Horror movies can draw very clear identity lines. But Mexican actor Melissa Barrera, who reprises her lead role as Sam Carpenter in the sixth installment of the "Scream" franchise opening Friday, says that not labeling her character as Latina makes her more interesting.
“We don’t have to talk in Spanish. And we don’t have to talk about where we come from. Or you know, all of that sort of thing that usually they make us do in movies I think, to make the audience comfortable with our presence,” she said in an interview with NBC News.
Barrera explained that both she and Jenna Ortega, who plays Sam’s younger sister, Tara, happen to be Latinas but their characters didn’t have to share the same identity on screen.
“Here, Sam is the daughter of Billy Loomis. And I am Mexican. And no one ever questioned that, which goes to show that audiences are capable of expanding their understanding of something in ways that I think often studios don’t give them credit for.”
Skeet Ulrich played Sam’s father, Loomis, in the 1996 Scream movie. And fans will remember him as the original Ghostface serial killer.
In “Scream VI,” sisters Sam and Tara leave Woodsboro, California, behind for a fresh start in New York. Survivor friends Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) join them. But soon they find themselves in peril — with a New York City subway ride bringing plenty of terror-filled moments — as a new killer attacks them.
Barrera said that she loves to represent a Latina. But she also loves not having to say that’s what she is because it’s not the most interesting thing about her.
She pointed out that if “Scream VI” does well at the box office, it will show that two Latina women can lead a globally renowned franchise.
The fifth installment of "Scream," which was where the four friends debuted in the franchise, had a U.S. box office opening of just over $30 million in 2022.
This was almost five times more than the box office opening of the franchise original in 1996. But “Scream 5” comes in third after “Scream 3,” which had a domestic opening of almost $35 million; and “Scream 2,” which opened with nearly $33 million.
The slasher franchise has attracted fans with its dark comedy and self-awareness of the horror genre, while trying to change the rules to bring viewers to the edge of their seats.
“I think in this time around, anyone is expendable. Anyone can die, including my character, including Jenna’s character. I think that’s the biggest change in this installment,” Barrera said.
Slasher movies have traditionally focused on one-dimensional characters, pitting evil murderers who appear indestructible against purely good survivors.
But the Mexican actress said her character isn’t a clear-cut final girl or sole survivor who is left to tell a story about a killer at the end of a film.
“I think that struggle with that darkness and the light and mental health makes her very relatable,” she said. “I think people are complex and she is unlike other final girls in that she’s not all good.”