As part of our ongoing coverage of The Girl in the Woods, Nerds & Beyond had the opportunity to interview director Jacob Chase! The Girl in the Woods follows Carrie, a teenager who grew up in a mysterious colony dedicated to banishing monsters behind a door in the woods. But when she escapes and the monsters are released, it’s up to Carrie and her new friends Nolan and Tasha to protect humanity.
Chase directed the last four episodes of the first season, while Krysten Ritter directed the first half. Chase is best known for his feature films Come Play and The Four-Faced Liar, which won the HBO Audience Award for Best First Feature at Outfest in 2010. Chase shared details of his process of co-directing the series with Ritter, his love of the horror genre, and more!
Nerds & Beyond: How did you originally get involved with The Girl in the Woods?
Jacob Chase: I got asked to direct the last four episodes and when I read the scripts, I was hooked. I loved the writing, the characters, the monsters, and the heart. I was excited to dive in!
Nerds & Beyond: A unique aspect of the series is that Krysten Ritter directed the first four episodes while you directed the last four. How much collaboration did the two of you have while working on the show? How did the split season affect your preparation and vision for your episodes?
Jacob Chase: I had a great experience working with Krysten on the show. She had a clear vision for the world and the first block of episodes. I aimed to continue that tone into the back half of the season while also expanding on some of the things she set up. There are some pretty big story twists and reveals that happen in the season half-way through that gave me a lot of freedom to explore new characters, horrors, and emotions. Basically, we were shooting two big movies!
Nerds & Beyond: The Girl in the Woods covers a lot of different genres, from horror to teen drama to thriller. What were the challenges associated with blending so many different story threads as a director?
Jacob Chase: I believe the best horror needs great characters at the center for us to care when they get into scary situations. I loved that the writing incorporated authentic, modern characters who were struggling with real issues so many can relate with. I loved finding the moments for levity mixed in with the horror so the audience could be screaming one moment and laughing the next.
Nerds & Beyond: You’ve worked in horror before, most notably with your film Come Play. What is it about horror that appeals to you creatively?
Jacob Chase: I’ve always loved horror because it’s a genre that is best when watched with other people. You can jump at the same time, hold each other close or laugh with each other as you all scream. It also offers the opportunity to say something about culture, people, or modern problems that might feel melodramatic in another genre. In horror, we are along with these characters for whatever ride is in store for them, allowing us to get into the minds of some truly unique characters. Plus, good old-fashioned suspense can keep an audience on the edge of their seat and totally engaged with the movie or TV show. Nothing keeps me glued to the screen quite like a tension-building scene in horror!
Nerds & Beyond: The Girl in the Woods is unique for the horror genre in that it focuses on queer characters in a way that breaks them out of the tropes we’ve seen before. What was the process like collaborating with writer Casey Modderno and the actors to make sure the characters were represented realistically despite the often fantastical world they live in?
Jacob Chase: It was important to me that the characters always felt grounded, and it was to Casey as well. I spent a lot of time going over every action and line of dialogue from these characters, asked lots of questions, and made sure I was in sync with Casey. I always approach characters who aren’t exactly like me with a lot of research and interviews. I always start by listening. Then, I can speak with more knowledge with the cast and crew to make the characters feel authentic.
In this show, the cast was amazing and often their personal lives overlapped with what the characters were going through on screen. I worked closely with Misha [Osherovich], in particular, whose character deals with themes of gender identity in the show, to understand their history, their fears, their struggles, and their joys. And then it was my job to help create an environment on set that let the cast go to these raw emotional places. They all really killed it every day.
Nerds and Beyond: A show like this would be challenging to shoot in a normal year, but The Girl in the Woods was shot this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. What challenges did this create for you as a director, and is there something you were especially proud to have pulled off given the difficulties associated with directing a project like this during COVID?
Jacob Chase: Shooting during the pandemic is challenging, but we’re all pretty used to it by now. The hardest thing is communicating emotions with the cast because I’m wearing a mask and face shield. I never realized how much I direct by sharing in the emotions of the character in the scene! I’m proud of the fact that we pulled off this show with a big cast and large crew with stunt work, creature effects, and fight sequences, all while remaining safe and healthy.
Nerds and Beyond: What are you hoping audiences take away from the series?
Jacob Chase: I hope audiences have a great time killing monsters and falling in love with these characters. I’m excited for them to find all the twists and turns as more of the world is revealed around Carrie and her friends. And most importantly, I hope audiences will see themselves in these unique characters, some of whom I’ve never seen represented on screen before.
The Girl in the Woods is now streaming on Peacock/Crypt TV. Stay tuned for more interviews with the cast and creative team!