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Shelley Hennig Compares Dual Characters On The Woman In The House And Teen Wolf - Exclusive Interview

Fans are obsessed with Netflix's new series "The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window," and it's easy to see why. The iconic exaggeration of satirical thriller tropes in the Kristen Bell-led series makes for a pretty captivating binge-watch, and fans have taken notice. Along for the ride is Shelley Hennig, who plays Lisa, the seemingly doting girlfriend of Anna's neighbor Neil. Hennig's presence in the series sparks a delightful feud between the leading woman onscreen. 

Before her role in the Netflix show, Hennig boasted a long TV resume. She starred as Diana Meade in "The Secret Circle," Stephanie Johnson in "Days of Our Lives," and played Malia Tate in "Teen Wolf" for three seasons. Hennig is also known for films like "Unfriended," "Ouija," and "When We First Met." 

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Shelley Hennig revealed how it felt playing two characters on "The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window," what it was like having a passive-aggressive sparring match with Kristen Bell onscreen, and what she really thinks about her character's motivations. She teased some details about the upcoming "Teen Wolf" movie and whether or not she thinks Malia and Scott are still together. 

A passive-aggressive shade fest

I love your character's rivalry with Kristen Bell's Anna, particularly the passive-aggressive moment where Lisa throws out the markers that Anna gives to Emma. Did you and Kristen talk at all about how you'd go about cultivating this dynamic, and what was it like working with her throughout the series?

We did not talk about it. Honestly, this is one of those dynamics that ... we did it, and it grew. It was a rare experience where you're like, "Wow, this feels really intense." We could feel it on that street, and I think we enjoyed it a little too much. I really wanted to bring in the "Real Housewives" vibe, the smile through the cattiness, and that's what we did. It kept building, and we had some ideas, and we asked Michael [Lehmann], the director, if we could do it a few more times, and we tried it different ways. It was one of those things that worked.

Working with Kristen, you feel alive. She's so full and fun, and she gets it. I can't imagine anyone else playing Anna. I really can't. I think the writers would agree. It was intended for her. She nails that tone, and she set the standard, and we all came to play. Working with her was like a dream.

Do you know if they wrote it with her in mind?

I actually don't know that.

Double the characters, double the trouble

The premise of the show is that your character's a murder victim, but there were times when it seemed like it was all in Anna's head. Were you at all surprised when you read the script about your character's fate and her con-woman backstory?

When I originally went out for Lisa, I did not know Chastity existed. When I met with the director, he then told Michael, then told me. He was talking to me about this other character like I knew, and I was like, "Wait, I'm sorry. Who's Chastity? I thought I was playing Lisa." He was like, "What? You didn't know?" I was like, "No." And he is like, "Man, they don't tell you actors anything." I was like, "It's cool. Just tell me." 

He started telling me about Chastity. I was like, "This is just a gift that keeps on giving." For one, it had Kristen Bell attached, and then I'm here, and now there's another character. It was the gift that kept on giving, for real. I found out about Chastity and how fun is that to play two different ... to have two different lives. That was exciting and a surprise.

I was definitely surprised by who my murderer was ... I don't think anyone really guessed that, or at least no one in my world who [has] given me feedback and their own reviews. They were like, "Okay, that got me. That's a pretty cool twist." I felt the same way when I read the script. I was like, "What?"

That reveal was so incredible. I can't even imagine anyone calling that. It was absolutely wild.

Yeah, they nailed it.

How was that scene to film? Your death scene?

Samsara [Leela Yett] is so good. What a little trooper. It was a technical scene with trying to get the knife right and the blood, but who better to direct a scene like that than Michael Lehmann? That was, in a weird way, nostalgic for me because I loved "Heathers." I saw it when I was older, but that was cool to do bloody scenes with him as the director. Samsara was a trooper. I was more intrigued by the scene with Anna and her and their fight scene. That killed me. When I saw that, I was like, "I've honestly never seen a better dynamic on television, a better fight scene." That really got me.

Could we see Lisa again?

Given that so much of this series happens in Anna's head, would you be down to return for a sequel series if the writers found a way to make it happen or even maybe like a Bonnie and Clyde-esque prequel with your character and Rex?

Yeah. I could always come back as a ghost because if we're in her head and we don't believe her psyche, then what better way than to play a spirit that visits her? I actually posted something on Instagram with my really bad sequel idea, but I had to get myself involved, so I had to make myself a ghost. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Is there someone that you've worked with from any of your past projects that you think would be a really good fit in a possible Season 2?

Well, the coolest women I've worked with recently would be Kristen Bell and Kat Dennings. I think they offer the same, or they offer similar vibes that I am obsessed with, so give me Kristen Bell and Kat Dennings any day.

Satirical comedies like "Scream" have changed pop culture forever, but we often see them in the horror genre. How do you think "The Woman in the House" is helping to transform the thriller genre, and what doors do you think it opens to other like-minded projects in this genre and beyond?

Well, I like that it was not your typical thriller horror. I'm a big fan of hybrids, and I've always been gravitating towards projects that did something different, "Unfriended" being one of them. That was a scary thing to kind of jump into. No one knew what that was going to be about, or how it's going to be received, and people had a really great reaction to it. There's nothing better than that feeling of trying something new, being a part of it. 

[I was] paying attention to people's reviews and thoughts. You've got some people saying they laughed hysterically. My one friend said she cried so many times, and I was like, "Wow, that's a unique reaction." Everybody has such a different reaction to it, and I love films and television shows like that. There's more than one way to do filmmaking, and this one was unique, and it stands alone.

