Laurie Holden in Pyewacket

Laurie Holden talks Pyewacket and Fear the Walking Dead

Contributed by
Mar 23, 2018

Pyewacket is the name of a witch's familiar from England in 1644. Matthew Hopkins, the "witchfinder general," claims that he heard a witches' coven near his house and arrested one of the women named. After torturing her for four days, she finally revealed the names of her familiars. Pyewacket was one of her familiars that took the form of an imp.

Pyewacket is the new film from indie director Adam MacDonald. In it, a high school kid, Leah, and her mother try to cope with life after Leah's father dies. Mom isn't handling it very well, and in order to get a fresh start, she and Leah move to a house in the woods. Leah doesn't take kindly to that, and places a witch's curse on her mother.

Laurie Holden, best known for her roles as Andrea on The Walking Dead and Marita Covarrubias on The X-Files, plays the troubled mother in Pyewacket. SYFY WIRE spoke to her about the role, bonding with on-screen daughter Nicole Muñoz, and what makes a woman in a horror film a victim versus a survivor. And don't think we didn't ask about the chances of her appearing on Fear the Walking Dead!

Pyewacket movie poster

Tell me a little bit about Pyewacket. How did you get the role?

Laurie Holden: I was at the Toronto Film Festival and Adam MacDonald approached me. He was very effusive and very sweet. He said he had this script that he had written and was directing and there was no one he wanted to play the role other than me. I was blown away by his passion and enthusiasm. I went home and watched Backcountry [Adam's first film], because I wanted to get a sense of him as a filmmaker. I was knocked out. It is absolutely wonderful. What I loved about it was that it was extremely suspenseful, and I loved that he stayed away from any and every cliche. His filmmaking is very honest. After that, I knew he was a visionary. I read the script, fell in love with the story, the character, and signed up.

What was it about the character of Mrs. Reyes that drew you to her?

I loved how honest the character was written. She was very authentic, very real. It's a woman who has lost her husband, she was incapacitated by her grief. She is in a depression, hitting the bottle hard, not her best self. I loved that this character had a real journey, wanting to change her narrative and be a better person. Her move to the countryside with her daughter was her way of taking the bull by the horns and refusing to be victimized by her own life, as she had been before.

Unfortunately, the teenage daughter, beautifully played by Nicole Munoz, had her own grief. She was mixing with the "bad crowd" and smoking pot, and getting involved with a lot of this occult nonsense. Unfortunately, she viewed the move as a form of treason or emotional abuse. But I think that, because both of these characters have such distinctive points of view and needs and wants and desires, there was this incredible conflict. It's the conflict of this mother/daughter relationship that really... Nicole and I were both on fire about telling this story. It was so real!

Your relationship with Nicole in the film felt real. How did you go about forging that relationship with her?

We spent a bit of time together before we started shooting, and we were pretty inseparable. She is an incredible human. We just had fun. We hung out all the time. We talked about the script, but then we just kind of got to know each other as people. If you are telling a story like this, I think it is important that there is an effortlessness to it. We spent so much time together, and there was such a trust that we were really able to breathe.

Do you consider this more a tale about witchcraft or a coming-of-age tale that happens to involve witchcraft?

I think it's a dark fairytale that has some horror elements to it. I'm attracted to material based on themes and ideas. I loved the message of this film, which was: "Be careful what you wish for, because someone might be listening." I really do believe that we as human beings have the power to manifest things, good and bad. In this particular movie, my daughter, in her anger, she unleashes something that she can't contain. I'm not going to spoil the movie... but there are consequences.

There always are, when dabbling with the dark arts.

Or even just negativity, for that matter! There's that philosophy that you become what you think about the most, but you also attract what you think about the most. It's like The Secret: Your thoughts really do become a reality. Her anger towards her mother does create something real. I like the message of that, which is, "Be mindful." We all need to be mindful, especially in this era of social media and how the world is kind of going insane.

You have a good history of horror and sci-fi projects on your resume. What is the draw of the genre for you?

Both of those genres have been really good to me. I don't know how it came about, but I'm ever grateful. To be honest, I think that what has attracted me to the different movies and television shows I have done has been the story and the character. They may have horrific elements or sci-fi elements, but at the end of the day... Stephen King is as good as it gets. The Robert Kirkman comic book... that's prolific. Stories that are universal, that people relate to. Characters that are strong leaders who are trying to survive, who are honest, authentic — but flawed, but doing the best that they can. It's a mixture of a lot of things. They just happen to have a backdrop of a lot of really cool stuff going on.

In those projects, you never seem to fall into that "final girl" role. You don't play the victim. Is that a specific choice, or do you think that directors know you just aren't "that kind of girl"?

I'm interested in telling stories about survivors. There are two ways of looking at it. I've died in like, seven or eight projects, so you could say I've been victimized. But I don't look at it that way, because a lot of the characters I've played are women who are fighting for something. They are noble and trying to be better. They are trying to make things better for the people around them. And if they die, it was worth it. It sounds like you see it the way I see it: It's whatever side of the coin you look at. Yeah, they've been victimized because they've died, but I also think they are heroic survivors because their lives meant something.

Absolutely. Maybe it's because I am a female who covers the horror genre, but I never saw any of your characters as weak for dying for a cause. I don't think many people — many women — see it that way.

Good! That's the recurring theme. I'm attracted to noble characters. This business, it's a love affair. I fall in love with characters, but the filmmakers have to fall in love with me. When it's copacetic, then it's gold and it works. It has to be a mutual love-fest. I may love a character in a script, but I may not be their vision; or I may be their vision but for some reason I didn't resonate. It's got to be the perfect happenstance of circumstances that make it work. I feel like I have been pretty blessed so far... but I ain't done yet!

I hate to ask this, but is there any chance that Andrea will return on Fear the Walking Dead?

I think it would be super-cool if she did! I would love it if she did. I love Scott Gimple, and I know he's overseeing that. There's a lot of story that I would have liked to be a part of, in terms of the narrative, that character, and the world in general.