The most powerful and memorable horror films and television series are often those that subvert both the traditional emotional and visual elements of the genre. That’s certainly the case for the acclaimed supernatural horror comedy franchise, ‘Child’s Play,’ which includes seven celebrated movies and its critically acclaimed spinoff television show, ‘Chucky,’ whose upcoming third season was announced in January.
Don Mancini created the ‘Child’s Play’ franchise, and wrote the screenplays for all seven films. He also directed the last three entries in the movie series, including ‘Seed of Chucky,’ ‘Curse of Chucky’ and ‘Cult of Chucky,’ the latter two he also served as an executive producer on. He also created and serves as the showrunner on ‘Chucky,’ which serves as a sequel to ‘Cult of Chucky.’
The television spin-off features an ensemble cast that includes new protagonists, as well as returning characters from the movies. Those returning performers include Alex Vincent, Christine Elise, Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif reprising their roles from the films. Dourif’s father, Brad Dourif, returns to the franchise to once again voicing the titular doll in ‘Chucky.’
Vincent and Elise generously took the time to participate in a panel on Saturday afternoon during the spring 2023 edition of the New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival, which was held at the Showboat Atlantic City hotel, to discuss the ‘Child’s Play’ series. During the panel, the actor and actress discussed their first memories of becoming involved in starring in the franchise; what their experience of working with Mancini since the first ‘Child’s Play’ movie was released in 1988; and what their most terrifying and fun moments have been while making the films and show.
Question (Q): What are your first memories of becoming involved in the ‘Child’s Play’ franchise?
Alex Vincent (AV): My first memory is my audition, which I’ve discussed before. For my third callback, I flew out to California to audition against two other kids. My mother was in the room with me for the audition, and I had to say the line, “Aunt Maggie was a real b*tch and got what she deserved.”
I did not want to swear in front of my mother. So I said that I forgot the words and ran out of the room and locked myself in the bathroom. My mother explained what happened to the filmmakers, and I guess they thought that I was innocent enough to play Andy after that.
Christine Elise (CE): I auditioned, too, but my audition story isn’t cute. So the better thing to say is that I got to audition with Brad Dourif in an office on the Universal lot. That way he could hear how I was going to do my dialogue, so that he could have a chance to act with me before we recorded everything.
I was a such a big fan of his work already because of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Wise Blood,’ so I was star-struck. But I was also really terrified. But overall, it was really cool.
Q: You have both been working with Don Mancini for decades now. How has working with him been like, going back to the movies and now on the television series? Was he on set much while you were filming ‘Child’s Play 2’ (which he wrote, and was Elise’s first time starring in the franchise)?
AV: Yes, he was on the set for that movie, and was recording everything with a camcorder. Since he was the writer, he was on set, giving notes, but he was mainly filming everything.
Nowadays, he’s the showrunner on the TV series, so he’s the busiest guy on the set. But he still makes time to be on set and watch scenes being filmed every day. He gives us insight and direction. Since he’s running the show, he’s doing a bit of every job.
Q: Since you’ve both been involved in the franchise for so long, you’ve seen the Chucky doll go from being fully animatronic to both animatronic and CGI.
AV: Well, to clarify that, the only CGI that we use on ‘Chucky’ is to remove the puppeteers.
CE: Yes, we use all practical puppetry. I think there was one scene in ‘Curse (of Chucky)’ where he comes down the stairs, and you can tell.
AV: Yes, it’s a mix between puppetry and an actor. When you see Chucky’s full body running, it’s usually an actor and CGI.
Fortunately, what they can do now is have a bunch of men dressed in greenscreen suits that are around the doll, and (the editors) can take the men out of the image.
CE: It’s crazy; the doll has wires coming out of it, and the puppeteers are around it in a circle, pulling on the wires on different parts of the doll’s body. Now they’re in there, moving it around with sticks, while wearing the green outfits. The CGI is only used to take them out of the scenes.
