Set Visit: We talk The Possession of Hannah Grace with Shay Mitchell

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

To read the first part of our set visit article, CLICK HERE.

So what does it take to play a burnt-out former cop and drug addict who finds herself working in a morgue and battling a corpse possessed by a demon? Probably a lot of guts and heart, and Shay Mitchell – best known for playing Emily Fields in "Pretty Little Liars" – was up to the task. Well, just about. Mitchell admitted to suffering from "minor panic attacks" during the first couple weeks of filming, and it's not hard to see why. When you're tormented by not only your past but also a creeping, crawling dead body, things are going to get pretty intense.

Being on the set of THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE for a day, I had the opportunity – along with a handful of other online journalists – to speak to Mitchell, who was nothing but cheerful and accommodating, about her role as Megan Reed in this intense and claustrophobic thriller.

– On who Megan Reed is and what her backstory involves:

"Megan Reed is a recovering addict. She had an incident while on the force that threw her off track and her dad was a cop, her boyfriend was a cop. I feel they went to the academy together and they put their uniforms on for the first time together. She was very excited and proud to be a part of it. She was carrying on the tradition, but when a certain incident took place, it just threw her off the tracks. And I think from there she spiraled. I think dealing with anxiety and panic attacks is always been something that's been a part of her life, and she didn't realize how much it could affect her until that certain incident took place.

After that it was just a spiral into drugs and alcohol, and partying, and trying to forget it and suppress it until the point where she couldn't turn away from it anymore. Then, finding help and meeting Lisa, who is her AA sponsor, who also works at the hospital, she found solace in that. And Lisa told her about the job working at the morgue, saying, "This is going to get you out of trouble from going out at night, which is what she needed." This was supposed to be something that was very… almost peaceful, and a place where she could go without ever feeling judged by anybody, because I think even around people that are alive she's not comfortable right now. This was something that she thought she would have enjoyed a little bit more."

– On her fear of horror movies:

"I don't like scary movies. I don't watch them. I'm terrified. My research for this was watching trailers because I figure if I get through the trailers that's kind of like the scariest parts, right? Well, some of them. Maybe it's not the scariest parts. But then I don't have to watch it. I watch scary movies like this [covers her eyes] – so whenever I'm in previews it pisses me off when they play them in a happy movie because I'm like, 'I don't want to see this. I don't know why you're playing it. I came to see this happy movie and you're putting a thriller in it.' Being on this set and seeing the reaction and even me with the research that I did, watching bits of other movies, I get it. I get the thrill. I get the love for the gore, almost…"

– On Megan's "relationship" with the corpse, Hannah Grace (who was called Anna Grey on the set):

"My character’s relationship with her is just fucking trying to figure her out. The whole time I'm expecting her to just be a cadaver and, of course, I feel something and I know Megan feels something when she sees her come in, even though she's been a cop and on the force, and has seen probably very horrible things throughout her short career as a cop. This is grotesque for anybody, I don't care. If you are looking at Anna Grey and not thinking, 'I feel some sort of compassion for this girl because her neck is sliced,' then I don't know what to tell you. Of course, Megan has that feeling like, 'What happened to this poor girl?' You know, inside. I think she tries to feel something for her as much as she can and then when things start going weird, it's almost her last thought that this would be something crazy."

– On her relationship with Kirby Johnson, the dancer/contortionist who plays Hannah Grace:

"The first day I met her, I had a scene where I had to come close to her and I was like, 'Hi, nice to you. I want to say this in the nicest, most complimentary way ever, but you look disgusting, and you're slightly terrifying to me right now.' I just needed to meet her further away, then closer. The way she moves is, at first, I kept saying disgusting, disgusting, disgusting, but now I say almost beautiful, when her joints pop. It's the way she does it, and she's a dancer and she's poised, naturally, just beautiful. When you see her move it's almost like a weird dance you've never seen before, but you can take your eyes off of it. Although disgusted, I was looking at her like, 'What is she doing?' She just dances, but not across the floor and on top of me, and that was our first encounter. We did have to get in the elevator together and I needed a little bit of time to warm up to that because I was just freaked out."

– On why Megan "doesn't just leave" when things start going to hell:

"I think this is a movie about facing your own demons. I think the reason why, when I watch any sort of movie, I'm like, 'Why doesn't she just leave? Why doesn't the character just leave?…' Megan doesn't leave because she's going to fucking prove it to herself. She failed at being a cop in that instance when she needed to be there, and she's not going to mess up again. This is probably in her mind. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but she's going to stick it out because at the end of the day, what else does she have to lose? Nothing. You want to kill her? Then kill her, too. I just lost my partner, you know what I mean? I think that is why the back story of this character was so important. It couldn't just be a girl taking on a job, or a guy or whatever. It couldn't just be a person taking a job at a morgue. They were already at rock bottom when they were coming in here. The couple of scares she has at the beginning of the movie weren't enough to send her home. She's not going home. She's going to stick this out… or she has to."

– On becoming all too close to her character while shooting the film:

"She's strong, but she's weak right now, but then she wants to prove it to herself, but she's dealing with inner demons. Taking on this role was completely different than, I think, my character Emily [in Pretty Little Liars], although I dress similar. It was interesting because I did take on a few characteristics, I'm not going to lie, and say that in the first two weeks of shooting this I didn't get minor panic attacks, which I've never got before. My posture is different, carrying on this character…

"I think that's the head space that I have to get into to shoot something like this. I'm literally wearing her shoes more than I'm wearing my own in these past six weeks. I don't really have that much time to transition back into Shay at the end of the night. I realized that earlier on and I really have just sunk into being Megan. And that's who I am right now until they call wrap."

Keep your eyes open wide for THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE when it opens on November 30th.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.