Interview With Actor John Gallagher, Jr. Of ‘Come Play’

One of my favorite horror movies is 2016’s Hush. Directed by Mike Flanagan, Hush is about a deaf woman terrorized by a man in a mask. John Gallagher, Jr. is that man in a mask, and he’s terrifying. Because of my love of Hush, I’m so excited to see John popping up more and more in new horror movies. Most recently, he plays the father of a young boy whose family is tormented by a creature who uses his son’s smartphone to gain access to their world in Jacob Chase’s Come Play. I caught up with John and we discussed his love the genre, what he has coming up, and of course, horror movies.

PopHorror: Hi John! How are you?

John Gallagher, Jr.: I’m good. How are you?

PopHorror: I’m great, thank you! Come Play is so good. Face recognition apps freak me out!

John Gallagher, Jr.: Oh, yeah!

PopHorror: Somebody finally put this in something!

John Gallagher, Jr.: Totally! It’s very well utilized for a good scare in the film.

PopHorror: Yes, I agree. What was it about Come Play that made you want to be a part of it?

John Gallagher, Jr.: I was really excited to get to meet the writer and director, Jacob Chase. I thought he was a really exciting new voice as a filmmaker, particularly in the horror genre. I thought he had written a really interesting, modern horror film where he really—instead of shying away from technology—he really leaned into it in a way I hadn’t really quite seen before. And then I found out that he was going to be using predominantly practical special effects, which is something that doesn’t happen very much these days. It felt like a kind of throwback film in a way to the Amblin ’80s sci-fi horror films of my youth, which I have a lot of nostalgic love for. So, it was just a bunch of factors that kept piling up that got me excited to do the film.

PopHorror: Awesome! I agree that practical effects are always a plus. It’s something I always look for.

John Gallagher, Jr.: Oh, yeah. Same.

PopHorror: That was pretty terrifying for a child. I wouldn’t call it a make believe friend. Did you have something like that growing up? Something that terrified you that no one else could see?

John Gallagher, Jr.: I didn’t have one lone imaginary friend, but I kind of lived in an imaginary world in my head. I would make up stories and act them out in the backyard and play a bunch of different characters. I would pretend I was starring in my own film. I would make scary movies in my mind sometimes and absolutely freak myself out in the process. But thankfully, none of those imaginary creations became real and came after me like they do in the film.

PopHorror: That’s always good! You’re no stranger to horror. You did The Belko Experiment, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and then my personal favorites, Underwater and Hush.

John Gallagher, Jr.: Oh, thanks!

PopHorror: Hush is the number one movie that I always recommend to someone who is looking for a movie to watch on Netflix.

John Gallagher Jr in Hush.

John Gallagher, Jr.: Oh, thanks! I love that.

PopHorror: It’s so good! I want to know what draws you to horror.

John Gallagher, Jr.: I love the genre. I’m a fan and have been since I was a youngster. I love what you can do thematically with horror. I feel like, in a weird way, horror is a more flexible genre than even your kitchen sink drama or average comedy. I just think that you can fit so much thematically and tonally into horror movies to tell what will ultimately end up being universal stories. I think that if you’re lucky, a scary movie ends up being so much more than what it’s about on paper.

You have something like The Belko Experiment. Okay, it’s about a kill or be killed battle royale. No, it’s actually about morality and doing the right thing and how hard it can be to do the right thing. And then you have something like Come Play that’s about a monster that lives in a little boy’s smartphone, but it’s actually about loneliness and technology and the kind of disillusion of the family unit. I love that you can tell these big-hearted stories under the guise of a simple scary fairy tale.

I just look for the good scripts. That’s the kind of thing that I love. What keeps me reading, what haven’t I seen before, how are they playing with the art form, how are they turning the genre on its head? And I look for exciting filmmakers and getting to work with people like Jacob Chase and Mike Flanagan and Will Eubank, who did Underwater. I look for the next wave of who I feel like are going to be the filmmakers we still talk about years from now when we talk about horror.

PopHorror: Horror allows us to tap into that side that I think we’re sometimes scared to tap into, and I like that. 

John Gallagher, Jr.: Absolutely. Fear is such a daily part of our lives, and I feel like exploring it can be really cathartic for people.

PopHorror: Yes, and sometimes it’s fun to tap into that fear a little bit. I know that Covid has stalled a lot of things, and a lot of projects have been cancelled. But is there anything that you’re currently working on or have coming up?

John Gallagher, Jr.: You know, it’s funny. I was just thinking about this today, because I’m doing some press for Come Play and it comes out Friday. And I thought to myself, “Oh, my gosh. On Friday, I will have a completely clean slate.” I don’t have anything in post-production or pre-production as of next week. I’m supposed to do a play next summer at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in the Bay area outside of San Francisco. That’s slated to happen, but theaters are still closed. We don’t know if live performance is going to come back by next summer. I hope so, but we don’t really know. I’m going to be a totally free agent as of next week with nothing on the docket.

I’ve been writing a lot. That’s one of the ways I’ve been taking advantage of the pandemic. I’ve been working on some original screenplays and kind of focusing a lot of my energies on those, because obviously now is the time to do that kind of stuff. I’m just stuck at home with nothing to do.

PopHorror: I’ve been hearing that a lot lately. Having a clean slate is great. Gives you that time to regroup and find the next thing. And about live performances… I read that Broadway is indefinitely closed. You know, for such large productions to close down that the smaller ones are probably faring even worse.

John Gallagher, Jr.: Absolutely. It’s a tough time. It’s so sad. I live in New York, and it’s such a huge part of the city. It makes up a ton of revenue. It employs thousands of people and not just the actors. So it’s hard. It’s a hard pill to swallow to ride by the theater district in New York City and just see all of these closed theaters. It’s heartbreaking, really. I hope that it comes back soon, because it’s an integral part of the city.

PopHorror: Not to mention the tourism that it promotes, too.

John Gallagher, Jr.: Huge! Yeah. 

PopHorror: One last question for you, John. What is your favorite scary movie?

John Gallagher, Jr.: My favorite scary movie—probably of all time—I’d have to say The Exorcist. It’s such a masterpiece to me because I almost don’t think of it as a horror movie. I feel like it starts off as a family drama that descends into actual hell.

Thank you so much to John for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to catch Come Play, in theaters now.

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, book worm, foodie, dog mommy.

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