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Molly C. Quinn on Bringing “Agnes” to Life Behind (and In Front Of) The Camera

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 | Interviews


In Mickey Reece’s new indie horror film AGNES, demons take many forms. For the titular Agnes (played by Hayley McFarland), her demons are reminiscent of the tried and true religious horror tropes genre fans know and love. However, for Mary, a young, troubled nun relatively new to the order, her demons originate from a much more personal place of trauma, grief, and recovery. Another surprisingly emotional, haunting, and darkly comedic experience from the prolific Oklahoma writer and director, AGNES is everything horror fans want from an exorcism film and yet, so much more. 

Helping bring AGNES to life both behind the camera and in front of it is the multi-hyphenate talent, Molly C. Quinn. Despite being best known for her acting roles in projects like Castle, We’re the Millers, and Hansel & Gretel Get Baked, Quinn is also an accomplished producer and co-founder of the production company QWGmire. On top of being an Executive Producer for AGNES, Quinn tackled the nuanced and complex character of Mary as well. Acting as the true beating heart of the film, it is ultimately Quinn’s performance as Mary that carries the film to beautifully unexpected places. Having recently been released on VOD and in select theaters, Rue Morgue sat down for a virtual chat with Quinn where we dove into AGNES, her character, process, her love for the genre, and the exciting future films that QWGmire hopes to helps to nurture from script to screen.  

You were deeply involved with AGNES both behind the camera as well as in front of it. How did you first become a part of the project and what attracted you to it?

I, my friend Matthew Welty, and my fiance Elan Gale decided to start a production company because quite honestly, we had just always talked about it and we had talked about doing like, multi-million dollar westerns. And we decided maybe before we do that, we should test ourselves with some indie films, you know? I was producing a film at the time with Divide/Conquer and I was talking to one of the partners there and I was like, “Look. We’re looking for QWGmire to do something in the horror space and I want to star in it. That’s what we’re looking for.” I was just being very open that I’m ready to star and we want to do more. Adam [Hendricks] just got a little twinkle in his eye. He was like, “I think I’ve got the script for you.” 

He then sent me AGNES along with a link to Climate of the Hunter which was [Mickey’s] previous film. And, I read the script and was very caught off guard by the shift in the middle, but I was very intrigued. I really felt connected to Mary. I understood her desire to hold her memories close and not being so willing to let things go. And then when we all watched Climate of the Hunter, we were pretty blown away at what Mickey had been able to make on such a small budget. So we thought, “If we gave them a little bit more, some more tools, a few other actors to add into his great mix of Oklahoma City actors, I think we could make something really special.” So we met with Mickey and he was on board! That was the fall of 2019 and we started shooting in January 2020. We got it done right before the lockdown. 

Your character Mary is a quiet, but very complex character. Was there anything you did to prepare for this role that helped you get into Mary’s headspace?

There was a lot that I did getting ready. I think the most important thing that I did was read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Many times. Because, I really felt like all of Mary’s pain came from the loss of her son and the loss of that joy. It’s that thing of putting myself in her shoes of being a wild child, finding herself pregnant, making the decision to keep the child, and it becoming this unexpected gift. She didn’t expect it to be great, but here she is and it’s wonderful. She loves her son and she loves herself, you know? And then it’s taken away.

And we do leave that ambiguous because we know that there are many families that have gone through that kind of loss. We wanted to leave the door open so people could put their own trauma on Mary and on the film. That’s really where it all comes from. It comes from feeling the best joy in the world and then having it so quickly taken away. So, I spent a lot of time reading and playing with my friend’s kids, which were very funny conversations. I wanted to be honest about why I wanted to spend time with my friend’s kids and that they couldn’t be around. I was like, “I’m preparing for something and this is what it is. If you’re not comfortable with me doing this, that’s fine.” But luckily, my friends were very supportive. 

Those times getting to just play with these amazing toddlers and seeing their joy, seeing how they’re discovering the world and being part of that, that’s where I realized that the joy really comes from watching another human being discover things for the first time. It’s such a gift. And all of that started to really click with what that loss would really be. It was the best that I could do to understand it, not being a mom myself. 

In the film, Mary shares a strong and unexpected friendship with Agnes that’s a really beautiful and important part of her story. From your perspective, what was it about this friendship that was so important to Mary, and ultimately, why is it Agnes that prompts her to leave the convent?  

Well, it was unexpected to me too because that’s not how it was written. It was written as more of a mentorship that Mary had with an older nun in the convent. And, I’m friends with Hayley McFarland. She’s quite honestly my best friend. She read the script and was like, “I really like this script!” So I talked to Matthew Welty and told him that Hayley really like the script, but I didn’t know how we could fit her in. And it was Matthew who was like, “She should just play Agnes. I think we could rework this and I think it could be another element of the movie that’s made just a little bit more special by tailoring it for this specific story.” And so that’s what Hayley and I did. 

We got together and we started creating this kind of troublesome duo’s friendship. We decided that they had been novitiates together and they had joined the order at the same time. Without speaking about it, they were both irreverent. They knew they weren’t there for God. If anything, they kind of openly mocked the order and you see that in flashbacks of them sneaking off, smoking, and boozing it up. Being kids. They’re young adults in their early 20s. But they’re not ready to resign their life to solitude. And, I think that friendship was the closest Mary had felt to that kinship that she had with her son.

And then, when Agnes is possessed, be it by an angel or a demon, it’s hard to decide. That presence asks Mary real questions and gives her the space to share and be vulnerable. Frankly, it gives her good advice which is, “You need to move on.” But Mary’s not having it, you know? So, it’s a negative side to her. I think she’s very quick to abandon things that start to mess with the reality that she’s created. That’s her defense mechanism. 

While it could be seen as a flaw, that imperfection adds so much depth to her character. She’s unapologetically lost and stagnant which frankly, makes her very relatable. 

Thank you! That really means so much to me that you as another young woman are saying that. That’s really what I wanted. I wanted to be an outlet for other young women to put their feelings on. For those times when we’ve all been lost for different reasons and have felt that we haven’t been listened to, or felt that all people want to do is take from us and take advantage. For how shitty that is and how insane it makes us. To other people, it may seem like, “Whoa. That came out of nowhere. Where did that outburst come from?” And it’s like, “I’ve been getting hit on by my boss all fricking day, no one will leave me alone, and my rent just went up.” Like, these very normal things that just combine and compact until you have no recourse but to scream.

Speaking of screaming, it has been wonderful to see you return to horror time and time again. What is it that you love about working within the genre? Do you have any horror projects in your future?

I mean, if I’m lucky, yes! I love doing horror. I love the stories you can tell under the guise of a heightened world. We just wrapped shooting our third film Lovely, Dark, and Deep which is a very cool indie horror by Teresa Sutherland who wrote The Wind (2019). This is her directorial debut and she’s just now putting the first cut together. So we’re really excited to see that and share that hopefully mid-next year. That would be really great. It, again, is about a woman who has been kept from the truth and decides she’s going to find her own answers. And we tell that under the guise of a woman alone in the woods. Our whole mission at QWGmire is to tell stories from a female perspective, for the most part. Stories that are under the warm blanket of a horror trope that you know, but are about something much deeper under the surface. 

AGNES is currently playing select theaters and is now available on VOD from Magnet Releasing. 

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