Interview: Molly Quinn on Donning the Habit in ‘Agnes’

Most actors try to use the cred they’ve earned starring in eight seasons of a successful network television drama either by landing another similarly-situated series or seguing on to a big screen studio offering. Molly Quinn did neither. Oh, she did follow ABC’s longrunning Castle with a couple episodes of another network midseason replacement, The Fix. She also appeared in a pair of rather bleak movies – one funny (Newly Single); the other decidedly not (The Last Rampage). But it was a massive blockbuster drive-by and an arthouse horror dive-in that showed Quinn was more than the well-above-average network television star. Much more.

We speak of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Mickey Reece’s Agnes (which opens today via Magnolia Pictures). As far as films go, the two couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. One comes from the more-money-than-God school of studio filmmaking; the other falls more in line with the “Budget? What budget?” ethos. In fact, Agnes is the first of Reece’s twenty-five or so movies (really) that even had something called a budget. But money hasn’t prevented him from creating one of the most unique and compelling catalogs in filmdom.

For Quinn though, money seemed to be beside the point. Instead both roles showed her clear regard for the art of moviemaking, as well as the utter delight she found in making movies to begin with.

And to be sure, deigning to appear as “Howard’s Date” in a Marvel Cinematic Universe smash such as Guardians V2 is certainly indicative of someone having a blast. After all, why else would one want to walk on to a billion-dollar set and share drinks with Howard the Duck? (Why else indeed?)

But though Guardians was a lot of fun – and spurring along the legions of Marvel Easter Egg hunters must’ve been a pleasant surprise – Agnes gave Quinn an opportunity to pursue the otherworldly right here on Earth. It also permitted the Texarkana native to hone her chops alongside a coterie of merry malcontents from neighboring Oklahoma. Chief among them of course was their Pied Piper, Reece, who’s assembled an ensemble cast worthy of early John Waters (though more in mind perhaps of any-period Hal Hartley). To join that band of outsiders takes no small amount of courage. To be accepted among them shows no small amount of cool. Quinn hit both marks.

She also apparently hit it off with Reece, not to mention fully fell enthralled with his beautifully cracked vision. Consequently, in addition to accepting the role of Mary (uh-oh), Quinn also served as one of the film’s Executive Producers. And good that she did too, for Quinn’s participation in Reece’s deep-seeded scare flick helps elevate it from regional horror into something that’s readily accessible to the whole wide world. And it did so without losing any of the subgenre’s – or Reece’s – most piercing edge.

More, it permitted the religiously-raised actor a golden opportunity to shine a bright, white light on the deepest, darkest recesses of “Organized Faith.” At the end of the day though, it’s more than the priests and the nuns and the demons that go bump in the night…it’s the viewer themselves. And there’s nothing more frightening than what’s inside each and every one of us.  

As Agnes prepared to hit the big screen, BlackBook got with Ms. Quinn to get her what’s what about all that and then some.  

First, we’ve gotta say, you were terrific in Castle! And what an early career screen grab. Had you any idea you’d end up playing Alexis Castle for eight solid seasons?

I had no idea! Every time we got picked up for a new season, I was ecstatic.

Do you still keep in touch with Nathan Fillion?

Yes, we’ve remained great friends.

You also got to co-cameo with Howard the Duck in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – what was it like being even a small part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Being on the set for GOTG Vol 2 was incredible. When James asked if I wanted to be in a scene, I was blown away!

Your part might not have sounded very auspicious on paper, but it actually was one of the most revered Easter Eggs in the entire film. Had you been aware that Howard elicited so much admiration?

I did not know that! How fun.

Is there a chance Marvel might beef-up and reprise your role?

It’d be amazing to reprise my role as “Howard’s Date”. Who knows? Maybe I’m his fiancé now!

Okay, on to why we’re really here…Agnes. Congratulations! It’s a stunning – and stunningly unnerving film – which I suppose is the point. What first attracted you to the story of Agnes, as an Exec Producer?

Thank you! I was intrigued by the opportunity to tell a possession story from a different angle, focusing on the PTSD of possession.

With a name like Quinn, I imagine you are more than familiar with the Catholic faith? Were you actually raised Catholic?

My childhood was steeped in religion. I went to service at the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Saturdays with my mom and Mass on Sundays with my father.

Were there devout Catholics in your immediate family (and did they have much effect on your childhood)?

Yes. The focus on guilt in my childhood was awful.

Have any of them had a chance to see Agnes yet?

To live a healthier life, I don’t communicate with my family often.

Mickey Reece is a genuine cult director – what was it like working with him?

Mickey brings a stellar crew with him. As an example, Kaitlyn Shelby, our production designer, was incredible. She created a unique and eerily familiar world for Agnes.

How did you approach the role of Sister Mary?

When preparing to play Mary I journaled about her life before joining the convent. Focusing on her deep love for her son and the anguish and blame she felt at his untimely death.

What do you think it is about the Catholic Church that continues to intrigue people, often to the point of deep fear, mistrust and suspicion?

I think the duplicity of the Catholic Church will always make it a target for artists.

Why do you think that attitude falls largely upon nuns?

The first part of Agnes takes place in a convent because it’s supposed to be a haven for Mary. It’s universally terrifying when a safe space becomes unsafe. It’s why we’re afraid of monsters under the bed.

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