Scream is a big deal for Melissa Barrera in a number of ways. Barrera’s been working steadily for quite some time now, breaking into Hollywood in a big way with Vida and In the Heights. But there’s no denying that sequel anticipation is especially high with a new Scream movie. One’s got to imagine that scoring a part in that ensemble was a dream gig for many. So not only was it a huge win for Barrera to score to the role of Samantha Carpenter, but the opportunity also came with an especially exciting career first; Scream 2022 marks the very first time Barrera was ever offered a role without auditioning first.
With Scream hitting theaters on Friday, January 14th, I got the chance to have an extended chat with Barrera for an episode of Collider Ladies Night. We’ll have the full conversation covering Barrera’s journey from her early singing ambitions to her latest experiences in Hollywood for you soon, but right now we wanted to share her recap of how she booked her Scream role.
Barrera described the casting process as interesting, unexpected and “very surprising for me.” There were a number of things that contributed to that, but a big one was the fact that this opportunity first popped up at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was in the middle of the pandemic, summer of 2020. We were in the thick of it. We all thought that it was gonna last two weeks to a month and then it was gonna be over and we're in the middle of summer, no one can go out and do the normal things or vacation and travel. We’re all stuck inside, we’re all sad and depressed —at least I was. And I was like, ‘When am I ever gonna work again?’ And I get a call from my team and they’re like, ‘They’re making another Scream movie.’ And I was like, ‘They’re making another one? How long has it been since the last one? It’s been 10 years!’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, they’re making another one and there’s a part that you’re very right for. They’re making a list of potential actresses and we’re pitching you.’”
Barrera’s team kept pushing and a few weeks later, she was informed that the filmmakers compiled a list of actors for the role of Sam and she was on it. The next step of the process? Something Barrera wasn’t especially thrilled about — doing an audition via Zoom.
“I had already done a couple of auditions via Zoom. Auditions are already the worst thing in the world. They’re so nerve-racking. It’s so unfair to ask someone to show you all their skills in two minutes and not act with another actor because it’s usually a reader. It’s just the worst possible scenario to showcase if you’re good or not. And then add the technology of you’re on a screen. I was like, ‘What is this audition gonna be like? Am I gonna be acting a chase scene sitting at a desk with a screen?’ I was just thinking of the worst possible scenario and thinking that I was gonna feel so stupid in front of a computer doing that. Are they gonna have me yelling? I was just like, I don’t want to scream at a monitor, you know? Their audio was gonna blow out. It’s gonna be awful!”
Before the official audition, Barrera’s team arranged a meeting for her with directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, writer James Vanderbilt, and producers Chad Villella and William Sherak. However, what was meant to be a simple “get-to-know-you” conversation turned into a game-changer for the entire production.
“I met with Matt, Tyler, Chad, William our producer, and Jamie one of the writers via Zoom and it was just a casual getting-to-know-you, I want to see their vision for the script, I want to see their vision for the character so that I can do well in my audition. And it ended up being an hour and a half Zoom of just talking about life and scary movies and the movies that we like.”
During the chat, they asked Barrera for a horror movie that scared and scarred her most. In hindsight, one can view her answer to that question as the stars starting to align.
“I didn’t remember the title of the movie, but I remembered that it was about a tooth fairy, a scary tooth fairy. And at the time when I watched it, my room was in a mezzanine and the creature would fly up and through the window, you could see it and it was a dementor type of creature. And so I remember describing that and they all start laughing and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And they were like, ‘Is it, Darkness Falls?’ And I was like, ‘Yes! That’s it! That’s the movie that traumatized me!’ Jamie was like, ‘That’s the first movie that I wrote.’ And William was like, ‘That’s the first movie that I produced.’”
That meeting sent Barrera’s hopes and expectations for the new Scream movie soaring. Now she just had to nail her audition and actually book the role — or so she thought.
“I hung up, I started preparing for my audition. The next day I get a call from my team and they’re like, ‘So we got a call from Project X and from Radio Silence and apparently your Zoom went really well.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, cool because I really liked them.’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. They offered you the part.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ They were like, ‘Yeah! They just offered you the part. You don’t have to audition anymore.’ That was the first time that ever happened in my life.”
Yes, that moment marked a huge and very exciting first for Barrera, but she admitted that receiving an offer without an audition can also spark some doubt. She explained:
“In that moment I was so happy and so relieved that I didn’t have to audition, but I was also petrified because I was like, now when I show up and they see me act, what if they hate me and they fire me on the spot? It was just a whole mix of emotions. And then I had to do a Zoom audition with Jenna [Ortega]. They were casting someone to play my sister and they had a few actresses and I had to read with them, and I considered that my audition as well and I just bombed. I just felt like I sucked. I was like, ‘They are for sure gonna fire me after this.’ And they didn’t, thank god!”
Eager to hear more from Barrera? Stay tuned because we’ll have her episode of Collider Ladies Night for you this weekend. We covered everything from her time studying at NYU to the invaluable lessons she learned working on telenovelas and so much more. She even ranked the first four Scream movies!
"Can’t wait to share this little film with you all," Wan said.