There’s a fine line between horror and comedy. So often, the funniest stories have us squirming inside, dying of second-hand embarrassment or anxiety. It’s this sinister symbiosis that Fresh, a dark new Disney Plus comedy movie, taps into so expertly.
Directed by Mimi Cave, Fresh stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as Noa, a young girl fed up with the perils of modern dating. That is until the charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) sweeps her off her feet, reinvigorating her lust for love. Steve’s the perfect man; he’s handsome, funny, and got great taste. What more could you want in a partner?
The only red flag? He doesn’t have Instagram – something that freaks out Noa’s best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs) – but it’s not like he’s hiding anything, is there? Part horror movie, part romance, this twisted tale skewers the world of modern dating while also commenting on the commodification of women’s bodies and the enduring bonds of sisterhood. We were lucky enough to sit down with Gibbs and Cave earlier this week to talk a little about this delicious black comedy.
The Digital Fix: Mimi, this is your directorial debut. You’ve, being excited, but a little nervous about making fresh? What was it about the film that made you feel that way?
Mimi Cave: I think just the topic that we are discussing in the movie. At this point in time in our world, I think anytime someone puts something out there, that’s a little bit bold; There’s fear of being attacked a little bit for it. I didn’t really feel nervous about the material itself, but wanted to make sure that I executed the material delicately. Because, you know, you don’t want to be like in the line of fire.
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Then I was just like, ‘Okay, I don’t even care, I’m going to do it my way.’ And I’m going to commit to it, and haters gonna hate, so I can’t really like to think about that. I have to just do the job and really kind of push forward. There was always an awareness in my head of like, this might be something like people either really love or really hate. And I think that’s a good thing. You know, those are the types of films I like.
So does the sensational, shocking, and dare I say even a little fucked up appeal to you as a filmmaker?
MC: It’s not something I seek out. But I definitely think I’m interested in people subverting expectations. I think that’s always interesting. I think it’s harder and harder to do because as the world turns, we have there’s so much more work out there.
It’s like you can’t, you know, we’re all stealing from each other all the time in a way, so it’s difficult to do those days.
Jojo, what were your first thoughts when you read the script?
Jojo T. Gibbs: When I read the script, I fell in love with Mollie, I loved her as a character. I was coming from a ‘what’s my next job point of view’ at that point. You know, I’m not, I’m not a consumer, I’m about trying to sell myself, so I was really checking out Mollie, and I love the kind of roller coaster that she got to go through in the film.
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I loved the dynamic between her and Noa’s friendship. And of course, I mean, Sebastian, Daisy, and Mimi were already tied to the film. So I was like, It really doesn’t matter what is it? You know?
The film’s clearly making a statement about the commodification of the female body. Quite literally. But on a deeper level, this is a film about friendship and sisterhood. How important is it to you both that audiences engage with those deeper themes?
MC: I think that Lauren, who wrote the script, I think was very important to her. So at every point in the process, when we were casting, when we were revising the script, when we were plotting certain actions out, it was all about making sure there was a constant theme and connection between Mollie and Noa.
That was hard because, in a lot of the movie, they’re actually not together. So how do you very quickly set up this friendship that is going to carry you through the whole movie, so you actually believe the connection is strong enough to carry you? So yeah, it was a big part of our intentions and what we tried to do with it.
And Jojo were those themes of sisterhood is important to you?
JTG: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s something that I personally experienced in my real life. I think art is so subjective. You know, that people can interpret it in different ways. So, you kind of feel, especially in today’s world of social media, and people being able to express their opinions so freely, you feel like a burden trying to make sure you do things the right way.
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So, you know, trying to really, really, really solidify that friendship, and, you know, me and Daisy are friends in real life, so it wasn’t tough, but it was important for me for people to really and relate to and empathise to that type of platonic relationship. Because, you know, some people might be like, ‘I wouldn’t do that,’ ‘I wouldn’t go out of my way,’ you know, but I think everyone watching it understands why [Mollie does].
You mentioned that being friends with Daisy, your friendship was one of the highlights of the film for me; there was a real authenticity to it. Did you and Daisy know each other before, or did you just get to know each other during the making of the film?
JTG: Yeah, we met at the, at the Zoom chemistry read. I could feel through the screen that she had such a presence. She was so sweet. I was very grateful because I’ve had a bad chemistry read before with a big A-list star. They didn’t give me anything. I was like, ‘Please, Lord, let Daisy’.
She was so sweet. And then, of course, we got to Vancouver. And we were in quarantine for two weeks. So you know, we were like, pen pals on FaceTime. So it was a very special and specific situation that I don’t think we’ll probably ever experience again.
MC: [Laughs] Do you remember when you guys got there and quarantined and I was across the street, and I stood out on a patio with my flashlight?
JGT: [Laughs] Mimi and me would send each other signals back and forth with our phones.
Considering the relatively dark subject matter, I found Fresh a really fun film. Mimi, how difficult is it to balance the contrasting tones of horror and humour?
MC: It’s really hard. It was kind of that was the biggest challenge for me because I knew reading the script that it could be approached in a lot of different ways. I really wanted a specific tone, and I was kind of hoping on a wish and a prayer that what I was doing was actually working.
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It’s hard to tell until you’re editing; it’s really hard to make sure that that sort of pacing and that musicality of the comedy is also in line with the nature of a thriller or a horror. So it’s really tough.
Jojo, you’ve got a background in stand up comedy, so you can probably talk a lot about the line between shock and laughter?
JGT: I think that if people really think deep about it, comedy goes in hand in hand with pain and suffering to some degree. Most of the time, when I’m doing stand up, I’m talking about a scenario or a situation that was probably in that scary moment, or I was pissed off or some type of negative emotion, you know?
Mollie would maybe talk about getting kidnapped down the road on stage, you know, and how that was crazy. I feel like that’s the beauty of this film. It’s a great blend of the two because they do, unfortunately, go hand in hand sometimes.
Mimi, I have to ask you a little bit about your cannibalistic charmer, Sebastian Stan. I believe he sent you a video of himself dancing, too. Can you talk us through that a little bit?
MC: I had Zoomed with Sebastian to consider him for the role. I think it was like the day after that. We were speaking all the producers and I that we kind of were like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna offer him the role’. I think it was a Friday, we said, we’ll wait till Monday to offer it to him. And right after that, I got an email from a pseudonym.
It just read, ‘it’s Sebastian’. He had attached the video of himself dancing and said he ‘couldn’t help himself’. So I pulled my car over and watched the video, like, probably twenty times, and felt like, ‘I think we made the right decision’. It was just very Kismat because he didn’t know he already had the role.
Did he think the dancing would get him the part?
MC: I think that could be perceived that way, but I honestly think knowing him now that he just was sort of like swept up in the moment of the character in that specific scene, and wanted to show that he was committed enough to just go for it .
I think he wanted to show that he wasn’t afraid maybe and that he could still joke around while dealing with this sort of tough topic. So it was great. And there were many more videos after that [laughs].
And Jojo, what did you make of Sebastian?
JGT: I love working with Sebastian! Of course, Sebastian has his background with training for Marvel movies and stuff like that. So obviously, he came in, and he was like the teacher when it came to us doing our stunts and stuff like that. The stunt coordinator and everybody were amazing, but Sebastian, he allowed me to really go back to childhood making fight noises during stunts.
Fresh is streaming now exclusively on Disney Plus.