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How They/Them Makes Slasher Movies Better for Queer Characters

Producer Scott Turner Schofield discusses making a film that's terrifying and empowering at the same time.
  • Theo Germaine as Jordan, Austin Crute as Toby in Peacock's They/Them. (Photo: Josh Stringer/Blumhouse/Peacock)
    Theo Germaine as Jordan, Austin Crute as Toby in Peacock's They/Them. (Photo: Josh Stringer/Blumhouse/Peacock)

    Scott Turner Schofield’s career is groundbreaking in both obvious and subtle ways. On one hand, he’s been widely celebrated as the first transgender man to be nominated for an acting Emmy and the first trans actor to have a recurring role on a daytime soap opera. But on the other, he’s been working behind the scenes to support trans people in the entertainment industry.

    For instance, Schofield works with HBO’s Euphoria to craft the trans character Jules, and he’s done similar consulting for the Prime Video film Anything’s Possible and the Disney+ film Zombies 3. His impact on these projects is crucial, even if it flies under the radar.

    But this month his off-camera efforts are getting the prominent placement they deserve. He’s an executive producer on They/Them (pronounced “they-slash-them”), which premieres August 5 on Peacock. A horror film set at a gay conversion camp, They/Them is written and directed by John Logan (Penny Dreadful, Gladiator), produced by the horror maestros at Blumhouse Productions, and stars Kevin Bacon, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston, Theo Germaine, and Austin Crute.

    As an EP, Schofield spent weeks on set, contributing to everything from the script to the working environment for the actors and crew members. He recently sat down with Primetimer’s Mark Blankenship (a friend since their college days) to discuss making a truly inclusive film that also succeeds as a satisfying slasher pic.

    Scott Turner Schofield (Photo: Josh Stringer)

    (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

    Mark Blankenship: How did you get involved with this bloody movie?

    Scott Turner Schofield: I had worked on The Craft: Legacy at Blumhouse with [writer-director] Zoe Lister-Jones, and I had a really great relationship with her. We worked on the script together, then I trained the crew to make sure that [trans performer] Zoey Luna had a really great experience in production. And the amazing folks at Blumhouse were like, “We need you to do that again.” But this time, they took me from the consultant role to the executive producer role, which was amazing for me. I was able to go in and work hand in hand with John Logan to really lay down the law for the environment that we were going to create.

    MB: I can see how you’d want to be thoughtful about making this movie, since it’s as much about the psychological terror of gay conversion therapy as it is about a killer at a campground.

    STS: Right. The material is triggering because it's based in real trauma. And you know, actors are not just cardboard cutouts. They're real people. And especially because we did authentic casting, we knew that these LGBTQ actors were going to bring more of themselves to their roles. And that was also going to open them up to experiencing this material a little more deeply. We wanted to make sure that they had the most secure and safe experience.

    MB: What did that look like?

    STS: We did a whole crew training, and it was during that training that I learned who our crew was. We were shooting in Georgia, and at first I remember our line producer Howie being like, “It’s hard to get people. There are so many productions going on. I'm just scared somebody's gonna walk.” But then I found out that a lot of people walked from their other jobs to play on our set, because they were LGBTQ folks. And Mark, you know. LGBTQ folks in the South. We wanna be together. And so I realized, “Oh, wow, the people who are coming to this set are either LGBTQ themselves, or their kid is, or their friend is. Everybody had a story. The Teamsters had stories. Like, “I'm here because my of my cousin.” And that was the moment I realized this set was going to be an amazing place to create this story.

    MB: Within that environment, were there any scenes that were particularly memorable to film?

    STS: The therapy scene with Carrie Preston.

    (In that scene, the camp therapist played by Carrie Preston has a brutal session with Jordan, a trans camper played by Theo Germaine. Preston’s character uses increasingly hateful language to dismantle Jordan’s sense of self.)

    MB: God yes. I love those scenes in horror movies, when the things people say are just as terrifying as the things they do.

    STS: Yes! It was so terrifying that I found myself thinking, “I’ve got to deal with what this brings up.” And Theo had done so much of their work beforehand that they could come to that and bring all of the vulnerability. I was just so proud because they have gotten to a place where they're like, “I'm past this in my life. And I can now show other people the way through.”

    MB: What context did you create for the folks who hadn’t faced this subject before?

    STS: There was really just a lot of talking with people. I was working with Carrie Preston. She had to get in that mindset, because that’s not who she is. It was very much about checking in with each other. And my favorite thing that happened right after [we filmed that scene] was that Jason Blum himself wrote Theo an email and said, “I watched the dailies. This is one of the greatest performances I've ever watched, and I know where it comes from." Jason Blum was also one of the executive producers of Pray Away, a documentary about conversion therapy, so he’s really steeped in this and understands what this is about. And for Jason Blum to reach out to Theo to say, “I know what you put into that. It worked” – that showed an awareness of everything that was going on for this movie, and how we needed to approach it.

    MB: I love hearing about the environment of care that was created on set, and I’m struck that you were doing that for a film that’s quite gory. How did you balance the need to create a welcoming workplace with the need to tell a vicious, entertaining story?

    STS: The conversation that this is a scary movie, period, has always been front and center. This is a scary film that's also an LGBTQ empowerment movie. Which is a funny pair of things to hold together! But at one point I just said, “I don't know why we have to keep saying that this is scary. It's set in a conversion camp, and there’s a slasher on the loose. That’s scary!"

    MB: Speaking of contradictory ideas: The movie is also fun to watch, in the way that horror movies are fun. How did you approach having fun around a subject that required such thoughtfulness and care?

    STS: Well, making a horror movie is just so much fun because you get to see all of it. I was taken back to when I was a kid and we had an old VHS tape of the making of “Thriller.” To watch John rehearse the actors was so much nerdy fun.

    MB: Were you on set when they filmed the opening scene of the woman getting murdered in her car?

    STS: Yeah, that was one of the last things we shot, actually.

    MB: I love that scene because it understands the language of thrillers. The dark night. The creepy sounds. The fake-out scare with the big animal in the road.

    STS: It really was a dark night. We shot in Rutledge, Georgia down a long, lonely dark road, and it was spooky to be there. And then there was watching the glass break and watching the cameras get just the right angle. It was fun to see everything that goes into making horror.

    MB: I appreciate the idea that you can make a film that empowers and represents queer people that is also incredibly enjoyable.

    STS: I'm so glad to hear you say that, because that was our mission all along. And you know, the thing that I really hope comes out of this is that Hollywood sees it can work. Because even now, creators are being told, “Stay away from that, that storyline’s too political. It's too polarizing.” But you haven't even begun to see yet what it means when you put queer and trans creators at the center. I hope that this movie helps people realize that an LGBTQ story can be a universal story. If people pay attention, then floodgates are about to open, y'all.

    They/Them premieres on Peacock August 5.

    Mark Blankenship is Primetimer's Reviews Editor. Tweet him at @IAmBlankenship.

    TOPICS: They/Them, Peacock, Carrie Preston, John Logan, Scott Turner Schofield, Theo Germaine