANGORIA: You’ve worked on genre projects like +1 and TRUE BLOOD before, and you’ve also worked in the found footage genre before with CHRONICLE. What was it like marrying those two elements on THE PYRAMID? Was it a different experience on both parts or was it something where you got to take a little bit from each experience and use it to your advantage?

HINSHAW: Well, with CHRONICLE, found footage wasn’t new at the time but it was a lot a newer. I feel like a big part of that film was the way it was shot, whereas with THE PYRAMID, I don’t think that the found footage angle is as important, but it was a way for us to take a different approach. It was both an interesting approach and it worked well for a more scary type of film. I learned a lot on CHRONICLE, since it was a very different way to shoot than the traditional way. I think I benefitted from the CHRONICLE experience because it made my work a little easier on THE PYRAMID.

FANGORIA: Having been a fan of the horror genre, did you find any influence from any other female leads or comparable characters in the genre, or was this performance more organic to you as a person?

HINSHAW: I definitely felt, when I was reading the script, that my character is not too far off from who I am. For the sense of this film, she’s a little more reckless than I am in general, but I think she lives in a place that’s more inside of me than a lot of the other characters that I’ve played. One of my big references and inspirations was from the ladies from THE DESCENT. They all felt like real people, you felt like you were really there with them that they were truly going through these experience. and I really wanted to give performances like that. That movie was so successful because you really felt you were in there with them and a big reason for that is because of the performances.

FANGORIA: You said before that the set wasn’t necessarily scary, but was there any highlight for you in terms of any set piece or anything specific you were excited to work on from the script?

HINSHAW: There’s a scene where my character is almost buried in sand, and when I read it, I was like, “How the hell are they gonna do that?” They’re obviously not going to bury me in sand, and when I got there, they created this whole contraption so that only my head, neck, and shoulder would be unseen, and covered in sand, but I could essentially wiggle my way down and get free whenever I couldn’t breathe anymore.  It looked all very easy when I was being show it, until I was doing it and you add the element of fifty pounds of sand being poured on you, and you can’t breathe because it’s getting in your mouth.

When I remember the day, it was a hard and terrible day, but when I think back it was such a cool experience because those are kinds of experiences that you don’t have on the average movie. It’s one of those things, when I saw it afterwards and when I watch the film, or if I go back to my memory of it, it was cool and special; it was a stunt, in a way, that I got to do myself.

FANGORIA: As a horror fan, aside from being a part of the film itself, is there anything that you think that horror fans will connect to or enjoy specifically about THE PYRAMID?

HINSHAW: I think what’s so great about it is the film goes rather quickly, but there are real moments of quiet halfway through, and I think that’s interesting in a film where you’re trying to get away from something and you’re being hunted. We do have multiple moments where things all of the sudden calm down before they gear back up. To me, that’s really interesting; it leaves you on your feet as an audience member, since you don’t know where they’re gonna go.

When you film a movie, especially a movie like this, you have a very specific idea of what it was going to turn into at the end, and then when you see it a year later, it’s an entirely different film. It was really fun for me to watch, because I felt like it was something different than what I expected it was going to be.

FANGORIA: Do you have any other projects you’re working on now?

HINSHAW: I just finished working on the second season of TRUE DETECTIVE. It was awesome and I’m really excited for that. That comes out on June 21st on HBO, and I think it’s going to be amazing. We’re super sworn to secrecy, but I think it’s going to be really awesome.

FANGORIA: The last season of TRUE DETECTIVE took a turn towards horror territory; could you make a comment on whether or not that might be the same for this season?

HINSHAW: I wish I could, but the reality is that they only let the actors see the parts of the script which they’re in, and this season has so many storylines. The great thing about watching it will be that I truly know nothing about the full story that I’m not a part of. I’m just as much in the dark as anybody else.

THE PYRAMID, starring Ashley Hinshaw, will be hitting Digital HD platforms on Friday, April 17th, as well as DVD/Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on May 5th, 2015. Check back here at FANGORIA.com for more on THE PYRAMID.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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