Q: Yes, the industry is now finally realizing that it’s better to use CGI to remove things than to add them, like in the recent ‘Chucky’ films and the show that you’re both in. But there was a period of time when there were movies being made in the series that you both weren’t in. What are your thoughts on those films – were there any that you liked or disliked, or were you just happy to come back to the franchise?
AV: Well, I was 10-years-old when they made ‘Child’s Play 3,’ and they replaced my character with a different actor. So I was a 10-years-old version of bitter and resentful, and I just didn’t watch it for a little bit. But when I eventually did, I appreciated things about the film, but it’s my least favorite out of all of them.
By the time ‘Bride of Chucky’ came out, I had gotten over my bitter feelings a bit, so I enjoyed that one. I also love Jennifer Tilly, so that movie’s super fun.
With ‘Seed of Chucky,’ like so many other people, I don’t think I was really ready for it at that time. I should have been, but I wasn’t. Qhen I go back and watch it now, I appreciate it so much than I did at the time.
There are a lot of ‘Chucky’ fans that always want it to just be scary, as their first time meeting Chucky was scary. Some people are very much committed to that idea. But I’ve very much evolved my thoughts on that.
The television show has especially picked up on the comedy, and has made the storylines so much richer and meta. There’s so much reality and absurdity in the world of Chucky. I really think it’s brilliant and appreciate it.
CE: The comedy is such an important part of the show, especially Jennifer Tilly, that if you don’t get it, you don’t get ‘Chucky.’ Who would give up Jennifer Tilly? She’s the greatest thing on Earth; she’s awesome!
Q: What’s the scariest part of the franchise for you both?
AV: There really isn’t anything that I find to be incredibly scary. But when I was in the first movie, Chucky’s all burnt and backing me down a hallway. They didn’t want me to see that; they thought that would be too scary for me. But practically, it didn’t work for me to not see it, so I ended up seeing it anyway. But they tried to shield me from that.
Also, I wouldn’t call this scary, but being tied to that cot in the cabin was skinning me and eating me stands out. But it depends on how I look at it; on the day, it could be very scary.
CE: For me, the scariest thing is reading a new script and hoping I don’t die. I don’t want that to happen at all – that would be terrifying! Every season finds a way to pretend that Kyle and Andy aren’t coming back. I’m like, “I hope I’m coming back!”
But as far as shielding people, when we came back in Season 1 as the fake census takers, Andy was shooting bullets right next to the little girl’s head. We tried to shield her from that. Also, all the blood that hit me was CGI after the fact because they didn’t want her to see that. So I had to look like I was hit with something when I hadn’t been, just to protect that little girl from seeing something gross.
Q: Does Don have a definitive plan for the rest of the television series, including how many seasons he wants?
CE: No, he starts new with every season. He can’t write that far in advance, as it would be wasted energy, as we may never get there. So why map out 10 seasons if you’re not guaranteed to get all of them? Then you’ve wasted all of that time.
Things are always changing. Actors become available or unavailable, and the kids are growing up. So it would be difficult to put in that much commitment that far in advance.
Q: That’s impressive; it seems so pre-planned.
AV: Well, I think some ideas are; I think even now, he has concepts that he comes up with that he would like to do eventually, but he just has to figure out how to work them in.
There are things he wanted to do 25 years ago for the films that he’s now finally able to do, for the show, for instance. But there is a writer’s room now for the show, so there’s other input on how to flush out the concepts.
CE: An example of that is that there was a time when Kyle was going to show up in ‘Cult’ and die the death that Junior’s mom, Bree (Wheeler) has in Season 1 of the show, when she falls out of the window and lands on the car.
AV: It was a little different, but we can’t say it because it may happen.
But that was actually our favorite scene; it was shot beautifully, and Lexa Doig, who played Bree, was amazing and intense. Teo (Briones), who played Junior, also gave an amazing performance, even in just his scream.
