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Q&A: Actress Kika Magalhaes on “THE EYES OF MY MOTHER”

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Even with the number of excellent horror performances coming out of the independent genre filmmaking scene in recent months, one certainly may have a hard time finding one as absolutely spellbinding as Kika Magalhaes in Nicolas Pesce’s brooding art-house horror film, THE EYES OF MY MOTHER. With a mixture between innocent naivety, amoral fascination, and predatory instincts, Magalhaes delivers a commanding performance that’s guaranteed to dig into your brain and leave you shaken. With the film now in select theaters and on VOD, FANGORIA caught up with Magalhaes about bringing to life a visceral villain you don’t see coming, and how her own personal darkness bled into that of her character in THE EYES OF MY MOTHER…

FANGORIA: So how did you become involved with THE EYES OF MY MOTHER?

KIKA MAGALHAES: So I met Nic [Pesce] when we were making a music video, and I didn’t really know him from anywhere. I met him for the first time during this music video, which I was sent to from a casting network. A month afterwards, he called me, saying he was writing this script and thinking of me for this role. So that’s how I got involved, and when he first called me, he said, “Please, please tell me you want to make this movie with me!” [laughs] So it was just an idea by the time that I got involved; it wasn’t even THE EYES OF MY MOTHER back then.

FANG: As a performer, what attracted you to this character?

MAGALHAES: Well, since I was involved at such an early stage, I saw the script as it changed, and it changed a lot. As a result, Francisca changed a lot as well. When I got involved, though, I was going through a really dark time in my life; I’m from Portugal and I had came from there to America to become an actress, and I was really considering going back home. I didn’t have a lot of friends here and all of my family was back in Portugal, and I was having a lot of problems with communication. I was unemployed, and I was living in this really isolated moment. So I felt really sad, so that was the first thing that really drew me to Francisca.

When I read the script for the first time, it was really interesting because the character felt exactly what I was going through at the time. It actually felt like Nic knew exactly what was going on in my mind. Also, something else that caught my attention is that everyone thinks my name is Kika, but that’s only my nickname; my real name is Francisca. So when I read the script, I was intrigued because I didn’t know if I had told Nic that was my real name, but when I called him about it, he said that I hadn’t and that it was just a coincidence. So the whole project felt as if it was meant to be.

At the same time, the script was really outstanding, and I knew Nic was really talented. But from everything that came from that script, I knew that I had to do this role.

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FANG: Was it easier for you to emotionally connect with this character since you had been so attached to her during the script development?

MAGALHAES: Oh yeah, I had so much time to work on the character. I think I got involved maybe a full year before we started shooting, so I knew her very well and I knew exactly what Nic wanted. I understood the pacing and I knew what he was going for long before we had to start shooting, so I was able to get into Francisca’s head pretty easily.

FANG: Was there anything about the character that wasn’t on the page that you particularly wanted to bring to her?

MAGALHAES: Oh yeah, absolutely. One of the great things about working with Nic as a director was that he wanted to hear my ideas and was really welcome to my input. Sometimes I would come up with stuff, or I would disagree that Francisca would do something because I knew the character so well. So we worked a lot and collaborated a lot during shooting, and one of the things I brought to the character was this sense of culture, because Nic didn’t know where I had grown up and didn’t know much about Portuguese culture.

That was really amazing, because I was able to inform Francisca’s music and her relationship to religion as well as to her mother. There is actually a scene in the film that not a lot of people know about where Francisca is cooking this traditional Portuguese meal that’s cooked and marinated in the blood of a chicken, but in the movie, Francisca prepares it with the blood of her victims. [laughs] 

FANG: What was the shooting like? It seems like the film is so carefully framed and shot yet there’s a really improvisational and realistic feel to each scene.

MAGALHAES: It was kind of both ways, honestly. The scenes were really carefully planned out, but there were a lot of things that just happened and came out naturally. The scene were I was dancing was entirely improvised, and the original idea for that scene was entirely different. But he wanted to shoot the scene the same way that a little girl would look at her father, so the whole idea was that she’d be dancing with the dead bodies. But that just was not working out, and I just started dancing when I was listening to the music, and he said, “Let’s just shoot that!” So instead, I got to dance around the dead bodies. So as carefully as the movie was planned, we also were able to do certain things in the moment.

FANG: As a performer, did you relish the opportunity to do darker material?

MAGALHAES: I loved getting to play a challenging, interesting character, but as an actress, I want to explore all different kinds of work. I don’t just want to work within the genre, even though I love this genre. I’d love to do comedy work, and I’d love to do suspense-thrillers, adventures, fantasy; I really would love to do all kinds of things. I want to really challenge myself from role to role, sort of in the same way Christian Bale does with his weight loss. He always is so different in his roles that it’s sometimes hard to recognize him. I don’t know what that method of acting is called, but that’s what I would like to do with my career.

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, starring Kika Magalhaes, is currently in theaters and on all major VOD platforms. Stay tuned for more on the film here at FANGORIA.com!

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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