Ashley Rickards is best known for playing the endlessly awkward Jenna on, well, "Awkward," but there's nothing particularly gauche about her new movie "At the Devil's Door" -- because it's absolutely terrifying.
In the film, Rickards plays a girl (her name is not revealed immediately, and we wouldn't want to spoil the surprise) who becomes possessed by an evil, malevolent spirit who wears her innocent body like a meat suit. It's terrifying -- and also features great performances by Naya Rivera and Catalina Sandino Moreno -- but it's also a relatively meditative film about home and family, which is what attracted Rickards to the project in the first place.
"[Director Nicholas McCarthy] takes a genre film and moves it beyond just being a genre film," Rickards told MTV News over the phone. "It's a story. It's about a girl. It's about a family. It's about something; it's not just blood, guts, and boobs."
However, the movie does include the old-fashioned horror trope of a possessed girl contorting her body in crazy, impossible positions, and Rickards was more than happy to tell us how she studied for this daunting task.
"I actually tried to watch... I think it was the third episode of 'American Horror Story: Asylum' and it was too creepy," she explained. "So we all had to turn it off, my friends and I. My approach was -- and if someone knows the answer to this question, you should probably not be their friend anymore -- alright, what does it feel like to not be in your own skin? To literally know that someone is wearing you like a bag of skin? Having no control, but a slight consciousness of what's going on, and knowing what you're about to do with these [demonic] overthrows?"
Rickards does a great job answering these questions onscreen, but the actress also pointed out that -- during the really crazy contortion scenes -- she had some help.
"It's so interesting to see the way that [body contortion] stuff works -- all harnesses and strings and everything," Rickards said. "Stunt doubles are like, 'You just need to learn how to fall safely.' I'm like, 'I don't care what you tell me. Every time I try to do what you're doing, even if you guide me through it, it still hurts.' There’s nothing safe about it. Especially wiggling around like that. I was like, 'I'm going to get this [stunt double] a chiropractor and a Burke Williams massage.' I was worried!"
Luckily, Rickards' concerns were relatively unfounded -- though we can't say the same about everybody in the film, everyone on set ended up okay. And Rickards, using her token dry sense of humor, of course, even imparted some wisdom on how to play possessed:
"I would say, think of what happens every 28 days, and then there's a power outage, and you can't get to a grocery store," she said with a laugh. "That's how you feel. Imagine you're on your period, and the whole city is out of power, and they're like, 'No, sorry ma'am, we don’t have ice cream.' And you're like, 'What? I walked here!' It would be horrible. That's when you'd start losing your s--t. That's my only advice."
Err.. maybe not.
"That's probably the worst advice I could give someone. Don't follow that advice."
"At the Devil's Door" hits theaters on Friday, September 12.