'Well, this is big and bloody scary': Rebecca Ferguson on her role in 'Doctor Sleep'

Rebecca Ferguson. (Splash/Greatstock)
Rebecca Ferguson. (Splash/Greatstock)

Cape Town – 39 years after The Shining by Stanley Kubrick comes Doctor Sleep the continuation of Danny Torrance's story.

Based on the Stephen King novels director Mike Flanagan revisits Dan (Ewan McGregor) 40 years after the traumatic events at the Overlook Hotel.

In Doctor Sleep Rebecca Ferguson (The Greatest Showman, Mission: Impossible - Fallout) plays the big bad Rose the Hat speaking about taking on the role she shares, "I am also always interested in throwing myself into genres that I question."

In this Q&A, Rebecca shares more about her character, filming the scary stuff, and what it was like working with Mike.

What drew you to this project?

I was asked to meet Mike Flanagan on Skype, to sit down and talk about a Stephen King book that they were going to adapt into a film, which was going to be a continuation of The Shining. And I thought, "Well, this is big and bloody scary." I wasn't sure I was going to get the role. So, I was quite calm—I threw out lots of ideas, was quite animated—and I thought, "Well, that was a fun meeting." That would be that. They called the next day and said I'd gotten the role, basically. I think it was this intoxicating role plus it's bloody Stephen King!

So, Rose the Hat?

…is, a leader of a gang that calls themselves the True Knot, from the quote "What is tied, can never be untied." They're a bunch of misfits, outcasts. They are living and searching for this magic, this steam. They inhale it, and they live somewhat of an eternal life. Rose is the strongest, in the sense that she's seen most, battled the most. She's not just an antagonist for the story, because she actually does everything she does—which, obviously, has horrendous consequences—for the love of her group. I think that makes her that much more interesting. I also think the fact that the True Knot are not immortals…if something is immortal, it makes it uninteresting. They can live through anything. With these people, they actually have a time limit; they will die; it will just take them longer, which makes them human—they need to feed.

For Rose, I worked on how to embody a character that is eons' old—she's gone through so many times of women having no rights, being an introvert in society. Now, she's above it all. There's this reserve of energy to this character. In moving from point A to point B, she will take the shortest route. If there's a sofa in the way, she'll just walk over it, because her necessity is a person and not the obstacles, whatever they happen to be. She's searching for steam, for survival. Then, she latches onto what she believes is the source of all of her power—this enigma, this Abra [Kyliegh Curran], this creature that holds so much of what she wants—and all of her being zooms in on that one thing.

Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep as Rose the Hat.

(THE BIG BAD: Rose the Hat. Photo: Warners Brothers)

So Abra's more than sustenance?

Oh, my gosh. Abra is her everything. Abra, as it says, is her whale, her life, her existence. This girl sits on so much of this food and this source of their extended life...not just for her. What makes it beautiful is that she will be able to feed her children, her group.

What does Mike Flanagan bring to a project like this? What is it like working with him?

For me, Mike, number one, he understands the world of this genre and what this film needed. And it's not just the simplicity of creating a scary film, because it is following in the steps of something that people will compare it to. It is also its own entity. He also manages, so subtly and gracefully, to create an homage and connection to Kubrick, as well. He's created a continuation of Stephen King's book with beautiful ties to a film that is its own creation, a stand-alone film.

There are some disturbing sequences your character takes part in. As an actor on the set, how did you all deal with those shooting days?

It's actually one of my most memorable moments shooting this film. Someone asked me, "If you have to do the things this character does to other people, how do you do it? Does it affect you as an actress?" And I said, "No, because I get paid to act, and that's my job."

I remember we were filming a difficult scene, and I was waiting for my cue. It was a moment, or a scream, but whatever was happening, I was supposed to come in and do my thing. I was standing there, watching what was going on, and I started hyperventilating, because I was so affected by what I was witnessing. I hadn't even started in the scene, and tears were pouring down my cheeks, and I'm thinking, "I'm going to fuck up this scene," because I'm in this two-shot. I'm going to have tears and Rose the Hat can't have tears on her face. I'm literally walking back and hitting myself to get into character. And when the scene is over, no one speaks. The script supervisor just breaks down crying, and I walk away, shaking.

And I walked back up to that person who posed the question and said, "Do you want to ask that question again? Because I was completely wrong." It affected me so much. I still haven't seen it. When I was watching the rough cut—I have many sequences that I did watch—when that scene started, I looked away. But that's the point of this. Rose is…so limitless in her cruelty of doing whatever it takes to care for her group. It's the necessity of getting what they need to survive. It's like learning the beautiful finesse of dissecting a blowfish. You know? You cut it incorrectly, and it becomes the most poisonous fish in the world. So, it's a job, and she is just so bloody good at it.


Doctor Sleep opens in SA cinemas on Friday, 8 November.

Compiled by Leandra Engelbrecht.