A Conversation with
“The Overnight” Stars
Mathilde Dehaye and Zebedee Row
By Gabby Etzel and Cathleen Freedman
Gabby Etzel and Cathleen Freedman chatted on Zoom with two stars of The Overnight (2022). A haunted hotel, demonic possession, murder echoes, thwarted romance–What more could you want? Zebedee Row, a talented actor and musician, stars as David. The brilliant actress and writer Mathilde Dehaye brings the ever-so-terrifying Emma to life (well, death). Malissa Young Management brought us all together for the brilliant interview below, where we discuss everything from The Overnight’s journey through production to Jeff Buckley serendipity.
CATHLEEN FREEDMAN: So let's begin with the beginning. Tell us how you got your start and acting.
ZEBEDEE ROW: I was kicked out of a youth drama group when I was nine years old, I think. I was too much of a nuisance for the class… too distracting. I remember being really upset about it, because I went through a whole year loving it, and I thought I was so good. I wasn't allowed to return. But I guess in some unconscious way that was fuel to just keep going and be like, “Fuck you.” Come back, stronger, better. More truthful. That was my start.
GABBY ETZEL: Awesome.
MATHILDE DEHAYE: For me, I don't really know what I should consider the start. Because the very first thing I did, I was six. But it was a little short film for this lady that my mom knew. She was graduating to work for TV in Belgium. That was my very first experience. But I had no idea what I was doing. When I really fell in love with it, it was because I liked a guy who was going to these classes to do improv. And so I went, and I really fell in love with improv and the guy, whatever, he just kind of fell off.
ZR: Thanks, though!
MD: Yeah, right? I think a couple of months later I started looking at what they did in school for plays. I watched some American movies and, and translated parts to have scenes and then did some in theater school.
GE: Mathilde, you’re originally from Belgium, yes?
MD: Yes. Yeah.
GE: And Zebedee, Australia?
ZR: Yes, Melbourne, Australia.
GE: Gotcha. So different nations have very different cinematic styles, and I feel like this is most abundantly clear in comedies and horror films. Is there a difference in the kind of horror films that you've seen in Belgium or Australia than in the US?
ZR: The Aussie horror films that I see "make it" are absolutely fucking terrifying, like they're horrific. Whereas the same cannot be said for all horror films. You know, it's a big spectrum. Bu The Babadook, or I recently saw something called The Nightingale--They're just frightening. You know, raw. There’s often some bizarre turn. Aussie horror films are not so candy. They're more… chilling.
GE: Understandable, especially The Babadook. Mathilde, what about Belgium?
MD: I don't know if I've ever seen a Belgian horror movie. There's not much going on in Belgium. There's some good things but not not as much, and it's a small country. But no, I don't even know if I've seen one. So I couldn't answer that.
ZR: We should make one, Mathilde. We should make the first Belgian horror film.
MD: Yeah, I know! In Belgium, I believe movies are financed by the government. I think there's a whole thing.
ZR: Even better! Really, all Belgian horror films are just tourist videos to come to Belgium.
CF: After this interview, we're going to have to start our own Belgian horror film, go reach out to the government to get it financed and everything.
CF: Mathilde, I would love to hear more about your playwriting experience.
MD: What would you like to know?
CF: Do you still write or are you focusing on acting?
MD: I still write! [Snow White and The Beast] happened because I once again, was at Strasberg. And I remember this lady who put a play together. But I didn't know she had put it together. She had written it. And so I had gone to see this show at Strasberg, where I studied method acting, and I really liked it. Afterwards, I learned it's because of a contest they were doing there. It's NYU and Strasberg. You write a play, you send it in, and then and then you get a shot at having it produced. So that's what I did because I thought that was so inspiring. I always wrote before, poetry and you know, a lot of my thoughts and films, but nothing professional. Just ideas that I had. So that was the first time that I showed, I guess my writing and I took some writing classes at Strasberg to kind of help me feel more confident about it, but I never thought I'd actually win, but I did!
