Interview With Nicky Whelan, Star Of ‘Maneater’

These days, shark movies are a dime a dozen with very little setting one apart from another. So it’s always nice to come across one that is a bloody fun time. Maneater, directed by Justin Lee, is just that, a bloody fun horror movie that mixes the gore with a bit of comedy. I am not a fan of CGI blood, so I really appreciated the few moments of practical effects sprinkled throughout the film. To celebrate the release of Maneater, I chatted with stary Nicky Whelan about being asked to be in a shark film, preparing for her role, how she really feels about horror, and more!


PopHorror: Maneater was a lot of fun! While watching it, I remembered you from Franklin & Bash! So I’m super excited to speak with you.

Nicky Whelan: Oh, yay! I ran into Breckin Meyer the other night!

PopHorror: That’s awesome! That was one of my favorite shows back when it was on.

Nicky Whelan: Aw, thank you, love! I forget about that project. It was early on in my career and surrounded by great people. It was a great show, plus Malcolm McDowell, who I ended up working again with on Halloween II for Rob Zombie. So fun.

PopHorror: What intrigued you about Maneater and made you want to be a part of the project?

Nicky Whelan: The project came across me. I had worked with these guys before. There’s a big following in this world for shark movies. Everyone has their take and version of them, and people love a good shark movie, whether it’s completely ridiculous or completely realistic. There’s just this thing with them, and I got asked to do one. I was like, “In my career, I am going to do a shark movie, and get on board with this, and embrace it.” It was cool, and the location didn’t suck. It was Hawaii, and I was like, “Okay! Let’s do this, guys!” It was just an awesome group of people, a very challenging project. It was something I wanted to do, and it kicked my ass in a good way. I had a blast filming it.

PopHorror: You’re absolutely right. Shark movies seem to be the big thing right now, whether they’re good or bad. Being asked to do a shark movie means you’ve made it! That’s how I would think about it.

Nicky Whelan: Right? I know, it’s so funny. It’s like, here we go, let’s do it!

PopHorror: With this being filmed mostly outside and looking to be pretty physically demanding, how did you prepare for your role?

Nicky Whelan: Well, I think I could have prepared a little better, to be honest with you. I consider myself to be a good swimmer and relatively fit, but we were working at this little beach off the side of the airport in Hawaii, and it was stinking hot every day. And then it would thunderstorm. It was really calm water, and it would become super choppy. I didn’t know what was at my feet half the time. I can swim, but noooo. When I got out there, I was like, “ Oh, my goodness. I am out of breath,” and I had to ask for breaks, and I would collapse on the sound. It doesn’t look like it, and I appreciate you saying that, because it was physically demanding for all of us.

We had a mechanical shark, which the puppeteers would have to lug into the water in rough conditions. Camera crews standing in the water for hours and hours, not knowing what’s at their feet. Me, jumping around and gasping for air, and screaming and diving in the water with all the other cast, and the cast jumping in the mechanical shark’s mouth, blood in the water, and timing, and wind. It was insane, and we did this in 18 days with a very small budget. Independent filmmaking. We went old school style, so it was really challenging for everybody, but that’s why I was so proud for it to be done. At the end, I was like, “Okay, we did this.” We went home pretty satisfied that we had made it happen considering the conditions.

PopHorror: Did you say 18 days?

Nicky Whelan: Eighteen days, yeah.

PopHorror: Wow! That’s not a lot of time at all. And you said a mechanical shark. I guess I’m a little surprised with that because I thought it was CGI.

Nicky Whelan: You’re right, love. It was CGI. So half of the movie is CGI, and they had to use CGI for part of it. But there’s portions of the movie where a mechanical shark was used.

PopHorror: Oh wow!

Nicky Whelan: Yeah, which is kind of cool. Justin [Lee], our director, had been told not to do it, like, “Don’t do a mechanical shark. It’s too hard!” But Justin was like, “I’ve got to try this.” I think he wanted to bring this realness, this real artsy-crafty kind of old school filmmaking to it. So we did try to use a mechanical shark throughout the movie, and there are a few parts where you see it. It’s cool. It’s hard work, but we really appreciated it. There’s a photo I’ve got of me and the shark on the beach, and it’s crazy how real it looks. These guys did an incredible job in making the shark.

PopHorror: This is not your first foray into horror. You had mentioned Halloween II. Would you consider yourself a horror fan?

Nicky Whelan: I would consider myself an absolute chicken. I’m so scared of horror movies. I’ve done Tragedy Girls and some other horror movies, and I’ve been killed off and had my throat cut, and I’ve been on sets like this. I really appreciate horror, the whole genre of it. I love classic horror movies. My favorite is House of 1000 Corpses by Rob Zombie, who I’m a huge fan of. I do love it, but it’s really scary being in these damn movies. Like, it’s no joke. It’s gut-wrenching filming these movies and watching people get shredded, and screaming, and crying. It takes the wind out of your sails. Even if I know how a horror movie’s been filmed, if you sit me in the theater in front of one, I am jumping out of my seat. I’m having a conniption fit. I still get really scared of these movies. No joke. So it’s good being an actor and still being affected by it. Good times.

Nicky Whelan in Tragedy Girls.

PopHorror: It’s funny. I find that the ones that are scared of them and can’t watch them are the ones that make some of the best ones. They find themselves in more horror movies than they thought they would be. 

Nicky Whelan: It’s true! Oh my goodness, how did I… ? I get some scripts sent to me, and I’m like, “Of course,it got sent to me.” I am Little Miss Comedy who just wants to be happy, and bright, and cheerful, and I get sent these scripts. I’m like, “Alright, the universe is wanting me to plow myself into these for whatever reason. Let’s give it a crack.” Here we go!

PopHorror: Heck yeah! I have one last question for you, and I think you just said it was House of 1000 Corpses, but my last question is what is your favorite scary movie?

Nicky Whelan: That’s more horror, and that did scare me. It’s more of a horror movie. When I think of scary movies that truly scared me, things like The Conjuring, The Omen—the original—those scared the shit out of me.

Thank you so much, Nicky, for taking the time to speak with us. You can catch Maneater on digital and VOD now!

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, dog mommy, book worm, EIC of PopHorror.

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