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The Thrills Continue For Holland Roden In Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions - Exclusive Interview

For anyone who loves slasher films but hates seeing the actual slashing, Holland Roden's new film "Escape Room: Tournament of Champions" is just what Dr. Wootan Yu ordered. Roden plays Rachel, a former Minos champion diagnosed with CIPA (congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis). In layman's terms, she can't feel pain. Of course, that doesn't mean that Minos — the shady cabal organization that organizes deadly gladiator-style escape rooms — doesn't find a way to torture her. The follow-up to the original "Escape Room" throws previous winners of Minos' games into a subway car to fight for their lives all over again.

Roden is no stranger to films and TV with horror elements, having starred as Lydia Martin in MTV's "Teen Wolf" and the creepypasta series "Channel Zero." In between her major TV projects, Roden scored guest stints in shows like "Criminal Minds," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Lore." She also teamed up with former "Teen Wolf" co-star JR Bourne in the series "Mayans M.C." 

Early in her career, Roden starred in the movie "Bring It On: Fight to the Finish" and later moved on to films like "House of Dust" and "No Escape." She'll also appear as real-life detective Kathleen McChesney in "Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman" — a new Bundy film shining a light on the cop who helped take the notorious serial killer down.

Looper spoke to Holland Roden for this exclusive interview, during which she dished on "Escape Room: Tournament of Champions" and her personal experience with shady escape rooms. She also dove into her time with the "Teen Wolf" cast and revealed what it was like working with Chad Michael Murray on "Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman."

Making a hobby into a job

What were some of the most challenging aspects of filming "Tournament of Champions"?

I would say the difference with this movie versus other movies is, as an actor, you're usually not in every scene all day, every day, and so it was a different feeling to be on camera that much as well as the type of acting. It's truly a group effort — acting in general, but especially in a circumstance like this because you are solving a puzzle while also acting. So the type of acting is a very specific muscle, so to speak. Yeah.

What was the most exciting thing that you did while you were shooting?

I was really such a fan of the sets, and there's such an interactive aspect to watching this movie compared to other movies that I really enjoyed. I'm a massive escape room fan in general, in my real life. So yeah, I thought that was fun to bring that into my job and truly make that amusement park sort of effect while telling the story.

Reality meets fiction

Do you think you would have survived if you were really in this horror movie?

No. I'm a weakling. I wouldn't have made it far. No. I probably would have been the first death we see in the movie, if not sooner. But the wreck, just hitting the wall or the other train, would have done me in.

Right. Do you tend to be good at escape rooms when you do them?

I'm okay. I really do ... I'm a hype girl in escape rooms. I'm like, "Maybe!" I'm not necessarily someone that is quiet, and then all of a sudden comes up with the answer. I'm like the Chatty Cathy, that's like a chicken with her head cut off. But I love escape rooms. Yeah.

Do you have any fun stories from the set?

Oh gosh. So many. I called it torture summer camp because we were so far from home, and it was beautiful weather. It was summer. And the boys happened to be really talented musicians. Tom Cocquerel and Logan Miller are amazing on the guitar, and Carlito [Olivero] came in third on "X Factor," so we would have these jam sessions on the weekends that I was quite flattered and honored just to be the only audience member [laughs]. So that was fun. Yeah, that was all fun.

Real-life horrific escape rooms

That's awesome. Did you guys do an escape room as a group?

I heard that happened on the first one. No, this has different consequences in the end, so there was not a lot of overlap as far as the schemes I've experienced. Although there was one that was somewhat like this movie. But it was the first one in Vienna that I took my mom to, and my best friend and her mom — we all went together. It was 108 degrees inside this old building, and it was one of the first escape rooms ever to be put together since they started in Vienna. And they literally wouldn't let us out, and we don't speak Austrian or Austrian-German.

Oh no!

Yeah, so it was ... And we have two women in their 60s not doing well, and so that was not unlike the beginnings of this movie.

Yeah. Yikes.

Or at least I can say the first movie with the heat. Yeah.

A new kind of pain

Your character Rachel has CIPA. Did you do any research on that condition before filming, and what were some of the things that you wanted to show in your portrayal of this condition to make it look realistic?