Subverting the genre

At times, it seems like Lisa does really care for Neil and Emma, even though she's actively conning them. Do you think that she developed actual feelings or at least a little bit of guilt over her actions? Or do you think it was totally a ruse?

No guilt and no feelings. It was a total ruse, or at least that's how I played it. I'm tired of making excuses for characters, especially women. I decided on this one, have her be the bad guy — fully be the bad guy, like all of the other bad guys in all the other famous movies that we've seen. I went for it as far as her having zero chill.

How do you think that Lisa subverted the typical expectations that come along with a token girlfriend role in a thriller.

I think by watching "Real Housewives" of, maybe Pasadena, in that world, if that one existed. I'm going for "Housewives of Pasadena" vibes.

It definitely played out very well on screen. You've been a part of a ton of popular projects from multiple genres, like "Teen Wolf," "When We First Met," and "Ouija." What excited you about tackling this satirical thriller, and how was it different from some of the other projects and genres that you've been a part of?

Well, I've never been a part of anything like this. This is a whole new genre that I don't think we've seen before ... I could be wrong, but Michael Lehmann is like his own king. "Heathers" created its own genre. I was really excited to be in his hands and to work alongside Kristen Bell. I was in awe of her before, and I left even more in awe of her. And on top of that, it was fun, and everybody really enjoyed the weird dynamics that we had to play, and it was absurd, and we were in on the joke, and I think we're all happy to see people talk about it.

Oh, my friend called me the other day. She's like, "Oh my God, I'm in the dressing room at" whatever store, "and the girls in the dressing room next to me are arguing about your show. One has this theory. The other one has this theory." I was like, "That's amazing."

The scenes that never were

What would you say to some of the viewers who don't quite get that this is a satire and criticize it for not being too serious?

I would tell them nothing. Let them say that. [It's not] about explaining to anyone ... some people get it in one way, and other people get it in another way. Maybe they'll revisit it and understand it five years from now. I hope it creates a lot of drama.

What has been your favorite memory from set or your favorite scene, your favorite line, something that you did with the show that you're really excited about?

You know, the trash can scene with Kristen felt so palpable. I don't know how to describe it, but ... I really did feel like I was having way too much fun with that scene. It's really hard to be that way towards Kristen Bell. She's like the loveliest, classy, awesome, hilarious, sweet person. To have to be awful to her, that's not fun, but she made it a safe space, and we went for it. It was something I'll never forget.

Is there someone from the show that you wish you had a scene with that you didn't really get to work with?

Yeah, Mary [Holland], Christina [Anthony]. Honestly, everybody. I thought everybody was so freaking good. Buell [played by] Cameron [Britton], I mean, I can see Lisa and Buell. Maybe she tells Buell he's becoming a distraction on the street. I don't know. I would've enjoyed a scene with anybody on that show. I thought everybody brought it so hard. I also really enjoyed working with Benjamin. I thought [the] Chastity and Benjamin [Levy Aguilar] stuff was so fun and so ridiculous. We laughed [constantly]. He really brought it, too. It was great.

I would've loved to see a therapy session with Chastity and Douglas. What would that look like?

I think Chastity would be very fidgety.

Back to Beacon Hills

A "Teen Wolf" movie has been announced for Paramount+. Have you been contacted at all about returning and are you game to appear in the movie if you had the chance?

Yes, and yes.

What are some of your favorite memories working with Dylan O'Brien and the rest of the "Teen Wolf" cast?

Well, it's funny. I just came from Tyler Posey's house. We caught up for a smoothie for the first time in a really, really long time because of the pandemic and everything. We were talking about how much we adore everyone on that show, and it's been such a wild ride, and it's really special. There's just nothing but warm feelings about it, and honestly, I've never laughed so much in my life. I have some of my best adult memories with that cast and crew, and our hearts are definitely in it.

Your character, Malia, managed to make it through the series unscathed for the most part. So how do you feel about her ending and do you think she and Scott are still together?

I'm going to guess she and Scott are not still together, and I look forward to seeing where the hell Malia has been, and I pitched an idea. It was pretty hilarious to me and on point. I'm looking forward to potentially diving back into Malia. I've been meeting a lot of people who name their kids Malia, so no pressure there, but yeah, she's such a fun character, and we'll see where she's been. I can't wait.

Looking to the future

Is there an actor or director from any time period that you would love to work with?

Mike Nichols, but you know, RIP. That would've been my personal dream, but I'll keep re-watching his movies over and over.

Do you have a favorite movie or TV show of all time?

"Pen15" is my favorite of all time, I swear. That show really got me. Those girls are incredible, and there's another one ... I can't think right now. We'll just go with "Pen15."

What do you love most about it?

How far they take it. They are not afraid to do anything, and it's the type of dark humor that I feel comfortable in. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but I feel like I found my people when I watch a show like that. It's also really nostalgic of a very important time in my life. I think we're all the same age, me and the two creators, and it hits it so on point for that time in our lives, that middle school time, that shapes who you are. That was, for me, harder than high school, that time. I really related to it and thought the performances were unbelievable. It was, again, absurd in the best possible way.

Is there any genre or a big franchise that you're dying to get into?

Not really, to be honest. I take it as it comes.

Are you working on anything upcoming?

Not right now, no. I finished all my projects. Looking forward to seeing what's out there.

The first season of "The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window" is now streaming on Netflix.