Blood, Sweat and Cheer Director and Star on Their New Dark Comedy

Apr 15, 2023

Attention, all you fans of the late, great John Hughes, and listen up, those of you who loved classics like Election, Mean Girls, and even Freaky Friday. Tubi has a new movie out this week that puts a unique spin on the tropes of high school — and being the parent of someone in high school. Blood, Sweat and Cheer (quite the title) follows a suburban divorcée (Tammin Sursok, Pretty Little Liars) who, through an unfortunate turn of events, decides to masquerade as her teenage daughter (Monroe Cline, Teardrop) in a twisted attempt to make the dance squad at a local high school. You can only imagine the shenanigans that ensue…s

We recently caught up with star Tammin Sursok, an Emmy-nominated actress and platinum-selling recording a,rtist, to learn more about what went into tackling such a unique parenting role in her new darkly comedic film — which is inspired by true events, mind you. Blood, Sweat and Cheer director Traci Hays joined Sursok for our interview, and they both shared some pretty juicy insight into the creative process behind the movie. Read our exclusive interview below.

Shades of John Hughes

MW: Traci, how did it all start for you in terms of joining the project as director?

Traci Hays: I was brought the script pretty later in the stage. They already had a couple of drafts that they had written. And I got a chance to read it, and I was just like, “Oh, this is such a fun opportunity to do something that’s both dark and light and gray in middle, and has this like tonality.” And it’s something I hadn’t done before, that had those kinds of dark comedy elements to it. I had done comedy prior to this. And [Blood, Sweat and Cheer] kind of combined the two things that I really enjoy.

Traci Hays: And it also centered around quite a complex female, a very driven character. And that’s something I always look for in the material that I direct you know? I just really want to see these women that are flawed and very much on just this fun journey. And it reminded me of being in high school again and reminded me of all the John Hughes movies. At least, that was my interpretation as I read it, in terms of visualizing it and seeing the world.

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MW: Tammin, what made you want to join Blood, Sweat and Cheer in the lead role?

Tammin Sursok: I’m very lucky, really since Pretty Little Liars. That changed a lot of these types of films, the films that have this type of model I’ve been offered. And your first instinct is being super excited, but then you’re like, “Let me read the script.”

And there’s been some that I actually have turned down just because, I feel like for me, I give it everything. And every movie has cost me something, especially movies like this, which are quite emotional. You have to bring in your own personal experiences within them. And I was like, “Am I willing to go there for a film?” Even though sometimes it looks like comedy, a lot of comedies are born from pain, or longing or desperation. And for me, I read the script, and I thought it was really great. I think we were just really lucky that Traci was the leader on this because it could have gone either way. I think she really cared about the film. And every department did, and I think because of that, it sort of turned into something special.


MW: Your character as a mom impersonating a cheerleading high school student is quite unique. Did you do any special prep work that distinguished this movie from past projects?

Tammin Sursok: I have been acting for 22 years, and I haven’t been in a project where I feel like, you don’t really switch it off. Like, obviously, you have layers of anxiety or depression or whatever if you’re playing a character that is emotionally volatile. You feel that, you know? You’re a human being, but I don’t try to stay in the character, like, while I’m like giving my kids a bath, you know?

Tammin Sursok: But it is difficult sometimes to go there because, again, it has to cost you something. And I worked with an acting coach, and she said, “If you don’t leave every day, or most of the days of this film, and don’t feel completely exhausted, then you haven’t done a good job.” And I was, like, “Great!” Because I know that I have to give it everything […] But it was a really awesome experience.

MW: Traci, you mentioned John Hughes earlier. Did any other past filmmakers or movies also inspire how you wanted your film to look and feel?

Traci Hays: I’m really drawn to blending content. And obviously, this does take place in present day, but there was a part of me that, you know, wanted to represent Tammin’s character as sort of stuck in her past. And that’s sort of where the comedy comes from, about the sort of slang that was really popular in the ’90s […] So like, Heathers, The Breakfast Club, Clueless, Never Been Kissed […]There were definitely very conscious choices on my part to find locations that kind of gave that nostalgic feel.

Tackling Those Intimate Scenes


MW: Tammin, your character gets into some pretty sticky situations. What would you say was the most challenging scene to shoot?

Tammin Sursok: I actually found the most difficult scenes to be the intimate scenes, which I should talk to my therapist about, because I didn’t realize that, to me, that would feel the most uncomfortable. Like, I’m very comfortable screaming, crying, making people laugh […] I have a podcast and we talk about relationships. And so, it’s not that I’m vulnerable talking about it, but there’s a scene where I’m very intimate with the person who’s my love interest. And it’s just, being touched by someone […] that I didn’t know. I literally had just met him like the day before. And then also, telling my husband like, “What did you do today, honey?” And I was like, “Wow.” So actually, interestingly enough, I found those scenes to be the hardest. And I think it just speaks to vulnerability.

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MW: Are there other things projects you’re working on currently, that you’d like to share about?

Traci Hays: I’m in development on a number of feature films. And I can’t go into too much detail, but I can say that they’re all different genres. One is a coming-of-age, one is an Italian rom-com. So there’s a very diverse cast with the projects I’m interested in working on next.

Tammin Sursok: We’re on our fourth season of my podcast, which does really well, 150 episodes in. It’s a female-driven podcast, but we’ve had many males on the show. And it’s really just conversations with people talking in a very safe and open space, and we’ve had experts. It’s called Women On Top […] I have a movie called Stolen Memories coming out. I don’t know exactly what network it’s going to be on. I’m shooting two films in New Zealand. And then I create tons of content on all my social channels, which, again, hopefully make people laugh and feel less alone.

Blood, Sweat and Cheer will be released on Tubi April 15.

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