The Passage, a TV series adaptation of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror trilogy by author Justin Cronin, made its debut January 14th on Fox. Society faces a global pandemic in this thought-provoking new thriller yet it is a botched government experiment, meant to cure all disease, that could possibly wipe out the human race. ‘Going viral’ has never been less desirable as Project Noah now houses some terrifyingly blood-thirsty beings with capabilities beyond comprehension.
Fan Fest News was fortunate to chat with Passage star Brianne Howey who is ‘killing it’ as the mysterious and virulent Shauna Babcock.
Linda Marie: Hi, Brianne. How are you?
Brianne Howey: Hi, Linda. I’m good.
Linda Marie: So, The Passage. Wow!
Brianne Howey: Yeah, there’s a lot going on.
Linda Marie: That’s really amazing. I actually saw you guys [the cast] at New York Comic Con (NYCC) last year.
Brianne Howey: Oh you did?
Linda Marie: Yes, I was sitting in the front row at Live Stage. I wasn’t even aware of the project until I saw it come up [on the schedule]. Because I read the book, I thought, “I have to swing by and check this out.”
Brianne Howey: That is so funny.
Linda Marie: Can you talk to me a little bit about how you got involved with The Passage?
Brianne Howey: Yeah, definitely. I got the appointment to audition, you get the email and you see Ridley Scott is attached, and Liz Heldens wrote it, and Matt Reeves is attached. Your ears are perked and you’re like, “Ooo, this is special.”
Brianne Howey: It was actually casting directors who cast me in Exorcist, so I was excited to see them again. [I] did the scene, and he kind of gave me a smile, and I was like, “I don’t really know how to read this,” but then I got a callback. And then another one. And then you make it to the testing level, and everybody’s in the room with you, and you kind of bust it out, and that’s how I landed there.
Linda Marie: Awesome! What were your initial thoughts about it? Were you familiar with the books or Justin Cronin?
Brianne Howey: I was not. So I did a bunch of research before I auditioned, and I was like, “God, this character was a guy in the books, now it wants a relationship with this Clark Richards character.” Because you only get a few scenes, you’re kind of inferring a lot, but the scenes were so strong, and the relationships between the characters were equally as strong… it’s just really compelling. And the writing is amazing so it doesn’t get much better than that.
Linda Marie: I’m assuming you spoke with Justin Cronin yourself, I saw him there [NYCC] with you guys. Did he offer you any advice for the role?
Brianne Howey: He’s wonderful. It’s fun doing press with him.
Brianne Howey: Advice, not so much. He was kind of like, “So, you’re Babcock, huh?” He goes, “Not what I had in mind.” And I was like, “I know, Justin. I know. But just bear with us. This story is incredible and the arc they’ve made for her is really, really exciting.” And then since he’s seen a few of them, and he’s reached out to me and he’s been so supportive and kind. So that’s been nice and reassuring.
Linda Marie: That’s really great. Sometimes you have to make alterations for TV/movie adaptations. Was there a specific reason they changed your character from male to female?
Brianne Howey: That’s a good question. I don’t know exactly why they did that. If I had to guess, I would imagine the whole show is about the relationships between the characters so I think having Babcock, having a female viral, which isn’t in the book, it’s new and interesting but also adds an extra layer for one of the patients’ relationships with one of their superiors. It’s completely different when there could be a romance there.
Linda Marie: I agree with that. Did you have to do anything specific to prepare for the role? You were involved with The Exorcist, so you’re familiar with horror.
Brianne Howey: Yeah. I mean this is my first time. In Exorcist, I was the depressed one, not the possessed one. So it wasn’t quite so cool for me, but this is completely different. Now I kind of get to be the physical one. We were toying with the idea of Shauna. When she’s a human, her life is so chaotic and tense and stressful that it was fun then to see her as a viral and exercise her stillness… she doesn’t have to be chaotic and all over the place.
“I don’t know, it [portraying Shauna] feels like you’re a cat a little bit. They’re still, and they’re cautious, and they’re always alert and listening, and ready to pounce. So playing with some of that stuff is fun.”
