Elisha Cuthbert Talks The Cellar, Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, And Drag Race - Exclusive Interview

As the world begins to reopen and movie theaters become booming community centers again, one can't help but look forward to seeing a classic (at least in theme and presentation) horror movie with a crowd. The screams, the jumps, the generally unsettling ambiance — there's no better experience. Enter "The Cellar," an Ireland-set horror film starring famed actress Elisha Cuthbert, which is slated for an April 15 release in select theaters across North America, as well as Shudder. 

In "The Cellar," Cuthbert plays Kiera Woods, an advertising professional, wife, and mother who, with her family, moves into a new, old home in Ireland. Naturally, the home is haunted by an ancient presence, and matters get very real for her when her daughter becomes trapped in the house's cellar. From there, it's a race to save her as Kiera digs into the house's history to uncover what sinister forces are at play.

Cuthbert's prior credits include "The Girl Next," "House of Wax," and "Love Actually," and she made "RuPaul's Drag Race" herstory when she served as the guest judge on the first-ever episode of the North's international spinoff, "Canada's Drag Race." We were lucky enough to talk with Cuthbert recently about all things "The Cellar," including how "House of Wax" helped prepare her to play Kiera Woods, and "Canada's Drag Race," and the "24" actress didn't hold back about her experience on either.

On The Cellar's reception at South by Southwest

What can you tell us and tease about "The Cellar"?

"The Cellar" is about my character, Keira Woods, who ends up having her daughter vanish in this house that they acquired. It's really a journey for her to find out where she is, and rescue her before it's too late. It's got a lot of great jump scares and it's a fun ride.

It premiered at South by Southwest in March. What was the reception there like, and how has that momentum built ahead of its international [and] North American release?

Yeah, it was really amazing to be able to be there and present at South by Southwest, because the two years prior, no one was really doing that. We felt really honored to be there in person with actual people, and then we got to premiere at the midnight screening, which was so perfect for a film like ours. To have a horror film, genre film, premiere in the midnight slot was incredible. It was a blast, and also, it felt really special because we shot this film at the height of the pandemic in 2020, and we had to really keep it on hold until the world got back to normal, if you can call it normal. For it to actually be released ... I'm glad that it's out in the world, and everyone can get to see what we did during the pandemic.

You filmed during the pandemic and I also read that it was filmed on location. What filming challenges were you faced with, whether because of the pandemic, or the location or anything?

Our producers really did a great job at making sure the actors were really comfortable, but we had to see quarantine for two weeks prior to shooting. I was really off on my own for those two weeks, but I took advantage of it, and really worked hard on the script and got really focused. ... I've never been able to do that for any other project. How do you stop your life for two weeks to have no distraction and work on the film? That was really amazing.

How does Elisha Cuthbert bring horror characters to life?

It was crazy because we had to test every day. If someone ended up with COVID, we were going to shut down, because this was prior to any vaccinations. It was a little scary every day to think, "Today, we may not get through the day, or if someone tests, we're shut down." There was a little anxiety around that, but the crew got themselves organized. We worked really hard to stay in our bubble, and we got the movie made, which is unbelievable.

In "The Cellar," your character works in advertising, which is really interesting. I feel like a lot of those details can sometimes get lost in horror movies, because then we cut to the supernatural realm. How did you work on bringing your character to life? And are those little details important to you?

The more backstory you can know and understand about a character, the more you can draw on, and be more in the moment to either improvise, or flow with the other actors, especially the kids who are playing my children. It's always a little ... [it] can be off the cuff at any point, to structurally know who she is, and working in advertising — "Oh good, she's disciplined. She has a point of view." All these things, all these characteristics can come into play for sure for backstory, and understanding.

Eoin [Macken] and I ... Eoin, who plays my husband in the movie, Brian, we had a lot of conversations, because in the film, there's a lot of looks between each other, but not a lot of dialogue. I remember saying to him, "We should come up with a backstory for ourselves, and understand that we've probably been together since we were young, got married young, had children young." These things don't really need to be said. It can be a look, and he understands completely where I'm coming from. All these little details are really crucial.

