'The Boy' Star Lauren Cohan Shares The Challenges Of Playing Characters In Horrific Situations
Even before Greta discovers that she's responsible for nannying a doll in The Boy, her situation is far from ideal. The Walking Dead star Lauren Cohan plays Greta, an American who after fleeing domestic abuse, seeks safety as a nanny for a wealthy family in the English countryside. But what makes it a true thriller is that the child she's tasked with caring for is a seemingly lifeless doll. With jump-out-of-your-chair moments, an isolated heroine, a creepy house, and a terrifying inanimate object, The Boy delivers everything you'd want from a scary movie — including a twist ending that you won't see coming. In an interview with Bustle, Lauren Cohan reveals The Boy scared her just as much on paper as it will terrify viewers on screen when the movie is released on Jan. 22.
Cohan, used to fighting zombies on The Walking Dead, had been looking for a relaxing project when she read the script for The Boy. "It was a sort of undeniable like, I couldn't put the script down, so 'OK! I'm doing this. It scares the bejeezus out of me, but I'm doing it,'" she says. When Greta leaves her abusive boyfriend to take care of a young boy named Brahms, his disillusioned, aging parents reveal that their son really is just a creepy, pale doll that she is expected to care for while following a strict set of rules. When Brahms' parents leave for a vacation, she promptly ignores her list of rules and turns to the local town's grocer, Malcolm, to learn about the family's history — and get a little romance. Before you know it, odd things begin happening in the home, including Brahms moving to different locations in the house, which makes Greta begin to think that maybe he isn't just a doll after all.
Between Greta and The Walking Dead's Maggie, Cohan is familiar with characters being placed in no-win situations. So when I ask if she would have followed Greta's decision to stay and care for Brahms, she is quick to differentiate herself from this character. "No. No, I don't think I would have stayed. I think given her mental state and given the sort of history and past that she is running from — yes, she feels out of options," Cohan says. "But me, as Lauren, I'd probably hide in a nunnery before I'd go and stay in this house," she adds laughing. However, the actor does acknowledge that characters who make seemingly terrible decisions are one of the most appealing features of horror films. "[It] is so the fun of horror — you're just like, 'No! Bad idea! … OK, you're gonna do it anyway.'"
While Greta does some things that will make you want to yell at the screen, that doesn't mean she is unintelligent. Still, Cohan is understandably hesitant to call her a "strong female character" when I mention the term. "I don't like saying 'strong female character' versus anything else," she explains. "I just think that people make choices and sometimes they're good and sometimes they're bad, but they're always the choice that is made, and seeing the fallout and how people deal with it and the ultimate result is unpredictable and is the journey that we go on."
Since Season 2 of The Walking Dead, fans have watched Cohan's character Maggie make choices that have led to both good and bad outcomes. Though she confirmed that making the AMC zombie series is grueling, Cohan believes each project has its own challenges. One of the biggest hurdles for The Boy was making it believable that Brahms could possibly be alive. "It was a really, really good challenge because I think, like anything, the more concentrated and present I was, the more real he felt to me," she says. Cohan credits the movie's crew for helping by treating the doll like another character, but the believability of Brahms hinges on the audience believing Greta's motives. According to Cohan, she made her decision to care for him, "partly because she feels very threatened by the situation and out of options and also because what if he is real? What if this is the right choice?"
And unlike the ensemble setting of The Walking Dead, Cohan had much more alone time on screen portraying Greta. "The challenge really for this character in The Boy is that she is looking for somewhere safe to be, but once she's there she has no one to reliably confide in, in the beginning," she says. "She is on the move out of fear initially and so we see this character alone, losing her grip on reality."
Although you may not agree with every decision that Greta makes throughout The Boy (get out of the damn house, Greta!), Cohan brings her charming personality to the role, which makes this character one worth rooting for. When the horror film is released on Friday, Jan. 22, you'll be willing to follow Greta as she starts to lose her sanity — and you may even start doubting your own.
Images: STX Entertainment (3); Giphy