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‘They/Them’ Director ‘Always Bothered’ by LGBTQ+ Representation in Horror

They/Them director John Logan was “always bothered” by how LGBTQ+ people were depicted in horror films, so he decided to change things, he told Newsweek.

The slasher film follows a group of LGBTQ+ teens forced to go to a gay conversion camp led by Kevin Bacon‘s Owen Whistler, who is more menacing than first meets the eye.

Logan spoke to Newsweek along with lead star Theo Germaine, who portrays nonbinary transgender teen Jordan, and they talked about much they appreciated the “beautiful mix of scary and empowerment” in their film.

Subverting the Slasher Movie Tropes

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Kevin Bacon as Owen Whistler in “They/Them.”
Josh Stringer/Blumhouse

Logan reflected on making a horror film that would be seen as empowering to the LGBTQ+ community. “I love horror movies, I grew up on horror movies and when I was growing up queer characters were mostly nonexistent, and when they did exist they were victims or killers, or jokes,” he said.

“And that always bothered me, so I wanted to write something [where] the queer characters were the heroes, were the protagonists of the piece, and the slasher movie genre is something I adore, and I thought to use those tropes in a really interesting way and then subvert them would make an interesting piece of cinema,” Logan said.

Speaking of the appeal of a film like They/Them, Germaine said: “It’s this beautiful mix of scary and empowerment, and it kind of also serves as, like, this historical document, and you can tell that it’s written by someone who is deeply invested in the genre and exploring and also is very interested in subverting all of these tropes.”

Germaine added: “There were so many aspects of the script, the filming process, and the whole thing that were just exciting and empowering and also challenging, and I really had to learn how to trust myself as an actor in a new way that I realized that I hadn’t been letting myself do yet.

“And I actually also learned something from the character that I played very specifically. I left [the] set and left that project feeling so much more empowered to really be, like, ‘Hey, these are my pronouns, this is who I am,’ and I didn’t realize that there were still some places that I wasn’t feeling confident about that, you know?

“And that just shows that art can teach us and it also can teach you if you’re directly involved in it. Yeah, gosh, it was a really positive experience.”

On the ‘Alchemical’ Acting of Kevin Bacon

Bacon’s Owen proves a tough adversary for Jordan and the teen’s friends, especially since, at first, Owen appears to have some compassion for the teens in his care, before things take a darker turn.

Of casting the Footloose star, Logan said: “It’s very rare that I actually write things with actors in mind, but when I sat down to start writing They/Them and I started writing Owen Whistler, Kevin just kept going into my head. He kept popping in because Kevin has that sort of alchemic ability to go from so charming to so frightening almost instantaneously.

“And that’s what the character does when you first meet Owen. He’s so reasonable, he’s using all the woke language, it’s like you have nothing to be scared of, and by the end of the movie he’s this horrific monster.

“So I wrote it with Kevin bouncing through my head, and thank goodness he read the script [and] really liked it, really liked what the movie was saying about queer empowerment. And the rest was history.”

Germaine was particularly impressed with Bacon on set, not only because the younger actor grew up watching him in films like Footloose and Hollow Man but because of the way he approached his work.

“He was really relaxed and chill, and also serious and down to business on set. I really liked watching the way that he got into his character and how he prepped,” Germaine said. “Like, one day, we were doing a really intense scene and he literally just dropped on the ground and started doing push-ups to just get his heart rate up and get him in the zone, and I loved how he just did whatever he needed to do to get into character.

“But he had really good boundaries around everything, you know, and I also really appreciated what [Logan] said about how he has this alchemical ability to just kind of change.

“Getting to watch that live in front of you, it just made me feel awestruck, and I had to remind myself to stay in it sometimes because I was just so excited to be learning from him. And being across from him like this was just a really big deal, and I had a really positive experience with it.”

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The cast of the horror film “They/Them,” which is about a group of LGBTQ+ teens forced to go to a gay conversion camp.

Making Sure the Cast Felt Safe in a Triggering Environment

Given the film is set in a gay conversion camp, there are certain terms and remarks made that will be triggering to some viewers, particularly things said to Jordan and transgender woman Alexandra (Quei Tann).

For Logan, it was important to make sure that the cast felt safe in that environment, and Germaine described what the experience was like on set.

“When you really, really get into it and you’re really in character and you’re dealing with the subject material, st is going to come up, and it definitely did,” Germaine said.

“I’m not 17, but…when I was getting into the character and thinking about what is this person’s psychology, where are they at right now in their psychosocial development, that obviously made me think about what it was like when I was that age, and a lot of stuff that was really intense came up, and there’s a lot of things that I was reconciling with live as I was working on the film.

“And just also trying to have good boundaries around everything, so as to not get consumed by how horrific conversion therapy topics and ideas are.

“But Scott Turner Schofield, who is an executive producer, was on set, and he was really, really amazing, and also John too. When we were working together, I felt very held by the supportive things that you were saying, like, ‘You’re safe, you can get into this, this stuff isn’t real, trust that you can go there.'”

Germaine went on: “It was challenging…. I had a very dysfunctional background growing up, and there’s a lot of statements that are in the film—with different characters, not just with Jordan—that I’ve dealt with. And the therapy scenes, specifically, people have said those things directly to my face, and that was part of the trauma that I experienced growing up.

“But I felt very held by everybody on set. I felt like I really was able to play and be safe and allow myself to open up and deal with these really difficult topics. And also the cast was also really amazing, and everybody supported each other, and we all hung out and bonded.

“I felt like everybody was really there for each other, and it was just good feelings all around. I had such a great experience overall.”

Logan said: “From a directing standpoint, your job is to make the actor feel safe, period…. I would create whatever space individual actors needed to do that, you know. There’s so many on-set pictures of me with my arm around [Germaine], walking away, [saying,] ‘Take your time, read it, we’ll get there together, you know.’

“And so [it was] the same with all the actors. You just want to give them a chance to succeed, and [so you do] whatever that takes, whatever that environment is. Let’s play some music and listen to it, let’s just be quiet for a second, whatever.”

Germaine added: “Yeah, and we are in an industry where everybody’s like, ‘Fast, fast,’ like, ‘Get the tape, do this thing.’ So to actually work with someone who is like, ‘No, seriously, we’re taking our time with this’ is like a dream, seriously.”

They/Them is out on Peacock now.

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