Q: Is there anything you can tease about Season 3?
AV: No; the only thing I can say is that you should know by now to expect the unexpected with ‘Chucky.’ So whatever you have in your mind about where it’s going to go, you’re wrong.
CE: I think we’re going to keep killing Devon Sawa!
AV: Don really seems to enjoy doing that!
CE: He’s killed him three times already!
Q: Season 2 has a really intricate storyline. Was there anything about the season hat confused you?
AV: I wasn’t confused in the slightest. But I have to say, when I first read the script, I needed to see some of it to understand it.
CE: When I read the scripts for Season 2, when Nadine showed up, on paper, she was driving me crazy. I was like, “I hate this kid!” But when they cast Bella (Higginbotham in the role), she brought the character to life in such a charming way. She became everyone’s favorite new character; she was awesome.
But then Don killed Nadine, and he got death threats for killing her off the show.
Q: What’s the experience like of working with Brad Dourif?
AV: He’s never really there on set. He usually records all of his vocal stuff first; he might clean some stuff up later, but he records his lines first.
So a lot of times, his voice is on playback while the doll’s on the set, which helps a great deal. It’s a lot easier than having the script supervisor saying (in a monotone voice,) “Andy, I’m going to kill you.” It’s a lot better to have his voice playing on set. So I work with him in that capacity, but I never do a scene with him in person.
Q: What’s the experience like of also working with Brad’s daughter, Fiona Dourif?
AV: Well, we all know what a fantastic actress she is. It’s borderline intimidating, but she’s a part of the ‘Chucky’ family, and working with anyone in the family is super fun.
CE: I had to hit her in the face like five times last season, and that was scary! I didn’t want to actually hit her, but I clipped her a little bit. The physical stuff is tricky. I didn’t want to punch her in the face.
AV: I was there for one of those punches in the church.
CE: I punched her there.
Q: What has been the most difficult scene to shoot in the franchise?
AV: When I was a kid, I was very scared to do the crying scene in the first film. But it ended up working out.
CE: The exorcism scene took five days to shoot, and there were so many of us there. We were in a real church and it was hot, especially since there were a lot of lit candles. We were all breathing in black soot, and some people were even wearing their COVID masks, which acted like filters from all of the smoke from the candles. Some of us also got a gallon of blood thrown in our faces.
AV: I hid behind her!
CE: He did!
Q: Where there any props that you took home from the sets of the movies or the show?
CE: The best thing I ever brought home from set was Jason Priestley (her co-star from ‘90210’)! (Audience laughs and claps.)
AV: All I got was PTSD.
Q: What’s the most fun thing about filming the ‘Chucky’ show and films?
AV: Any time you’re on the set with the Chucky doll, and you see the things the brilliant puppeteers are doing, is awesome. Besides that, I’m working with people I’ve known since I was a child. These people are family. It’s always fun and exciting.
Q: At what point did Don start talking to you both about the fact that he was thinking of making the television series?
AV: I knew soon after ‘Cult’ that making the show was the next thing that he wanted to do.
Q: How many years was it between the release of ‘Cult of Chucky’ and the show’s first season?
AV: It was four years. But the show was delayed because of the pandemic and something that had nothing to do with our ‘Chucky’ came out and complicated things. (The 2019 movie, ‘Child’s Play,’ which was written by Tyler Burton Smith and directed by Lars Klevberg, serves as a remake/reboot of Mancini’s original 1988 film and the overall ‘Child’s Play’ franchise. Mancini and the rest of the cast and crew of the original ‘Child’s Play’ series wasn’t involved in Klevberg’s movie.)
Q: When will ‘Chucky’s third season be released?
AV: ‘Chucky’ Season 3 will be out this fall.
(L-R): Actress Christine Elise and actor Alex Vincent attend the ‘Chucky’/’Child’s Play’ franchise panel at the Spring 2023 New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival at the Showboat Atlantic City hotel.