The Black Phone Star Teases True Terror in the Joe Hill Adaptation

Directed by Scott Derickson (Doctor Strange), The Black Phone adapts Joe Hill's short story of the same name. While much of the advertising of the film centered on Ethan Hawke's Grabber, the narrative is largely focused on the young Finney Shaw (Mason Thames), who is held captive. But when he discovers a mysterious black phone in his makeshift prison, he can use it to communicate with those who came -- and died -- before him. Grounding the role is Mason Thames, who previously starred in the sci-fi period piece For All Mankind.

Now, he's making his feature film debut in the highly anticipated horror film. During an exclusive interview with CBR, The Black Phone's Mason Thames discussed his first feature-film role and the importance of imbuing his character with realistic edges. Thames also teased how the mask designed by SFX horror master Tom Savini was truly terrifying.

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CBR: What appeals to you about performing in horror stories?

Mason Thames: Well, I've always loved horror movies from when I was little. I love how they scare me. One of my favorite horror movies is Sinister, and getting to work with Scott [who directed the film], and Ethan [who starred in it] is incredible. I love horror movies -- just that feeling of sitting in the movie theater, [knees to your chest] the entire time. I love all movies, and it's an honor to work on them. I was super nervous going into this film. It was my first movie. It's super big.

Scott really knows how to make his actors feel safe. He's amazing. He's such a nice person. The vision he has, and Ethan as The Grabber is so terrifying. As I said, it was my first film. This is incredible, working with all these people. I've never seen anything like this script or movie before. It's so incredibly creepy. And the characters, you really feel for them, and you really root for them. I feel like that's what the audience will love the most. They've only seen a little bit, and I can't wait for everybody to see how scary it is. I'm so glad to be part of this.

The Black Phone presents an interesting challenge as a performer, as you have to juggle the more down-to-earth conflicts and hang-ups of a teenager, as well as the more terrifying overt threats present in the film. What was that like to balance?

I've always loved performing, and I've always had this big imagination. So every character that I do, I try as much as I can to bring the character justice. I really had to put myself in Finney's shoes, and really feel what it'd be like to be in this. It's terrifying. I don't know what I would do. I'd probably hide in the corner the entire time. But Finney has to go through a lot in this movie. It was really easy with Scott, and everybody, and Ethan's performance. It was really not too hard to get so scared when Ethan is in the mask... It was really fun working on it.

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On top of the film's scares, there are a lot of little layers that add to the story and the characters in interesting ways. What was your response the first time you opened the script and realized the depths the story would delve into?

Reading the script for the first time, just seeing what all characters have to go through... I also read the book when I first got the script, and I auditioned for it. I love short stories, and every single one of them was so scary. I did really feel a connection with The Black Phone story. I read the [Joe Hill book] right before I read the script. And then, just seeing how Scott and Cargill just really turned that into something, it was already incredible, but it's just so scary... Joe Hill is an amazing writer. The short stories he does are incredible. I'm so happy that I got this chance.

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Was filming completed ahead of the shutdowns that dominated much of the past year? Or was this an outlet you got to experience during what is definitely a unique year in everyone's lives?

2020 was definitely a hard year for everybody, but I got to say that the light is booking The Black Phone. Filming it, I can't get over how creepy it is. But yeah, 2020 was a really weird year, and just coming out of it with The Black Phone, definitely made it a bit brighter for me... The Black Phone was definitely a big part of it, and I was super passionate about living this, doing Finney and the character justice the best I can. Scott, and everybody, really helped me fully transform into it.

Since you've got such a personal connection with this film, what do you think your response is going to be when you see people next year wearing Ethan Hawke's mask as the Grabber?

I never really thought about that! That'd be really cool. Tom Savini did amazing on that mask. I remember reading the script and just waiting. The first thing I wanted to see was the mask. Then I got on set, and then I saw it for the first time. It was in this big box, they unclipped it, they opened it like this giant suitcase, and it was just sitting there. I just stared at it. I loved it. I just want to take it, and steal it, and runoff. It's amazing how terrifying that mask is. Terrifying.

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Brandon Zachary (4209 Articles Published)

Brandon Zachary is an Associate Writer with Comic Book Resources and has written for CBR since 2018. He covers breakouts on comics, film, television, video games, and anime. He also conducts industry interviews, is a Rotten Tomatoes certified film critic, and knows SO MUCH about the X-Men. For requests, comments, or to hear his pitch for a third Avatar series that incorporates robots, you can contact him through [email protected].

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