April Billingsley on the thriller ‘The Dark Red’

Known for her work on the comedy/drama ‘Last Vegas,’ the fantasy/drama ‘Resurrection,’ and the horror series ‘The Walking Dead, April Billingsley was born in Duluth, Georgia. She also appeared in ‘The Mentalist,’ ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Doom Patrol.’ In 2016, she was acclaimed at festivals for her starring role in the quirky indie ‘The 12 Lives of Sissy Carlyle.’ Most recently, she played a key role in Lifetime’s ‘Mommy Murder Group.’

In the supernatural revenge thriller ‘The Dark Red, April stars as Sybil Warren, a young woman committed to a psychiatric hospital, claiming that her newborn has been abducted by a secret society called The Dark Red. The ancient, underground cult harvests and controls a rare blood type that gives one the power to hear and guide another person’s thoughts. In this one-on-one interview, April reveals her passion for acting and the challenges she faced in bringing the complex character of Sybil to life.

What attracted you to the role of Sybil in this thriller?

April Billingsley: It was such a dream role to play a woman who transitions from timid to this strength she portrays throughout the movie. I was excited to stretch myself.

Did you audition for the role? If so what was that like?

April: I did. Dan (Bush) called me in. He gave me sides and I read an earlier version of the script that wasn’t completely fleshed out in places. We went through an outline and I thought, this is really cool—it’s different, something I hadn’t seen before. I was attracted to the strong female lead in a psychological thriller with a genre ending. I knew Dan and his work. I liked that Sybil was a complete person. I feel that, in a lot of genre movies, people are sometimes portrayed as two-dimensional. As for auditions. I view them as an opportunity to act, to convince the two or three people in a room who watch you that a bigger audience will like you.

Kelsey Scott & April-Billingsley

How did you prepare for this intensely psychological role?

April: As an actor, for any role, I always start by trying to figure out who the person is between the scenes. Who are they as a complete person? So here, I tried to understand Sybil and what was important to her. Her main drive is finding a family because she lost hers when she was very young. I find that most roles click into place once you have that overarching want and need for a character. Then you just take a breath and put yourself in it and go. In terms of Sybil, I think we all have a connection to that feeling of loss. That pain or struggle where you can’t get something you want. Or you have a dream and it gets ripped from you. Most of us have, at some level, experienced something like that.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in this film?

April: I really enjoyed being in this film. I was making a movie with my friends. It doesn’t get better than that.

You’ve amassed quite a body of work. What surprised you about working in the entertainment industry?

April: Jobs can be up and down. The highs can be really high and the lows, low. So you need to not let yourself get to far high or low. You need to keep that confidence throughout your life. When I first started, I was really cocky, so sure that everything was going to go exactly the way I dreamed. Although, it has been a much more rewarding experience than I’d anticipated. Throughout my journey so far, I feel I’ve become a better, happier person. I’ve found a beautiful life in being able to do these creative, expressive roles.

Did you have a favorite scene or scenes?

April: Yes. I really liked the end. With everything that Sybil had gone through, it was a nice way to wrap things up.

Have you ever turned down a role? If so, why?

April: I have turned down roles, mainly on independent projects when I felt the filmmakers didn’t really know what they were doing. Early in my career, I did a lot of projects that never got finished or I wasn’t treated well on set. I love playing roles that are fun and interesting. Lately, I’ve been auditioning for a lot of comedies.

Tell us about Act for a Change?

April: Act for a Change is a non-profit. We get local actors and writers to put on a night of one-acts for charity. Every show is attached to a specific charity and all the profits go to that charity.

When did you get the acting ‘bug’?

April: At five. I did my first professional play when I was ten.

What were you like in high school? The girl most likely to….?

April: The girl most likely to go into sports—maybe go into the Olympics. I was a jock in high school. I didn’t really do much theater. At one point, I thought I’d become a park ranger and live in the woods (laughs). I always wanted to do different things, and I think through acting, I can do that. Be someone different and learn something new.


Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of film reviews and celebrity interviews for a wide variety of online and print outlets. He has covered red carpet premieres and Comic-Con events for major films and independent releases.