When the first season of Slasher (The Executioner) premiered on the Chiller channel back in 2016, I binged the entire series in one day. It was that good. It was brutal, with a fascinating storyline and remarkable acting. I was hooked. When Chiller folded and faded from existence, there was chatter about what would happen to Slasher. Thanks to Netflix, the series found a new home on the streaming service, and we were gifted with two more seasons, 2017’s Guilty Party, and 2019’s Solstice. Then there was another shift, and in 2021, Flesh and Blood (starring an impeccable David Cornenberg) premiered on Shudder. Now in 2023, Ripper is here. It’s beyond brutal and bloody and is a solid entry for the anthology series. A period piece loosely centered around Jack the Ripper, Ripper promises to bring us all the goods that made me love all the seasons that came before.
To celebrate the release of Ripper on Shudder, I attended a roundtable interview via Zoom with series creator and writer Aaron Martin (Degrassi: The Next Generation), showrunner and writer Ian Carpenter (Terror Train – 2022), and stars Paula Brancati (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and Gabriel Darku (Killer Prom – 2020), and we discussed what keeps them coming back, how the next subject is selected, and their building their characters.
PopHorror: The two episodes of Slasher: Ripper that I watched blew my mind so I’m super excited to speak with you all. My first question is for Paula and Gabriel. Paula, you’ve been in every season of Slasher, and Gabriel you were also in Solstice. What made you initially say yes, and what keeps you coming back?
Paula Brancati: Well, what initially made me say yes – I did just a very brief pop-in in season one – and that was my friend Aaron Martin calling me and saying, “Would you come and play a character named after our friend and colleague, Jana Sinyor?” And I said, “Hell yes!” So that was just so much fun, and I did not anticipate that it would grow into leading roles in the following years. I think for me, it’s very exciting to come work with people you really admire, that are your friends that you also love the work of. That’s an absolute pleasure no matter what job you’re doing in this life, but wow! It’s fun to be doing that and making TV and film for a living. And to play characters that are really rich and really developed. I think Aaron and write such incredible characters every single season. I’ve said this before, but I think it’s such a pleasure to play women that aren’t used in any sort of trope in terms of the genre. I’m always surprised when I turn the page. It’s a dream job in so many ways so it’s a very easy “yes” for me.
Gabriel Darku: For me, I grew up a huge fan of horror and scary movies, and when I started acting it was right away on the bucket list that I really want to do a horror piece, something scary. When I got the audition, I remember doing the audition with Ian and Adam (Solstice director MacDonald) and having to do the screen test at the end of the audition, which I just thought was so much fun. I was thinking at that moment that I hope I get the job because doing scenes like that? I never get to do that. That was a huge attraction for me. And then actually getting the job and reading the scripts, I realized the fantastic writing that’s in there. Like Paula said, the characters are so great. The idea of coming back and with it being an anthology, getting to do a different story every season, getting to play different characters every season, is an actor’s dream. That’s so much fun. So that alone is enough to make me intrigued to say yes. And then you add on the fact that this is the same group of people coming back, it’s just building such camaraderie. It’s like a melting pot of great people, great passion, and it makes for such a great work environment. We get to set for season five and we all know how each other work and how our rhythms go, and so we just bend and we get right into it rather than needing to take that time to build up that camaraderie. It’s already there. It just lends itself for a great process, and I’ll always say yes at this point.
PopHorror: This question is for Aaron and Ian. I just want to throw out that I’m a huge fan of Degrassi, and Being Erica, so it’s really awesome to see so many familiar faces throughout the whole series. What I like about Slasher is that each season is a different time, story, and characters. How do you select the next season’s focus?
Aaron Martin: There’s two ways. The one way is, in terms of what’s interesting to us in the world currently and horror is almost like a treatise on what’s going on in the culture. And the other thing that we get really excited about is what touchstones that we really want to hit. Like in season four, we were talking about how much we loved the look of Douglas Sirk movies and we were like what if we made that the look of the season? And then obviously we’re inspired by different horror movies and different touchstones within the genre.
Ian Carpenter: I think sometimes the historical stuff, obviously like with this one – I know this from my reading of Victorian times – it was like the time of secrets, right? There was such a heightened public moral code, but it was the time where prostitution was most rampant. The people going to the prostitutes were the ones that were probably most proselytizing about mortality and church and all of that. You can see that already in the episodes that you guys have seen. That’s exciting for us and leads to the theme of secrets that’s all the way through there, and being honest and living honestly. The two actors that we have here today, their characters are doing that to varying degrees. It starts as Aaron says, and then it starts to organically unfold.
PopHorror: Paula and Gabriel, was there anything that you were adamant about bringing to your character in Ripper?
Gabriel Darku: For me, I was just adamant about making sure that this guy could be easily accessible to the audience, if that makes sense, because of where we are now, obviously in the world. With it being a period piece, I didn’t want my focus to be… He is a detective first of all, so right away that’s not exactly of the class of people who dress in a fancy way and walk and talk in a more uppity way. I wanted my focus to just be on his emotionality and the way he engages with other human beings. I think just making sure that I kept it very grounded in that way makes him stand out as someone that the audience is really going to care for, in contrast to a lot of the characters that we’re seeing throughout the season. I think I was having that mindset of wanting to come into it being like, I want the audience to relate a lot to this person, I want them to care a lot for this person. I think that was something that was very important for me to bring to the table.
Paula Brancati: Then on the other end of the spectrum… Gabe, your character is such a great high and moral center, and Gabe’s so good in the show everyone. Viviana’s on the other side of the moral compass. I think for me, it was very important to always feel that there is a deep, rich trove of secrets that a character has, especially when a character is doing some really awful things. She does some really horrible things. I talked with Adam and Ian about what some of those reasons might be. I talked a lot about her history and I thought about what her childhood might have been like. She has such a temper. She has a very unbridled way of living in the world, and she’s in a place of complete desperation. I rarely play people who are rich, and she’s rich but has lost all that money, so it was important for me to bring what I see rich men do, which is speaking slowly and clearly with a lot of diction. Actually, Logan Roy was a big reference to me to be really honest. Because I find women sometimes, myself included, speak quickly because we think they might get bored or something and I thought it might be fun to talk like somebody who thinks everyone is going to hang on their every word. That was really important to me to kind of infuse.
Thank you so much to Aaron, Ian, Paula, and Gabriel for taking the time to speak with us. Slasher: Ripper is currently streaming on Shudder, with new episodes every Thursday!