Yeah. I tend to play a lot of conditions in things that I play. It's an umbrella effect. The word schizophrenia, there're different kinds of schizophrenia, but I've played that a couple of times and different kinds of schizophrenia. So when this condition came up, I was like, "Oh, this is another research project." I really wanted to ... When one sense is not able to function, other senses sort of compensate or make up for it. And I really wanted to emphasize that she can't feel physical pain. 

She really does try to take on others' emotions and live in their shoes. And so that's why she decided to become an EMT before Minos made her life a living hell. That's why she's always the first to diagnose people throughout the rooms. That is because of what she chose to do for a living, which is why she chose to do that — because of the condition that she was born with. I think it does take on more of a mental pain because she can't feel the physical.

The future (or past) of Rachel

Do you think there's room for your character to appear again? And would you sign on for either a sequel or prequel? I think it would be really cool for each champion to get their own prequel films.

Well, that's cool. That's a new direction. You guys are coming up with the new directions. That would be amazing. I mean, I love that this movie picked up offscreen where we all had our own rooms, and Ben and Zoey's has to be filmed, so to speak. I liked that angle that they took and that my room would be sort of this Minos game on steroids because he's creating a game for people that can't feel pain. So I think the mental games he probably played with us were probably pretty intense.


And yeah, I think that would be a really interesting slant. I love working with Adam [Robitel], and the Cape Town crew was incredible. Yeah, I would love that.

What do you think your escape room would have been if they were to plop you in this game?

Oh, we joked about this. There are a plethora of ideas, but I would say it would probably be a bunch of TikTokers, and I have to TikTok my way out of this situation as a strong millennial. That would probably be my stance. Oh gosh, what else? What else? I think a really bad marriage would be a pretty great escape room that, unfortunately, I think a lot of people sometimes live in real life. Mine are very mundane and sort of societal zeitgeist.

Right. Those are sometimes the most chilling ones.

We were in a real escape room called Corona, but yeah ... group effort. Mm-hmm, global scale.


A bag of horrors

You've done a lot of projects in the horror genre. What was it like working on "Escape Room" compared to projects like "Teen Wolf," "Lore," and "Channel Zero"?

I would say "Channel Zero" was definitely different, as well as "Lore" being a true story where there are Salem Witch Trials, so to speak. It wasn't the 1600s, but it was the 1900s where honor killings were still legal in Ireland. "Lore" was probably a very personal experience, just having to empathize with this woman who, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was burned at the stake by basically her husband and her father. And "Channel Zero" was definitely more of a character study as well because of the sister dynamic and then diseases as insidious as schizophrenia with the dissociative identity disorder and manic episodes.

It was definitely a different approach than this just because it was such a group effort. And yes, I had this condition, but the priority in this role was being in the rooms and being able to solve them and being able to work with other actors and other people in the escape room essentially. But the group effort versus the character study, I would say, took priority.

Back to Beacon Hills

So switching gears a bit, what are some of your favorite memories on or off set with Dylan O'Brien, Tyler Hoechlin, and the rest of the "Teen Wolf" cast?

Oh gosh. Well, Colton Haynes and Ian Bohen, some of my best friends to this day. JR [Bourne] and I are working on "Myans M.C." together now, and so that was fun to have conversations with him about another project.

"Teen Wolf" was such a big part of my life that it's not so much a job as it is part of who I am. I didn't really have a normal college experience, and so "Teen Wolf" for me was very much that back at the beginning, especially being in Atlanta. I said the boys because they were 18. But Dylan [O'Brien] and Tyler Posey had just graduated high school, and they were these skateboarding kind of kids. It was just a really pure time as those younger shows tend to be respectfully segregated together in a city that you don't traditionally live in.

Colton and I had a fond memory. We used to wrap ourselves in bedsheets, and he would rent out the corporate room in the apartment complex he was living in, like the corporate housing building. And I was Craigslisting everything, and everyone would make fun of me — but I would save so much money Craigslisting my housing. And so I would go to Colton's place, and we'd wrap ourselves in bedsheets, and he would rent out the room, and we would parade down with champagne to watch the award shows. So I have not worn bedsheets since Atlanta with Colton. We just did ... We were just stupid. We would just run around doing stupid stuff when we weren't working, which was obviously a blast.