Linda Marie: I just caught up [on the show] today. I’m looking at your character, I’m looking at Shauna just standing there… like I’m not gonna be banging on the glass in front of you. That’s absolutely crazy! It’s intimidating. Just being there the way you ‘look’ is so powerful. Was that the most challenging aspect?
Brianne Howey: Interesting. Yes, probably. Because we don’t have voices. We don’t get to communicate. So it’s really just internalizing it and being able to convey that. And finding power in stillness, yeah, was not something I had necessarily experimented with before.
Linda Marie: Right. It definitely comes across, and you look really scary. How long does it take to do your makeup?
Brianne Howey: Oh wow. Yeah. That makeup takes around 2 1/2 hours to put on. Then maybe like 45 minutes to get off, but it’s just so impressive what they can do. Again, another area where we also have to sit very still. I guess we’re sort of warming up to be virals as they’re putting the makeup on. They start with some cheekbones, and then they lay on the veins, which are the prosthetic, and they go in and hand paint everything afterward which is the part that kind of blows my mind. It’s so delicate and beautiful.
Linda Marie: It’s pretty impressive what they can do.
Brianne Howey: Yeah, they’re really talented.
Linda Marie: I’d like to get into the story a bit and talk about the death row inmates. Do you feel using them as Project Noah guinea pigs to be immoral or justified?
Brianne Howey: It’s pretty dark. But I think what’s scary is that this is, you know, a little bit plausible. This isn’t the first time they’ve used humans in experiments, and that’s … it’s jarring, but yeah. If you look back throughout history it’s real.
Linda Marie: What message does the show want to send?
Brianne Howey: I think the messaging is that this is really a show about humanity and about finding the humanity within yourself and within those around you. Even people you thought maybe you could never identify with. And I think the show does a really good job of fleshing out all of these character’s, whether you want to call them mistakes or bad decisions throughout their life. [There are] some really heavy repercussions. Our writers have humanized everyone to the point where even if you don’t agree with what they’ve done, you sort of understand it. They’ve garnered this empathy for these characters, and that is what I think kind of grounds it and will pull audiences in.
Linda Marie: You mentioned a few minutes ago about the darkness of the series. I feel like today’s society has become almost obsessed with it. You look at shows like The Walking Dead or Black Mirror or the endless Stephen King [adaptations] being made into streaming series and movies… there’s just so much out there available to everyone. What is it that makes The Passage stand out?
Brianne Howey: I think because it is a genre show, it’s really heightened, but what’s gonna surprise everybody is how much heart it has. And the relationship between Wolgast and Amy just tugs at your heartstrings.
“It [The Passage] checks off all the boxes. There’s suspense, it’s thrilling, it’s sexy, it has everything. And that combined with genre … it’s a sensory overload.”
Linda Marie: Are you a fan of dark entertainment yourself?
Brianne Howey: Yeah, you know, I lean more towards True Crime which isn’t too far off.
Linda Marie: No, it’s not.
Brianne Howey: I stay up all night watching. I love True Crime documentaries, Forensic Files and I listen to all my True Crime podcasts. So yeah, definitely into that darker side of things.
Linda Marie: What is your favorite movie or book?
Brianne Howey: For True Crime… Have you seen The Staircase?
Linda Marie: I have not.
Brianne Howey: Have you heard about that one?
Linda Marie: I have, yeah. I gotta check it out, right? Is that what you’re telling me?
Brianne Howey: Yeah, it’s up there for me because I’m still torn.
Linda Marie: Gotcha.
Brianne Howey: …but Making a Murderer or Casey Anthony, you kind of know where everybody’s at. We all kind of know where we all stand on these, but then the ones where I still don’t know what to think and will probably never know the truth. God. Fascinating.
Linda Marie: It really is, you just get drawn in.
Brianne Howey: Like how could these people do these things? And that’s a little bit like the show [The Passage].
Linda Marie: Yes, yes.
Brianne Howey: And then as time goes on, they sort of explain why everyone does what they do.
