Leslie Grace on Playing a Vampire and Her Batgirl Memories
Feb 19, 2023
How To Win Friends And Disappear People is QCode’s latest podcast series and a delightfully fun entry into the ever-expansive lexicon of vampiric tales. Created, written, and directed by Sophia Lopez the audio drama stars Soni Nicole Bringas as the plucky, but down-on-her-luck Nancy, who has a chance encounter with her new next-door neighbor El (Leslie Grace) who happens to be a centuries-old vampire.
With all the trimmings of the best social media-driven millennial stories, How to Win Friends and Disappear People taps into its comedic thriller styling to explore toxic friendships, deceit, murder (enough to delight true crime fans), and more. Alongside Bringas and Grace, the project also stars Katrina Bowden, Rico Rodriguez, James Paxton, and Carlos Jamie Alazraqui.
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Ahead of the podcast’s premiere, Collider had an exclusive opportunity to chat with Leslie Grace, who is also executive producing the project. She spoke about how she came on board, what drew her to the script, what surprised her about the recording process, and what her favorite vampire films are. In addition to discussing How to Win Friends And Disappear People, Grace also spoke briefly about Batgirl—the DC Comics film which was caught in the crosshairs of cost-cutting measures at the newly minted Warner Bros. Discovery. While the world may never get to see the film, Grace spoke about her memories and the joy that she felt sharing scenes with Brendan Fraser.
Image via Warner Bros.
COLLIDER: How to Win Friends and Disappear People is such a spectacularly fun script. What drew you to this project?
LESLIE GRACE: Well, first and foremost, I felt so excited to be a part of a podcast that was scripted for the first time, that I had ever had the opportunity to. It was actually brought, the script was brought to me through our friends at QCode, Sophia’s script, Sophia Lopez, who’s our creator and writer and our director in this. She had written the script a while back, like years ago, and had brought it to QCode, and they had started to develop a series. In the midst of trying to find who would be the right match for Nancy and El, they had sent it around, and I felt so fortunate to have read it early on and become a part of not only the cast, but join in and bring in some ideas as a producer as well.
As soon as I just saw the whole picture of being able to have an experience of acting in voice only, that already intrigued me. But then once I read the script, I was just swept up. It’s so full of action, drama, and comedy. This is like a majorly unexpected friendship between two people that you would never think would become friends. Through that, you get to see a lot of things that happen in normal friendships, not just between a familiar and a vampire, but to two young ladies that are struggling with the idea of having a friend that makes you feel close, but also might be maybe too close in a little codependent. So yeah, I was just swept up. In long in a long-winded way, I was swept up by the story once I read it. But then also I was really excited to join a team in doing something that was in the podcast space for the first time. So that was really fun as well to collaborate on.
I love audio dramas and scripted podcasts. They’re so much fun to listen to, and I’m always curious about how people approach their roles, whether they’re on-screen or in an audio format. Did you do any specific research? Was there a degree of character work that you do? Did you create a playlist for your character?
GRACE: Yeah, I actually went in, and I mean QCode has done so many great scripted podcasts. So I went in and listened to a few, just a couple of episodes of the really jam-packed ones with action—because there’s a lot. There’s a lot of how suspense in this one and particularly for the character of El. She makes a lot of different sounds that I would never think that I would have the opportunity to make in a studio setting, especially being a singer. [Even with ] that being my background, I’ve never made the sounds that I attempted to make for the character El in a studio before.
I definitely did some vamp girl research, and also just had a lot of conversations with Sophia before getting into the studio and recording [to see] how she felt some of these scenes would go. I think that was the most important part for me is she wrote it, so she had a really clear vision. Conversations with her and the SFX team at QCode were really important early on because I didn’t want to do anything that—it being my first time doing something that’s voiced base—I didn’t want to do anything that was over the top or under-delivering what Sophia was looking for in a part of El.
Finding that happy medium of what the magic that SFX brings in after you record something and understanding that process and how you can facilitate some ideas happening beforehand that would only make the sound effects be more significant in post, that those conversations I think were the most important part of the process for me with El. So yeah, that’s more or less where most of my information came from for my acting in the studio.
You talk about recording and getting to do an audio storytelling for the first time. Was there anything that surprised you about this recording process for How to Win Friends?