MD: I was paired with Margaret Ladd and Lyle Kessler, who helped me rework it and put it together for school. And it was great. I still write. I've always been a bit of a perfectionist, but here I am really taking my time in what I want to tell. After that, I did a short film based on that play. I've just been writing a bunch of things, and we'll see what will come to light.
CF: Well, what a wonderful way to start your playwriting career– by winning right off the bat. Congratulations!
MD: You know, maybe no one competed, I keep saying! I still don’t get it! I still don't get it.
Takeaway: Award-winning playwrite Mathilde Dehaye is talented and humble.
GE: Zebedee, in addition to acting, you're also a musician. Can you tell us how you balance your music with your acting career? And if you've ever worked on a project where those two loves of yours overlapped?
ZR: They overlap all the time. Just like, inadvertently. I can't escape it. It’s just a part of who I am. And who I am is a part of every role I do. So in one way, it's connected that way. But I also play a lot of musicians. I don't know, I look like a musician. I can authentically sing and play instruments. So that's, I think, often easier than having musicians act. I always think that doesn't go very well. Unless you're Reba.
CF: You can say that again. Reba is actually from Houston, which is where I'm Zooming from.
ZR: She's a top-notch singer. Shoutout to Reba.
ZR: I play often. I'm involved in soundtracks and stuff. I love getting my music in movies, and then often I'm playing musicians and we do live versions of it. Since the first movie I ever did called Here One Minute. I'm playing in multiple scenes, you know, playing live with my band and singing and that's always a charming thing to see on screen. Any chance I get… and I got to play Robert Plant once. That was amazing, you know, playing a hero of mine, that's just some different shit.
Zebedee Row in "Here One Minute"
GE: Okay, we're going to move into the questions about The Overnight. I am a horror fan myself, most of everything I do deals within the horror genre, so I really enjoyed sitting down to watch this movie.
GE: There are the characters that instill fear and make you scared, and then there are the characters that feel the fear with the audience and show you that you should be scared. When it comes to The Overnight, we're lucky enough to have one of each with us. We have David and Emma. Starting with Mathilde, what's it like to prepare for a character that does so much to create fear and bring the actual horror to a horror film?
MD: It's the biggest love of my life! I love it. I love it. Both are hard. They're their own thing. But what's it like? I combine different things. And we shot this in… 2016? 2017?
ZR: Yeah, I think that’s about right. Five years ago.
GE: Oh, wow.
MD: Yeah. And so, I was fresh out of school. I hadn't worked much professionally. Because I went to two schools I had to look in my own toolbox. Really, it's a mix between method–I do a lot of that. And today, since 2017, I include yoga and meditation into my embodying, and it's that much more enjoyable. I feel good. Yeah, different things from weird animal work to relaxation and recalling experiences through my senses.
GE: Absolutely. That’s amazing.
CF: Zebedee, for the majority of the film until the end, which we will discuss in a moment, the audience is scared with you and you're responsible for creating this terrified energy for us to feed off of. How did you go about that? And how do you keep that sense of terror on set?
ZR: I just kind of fell into it blindly. It was my first horror movie, and I don't know if I was doing a good job or not, I don't know about that. I find myself swearing a lot and I'm like, "Zeb, gotta bring down the 'fucks,'" because that would be my natural reaction! I'm going into a kitchen. Dead Rhoda’s there with a butcher knife coming out of her. I'd scream, “Fuck!”
GE: That's entirely valid.
ZR: That's my natural thing. So I just tried to be natural I guess in this very un-naturalistic world. If you were scared with me then, I guess.. Not bad.
GE: We thought you did a good job!
GE: David's arc is interesting, because as the end of the film reveals, you go from being fearful to feared. How did you go about flipping that switch from your natural reaction of like, seeing dead lady, “oh fuck,” to becoming basically the antagonist in that scene toward Jesse?
ZR: Oh, it was amazing. I mean, it was like finally now I get to like, do something cool!
GE: Turn it on!