Linda Marie: What is it like on set working with everyone?
Brianne Howey: It’s so fun. I was a fan of most of these people. We have such an incredible cast. So for me, it’s just so exciting [you] just kind of want to be a sponge and absorb everybody around you. Everyone’s so experienced and [I] just kinda wanna watch ’em. So it was really incredible.
Linda Marie: I really didn’t know a lot about the adaptation until I saw you guys [at NYCC], I didn’t know Mark-Paul Gosselaar was involved in it. I’m like, “My god, I’ve ‘known’ him most of my life.” It was really cool to see all of you guys together.
Linda Marie: Do you ever see yourself behind the camera?
Brianne Howey: Interesting. I don’t know about directing, but I could see myself writing a little bit.
Linda Marie: Oh yeah?
Brianne Howey: Yeah. Not right now, but maybe down the line.
Linda Marie: I’d like to give the fans a little peek into your personality. If you don’t mind, I have ten quick questions to get to know you a little bit better.
Brianne Howey: Yeah of course.
Linda Marie: Okay, great. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Brianne Howey: Reality TV.
Linda Marie: Do you have a favorite reality show?
Brianne Howey: Oh god, I mean 90 Day Fiancé I am hooked.
Linda Marie: I watch it. (laughing)
Brianne Howey: You watch that show?
Linda Marie: I do. It’s a train wreck.
Brianne Howey: It’s a total disaster.
Brianne Howey: I started watching it in Chicago during Exorcist because I was alone and would watch a lot of TV, and season 1 is a completely different ballgame than where we’re at.
Linda Marie: Oh my. I can’t. I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one in this really strange like…
Brianne Howey: I know, it’s so bizarre.
Linda Marie: Of all the shows you could’ve said, that one in particular. That cracks me up.
Brianne Howey: Yeah, I follow them on Instagram. I’m invested.
Linda Marie: Oh my god, you really are. That’s so great. Okay so [what is] your dream vacation.
Brianne Howey: Oh my gosh. Southeast Asia.
Linda Marie: Okay, beautiful. What is the last concert that you saw?
Brianne Howey: Ooo. I was at the Hollywood Bowl. Florence and the Machine maybe?
Linda Marie: Interesting.
Brianne Howey: It was a while ago.
Linda Marie: What is a food that you refuse to eat?
Brianne Howey: Ohh. I am pretty adventurous [but] I’m gonna go [with] intestines. Yeah, no thank you.
Linda Marie: I’m with you. Is there an actor or actress with whom you’d like to work in the future?
Brianne Howey: Oh my gosh. I would love to work with Brie Larson.
Linda Marie: Very nice.
Brianne Howey: She’s so talented.
Linda Marie: I don’t know if you’re into superheroes…
Brianne Howey: Oh…
Linda Marie: …you don’t have to be to answer this. What would you pick for your superpower?
Brianne Howey: Oh. I would like to be able to fly.
Linda Marie: That’s a good one. You don’t have to deal with the TSA.
Brianne Howey: Yeah. It gets you out of any situation.
Linda Marie: Do you have any hidden talents?
Brianne Howey: I know I’m double jointed.
Linda Marie: Childhood crush?
Brianne Howey: Joshua Jackson.
Linda Marie: Really?
Brianne Howey: Dawson’s Creek? Oh my gosh. Pacey. Yeah. I had the poster.
Linda Marie: I only have one more. If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?
Brianne Howey: I’d be working with kids in some capacity. I just love kids.
Linda Marie: That’s admirable.
Brianne Howey: I don’t have much patience, but for kids I do.
Linda Marie: I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but it was wonderful to speak with you. I love the show, and I can’t wait to see what keeps coming our way. It’s very exciting!
Brianne Howey: Well thank you so much, and thank you for watching, and thanks for chatting.
Linda Marie: I wish you all the best with everything.
Brianne Howey: Thank you so so much.
Linda Marie: Thank you, Brianne.
Be sure to check out new episodes of The Passage Mondays 9 PM EST on Fox!