Tristan Riggs shares the secrets to acting in scary movies

Tristan Riggs has proven that he can scare an audience of all ages. His latest role is in the upcoming terrifying exorcism film, “The Seventh Day”,  starring opposite Guy Pearce and Stephen Lang. The independent film will be opening at select theaters and arriving On Demand, premiering March 26. The film centers on renowned ‘exorcist Father Peter’ (Guy Pearce) who teams up with a rookie apprentice for his first day of training. As they plunge deeper into hell on earth, the lines between good and evil blur, and their own demons emerge. When Tristan isn’t scaring audiences in horror films he enjoys helping to tend to chickens, longhorns and donkeys at his neighborhood farm in Austin. YEM spoke with Tristan Riggs about his career in the horror genre.

Young Entertainment Mag: How did you initially get into acting?

Tristan Riggs: I first started out in school plays and musicals.  My older sister, Charlotte Delaney Riggs, was already involved in acting at that point and I really wanted to get involved too.  I think my first experience was Aesop Adventure when I was in first grade, where I was the Story Narrator.  Later I had roles in The Wizard of Oz as the Cowardly Lion which was the first time I had a solo, EIEI-OOPS as Old MacDonald, and Junie B. Jones as Sheldon Potts. Later, once I signed with an agent, I started booking commercials and student films and finally larger films.  

YEM: Your film “The Seventh Day” is coming out on March 26th, and is a horror film. How do you feel about watching horror films?

Tristan: I think horror films are scary, but I do watch some of them. I do not like to watch ones with creepy dolls in them. They usually leave me more afraid of the dark and not wanting to sleep alone in my room that night!  

YEM: Can you tell us a little bit about your character in this film?

Tristan: My character is Nicholas Miller who is a 10-year-old boy who possessed.  We meet Nicholas in the opening scenes of the film during an exorcism that does not go very well.  This scene has a Young Father Peter (Chris Galust) and his mentor, Father Louis (Keith David) conducting the exorcism.  This exorcism kind of haunts Father Peter (Guy Pearce’s character) for the rest of his life. 

YEM: What is the experience of filming a horror movie like? Is it scary on set?

Tristan: For me it’s not scary, because while filming and in between takes you get to know the other cast and crew and talk with them.  Everyone is very focused and I’m really concentrating on my actions and lines and making sure I do a good job.  There is also no music or flashing lights and other scary things while filming the scenes and you don’t really see yourself.  I mean, I’m kind of the scary thing in my scenes so I’m the one scaring everyone. 

It’s funny when I get asked “where you scared filming this?” and I answer “no” and people seem surprised by this.  Then I explain that, as an actor, you are not reacting to something scary that the audience sees, but instead, reacting into the camera.  The finished film is so much scarier because they add the scary music, sound effects, and edit it to build up suspense and jump scares!

YEM: What is something specific that you learned on the set of “The Seventh Day”?

Tristan: I learned that on bigger films like this, the rooms are just like little boxes.  Like a bunch of cube rooms in a warehouse or soundstage.  The set design crew built my room and painted the walls and everything in less than a day.  I also learned how long it takes to get into the special effect makeup.  It took probably 3-4 hours a day to get into and out of makeup and then film.

Photo Credit: Arlen J

YEM: What was the experience of working with Guy Pearce like? And did he give you any tips?

Tristan: I was on set at different times than Guy Pearce, so we really only said “Hi” to each other.  My scenes were with Keith David and he was really cool.  He would sing on set behind the scenes.  The thing about Keith is he has such a cool voice.

YEM: What is the most enjoyable thing about filming horror films? What is the most difficult thing?

Tristan: The most enjoyable thing is probably doing most of my own stunts which ended up being cut from the final edit.  I think the most difficult thing is probably the intense makeup which made it hard to eat and drink that day.

YEM: Although you were on set of a horror film, were there any super funny moments that you remember happening? 

Tristan: I remember that they used a small child mannequin for the special burn stunts so me and my stunt double Kamryn Poole and the mannequin were all in our matching firetruck pajamas on set.  Also, the only mannequin they could find didn’t have a face.

YEM: You have quite a bit of horror movies, is that something you want to continue with in the future?

Tristan: Yes, for sure.  For horror it would be cool to work on something like a Stephen King, R. L. Stine, Sam Raimi or Blumhouse Project.  There are so many different possibilities with the horror genre.  It would also be so cool to be in Star Wars or something where there is a lot of action or sci-fi.  Or even something like a Spy Kids kind of franchise because I enjoy the stunts and fight choreography.  I have been studying martial arts so it would be cool to be in a project where I could use that. I also feel like I am naturally comedic, so I wouldn’t want to be counted out for comedy or drama roles.  

YEM: Any makeup fails? Or Makeup/Costume stories that you had fun working with? Because so many times Costume and Makeup are a character in and of itself.

Tristan: The makeup and special effects crew were top notch.  They have all been involved in things like the NCIS TV series and other horror films. So they are used to making up a lot of these cool burns and bubbly skin effects.  One funny story is for the bubbling burn there was a small balloon attached to my arm under the makeup with a tube that one of the SFX artists blew into to create the effect. It was kind of strange to have slow blowing sounds with someone hiding under the bed during a very serious scene.  One of the other coolest things with SFX makeup was having wires with the smile scene to create the effect. 

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