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Scream's Jack Quaid And Melissa Barrera Dish On The Legacy Cast And Ad-Libbing On Set - Exclusive Interview

With an all-new "Scream" comes a fresh cast, and Paramount Pictures pulled out all the stops. Fans are thrilled to see legacy cast members like Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), David Arquette (Deputy Dewey), and Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers) come back to Woodsboro. Still, the new players certainly hold their own, making the film a master class in sequels.

While he's new to the "Scream" franchise, fans might recognize Jack Quaid from a little-known movie franchise called "The Hunger Games" and his role as Hughie Campbell in "The Boys." Quaid also starred in the films "Logan Lucky" and "Rampage" before snagging the role of Richie in "Scream" (2022). Meanwhile, Melissa Barrera plays his onscreen girlfriend, Sam, and the film's possible new Final Girl. Barrera's work as Vanessa on "In the Heights" prepped her to become Ghostface's stalking subject — but she's not going down without a fight.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Jack Quaid and Melissa Barrera talked about working with the "Scream" legacy cast, how the film ditches toxic mental health stereotypes, and what the atmosphere on set was like for improvisation.

Scream's new Final Girl (maybe)

Melissa, the beginning of the movie appears to set up your character Sam as the next generation's new "Scream" Final Girl. Were you at all nervous about taking on this role alongside Neve Campbell? Did she help guide you along the way or give you any pointers?

Melissa Barrera: Yes. Very, very nervous, very intimidated, and just afraid of messing it up. Because the fans had been waiting for so long for another movie, there was a lot of pressure, but then everyone was so great. The directors were so generous and just held my hand along the way, and so did Jack and Jenna [Ortega]. 

When Neve and Courteney [Cox] and David [Arquette] were on set, they were just telling us to have fun and to enjoy it because they've lived with these characters for so long and in the universe for so long, and it's been such a huge part of their careers and their lives, and they know how special it is.

They wanted us to be very aware of what we were stepping into. We did it with the utmost respect and admiration, and Neve, I learned so much from her just by ... watching the way that she works — the way that she has her own input about how Wes [Craven] would've done things, and how in one of the other movies, there was something similar that we could reference. It was thrilling to have that, to have her as a connection and to learn from her.

Jack Quaid: I really quickly have to compliment Melissa. As much as we've been saying today about how the legacy cast were leading us and welcoming us — which they definitely were — Melissa definitely took up a leadership role within our cast of newbies and just led us with such grace. Without you at the center of all that, I don't know what would've happened with us. I just wanted to personally thank you. Seriously, you were amazing.

Barrera: Thank you. I love you.

Defying toxic mental health tropes

Melissa, your character grapples with some mental health struggles throughout the movie, but the movie handles it really well. In a 2022 context, why was it important for your character to ditch some of those toxic horror stereotypes that frequently follow mental illness?

Barrera: I think we're thankfully living in a time where mental illness is not taboo anymore — when we're talking about it more openly and realizing that we're all on the same boat in those emotional struggles that plague most of us, especially in the two years of [the] pandemic that we've been through so much collectively. 

From the first moment I read the script, I thought that it was so beautiful that they brought that into a very complicated character that has lived through a lot of trauma and carries a lot of weight on her shoulders of her past and her ... I just don't want to say anything that will be a spoiler.

She's carrying a lot of pain with her, and I think it's beautiful to see someone that's struggling with a mental illness but doesn't let it cripple her. [She] is not afraid to ask for help, which I think are two things that are super important to see being done — and in a way that doesn't feel preachy and in a way that doesn't feel they're trying to educate you. It's just the way that the story is told. I think that's the best way for people to relate to characters in TV and film and feel like they're not alone, which, especially when it comes to mental health, it's important to feel you're not alone.

The Woodsboro outsider

Jack, what was it like to play the Woodsboro outsider as Sam's boyfriend? Did you do any ad-libbing or any fun things in some of your scenes when you're pleading with everyone to get the hell out of town?

Quaid: [Laughs] I loved it. I loved playing Richie. I think the biggest challenge of that part is: I am a horror buff. I love horror movies, and to pretend I didn't really know anything was a little bit of a challenge. I love playing audience surrogate characters. [I] love playing characters that, more or less, my reaction is what the audience is going through. That's always really fun. I did ad-lib a lot. That's what I love about Matt [Bettinelli-Olpin] and Tyler [Gillett] is that we all ad-libbed a lot, and they were very encouraging of that. They made sure not to let that take over the scene.

I feel sometimes I watch movies, and I very much notice now we're in ad-lib territory. They made sure to keep it within a certain box, but they let us collaborate, and they let us try things and give options, which is so freeing. You don't want to just get locked in doing one thing. You want to explore every scene, and they really let us do that. I had a blast, and I was really surprised at how many, not just for me, but how many ad-libs from all of us made it into the movie. It's awesome.

Barrera: I feel Richie has a lot of great comedy moments in the movie, and a lot of it was Jack's improv.

Quaid: Thank you.

Barrera: He's so good. He made me break so many times when we were shooting that it was embarrassing because I was like, "I'm ruining takes because I can't hold it in because he's so funny."

Quaid: I didn't ... [Laughs embarrassingly with his head in his hands.]

Barrera: He's just naturally funny.

Quaid: After you get to a certain point of the day, I was like, "I'm going to forget about acting. I'm just going to try to make Melissa break on this tape." I made David break, and that's my new claim to fame.

"Scream" premieres exclusively in theaters on Friday, January 14, with early screenings taking place on Thursday.