In the horror world, you're probably perhaps best known for "House of Wax." How did working on that film maybe help prepare you for ["The Cellar"]?

"House of Wax" was such an incredible experience. I understood going into this, "Oh, when we get down to the nitty gritty of it, and we get into the physical stuff, and her getting down into the cellar, it's not going to be physically easy. It's going to take some demands."

On how House of Wax prepared her for The Cellar

I knew that going in because of "House of Wax." When s*** hits the fan ... The action part of the horror is what I really love, because it really is exciting and dynamic. I knew how physically demanding that was going to be because of "House of Wax," for sure.

You were also in the original "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" I know there's now a revival series, and we recently interviewed one of the stars of that, Malia Baker. Have you seen this revival? Were you approached for it at all?

No, I didn't even know about it. 

It just got renewed for a third season.

What? How did I not know this? [Laughs]

I think they need to call you. [Laughs]

Yes. Oh my gosh. That's crazy. You know what? I have such fond memories of doing the show, and because we were at the start, the intro and the outro for all the scary stories that were to air, we ended up having a two-week timeframe where we shot the top and bottom of each episode. It felt almost like horror kid camp. It was so fun. We had such a good time, and we were kids getting to tell scary stories around a fire. How much fun is that? It was such a great — I'm going to have to check that out. I'm going to have to definitely see that, the revival.

That sounds so fun, and also, you definitely need to be on their radar for this.

Well, maybe I'm too old now. That could be the problem.

[Laughs] I think they could find something for you.

Yeah, a little cameo maybe in the background.

At The List, we cover a lot of reality TV, so we have to reference... You were on the first-ever episode of a franchise I love: "Canada's Drag Race." What was your experience like?

Out of body experience. Dream come true. Yeah, it was so epic for me. It was amazing, and I still can't even believe that I got to be on the first episode, which was so amazing and incredible. ... There's something so incredible about "Drag Race." I can't get enough. I love all the queens. I love their process. I love how creative they are. They have to sew, they have to be funny, they have to have acting challenges.

Elisha Cuthbert gushes about RuPaul's Drag Race

I loved every ounce of it. I think it's so incredible. They have to know how to dance, lip sync for their lives. For me, it's so entertaining. I can't stop. I can't get enough.

Yeah, and you got to do something that... on the American version, the guest judges don't get to introduce the judges' panel.

Yeah, and there was a little controversy around that, and I'll tell you how that happened. Because Ru[Paul] isn't on that particular spinoff, and Brooke Lynn Hytes was the main host, they thought that they would change up the format slightly. When I got to set, the producers of "RuPaul's Drag Race" said, "Listen, we're going to do it a little differently because Ru's not here. Brooke Lynn's going to have parts of Ru's iconic lines, but every guest judge that comes in will also get some of the iconic lines as well." I was gagged, because the fact that I get to say some of these iconic lines of Ru's ... I was so honored. 

But then fans went, "Wait a minute. This is strange. These are Ru lines. These are not your lines." Because I was the first, they didn't realize that it was going to be handed down to every guest judge after that. There was a little drama, but there was a delay, so it was okay. I think they sorted it out, but I remember going, "Oh, well if the producers want me to say this, I certainly listen." To set the record straight, I did not walk on set saying, "I want to do these lines." Trust me.

That's amazing, and I think such a fun idea. It feels more like a community, rather than Ru doing things. That's so fun.

Yeah, it was. It was so fun ... Hats off to all the queens, and I'm a fan of every single one of them ... Yeah, I'm caught up on every single country, every single episode. Yeah, don't bug me when I'm watching my "RuPaul's Drag Race."

I love it so much. Finally, what can you tell us about what's next for you?

I actually have a film coming out either at the end of the year, or the start of next called "Bandit" with Josh Duhamel, and it's a bank robbery heist style film. Hopefully we'll get to chat out again about that.

"The Cellar" hits select theaters and Shudder on April 15.