ZR: Yeah, I got the contacts in and anything happens when you get the contacts in! think that's my favorite thing of the whole movie. So I would definitely be throwing that onto the reel. I got to have some fun with it. I think it was very Jack Nicholson, inspired by The Shining. Charming, but I got an axe behind my back, and I think that's where it probably stemmed from.
A possessed David in "The Overnight."
GE: A peak moment in The Overnight is the first scene that we see you two together. When Emma says to David, “Come play with us,” all spooky-like. What was it like shooting that creepy scene together? Zebedee, were you as creeped out by Mathilde while shooting it as we were while watching?
ZR: Oh, you have no idea. You have no idea how terrifying she was, not even on set, like also all the lead-up to being on set. She stepped it up. When I saw Mathilde, prepping for her role and staying in character, I was like, “Oh, shit. I’m gonna phone it in after this point!” So when we actually did finally work with each other on that scene, it was terrifying. She wasn't this bubbly, loving girl from Belgium that I had just gotten to know and love. She was this other thing. I have chills even just thinking of her right now. I mean, part of it was the whole set and the lights and her outfit… It was very easy to look scared. Let's just put it that way.
GE: Good to know because we were pretty creeped out!
Mathilde as Emma in "The Overnight"
MD: Oh, that is a huge compliment. Thank you so much, Zeb, I really appreciate it. It was a ton of fun for me, too. I mean, I was in my own thing, but I think it's amazing to work with people who have their own process. I see different directors and different actors and how they have their own approach, and how you kind of have to share your own, but also kind of adjust to what's going on. With an actor like Zebedee, just as he's giving me this compliment, he made it so easy. He was just non-judgmental, very respectful, very calm, and, you know, just allowing this to happen. He was so kind and so professional and so good in his own way. The way he gets into his character, the way he works is, as he's saying, very natural, it's a skill. You know, it's not him, he's playing someone. So I think he has a fluidity and an ease that I also aspire to have, because I like creating these things and I guess it's a different way of working but I really enjoyed that. It was very, very easy to do with someone like that.
ZR: Oh, my god.
Zebedee blows Mathilde a kiss.
GE: Oh, that's sweet! I'm glad to know that there was a lot of love behind that very bloody scene.
GE: Kind of along those lines.. Both of you, but especially Mathilde! We got the crazy demon eyes, we got the blood, the black goo, the makeup, stabbing the man in the eye with the syringe… I would love if you could walk us through what the special effects process is like for a bloodbath film like this.
MD: Well, you have to have a very good guy for special effects! They had a great guy who was super passionate. He was doing all that dirt work. And I was just staying there and being splattered in different substances!
GE: Very cool! Was it a lot of fun to stab someone in the eye with a syringe?
MD: Yes, very fun! A first! It was cool.
CF: So social media presence and David's attitudes towards it, as opposed to Jesse's, is a running theme throughout the movie, even possessed David critiques Jesse's online presence. So as actors, how do social media accounts affect your career? Do you think personal branding has an impact?
MD: Zebedee, please.
ZR: For most people, I reckon it's very important. It shows your brand what you want people to perceive you as. That may be real or not, I don't know. Maybe you do believe that you are this brand. Or maybe it's just like, it works for you. I don't know. I am pulling back on Instagram and social media a lot. I don't know. It's annoying to me. But I use it to promote the things that I do. My bands, movies, any project that I'm doing that I want people to see and know about, I push it for that. But otherwise, you know, I don't care. But it has a huge importance. I don't know, maybe that's my fault. Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot here. But what is important to me is making art. And not being too concerned about how everyone else feels about it, as long as I like it and I love it, then cool. You agree, Mathilde? What do you think about it?
MD: Yeah, I don't really care! We’ll see how the years go by, but I've gone through a love-hate relationship with it. I had it for some time then I didn't for three years. And I got it back. I don't really post that much. I've become pretty private. I keep my privacy very close to my heart. It's mostly my friends and some people that I didn't know. It's when I got Castle Rock, that I was like, ah, you know, I don't know if I want to be on it or what I should be sharing.
MD: So basically, I use it to share things like everyday life that brings some– these days, at least– that bring some light and positivity in my day. Little things of everyday life, poetry pieces, what I'm reading, a nice sunset, or whatever to share some love, inspiration, and passion. I guess the little tiny arts of everyday life, but nothing very open with friendships and family. Even promoting, I am not great at that. I don't really question it too much. I try not to spend too much time on it. I mostly communicate with the people that are dear to my heart. I look at what's going on because I think it's important to still see and know what's “in” but aside from that, I join Zeb–what I care about is making art that moves me and sharing that.
ZR: Well, you always have something lovely to say, Mathilde, so you should keep posting. You always put a smile on my face when I see your poetry or your sunset.
MD: Thank you so much. Maybe it's working, then.
GE: While I was watching, kind of like Zebedee said, I thought I could pick up a few allusions to The Shining, especially with the bar scene, and then even a Psycho reference with the line, “We're all a little insane” to reference Norman Bates's “We all go a little mad sometimes."
GE: As actors, did you watch or refer to any horror films for inspiration to play your roles? Or did you find that everything you needed was on the page?
MD: We're inspired anyway by everything we see whether we know it or not. There must be a bunch of things affecting that. So specifically picking something to get inspired by? No, and you know, I've said it in another interview, I think if it's easy to say now, but I was still very scared…It was still brand new. Is it going to be too big? How do I find the subtlety and yet stretch? It was really a big learning experience. I think a lot of us have ideas and we just hold back because maybe it's too much. I think it taught me that a little bit.
ZR: You’re right, Mathilde. I can recall the same feeling. It was shot like five or six years ago, we were a lot younger, I'd never done a horror film like that… There was a lot to focus on. We had a lot going on, a lot to bloody shoot in like, I don't know, three or four weeks up in a very strange place in a quite literally haunted hotel. We were living in it and shooting. The first day we shot like 17 hours and at the end of the first day, we're like, okay, we're not one day behind… We're two days behind! After just shooting one day! So it was very stressful. So I was just worried about you know, is this arc truthful? Am I building that? I just met Brittany, I think I was just really focused on building the truth of this girl that I am about to get married to. But to answer your question, right at the end of the movie where I get to be the demon, I definitely see some Jack Nicholson from The Shining. I don't know. It's hard. It's hard not to see that. Not that I had that in my head.
GE: But it’s definitely there.
MD: I had it much easier than him because I didn't have that much. They were shooting nonstop. I had the luxury of hanging out and being onset to watch and stuff. They didn't. So, you know, kudos to that. Because truly, that was not three to four weeks, Zeb, I think it was barely two weeks.
ZR: Oh my god.
MD: They were going nonstop. Like at 3 am, I’d just be like, "Okay, I'm clocking out." They couldn’t do that.
ZR: We kept pushing through to sunrise like every day. It was exhausting. Not much time to think about, “Yeah, I was really inspired by this horror movie,” nah. Just white-knuckling that shit the whole way.
MD: They also took a long break and then came back for a few reshoots. Like a year later or whatever.
ZR: Yeah, exactly. We lost all this footage and had to reshoot. And by that time came around, the whole hotel had been completely remodeled. It didn't look like that anymore. It's a freaking miracle that you got to enjoy this movie!
GE: Yeah, I’m glad it’s here now and we’re able to talk about it!
CF: I really admire the editors ability to create such a trippy, intoxicating feel with some of the scenes. For example, David wanders the manor, and we follow him through this labyrinth of strange sightings and death echoes, and it has a very graceful and dream-like, movement-based sequences. What was it like to shoot those scenes and then see it all come together as this dreamy work of art? Did you have an idea of what the final product would look like while you were shooting?
ZR: I mean Brad and Dom were amazing DPs, so I felt super safe with them. They’re both very talented. You can see in the shots, it’s cinematic as hell. There’s this noir, psychedelic feel that I definitely didn’t know was gonna be there.
MD: Me neither. I guess something I did feel was a bit of that vintage, not-too-serious vibe. It eased me up. Aside from that, I really didn’t know!
GE: So, Zebedee, as both human and demon you have some scenes where you’ve gotta physically fight a little, whether you’re scrapping with creepy men in the hotel or snapping someone’s neck while you’re possessed. Did you have any stage-fighting experience prior to this film?
ZR: Just in school! Just in Stella Adler I had done some classes for a couple of years on stage combat. There was one big scene in the hotel lobby that we staged out. We choreographed it ourselves. It was amazing. It was three in the morning, we had a little audience there, my brother was there. It was awesome. The energy was cool. And they lost that scene! Accidents happen, but I was gutted. We were so proud of that fight sequence. What we actually had to do–this is hilarious–We had to reshoot it but the hotel had been remodeled. We reshot it in this tiny little office, we found some of the wallpaper and stuck it on the wall. The actor had gone back to New Zealand so he wasn’t available. So we put a PA in a black wig and they go, “All right, Zeb, off you go!” So you saw some variation of that.
GE: Wow. This movie really came out against all odds. I’m very impressed.
MD: Exactly. They were really passionate.
MD: They cared so, so much and worked for a long time to get it finished, and I admire that so much. You know, so many movies never get finished. It happens all the time! So kudos for that, for sure.
GE: Last question about The Overnight. I find it a worthwhile question for everyone involved in horror filmmaking because you always hear stories from the sets of Poltergeist, Amityville Horror, and The Conjuring. Did anything strange or paranormal happen on or off set while filming this movie?
ZR: Probably. I feel like we were all abducted by aliens and they took my body and spat it out two and a half weeks later.
GE: I’d say that qualifies as paranormal.
MD: I don't know if there's such a thing as channeling other entities for this work! I don't think that's what I was doing. It's not how I approach my work! At the same time, I have my own beliefs about spirits where they are at all times, and how they interact with us. So, no, there's no specific event that I could share. As Zeb said, though, the place was kinda creepy, so that helped!
ZR: That building, a beautiful heritage building, is directly across the road from the Binghamton Courthouse. So there was an underground tunnel to take the prisoners who had just been found guilty over to this jail cell in the basement of the building that we shot in that had been turned into a hotel. Wasn’t there some story about there being like, lepers down there? Like, that's where they kept the lepers.
The Broome County Courthouse in Binghamton.
MD: I never heard this. This is amazing.
ZR: They told us like day one, and we were like, “fucking great.”
MD: Maybe I wasn't there for day one! I had no idea. That's amazing.
ZR: So those spirits that you felt, I think they've been trapped down there a long time.
GE: What a way to set the scene.
CF: Let's move on to the Absolutely Anything questions. These are questions that we feel like you've probably never been asked before and you may never be asked again.
MD: I'm scared.
GE: Ryan Murphy of American Horror Story asks you for your opinion on what the new saying or theme of American Horror Story’s new season should be? What do you pick?
MD: Amity! This chick I played in Castle Rock. Yes. I'm being super egotistical and selfish.
Mathilde in "Castle Rock."
ZR: That's a good answer! I'm gonna go with that, too. I'm rooting for you.
CF: Next question. What scares you the most?
ZR: My biggest fear is losing my voice, physically, or metaphorically. The ability to communicate with people through art, you know, but I think quite literally, if I lost my voice, if I wasn't able to talk. I think that's my biggest fear.
MD: I’d say violence. Anger and hatred and all the stuff that we tend to see in the world. I guess that's actually a very deep answer, but it’s true. It's what gets me gets me the most on edge. The opposite of love really. But otherwise, that was a really good one, Zeb. I never really thought about it like that. Losing my voice… Why even be here?
CF: Wow. I was envisioning something like… spiders!
ZR: Well, rats are fucking everywhere. It's crazy. We're all doomed.
GE: Maybe that's the plot of the Belgian horror film.