On set shenanigans

That's so funny. Do you have any funny stories with Dylan or either of the Tylers?

Yeah. Hoechlin and I have an interesting history because we were actually set up on a blind date from our best friends dating two years before the show. And I'll never forget, he was cast first, and I was in the gym running on my treadmill as I usually am. And he comes in, and I was like, "Hoechlin, hey!" I had actually set him up on our blind date with a girl he ended up dating for a couple of years. But cut to two years later, I'm on the treadmill, and he gawks in, and I was like, "I heard you got cast. You're going to have so much fun in Atlanta." And two days later, I'm texting him and going, "Well, I got a call too. I guess we're doing this together." It was nice that I saw Hoechlin before. We really, even before we were on the show together, we were good friends.

Dylan and I used to pull little funny things like they would go, "Okay, we're going to slo-mo now." And so we'd come through the doors, slo-mowing. And they're like, "Back to one. Camera's slo-mowing, guys." We would just screw with them in that way, you know, waste valuable production time. What's that about? So yeah, it was right until action. There was always a joke going on usually. No matter what the content of the scene was.

Teen Wolf or summer camp?

That's great. Did you ever have trouble getting back into character after some of that?

No. "Teen Wolf" tested you in a lot of ways that I didn't realize you were being tested, so to speak, until I got to other sets. The hours were intense, the climate, we were always wet and naked more often than not. And then yeah, because we had such young protagonists, Tyler [Posey] and Dylan were so, I guess, teenagers, he was pretty young when he first started the show. The fart jokes up until action, I just was ... I don't know. That's just how our set runs. So yeah, we didn't have a very serious side. But I heard we were one of the more fun shows around town, and I'm not surprised to hear that.

Yeah, that's not surprising information at all.

It was a lot of fun. It was ridiculous how crazy it was. We had a naked lady, a naked dummy we'd put each other's trailers and put on the toilet. It was veiny, and it was a very odd dummy. And we always have the naked lady being passed around. I think Dylan hid in Tyler Hoechlin's closet for like an hour and a half once, trying to scare him — committed. We would buy plastic pools in the summer and sit in our bra and underwear and then go change really quick, right before we're wanted. And so we just did stupid stuff all the time.

The queen of Beacon Hills

Lydia is such a strong and dynamic character. She goes from hiding her intelligence to sharing it with the world. Have you learned anything from Lydia that you take with you personally? And what do you hope the young girls who watched the show took away from her character?

Well, I don't think the gingers are hired very often for the popular girls, so I commend MTV on that decision, Jeff [Davis] and Justin Levy and Danny Zaccagnino. But I would say I just love that they also ... I was initially written for like an Italian model-looking girl, and I was like, "Okay, how am I going to differentiate myself? I don't know why I'm really here." I love Alexander Payne, and I love "Election" and Tracy Flick, and so I thought, "Okay, I'll make her a genius," and I guess they liked that. It broke the archetype of a popular girl, so to speak. And her arc, I really loved as well.

But as far as taking away anything of Lydia's, I wish I was as smart as Lydia. That would be pretty cool. I don't know if I'm taking that away but, yeah. Yeah, I would say that's probably the number one thing I wish I could take away.

Pre-med + Teen Wolf

Didn't you go to school for medicine at some point?

Yeah, I was pre-med for a few years, but Lydia wouldn't have to ... She was Doogie Howser. She didn't have to go to medical school.

[Laughs] That's true.

Yeah. I didn't go to medical school. I was just pre-med. Yeah.

You have to be pretty smart to even get into medical school.

Yeah, I didn't get in. I mean, I applied to nursing schools. I switched majors halfway through, and I did apply to nursing schools during the pilot of "Teen Wolf." And one of the executive producers who I believe is an executive at Fox TV now, well, Disney TV now, I had to ask him to proctor my exam from one of my professors who was published and very fancy. She was not about to let me take my exam off-campus. And so I believe she and that executive producer, Michael Thorn, became friends from that experience. Yeah. So I was like sitting there at Video Village, taking my exam with headphones on. And he's like, "Are you cheating?" I'm like, "No." And so that was ... Yeah, it was just like a very unusual experience on that side.

The Stiles and Lydia detective agency

Would you head back to Beacon Hills for a reboot if there was a story to tell and everyone's schedules lined up?