GRACE: A couple of things, but I’d say the main one was just the sense of liberty you feel in trying new things when you don’t have any other actors around you. You don’t have your fellow cast members around you to on one end feed off of, but at the same time it could feel liberating as well to not have other people, at least for me, have other people in the room when you’re trying things out. It stretches your potential in a way to where you feel like you can really experiment and if something isn’t working, you have another take and another take and another take. You have that on a normal set when you’re screen acting as well, but you have a lot of other people around you in those moments. So it can limit your risks, I would say, just because you want to perform with your full body.
In the studio, I guess I felt a little bit more comfortable to try some funny things, especially with all the sounds. I’m sure when you listen to the podcast, you can probably imagine what those moments are. There’s a lot of comedy even outside of the script in the process of recording. There was a lot of comedy in all the different sounds that we tried to capture in some of these scenes. So I’d say that one was a big one for me, not having as many people in the space, so we could try some different things.
Image via Warner Bros.
That’s fun. There are obviously so many different vampire stories out there, series, movies, books, and all sorts of things. Do you have a favorite corner of this genre?
GRACE: Oh man. I mean, I have to go ahead and be mainstream and go ahead and say Twilight.
That is an excellent choice.
GRACE: I was and am still a big Twilight fan. Then there’s a very old, and it might not be the right title, but there’s a very old Disney movie where there are these kids. There’s this family. It’s a single mom.
Is it The Little Vampire?
GRACE: I think, yes. There are two, actually. There’s another movie as well where there’s a mom that starts dating a vampire, and they’re trying. Her kids are trying to figure out that their mom is dating a vampire, but I don’t remember. I have to look this up. I don’t remember the title of the movie, but I remember loving both of those films, The Little Vampire as well, with his cute little face and his little teeth.
That’s such a good choice. Those are still two of my favorites as well.
GRACE: So good. This is so good. I love it. I love it. Yeah. Classic.
Classic Disney. What can you tease for El’s journey? I’ve listened to the first two episodes, so I know there’s so much more to come.
GRACE: Yeah, I was going to ask if you got to listen at all. Okay, that’s great. Okay, so let me see. You already know how El and Nancy’s relationship begins. I think a tease that I can give is, and you probably can feel it in the first two episodes already, but El comes off on her surface very a little cold and icy as you would think of vampire is. Nancy sees her as very cool and not just in her demeanor, but in her style and how she speaks. She would be the popular girl at school that Nancy would not be able to be friends with. That’s the allure of being friends with El for Nancy. But deep down inside, Nancy, she’s been isolated for a long time, and so she is in need of a friend, and she does have a history with some characters that will come up or a character in particular that will come up in the following episodes.
This will affect Nancy in a way that I don’t think people will foresee in the previous episodes. So I’m excited to just read the reactions and hear the reactions of people who listen, see how El’s relationship with Nancy grows and how El’s long history of living and how it comes up. How people see that, and start to see El a little bit differently than from the beginning of the podcast.
Image via Warner Bros.
Well, you’ve definitely got me excited for the rest of the series. I feel like for my last question, I have to ask something about Batgirl. I’m sure it’s a sore subject these days. I’m very sad to not get to see it. But I’m curious to know if there were any sequences that you were really excited for fans of the Batman universe to see.
GRACE: Yeah. I mean, there was so much. There was so much. I truly had one of [the best] experiences with Batgirl. In terms of the experience of shooting, we were all so excited for people to see a lot of the action, a lot of the practical shots we did with fire. Our movie was full of practical fire, which was really hard to shoot. Brendan [Fraser], our villain, our Firefly, he was just so outstanding and so happy that he’s having this incredible moment—this Brenaissance as everyone says. He’s amazing. He’s one of the kindest people in the world, and I felt so blessed to have him as my sparring partner. We had so many amazing action scenes together where we were beating each other up, but hugging in between takes because he’s just so sweet. So I would’ve loved people to see those moments, but you know what? You have the experience, and you keep on rolling, and I feel so blessed, all in all, that I have those memories and hopefully maybe in some future, some clips will arise and people will get to enjoy a little bit of it. But for now, we’ll just have to keep it going as it going in comic folklore, I guess, with all of our memories and our stories while we can.
Arriving on February 13th, How to Win Friends and Disappear People will take vampire lore into the modern world, with 10 episodes that will immerse listeners into a hair-raising cinematic audio experience. Listen to the trailer for the podcast below:
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