In the horror film “Ouija,” actress Bianca Santos makes her feature film debut as Isabelle, one of five teenagers who unknowingly summon an evil spirit when they play with a Ouija board after the death of their close friend. During our interview, Santos, who can be seen on MTV’s “Happyland” and ABC Family’s “The Fosters,” talked to me about making her first movie and why being “the best version of yourself you can be” doesn’t really apply if you work in Hollywood.
What was the experience like making the first feature film of your career?
It was a really neat experience. A lot of people asked me, “What is difference between TV and film?” Honestly, both really can feel the same. What was really fun about doing a horror film was that it is a completely different genre than I’ve ever done. You have to use a lot of imagination. There are a lot of suspenseful moments where you have to pretend something is going on, but it’s really just all in your mind. It’s fun to play in that realm of imagination.
Do you like being scared?
I like being scared, especially during this time of year in the fall. I’ve done things like Knott’s Berry Farm before. I feel like you should want to be scared a little bit around this time. It’s the one appropriate time when you can be scared. In that sense, I really like being scared in certain circumstances.
Did the mood on set match the kind of movie you were making or was everyone joking around between scenes?
If you’re constantly in that state of mind it’s a little exhausting. What was fun on our set were the “real scares.” By that I mean the director would do something to get a real reaction from us. We’d be doing something and then all of a sudden a blow horn would go off. We really reacted to that because it was something happening in our environment. We would give a really scared reaction. But when [the director] called “cut” we would all just start laughing.
Is a Ouija board something you would actually play with?
I think I’m interested enough. My mom and grandma are the kind of people who would never touch a Ouija board. I don’t really know if I believe in spirits. I don’t know if I believe it, but at the same time I’ve been warned enough growing up to know that maybe I shouldn’t mess with certain things like the supernatural and the unknown. Whether I believe in it or not, there’s still a sense of caution and respect.
Talk about your new MTV show “Happyland.” What do you think it says about the Disney princess culture so many little girls are caught up in these days?
We find humor in that. We search for the truth in the princess culture that [society] has created. We love [the princess culture], but what does it really mean? We talk about those themes in the show. In one episode, I’m going to princess training. My character is like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe I’m doing! This goes against feminism.” Another character tells me that I’m being very shallow minded because princesses give younger girls role models. “Happyland” is a really unique experience because we get to explore this whole realm of theme park fantasy that I don’t think has ever really been touched before.
As a little girl, did you aspire to be a princess?
I was into more of the non-typical princesses like Pocahontas and Mulan and Jasmine. You’re able to relate to the ones you find more likeness in. I thought they were cooler.
Talk about your other film “The DUFF,” which stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” It sounds like movie about how cruel teenagers can be with one another.
I know what you’re thinking. It does sound cruel, but what I love about the film is that it gives you the chance to follow a character who is totally comfortable in being who she is, but that society sort of tries to bring down. She’s this blissfully naïve person trying to live life and then society comes around and tries to make her feel bad about herself. It’s really an empowering story. She teaches us about being the best version of who you are and not giving into negativity. I think it’s a little bit controversial, but I think that’s part of the reason it’s so fun.
Have you found that “being the best version of who you are” is enough to be successful in Hollywood? Isn’t it the exact opposite?
Right. When you’re constantly in an environment where you’re competing against other people, at some point it gets to you. You think, “Man, I really need to keep up with certain things otherwise people are going to be better than me or prettier than me or more talented than I am.” This industry is based off those things. I think it’s a really good reminder that I can either let those things pull me down or I can just try to be a beaming, bright, amazing version of myself and not let those other things get to me. I think that’s a really good reminder for all of us.
Is it even more difficult because you’re Latina? Have you found the industry to be more or less accepting of you as an actress because of your ethnicity?
I think I [audition] solely for Latina roles, but I’ve still really had a lot of diversity and range within those roles. Every role that I’ve gotten has been for a Latina [character], but, for example, Lexi in “The Fosters” is different than Lucy in “Happyland” who is different than Isabelle in “Ouija” who is different from Casey in “The DUFF.” I don’t think I feel like I’ve been pigeonholed. Being Latina has afforded me many opportunities where I’ve won out over different actresses. I’ve actually gotten more roles because they’re looking for Latinas a lot more. It hasn’t worked against me at all.