Haunting Of The Mary Celeste’s Emily Swallow Talks Challenges Of The ‘Claustrophobic’ Sets

Emily Swallow and Richard Roundtree in Haunting of Mary Celeste
(Image credit: (Vertical Entertainment))

It's the best time of year to watch a ‘lil something to test the waters of one’s fears, whether that be masked villains, lingering ghosts, or… well, take your pick. Everyone has their own rational and irrational fears, but one popular one is being stuck in a small space for too long. This is something the cast of Haunting of the Mary Celeste dealt with while filming on an actual boat for its sequences.

The upcoming thriller follows a researcher and her team who set sail on said boat together to prove that the disappearance of a family and crew happened due to some fishy supernatural dimension-bending powers in play. Supernatural actress Emily Swallow spoke to CinemaBlend’s own Laura Hurley about her experience on Haunting of the Mary Celeste. In her words:

It was claustrophobic. [laughs] We didn't do any of it on a soundstage. Everything that we shot on the boat was on that teeny little boat, and you couldn't take out a wall to fit in the camera. Like, everyone that was in the scene needed to fit in there. And then all of the equipment needed to fit in there. And our DP, Raquel Nuñez, is just such a superhero. And I feel like she has shapeshifting abilities because she would cram herself into corners to try to get a certain shot and she would climb up on top of things and hang over things. And that was definitely helpful for us as actors, to actually be in that tiny space. And to be honest, to feel like we were on a boat that could sink at any minute because that thing was so beat up. So that was very helpful, and I'm glad that it came across as feeling claustrophobic. We also did a lot of the shots kind of in the middle of the night out in the San Francisco Bay area. So getting to actually shoot at night, getting to feel that claustrophobic space? It was very helpful in actually conveying that.

Whoa! That’s one way to get into the headspace for a creepy and tense thriller the new movie sets to bring to the audience. The director of photography placed herself into corners on the set (that was actually a boat) and somehow fit all the equipment and cast needed in each given scene. Although it sounds like a challenging feat for the filmmakers led by director Shana Betz, the product is an especially claustrophobic movie that will give viewers insight into being there with the cast.

As Emily Swallow explained, usually a movie of this sort is filmed on a soundstage so the crew can more easily capture scenes without actually dealing with cramped spaces. The actress continued with the following:

There was some of the shoot that we did with the boat docks, and there is kind of a tent over it with a bunch of smoke being pushed in there, but we did do a lot of it out in the open water. And I remember one particularly harrowing night when we were out kind of in a shipping channel, and there was a big cargo ship that went by, and the waves from that just like picked up our teeny little boat. And it gave me a lot of sympathy for anybody who's had to do a cross ocean voyage in something that is not a sturdy boat, because you really get a sense for just how vast and powerful that ocean can be. And it gives you a whole lot of respect for it.

So some of the screams in the film are out of genuine fear? Being on Haunting of the Mary Celeste sounds like it was a fun time for the crew and cast that tested their capabilities and comfort zones in exciting ways. Alongside Swallow, the film also includes Shaft star Richard Roundtree, Ava Acres, Pierre Adele, Dominic DeVore and Alice Hunter.

Aside from Haunting of the Mary Celeste, Emily Swallow has returned to play her Supernatural role Amara for the final season of the CW show after debuting in “The Darkness” back in Season 11. The long-running sci-fi series completes its run on November 19. Swallow also played The Armorer in the first season of Disney+'s breakout hit The Mandalorian. We’ll have to see if she returns when the show returns for Season 2 on October 30.

Haunting of the Mary Celeste is coming to theaters and digital simultaneously on October 23 (opens in new tab). Check out what other movies are rounding out the year with CinemaBlend’s 2020 release schedule.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.