Introducing Ava Cantrell: Rising Star Takes the Lead in Gripping Revenge-Horror Film ABIGAIL

Ava Cantrell, celebrated as one of the most versatile actresses of her generation, recently took center stage as the lead in the revenge-horror film ABIGAIL. Having left an indelible mark on Hollywood since the tender age of 7, Cantrell initially garnered attention for her role in Nickelodeon’s popular series, “The Haunted Hathaways.” Her career continued to ascend with notable appearances, including CBS’ “Young Sheldon” alongside Jason Alexander and a co-starring role in Warner Bros/New Line Cinema’s horror feature, LIGHTS OUT.

ABIGAIL marks a significant milestone for Cantrell as she entered her first starring feature role. Positioned alongside esteemed actors like Florence Pugh (‘MIDSOMMAR’) and Mia Goth (‘INFINITY POOL’), the film, set in 1976, unravels the story of a troubled teen, ‘Abigail’ (Cantrell), forging a deadly path of revenge against her neighbor’s tormentors. Directed by Melissa Vitello and scripted by Gunner Garrett, the film, produced by Dark Star Pictures, premiered on VOD and DVD on December 5th.

Born and raised in San Diego, Cantrell has displayed her acting prowess in various roles, earning accolades such as the ‘Best Leading Young Actress’ at the Young Entertainer Awards for her performance in ONE UNDER THE SUN, a sci-fi feature film recommended by Stan Lee. Apart from her acting endeavors, Cantrell is actively engaged in charitable work with organizations like the LA Mission and animal rescue centers. A surfing enthusiast along the beaches of San Diego, Cantrell consistently maintains national honor roll status.

Recently, StarCentral Magazine had an insightful conversation with Ava Cantrell, delving into her journey and experiences in the entertainment industry.

ABIGAIL is your first starring role in a feature film. How does it feel to take on the titular lead character, and what drew you to this particular role?

I was so excited when I booked the role of Abigail! She is a great, messed-up teenager and was so interesting to play. I love to play characters that go through many changes within a story. Abigail definitely does that in this movie. The movie itself goes through changes along with her, moving in and out of a drama story within her relationship with her mom and the thriller/horror story of the bullies and her father showing up.

Can you share some insights into your character ‘Abigail’ in the upcoming film, especially regarding her evolution and the challenges she faces throughout the storyline?

Abigail has learned to be a master manipulator and can morph into a different personality on a dime. Her father is a serial killer who shaped her worldview, and Abigail will solve problems, even problems of others, with quick bursts of violence. She sees herself as the hero of her own story.

As a versatile actress who has worked on various platforms, from Nickelodeon to Warner Bros, how do you approach transitioning between different genres and styles of acting?

I’ve learned that preparation is key to my performance. Each role will present its own challenges, and the better prepared I am before I step on set, the more natural my performance will be on camera. Finding the motivation of my character either from the script or the director or creating it myself for each scene will help me deliver an in-the-moment execution of the character. I’ve found the biggest transition between genres is when doing comedy. You need to be able to hit the beats to make it land. It’s one of my favorite styles because making someone laugh is a gift.

ABIGAIL is set in 1976. How did the historical setting influence your portrayal of the character, and what kind of preparation did you undertake for this role?

My parents were kids in the 70s, and my grandma was an adult then, so I asked a lot of questions, looked at hundreds of photos, and listened to the way kids talked in television shows from that era. A really funny thing happened on set where I had to use a rotary dial phone in a scene, and in the first take – I dialed the phone before picking up the handset to talk (which is completely wrong!). No one made a sound while I played out the scene, but when the director called “cut”, everyone over the age of forty burst out laughing.

You’ve been in the industry since the age of 7. What have been some of the most memorable experiences or lessons you’ve gained throughout your Hollywood career so far?

The best lesson I’ve learned is don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s just a job, maybe a weird one, but you need to show up on time, hit your marks, and be a team player. Abigail is probably the most memorable as I made so many new friends, worked with some old ones again, and got to go through it all with my family. My Mom was a Costume designer on Abigail, and it was amazing to scour Etsy with her for 70’s gems. My Dad (who is an entrepreneur and even had a deal on Shark Tank) jumped in after I was hired as Abigail as a producer, and I loved working with him on set. His calm and friendly demeanor is an asset that I always want to emulate in work situations. I’d have to say working with Jason Alexander on Young Sheldon might be the top; that was amazing. Jason loves to improv in his acting. Keeping a straight face while he was doing his thing in front of Chuck Lorre was the most challenging thing I have ever had to do.

Having worked on both television series and feature films, do you have a preference for one over the other, and how do they differ in terms of your creative approach?

I love both so equally. Twice in my career, I have been booked as a guest star and bumped up to recurring. I love guesting on shows as each is unique and a learning experience. If you are hired for a TV show, they like what you did, so you go on set knowing to do exactly the same. Ideally, I would love to work on one feature film a year. I really have enjoyed this experience in Abigial leading a film. With that process, it is more difficult as research is important and then going on set with a strong sense of who you are playing and how they evolve, especially when scenes are shot out of order. So far, each role I have gotten was meant to be. I am ready for whatever comes next.

Your career includes roles in horror films like LIGHTS OUT and indie sci-fi features like ONE UNDER THE SUN. What attracts you to these genres, and how do you navigate the challenges they present as an actress?

Both those movies were great opportunities for me. Lights Out was a huge career move for me. Having that credit brought so much great attention that continues today as it was such a fantastic movie as well as being a hit at the box office. One Under the Sun was such a gift to play a child in horrific circumstances, and I had to find the emotional connection with her to play it effectively. It was also a great women empowerment story that I witnessed firsthand as a young teenager. It was a story where my mom was a scientist, astronaut, and doctor who became some sort of superhero who saved the world. In that movie, I got to work with Gene Farber, who also plays my dad in Abigail. My mom was played by the amazing Bollywood actress Pooja Batra.

What can viewers expect from ABIGAIL, and how does it stand out in the realm of revenge-horror films?

Abigail is going to be a great ride for the views! It starts out with a bang, then throws you into a drama, a teen love story that twists into something unexpected and dangerous. You’re going to be left wondering, do I like this Abigail girl? Is she sweet? Is she just trying to help out Lucas? Is she doing all this on her own? The movie is unique, surprising, and thrilling.

Besides your acting career, you are actively involved in charitable organizations like the LA Mission and Animal rescue centers. How important is philanthropy to you, and what initiatives are you particularly passionate about?

I was brought up with a lot of balance in my life. You study and work hard, enjoy success, give back, and help others. The LA Mission is dear to me as we have had family members struggle with drugs and alcohol and family members who struggled in the past with homelessness. They, along with other organizations, do a tireless job to help those in need. Animal rescue centers are so important in my life. We’ve fostered and rescued many furry friends over the years and continue to be advocates of adopting, spaying, and neutering.

Looking ahead to 2024, what projects or aspirations do you have for your career, and what can fans anticipate from Hollywood’s newest “IT girl”?

“It girl!” That would be amazing. We’ll see… fingers crossed. I would like to try a movie with more action from a character that I play. I’ve been deeply involved in Muay Thai fighting for over a year and would love the chance to use those skills in a movie. I got a little taste of stunts and fighting in Abigail and would love to do more!

Leave a Reply
You May Also Like