Horror movies can draw very clear lines of identity. But Mexican actress Melissa Barrera, who reprises her lead role as Sam Carpenter in the sixth installment of the «Scream» franchise that opens Friday, says not labeling her character as Latina makes her more interesting.
“We don’t have to speak in Spanish. And we don’t have to talk about where we came from. Or you know, all those kinds of things that they usually make us do in movies, I think, to make the audience feel 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, are Latina 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 shows that the public is capable of expanding their understanding of something in ways that I think studies often don’t give them credit for.»
Skeet Ulrich played Sam’s father, Loomis, in the 1996 movie Scream. And fans will remember him as the original Ghostface serial killer.
In «Scream VI,» sisters Sam and Tara leave Woodsboro, California, behind to start over in New York. Surviving friends Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Mason Gooding) join them. But they soon find themselves in danger, with a New York City subway ride filled with moments of terror, as a new killer attacks them.
Barrera said she loves representing a Latina. But she also loves not having to say that’s what it is because it’s not the most interesting thing about her.
He noted that if “Scream VI” does well at the box office, it will prove that two Latina women can lead a world-renowned franchise.
The fifth installment of «Scream», which was where the four friends debuted in the franchise, had a US box office opening of just over $30 million in 2022.
This was almost five times more than the original franchise box office opening in 1996. But «Scream 5» ranks third after «Scream 3,» which had a domestic opening of nearly $35 million; and «Scream 2,» which opened with almost $33 million.
The slasher franchise has drawn fans in with its dark comedy and horror genre self-awareness, while trying to bend the rules to bring viewers to the edge of their seats.
“I think right now, 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 killers who seem indestructible against purely good survivors.
But the Mexican actress said her character isn’t a clear ending girl or the only survivor left to tell a story about a murderer at the end of a movie.
“I think that struggle with that darkness and light and mental health makes her very relatable,” he said. «I think people are complex and she differs from other final girls in that she’s not all good.»