Interview With ‘Chucky’ Star Teo Briones, Who Talks Junior’s Shift From Good To Evil

**SPOILERS FOR CHUCKY**

When 16-year-old Teo Briones first auditioned for SYFY’s new Chucky series, the role of Junior Wheeler wasn’t the initial one he went for. But after learning about the character’s drastic shift from dating the most popular girl in school to committing patricide, he was hooked. The series, created by Don Mancini—the brains behind the Child’s Play franchise—recently wrapped up its first season, with a second one slated to air in 2022. It follows everyone’s favorite supernaturally possessed Good Guys doll as he wreaks havoc on the lives of four Hackensack, New Jersey teens: Junior, his cousin, Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur), his girlfriend, Lexy Cross (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and friend, Devon Evans (Björgvin Arnarson).

Throughout season one of Chucky, viewers witnessed Junior’s downward spiral. He was forced to live with his sculpture-building cousin after Chucky electrocuted Jake’s father (Devon Sawa: Final Destination 2000) to death, received endless pressure from his own father (also Sawa) to be a track star, and had a front seat view as his mother, Bree (Lexa Doig: Jason X 2001), crashed into the family car’s windshield after Chucky pushed her from a high window. This all culminated in Junior beating his father to death with Chucky, with whom he sang a dazed duet of “We Got The Beat” by the Go-Go’s while drenched in his dad’s blood.

On the heels of the season finale, PopHorror chatted with Briones about Junior’s shocking transition from good to evil, his early roots in acting, what it was like working with the OG Child’s Play stars, and the technical difficulties that sometimes came with having a doll as a co-star. Briones also revealed his favorite, yet admittedly disturbing, moment from the entire Chucky experience.

PopHorror: Before we get into Chucky, I’d love to learn more about your background in acting. I understand it’s something you’ve been doing for some time now?

Teo Briones: I’m in a family of very talented performers. My parents [Jon Jon Briones, Megan Briones] met on stage touring in the Broadway musical, Miss Saigon. My sister [Isa Briones] is an amazing actress and singer. She was in Star Trek: Picard. When I was 5 years-old, everyone was going on auditions every day and I was like, “When am I gonna start having auditions?” My parents said, “Alright, I guess it’s time.” My first audition actually, I booked, and then from there I was hooked.

PopHorror: I saw you’ve been in so many cool shows over the years, like Pretty Little Liars and Ratched.

Teo Briones: Ratched, I was actually fortunate to be in the show with my dad, which was really cool! He played Dr. Hanover.

PopHorror: That’s awesome! Can you walk me through how and when you got the role of Junior?

Teo Briones: It was around January/February of this year. I got an audition for Chucky, and I actually auditioned for Jake. Then I auditioned for Devon. Then I auditioned for Junior, and that’s when they realized, that’s it. That’s the one he was supposed to audition for in the first place. I had a meeting with Don, and he basically offered the job and also explained Junior’s arc and the development that he would go through as a character in this first season. Immediately from there, I was sold. I had also read the first episode’s script, and I was just in love with the show and the character and the writing.

PopHorror: I understand that you hadn’t seen any of the Child’s Play films. What made you decide to audition for the Chucky show?

Teo Briones: For auditioning, you don’t really decide. You just kind of audition for whatever comes in. My decision for taking the job, I didn’t take it because, “Oh, this is Chucky. That’s so cool.” I did it because I fell in love with the role and the show, the writing and everything in the first episode’s script, which is all I had read at that point, but it was really great. I was like, “Yeah, I have to do this.”

Teo Briones with Chucky and Devon Sawa

PopHorror: That doll has quite the diehard fanbase. Was there pressure coming in as a new person?

Teo Briones: It’s interesting. I didn’t really get the scope of the fanbase actually until after we had finished filming. Then we came back to L.A. and went to Beyond Fest, and there were all these people dressed in Chucky stuff. Once the show started coming out, I started getting a following on social media, and I realized how diehard all of these fans are. There’s so many of them, too!

