Auli’i Cravalho, Riele Downs, Asher Angel and Chosen Jacobs are ready to show complex YA characters in 20th Century Studios’ upcoming supernatural teen comedy Darby and the Dead.
In an interview with Shadow and Act’s Managing Editor Trey Mangum, the cast and director Silas Howard talked about what it was like getting into character and portraying a story that riffs on teen classics like Clueless, Heathers and Mean Girls.
Downs said that playing Darby was able to bring out things she’d learned from other acting jobs, including her role on Nickelodeon comedy Henry Danger.
“Darby has so many different aspects to her. She has a bit of Charlotte from Henry Danger. They’re both smart, a little bit of a no-nonsense attitude, it’s there,” she said. “I feel like in all the characters I played in the past, there’s something there I can take away from them that was [in] this character. [It was] part of why I wanted to play her because she is so nuanced and has so many transformations and sides of her that you see in this film.”
Cravalho, who plays Capri, said that she couldn’t play the character if she was just going to be a standard mean girl character.
“I was grateful that she had a journey. That was something that was really important for me. I have to like a character in order for me to play her. It’s just the only way it works for me, ’cause if I can’t connect to her, then I’m simply not her. I can’t put from my well of experience and emotion and I don’t feel I’ll do the character justice,” she said. “Talking to [director Silas Howard] and having our little writing sessions where he was very collaborative and we were able to change lines to fit our characters better.”
“Yes, we had our north stars of Clueless and Mean Girls and Heathers, but I didn’t want Capri to be a mean girl. That feels a little old and outdated, to be honest, to imagine women pit against other women,” she continued. “We already have Capri being head cheerleader and having the popular boyfriend, but this film centers around friendship and female friendship and specifically Darby and Capri who seem polar opposites in the beginning of our film but they are truly both very judgmental and neither one of them have had an honest conversation about the death of Darby’s mom since it happened and it’s changed the both of them. I got to learn something new about myself through Capri and I’m grateful for it.”
Darby and the Dead stars Downs as the titular character, who develops the ability to see ghosts after a near-death experience. The ability eventually brings her closer to head cheerleader Capri more than she would expect. According to the official description:
After suffering a near-death experience as a young girl, Darby Harper (Downs) gains the ability to see dead people. As a result, she becomes introverted and shut off from her high school peers and prefers to spend time counseling lonely spirits who have unfinished business on earth. But all that changes when Capri (Cravalho), the Queen Bee of the school’s most exclusive clique, unexpectedly dies in a freak hair straightening accident, resulting in the obvious cancellation of her upcoming “Sweet 17.” Capri, however, pleads with Darby from the other side to intervene and convince Capri’s friends to proceed with the party as planned. In order to appease the wrath of the undead diva, Darby must emerge from her self-imposed exile and reinvent herself — which along the way allows her to find new joy back in the land of the living.
Darby and the Dead comes to Hulu, Star+ (Latin America) and Disney+ under the Star banner (other territories) on Dec. 2.
Watch the interviews below: