The last time we saw Melissa Barrera on our screens, she was confronting her inner serial killer.
The actress, who plays lead Sam Carpenter in the recent Scream sequels, is fully aware that fans want her to become Ghostface next time around, but she’s skeptical that’s where the franchise will take her character next.
Giving an update on the development of Scream 7 to Zavvi, she said: “There’s a part of me that wants Sam to become Ghostface – but because everyone wants that, that’s not going to happen! With the writer’s strike at the moment, everything is halted, so I’m still in the dark about whether we’ll get to make another one, but if we do then it’ll have to be a great script.
“I’m proud of the two movies I’ve been a part of in the franchise, and I would need Scream 7 to do justice to the continuation of Sam’s journey and for that to feel as strong as in those previous films to make me want to go back. It’s because of that pride in what we’ve done that makes me feel like there is no rush to return immediately; we need to make sure we live up to Scream 5 and VI.
“All I know is that I’d love for the story to take place on a beach – please take us somewhere beautiful and tropical!”
That next Scream movie may have not been announced yet, but Barrera will be back on the big screen this weekend starring opposite Paul Mescal in Carmen, a bold reinvention of the classic opera. Taking on the titular role, her Carmen is attempting to flee from Mexico to start a new life in Los Angeles; during her escape, she meets new border patrol employee Aidan (Mescal), who hates his job and agrees to help take her to California.
This is a stylistically adventurous reimagining of the opera courtesy of first-time director Benjamin Millepied, the celebrated French choreographer who previously worked on everything from Black Swan to the sand walk in Dune. It’s not an opera here, but there are intimate musical numbers, sung in both English and Spanish, as well as elaborate dance routines which repeatedly punctuate the drama – imagine a grittier Baz Luhrmann movie, and you’ve got the picture.
Barrera confesses she wasn’t too familiar with the opera when she first landed the role, which was announced all the way back in 2019. To put into context how long the production was, when shooting finally got going, she was filming Carmen simultaneously with her first Scream movie, flying between the US and Australia on a weekly basis.
She said: “I didn’t know the story very well, I just knew that she was this force of nature, a truly iconic female character. When I was given the opportunity to audition, I thought it would be amazing, but I was nervous; I’m not an opera singer, and to me, this character is always rooted in Europe, so discovering Ben envisaged her as Mexican, and that she would be singing and dancing, made me want to sign up immediately.
“I was attached to Carmen before I made In The Heights, but it didn’t end up getting made until afterwards, which I’m grateful for. The boot camp of dance rehearsals on that movie helped me coming into Carmen, as my body now had the memory of picking up choreography, but it was ultimately an experience unlike anything I’d made before, which was true for the whole cast and crew – it felt special for all of us.
“To be shooting big dance numbers in the middle of the desert, dancing in dirt and sand in long takes with no cuts was hard, but that’s exactly why it’s so mesmerising to watch. The camera is dancing with them, and that’s what makes Ben’s work so magnetic”.
This was another source of Barrera’s anxieties leading up to the shoot, as the story is largely told through movement. There is very little spoken dialogue within the film itself, and she had to build a believable screen chemistry with her co-star almost entirely through dance.
“There’s already the pressure of playing an iconic character so many people know, of trying to make it mine whilst keeping the essence of it, but on top of that I had to learn all of these dance routines and make them appear natural, like she was born to do all of this.
“It was the rehearsals prior to the shoot that helped me and Paul build that chemistry and connection, we spent so much time together. Either I was freaking out and he was calming me down, or it was the other way round, but we got to trust each other fully.
“I think that time of getting to know each other helped; getting to know each other’s bodies through dance is such a beautiful way to get to know someone, you get to feel their weight, and they get to feel yours.
“The unspoken chemistry and connection that you see between the characters was something we built over the four weeks that we had before we started shooting, even outside the rehearsal, just spending time together in Australia in building a history and comfortability with each other, which you see between them in the movie.”
However, while Barrera was eager to put her on twist on an iconic role, she does confess to being initially hesitant about telling an immigrant story.
She explained: “I’m used to seeing movies and TV shows that tell immigrant stories that are dark and violent. It’s depressing, seeing the struggle depicted in a way that’s purely trauma porn, and I don’t want to be a part of it – they’re a reality, but that’s also just one story, and we’ve seen them so much.
“That’s why I thought this script was so beautiful – it’s an epic art film, with immigration at the core, but its depiction is so romantic. It’s a great way of telling a story we’re familiar with, and a great Trojan horse, as this will connect with people who normally wouldn’t go see an immigration story.
“It doesn’t even hit you in the face, or get discussed openly in the movie. We show it to you briefly, and then we let you get swept up in the music and dance”.
This take on Carmen is challenging, but Barrera takes it on with ease; she’s as comfortable leading an unconventional musical as she is being a scream queen.
Carmen is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 2nd June.