PopHorror: What was it like filming with the OG stars like Jennifer Tilly and Alex Vincent (our interview)?

Teo Briones: It was great. They’ve been obviously in not just the business, but Chucky for so long, that they know how it goes. None of the new cast had ever worked with dolls like that before, so it was funny working with them finally and being used to it, because we all found it kind of annoying sometimes. And they’re just like, “Eh, whatever. You get used to it.” Especially people like Devon and Lexa, who played my parents. They’re not veterans to Chucky. They’re veterans to the business and acting and stuff. I learned so much from them and Jennifer and Fiona [Dourif]. They’re all just the sweetest people ever. Alex is just a really cool guy.

PopHorror: What about Don Mancini?

Teo Briones: He was just a delight to work with. On top of fully directing the first episode, he also helped all the different directors of all the rest of the episodes. It’s really rare to get a director that really understands what is trying to be created. He really understands exactly what he wants, and he really understands how he can get it out of his actors, not just his actors but the crew and everybody. He’s an amazing filmmaker.

PopHorror: He has a pretty sick mind to come up with the stuff that he does!

Teo Briones: You know, every genius does.

PopHorror: It seems the same with Jennifer and Fiona. They seem insane on camera but the nicest people in real life.

Teo Briones: They’re the sweetest people, but they’re so good at playing nutcases. It’s awesome to see them flip a switch from being the sweetest person ever to, obviously in Fiona’s case, playing Chucky. In Jennifer’s case, playing a psychotic woman. It was very fun to work with them.

Teo Briones with Chucky and Jennifer Tilly

PopHorror: Was it nice having three other co-stars around your age?

Teo Briones: Yeah, we all blended pretty well, and we all got along. I don’t often work with people my age. The majority of stuff I work on is adult stuff, and it’s the one kid there, and that’s usually me. But yeah, it’s nice to work on something with people my age.

PopHorror: What were your thoughts when you learned about Junior’s major character arc?

Teo Briones: Don basically told me everything that was gonna happen with Junior in our first meeting before anything was really signed and before I had officially gotten the role. From there, I just fell in love with the character, and I immediately knew exactly what I was going to do with this character. After he told me all of this, I thought back to one of the scenes from the first episode, the first script that I had read, and I was like, “Oh, that’s how I would play this scene.” I immediately just started thinking. It’s awesome to be able to play a character that can really challenge me as an actor, because there’s just such a crazy arc. He starts in one place and ends up in a completely… well, he ends up dead. He kills his dad having basically gone crazy, and it was definitely, by far, the coolest role I’ve ever played.

PopHorror: You played crazy so well! In the one scene with Junior and Andy Barclay [Alex Vincent] in the bathroom, I really thought you were going to attack him. The look on your face was terrifying. Was it fun to play crazy?

Teo Briones: Yeah! It’s very fun to play, and it’s actually a lot easier than you’d think. Maybe that’s something wrong with me, though? But that’s why I like being an actor. I like being something completely different than what I actually am.

PopHorror: Can you tell me what it was like killing your father?

Teo Briones: (laughs) Well, the build up to it was actually kind of difficult because I’m holding the doll up to Devon Sawa. Him and the doll are having an exchange, an interaction. But sometimes the doll doesn’t work super well, and the lines have to be at the exact place. This line has to be said right as Devon hits the doorway and stumbles out into the hall. This line has to be right as he hits the wall. But sometimes, I’d be there waiting for the doll to say its line, and Devon would also be waiting, and then the doll would say its line, and he’d be able to keep moving back.

Once the doll didn’t have to say anything anymore, I just got to start beating Devon to death. Then it got a lot easier, and it was also really fun because—that sounds not so good—but it was just really fun to be able to beat Devon Sawa to death! It was fun because, for the shots up at me where I’m just pummeling him, they obviously didn’t have him there. There was a pillow, so I was able to hit the pillow as hard as I possibly could, so it made it a lot easier to get more into the scene and believe it myself almost.

