ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with It Lives Inside star Megan Suri about the intense upcoming horror movie. Suri discussed filming scenes with the fearsome Pishach and seeing the movie get a wide release. It Lives Inside is set to release in theaters on September 22. The Neon film has an interim agreement with SAG-AFTRA.
“Desperate to fit in at school, Sam rejects her East Indian culture and family to be like everyone else,” reads the movie‘s synopsis. “However, when a mythological demonic spirit latches onto her former best friend, she must come to terms with her heritage to defeat it.”
Tyler Treese: What I really liked about It Lives Inside was getting that infusion of Hindu mythology with horror. Can you speak to how intriguing it was for you to see a Pishach as the focus here rather than some other type of demon or creature?
Megan Suri: For me, hearing about the Pishach … the first time I’d ever heard about it was on the script. So it was just as new and exciting to me as it will be for most audience members who aren’t familiar with the tale. So that was really exciting, delving into that and hearing Bishal [Dutta] who is our writer and director, his stories and his personal stories revolving around that and the fear that it generated. I’m really excited. I think that’s what’s exciting about cinema right now with the influx of everything else — our original creative stories. And so I’m really grateful and excited to be a part of something like this.
I had never heard of it either, so after seeing the film, you go into the Google rabbit hole of looking up different things. How was that process for you, learning more about the Pishach?
Yeah, I mean, I’m a total nerd when it comes to that kind of stuff, too. So I’m glad that we’re the same. [Laughs]. It was just as exciting. It’s really frightening, actually, the stories that are told and how, in a large part of India, this is something that people really do believe is real. I think, personally, for me, even growing up, I didn’t necessarily have … I wasn’t told stories of the Pishach. But a way that my dad forced us to go to sleep as children was, “If you don’t go to sleep, this monster’s going to come and get you.” So it feels very culturally tied to a very real point in time for a lot of people’s lives. So I hope that that fear and that terror rings [true] and finds its way to the audience.
Speaking of terror, how was it actually filming those scenes with the Pishach? You look totally terrified and really nailed that feeling of dread throughout the film.
Thank you so much for saying that. It’s funny because I’m a horror fan, and this is my first horror experience, so I feel like I’ve always dreamt about what it would be like as an actor doing this stuff. Then you get to set, and it’s very technical, and there was a whole beautifully crafted suit that our incredible actress was inside of, doing all these crazy contortions — her name’s Jenaya Ross, and she’s an incredibly talented artist and contortionist.
It was definitely a challenge because, on screen, it looks terrifying, but when you take off the head, it’s this really adorable Canadian, tall woman in it who speaks so sweet and kind and would never even hurt a fly and who became a friend. So it’s really a challenge, but it was fun. It was really fun, and to have Bishal [Dutta] off camera directing me and giving me the reassurance that I was doing okay was … I think all that was needed for me to get through it. [Laughs].
One of the other elements I like about It Lives Inside was your characters in school. It explores this aspect of dual identities and embracing her heritage that she was trying to shy away from. Can you speak to that aspect in the film? I thought that was one of the more interesting things we don’t see as much in horror.
Absolutely. I’m really glad that you picked up onto that. Sam and Samidha are definitely two very different people. They’re two different personas. I think that this was one of those things that Bishal and I, from the get-go, connected on and understood that experience of code-switching, in a way, and how you go about into the real world and feel like you can assimilate and you can be normal and coming home to a completely different experience. For me as an actor, but also on a personal level, it was very exciting to re-experience those feelings, relive some of those feelings, and also navigate through those feelings by doing it on screen again.
You’ve mentioned Bishal a few times. What really stood out about working together as collaborators and creatives on this project? What really stood out about him as a director?
You actually just said it. I think that Bishal and myself, the number one thing that’s been so different from some of the other projects that I’ve done is that it really felt like a true collaboration. He was so involved in each step of the process. We had so many extensive conversations about Sam, about Samidha, about her relationships with everyone in the movie, what it all means. And so it really felt less like a role that I just booked and more of a role that we both created and recreated from the ground up and continued to do so each day onset.
That’s incredible. You shared some great scenes with Mohana Krishnan throughout the movie. Can you speak to her as a scene partner?
My goodness, I’m so glad you brought up Mohana. Mohana Krishnan … first of all, we are real friends in real life. Every single day, she had some very intense scenes, so she was often just in a corner listening to music right before they called “action,” and understandably so. But she’s all that you can ask for in a scene partner. She shows up. She works incredibly hard. She’s so devoted to her character, so devoted to every part of this filmmaking process. Not to mention her scream!
When I heard her scream on day two of filming, I knew that this was no joke. I knew that I had to bring my A-game when it came to my screams. I don’t live up to Mohana’s screams, but I think, in a way, we motivated each other. She certainly motivated me to bring my acting A game. I’m so, so excited for people to see her work. I think she’s absolutely incredible.
You mentioned this being your first horror project. Do you have “the bug” now? Do you want to work more within this space in the future?
Absolutely! But I had the bug before I got it! I’m just so grateful that I was able to get that energy out and finally do it, but absolutely! And maybe that’ll be in the hopes of an It Lives Inside 2 or something else. But yeah, I hope this is just the beginning of my horror adventure! [Laughs].
It’s also great to see this getting such a wide release and seeing such representation in horror. Can you speak to seeing this on screen? A decade ago, you would’ve been so ecstatic to see a film like It Lives Inside in theaters.
Absolutely. I’ve been working for over a decade, so this feels very full circle-y, but also very surreal. I’m so incredibly grateful to be here. I’m so grateful that Neon really believes in this project and really wanted to push it to have a wide theatrical release. Not a lot of moves, especially during this time, get that. So it’s definitely a moment, and I’m so excited. I’m nervous — I’m feeling all the feelings. I just hope that audiences enjoy it and they take away something from it.
You mentioned Neon’s all behind this. They got the interim agreement so you can actually speak about it. How much does it mean for you that they’re showing that support and that you do get to actually promote this film that you put so much energy and time into?
Absolutely. I mean, first and foremost, I stand with my union and with the WGA. So as much as I would’ve wanted to publicize and promote this project, I know what the bigger picture was, but I’m so grateful that we have production companies like Neon that are doing the right thing and that make these moments for myself and for Mohana and for Gage [Marsh] and for everyone else involved in this, and Bishal, that we are able to talk about these career milestones in a way that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do.
So it’s definitely a weird time, and I’m hoping that it ends soon for everyone affected by these strikes. But it’s a little bit of a bittersweet moment for sure.