ZR: Oh, yes!
CF: Mathilde, in an interview you did with Horror Buzz, you said you would like to do period pieces set in France. I have a play that is exactly that. Do you want to guess what period it is?
MD: I'll just say the 1600s!
CF: Ah, man. No, it's late 1700s, early 1800s. The role is still yours, though, if you want it!
MD: I would love to do a period piece. I want to be in the corset again!
GE: Everybody always asks about dream roles that you would hope to play. We're curious as to what your nightmare role would be. Is there a role that you would hope to literally never do?
ZR: Hmm, I don't know if I've ever thought like that. Because I audition for shit like that all the time!
MD: I didn't know if I should say that, but I’m glad you did!
Everyone laughs. Even an off-camera Cathleen, I promise.
ZR: But honestly, I don't know if I've ever felt like that. Every role is an opportunity to do something, to make a choice, to learn something. Even recently, I took a movie where there was one line in the script and the role was “Random Dude,” and I was like, “I'm not doing this fucking roll if it's Random Dude. You put a bloody name on him!” Sure enough, the role of Jackson was born. I nailed that line! In fact, I ad-libbed my ass off, I think I got like six lines in this movie. And I'm the first guy you see in the whole movie. It's called Queen of Knives. Check it out. And see, that was an opportunity to turn something around. A one line random dude became a memorable thing and the first thing you see in this movie? That’s the way to approach something that isn’t ideal.
GE: You breathed life into Jackson. Queen of Knives, we’ll have to check it out!
MD: I would agree. All scripts are different, right, Zeb? So, you know, I guess if it's, if I feel I'm attracting it and, and it's going and I'm getting it, there must be something in it for me, and maybe it won't end up being the part itself, but maybe it'll be the team or just one crew member or whatever. But the roles themselves, like saying, there's a type of person or a specific person that I wouldn't want to play? Definitely not. That’s part of the kick of the work and feel, at least for me to really, you know, get to see something through the eyes of something that is not me. Maybe when we’re A-listers, Zeb, we’ll be much pickier!
GE: Zebedee, you can perform as any musician in their biopic Who is it?
ZR: I always wanted to be Jeff Buckley. Jeff Buckley was like my first love of singer-songwriting, amazing guitar work. Clean guitar, so you got to be clean. And he has such a sad story coming from the crazy influence of his father. I think that is a film that hasn't been made yet. I think they were trying to make it three times over, but they were very picky about who they gave the rights to. I always wanted to do that.
Singer-songwriter and voice of an angel, Jeff Buckley
CF: The reason we had the biopic question was because I am compiling research on Jeff Buckley for a project, and I was thinking, "You know, Zebedee would do a really good Jeff Buckley! I wonder who he thinks he would do a good impression of." Wow.
ZR: No way!
CF: Crazy how that worked out! All the musicians in this great big world. Serendipity.
ZR: Well, you nailed it. That was the first thing that came to my head.
GE: Maybe it's a sign.
ZR: Yeah! I'd love to see some of your research actually.
CF: Well, Brad Pitt was actually behind the last movie attempt, and it's been several years since there's been any news!
GE: Zebedee, David thinks it's a good idea to keep the creepy doll in the car when he finds it on his tire. If you found a creepy doll on your car tire, would you keep it or toss it?
ZR: What do you think?! The normal human person would throw that away! What does he say? He wants to keep it as a souvenir?
GE: It’s something about wanting to know where it came from, which I was like, “Is it gonna tell you?” I think that might have been his first mistake. Everybody who ends up possessed probably made a mistake somewhere along the way. That might have been the first one.
ZR: It was pretty early, too!
GE: Lastly, Cathleen and I are doing a lot of traveling together in the coming months. Hopefully we don't end up staying in any terrifying manors. Just in case can each of you give us one haunted hotel survival tip that you picked up from The Overnight?
ZR: Always check for black mold.
GE: Yeah, I think that's pretty good advice.
You can rent The Overnight (2022) on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, or Apple TV.