For the blood, there was this guy with a paintbrush with this fake, edible blood on it behind the camera just going like that (flicks) and it was getting in my ears and my mouth and my nose. It was not great. It didn’t taste too bad actually, which was good.

And there’s lots of different dolls that they have for different things. For the first shot where Chucky turns his head a full 180, that’s one doll. Then the doll where I’m holding it at him and his mouth is moving, that’s a different doll. Then the doll where I’m beating the shit out of Devon, that’s another doll that has no electronics in it. It’s just soft and able to be roughed around.

PopHorror: After Junior kills his dad, he sings “We Got The Beat” with Chucky. Who’s idea was that?

Teo Briones: It’s funny. The conversation for that started a couple months before we even started filming. I asked Don, “What is something that nobody knows about Junior? Something he hasn’t told anybody, just a secret thing that I can have in the back of my mind to be able to flesh out this character fully?” We went through a lot of different things. The idea has transformed a lot, but then it just morphed into this idea where I have this song that really hypes me up and it’s “We Got The Beat” by the Go-Go’s. You hear me singing it right before I’m about to get my operation in episode four, I believe, in the hospital bed. And then you hear me singing it again in a psychotic daze right after I kill my dad.

PopHorror: Since you never know in this franchise, I have to ask. Is Junior dead dead?

Teo Briones: (shrugs) I don’t know, you’ll have to see…

PopHorror: Can you share any details about Junior’s death scene on the finale?

Teo Briones: That scene was also very difficult to film, because I had to have the knife there in my chest, but I needed to hide it perfectly so it’s then revealed after I kill Chucky. I had to position the knife the right way and be holding Chucky down onto the table in the right way. Then I have to let him go, straighten my posture and reveal the knife, then look to Aly and fall down. It was actually a very complicated scene. For each shot, they had to have a different doll: one doll to rough around a little bit, and then for the Chucky close-up, they had to have the one that can move its mouth. Scenes like that where you’re really interacting with Chucky, they take a very long time. But it’s worth it in the end, because it looks really good.

PopHorror: Were you happy with that scene? Was there a part of you that wanted to see Junior hurt Lexy?

Teo Briones: I think it perfectly wraps up Junior’s arc. He saved Lexy, and then he went down with Chucky, which is sad, but he went down knowing he saved the girl he loved. He had killed his dad. There was no other way to really end that character better, in my opinion.

From left: Björgvin Arnarson, Zackary Arthur, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Teo Briones

PopHorror: The tension had been building in Junior’s life for some time. What do you think was his breaking point?

Teo Briones: Definitely his mom’s death. For sure, 100 percent. Watching it happen and then her landing on the car, I think most people would be traumatized.

PopHorror: Chucky has gotten largely good reviews. How does that feel?

Teo Briones: It’s amazing to see the show that we put so much into for six months pay off and for everyone to love it as much as they do. It’s been super successful. It’s been one of USA and SYFY’s biggest shows in a while. It had the third biggest opening of any show on television this year only behind The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. I’m definitely happy with how it’s being received and the success it’s having. I’m just very grateful.

PopHorror: Reflecting on your Chucky experience as a whole, do you have a particularly favorite moment?

Teo Briones: Oh, that’s tough. Favorite moment… I think it was killing my dad! Devon and I actually bonded a lot while filming that scene funnily enough while I was killing him off and giving him his second death in the season. We spent a lot of time just staring at each other waiting for the doll to say its thing. We were just talking a lot. It was also the culmination of everything that Junior’s character was building up to. It was the breaking point where he finally loses it.

PopHorror: Is there anything else upcoming for you that fans can look forward to?

Teo Briones: (shrugs again, smiles) I don’t know… stay tuned.

About Samantha Bambino

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