Yeah, sure. If all those things lined up, for sure. It was a special time. I don't know if we can recreate that same magic as our crippled old age has set in. But yeah, if it was something that all lined up, absolutely.

You've been a pretty vocal Sterek [Stiles and Derek] shipper through the run of the show. How did you feel about Stiles and Lydia's relationship arc at the end of the series? And would you have changed anything about it?

Maybe more time as the couple. Like being able to have to see them more in a relationship, you know, they were such an old married couple from the get-go, the way they would bicker. I definitely felt chemistry with Dylan onscreen. So yeah, I would say just having more of the relationship through that time. If there would have been a season seven, I always joke that like Lydia and Stiles would have a detective agency and actually be getting paid for their services in Beacon Hills. They did a lot of free work, guys.


No unions. No regulations. I think some refractions or ...

They should have at least given them an internship or something.

Or a purple heart or something. Nothing. I got nothing. No honorary medals. No.

Back to the '80s

Are there any storylines or folklore that you wish the show had tackled that maybe they didn't have time to do? And were there any plot lines that almost happened or were scheduled to happen but didn't for some reason?

No, that's where I think Jeff [Davis] reigned supreme. I mean, I love that they put the Banshee, Irish folklore into my character as well as ... My god, they covered so much stuff, like the season in Mexico to the headless horseman ode. I love the nogitsune. "Go" is such a cool game to me.

I loved it.

I thought that storyline, I won't speak for Dylan, obviously, but I just thought that was the coolest storyline to play a Void!Stiles and for Stiles ... what an opportunity. And he obviously knocked it out of the park. And yeah, I thought the all-white room reminded me of the "Are You Afraid Of The Dark?" episode of the toy factory when the toy factory disappeared. I don't think that was their inspiration, but it's what it reminded me of. No, I thought they did a great job of really trying their best to explore all options. The one thing I wished we would have done is we had kind of ... We were so much more innocent than the other shows of this genre at that time. And when I watched "Stranger Things," I was like, this was basically "Teen Wolf" but a little bit younger.


Like the monster in the wall in the show and the suspense and the humor put together. I don't think "Teen Wolf" got enough credit, actually. That if maybe there was a bit more ... We didn't have a lot of marketing. It was pretty guerrilla-style. So for as many people found our show as they did, I was really flattered. But yeah, I would say that I wish we, maybe, actually set it in the '80s. That would be my only regret. Because we kind of had some odes to that — the way it was lit. Very reminiscent of all of that. Yeah.

And the source material, of course.

Obviously, yeah. I wish it was set back in the '80s.

Not just another Bundy movie

Can you tell us anything about "Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman" and what it was like working with Chad Michael Murray on that project?

Yeah! Yeah. It comes out August 16. And what I loved about this particular Ted Bundy movie is, give it a chance, because it actually focuses a lot on the law enforcement that caught him, and it's a woman named Kathleen McChesney as my character. She's a real girl, a real 5'2" red-headed spitfire. They cheated and went with a 5'4" girl. 

But it was fun because she was working at Seattle Police Department and was the one of the first sort of ... actually, Clarice [from "Silence of the Lambs"] is based on her. She was one of the first to have the idea of the profile from a psychological standpoint. And now she's one of the heads of the FBI out of Los Angeles. I love that they focused from that perspective because that hasn't really been done yet.

And working with Chad was great. It was sort of one of the first moments I've had in my career, as far as like a teen throwback because I had watched ... I didn't watch a ton of "One Tree Hill," but I had seen a few episodes. I obviously knew who he was. I've seen him in teen movies. So working with him as an adult was incredible. He was so lovely. We now live in the same area of Los Angeles, so he was giving me a bunch of tips for moving to Topanga. But he's a great guy. He played a great Ted Bundy. He had a very particular character choice, and he put a lot of thought into it. We were one of the first movies to shoot back from the pandemic in July 2020.

I was building a van at the time and took a break and flew across the country to go do that movie — I was terrified to go on the plane and go through the testing. It was nerve-wracking. It's a memory I'll take away from that movie. But it was really fun to play a real person in modern day and to work with Chad.

"Escape Room: Tournament of Champions" is available in theaters now.