Actress Shawnee Smith is happy this fall. And not just because Halloween, and the release of her biggest film role to date, is fast approaching. After years of playing bit parts in major movies like Armageddon (credited as “Redhead”) and Leaving Las Vegas (credited as “Biker Girl”), the thespian finally has a chance to show of her chops in Saw 3. The South Carolina native, who plays Jigsaw’s fiesty new apprentice "Amanda" in Lions Gate’s successful horror franchise, steals the show in the third installment of the edgy series with her impressive range of emotions that have made Amanda an iconic female hero to millions of horror fans. CraveOnline say down with Smith recently to talk about how she has made Amanada such a compelling character, the untold love story between Amanda and Jigsaw, Amanda’s back story, possible sequels to Saw 3 and her thoughts on people actually dressing up as Amanda this Halloween season.
CraveOnline: How was your time on the set of Saw 3? Did you enjoy it more than Saw 2?
Shawnee Smith: I had the greatest time of my life making Saw 3. More fun than 2 for sure.
CO: When are you going to let your kids see Saw 3?
SS: Hopefully never!
CO: How do you feel about becoming such an iconic film character?
SS: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I think about what I have seen and Amanda totally snuck up on everybody [this time]. If I had to audition for the part of Amanda on Saw 3, I’d never get it! You know? I’d try and be tough—but it’s usually all the wrong approach. There’s this precarious combination of elements in the approach that makes for a dynamic creative experience and product. They’ve got it set up well in these Saw movies. It facilitates a really organic approach. My preparations before these crazy scenes in Saw 3 were just to get as relaxed as I could. She’s human, you know?
CO: What do you think about the possibility this year that there will be many “Amandas” for Halloween?
SS: Oh my god! That’s the first time that occurred to me! It hasn’t even crossed my mind. I’ll trip out and I might just break down and cry if I saw proof of that. That would be one of the coolest things ever!
CO: How do you feel about the much talked about catfight between you and Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) that was cut from the film?
SS: That will be in the director’s cut—deleted scenes or whatever—on the DVD. Suffice it to say she was destroyed! It was just brutal. I found out I really love brutal fight scenes. I was just totally unashamed about it too. It was just a great release. And I was getting paid for it…it was great, you know? No STD’s after a fight scene!
CO: Are you consciously calling on Amanda’s back-story in Saw 3 while you are acting?
SS: It’s a tricky balance, for me. I don’t want to get to mental about it. There’s almost kind of like a force beyond any one person. Maybe it’s the force of the collaboration but there was just totally intuitive choices I made in Saw 2 that were so poignant to the film its as if I planned it in my mind. Now when I went back and watched it out of Saw 3 just out of curiosity. I did research on this damaged mind (of Amanda). I figured she had a really damaging childhood. And so I read a few books because ultimately you have to be able to connect with it. I just kind of constructed this basic feel/basic points of things that I connected with in these books.
CO: What book(s) in particular did you read to gain a deeper insight into Amanda’s back-story?
SS: Probably the most compelling book for Amanda ended up being “A Bright Red Scream.” As soon as the movie was over I put the book away because it was upsetting. It’s a story collection of “cutters.” The cutting scene in Saw 3 where I can kind of imagine where she had come from. Darren [the director] had the balls to shoot the scene. To me, that sequence in the film really gives you a sense of who she is. It’s tragic that 95% of her has this strength and capacity to sacrifice and love another human being. That’s rare. Less rare with your children, but very rare from what I’ve seen many choose with another human being.
CO: Do you think that part of that is because she was empty inside after being a junkie and had nothing inside as part of why she gave so much of her herself to Jigsaw?
SS: No. I know the quality of that kind of exchange, and that wasn’t it. There is a lot of true substance in her partnership with Jigsaw/John. It wasn’t out of weakness—it was out of strength, and choice, work, and sacrifice. To me, Saw 3 is a story about true love. That takes strength. I think Amanda’s strength comes from that she hit the bottom, and she had nothing to lose. She found someone to love that was interested. To me what’s endearing about their partnership is that it’s not an apprentice/master relationship. It’s a true partnership. But there’s that 5% of her that she can’t overcome.
CO: Will there be a Saw 4, 5 and 6?
SS: My feeling is that the producers are behind the basic philosophy and formula of the franchise. There will be more.
CO: What makes Saw 3 different than the other Saw films for you?
SS: The love story is right in the middle of a horror film. Also, the human qualities in the film. Amanda walks in the friggin’ movie with a bunch of groceries! That’s pretty human.
CO: She also wields an axe pretty well.
SS: That’s because the bitch wouldn’t shut up! [Laughs] It was so much fun [playing Amanda].
CO: How was it working with the director, Darren Lynn Boussman?
SS: I love working with Darren. He’s got the perfect balance of vision and flexibility. And a feeling for the truth.
CO: Obviously, there is a lot of violent scenes and gore in the Saw franchise. Are you afraid of blood, guts or gore in your personal life? And, are you a horror movie fan?
SS: I’m not a big fan. What’s more awful, to me, than blood and guts is the thought of losing those who you love. I’d rather watch this tree outside because it’s beautiful. I just observe and try and be a good guide to my children. I wasn’t a fan of horror movies before Saw, but through these films, I have definitely become a big fan and really come to respect and appreciate the genre and the fans that support it. For all kinds of reasons. One is that they gave me the role of a lifetime—facilitated that opportunity. In a totally organic way—from the inside out. This thing just keeps evolving and that’s as good as it gets for this kind of creative experience. Amanda is a tragic character, but she’s built up a lot of strength by being willing to sacrifice. All of Saw 2 she’s going to die at any point. She could have been killed. I’m so glad I got to finish the arc in Saw 3. There’s meaning in all of it. I’m so lucky as an actress to even be able to do that once.
Saw 3 opens wide Friday.