Known for voicing Bloom, the main character on Nickelodeon’s revival of Winx Club from 2011 to 2015, Molly C. Quinn is perhaps best known as Alexis Castle, the daughter of the lead in ABC television series Castle. Quinn started acting at a young age and made a name for herself in a variety of television series, films, and stage productions. The ambitious young lady was associate producer of the movie Hansel & Gretel Get Baked. Her other major works include The Sacrifice, We’re the Millers, and Welcome to Happiness. Quinn won the ‘Best Newcomer, Short Film’ award at the Monaco International Film Festival for her outstanding work in the short film The Sacrifice, in which she played Esmee Johnson.
In the spellbinding AGNES, Quinn is Sister Mary, who bears child as a teen, loses her baby, and joins a convent. She befriends a young nun who explodes with an outburst of rage and blasphemy, causing the church to send a veteran priest to investigate the incident as a potential demonic possession. In this one-on-one interview, Quinn reveals her passion for acting and the challenges she faced in bringing the complex character of Mary to life.
What drew you to this horror film? It’s not your usual light drama.
Molly C. Quinn: I’m really attracted to characters and strong women. And I think Mary really exhibits that. There’s the loss of her son and the love she had for him. And her friendship with Agnes was a really interesting dynamic that I wanted to play with. On top of that, it was an ensemble cast, which is my favorite kind of movie to produce and act in. You get to work with incredible actors who create a new world.
Did you audition for the role of Mary?
Quinn: No, my production company, Quagmire was looking for a film to produce and we had seen Climate of the Hunter. It sounded interesting and we wanted to read more of Mickey’s (Reece) work. We got the script and we connected to the strangeness of the story. One minute you’re in this horror-possession story and the next, you’re out of the convent and into the world. We were all attracted to that, so we sat down with Mickey and we just did it. It was a perfect situation: we wanted to produce it and I wanted to act in it.
Can you go into some of the challenges you faced as Mary?
Quinn: The biggest challenge was the complexity of playing someone who believed they could run from their past and their trauma. Mary just wants to be left alone to think about her son. But the world just keeps coming at her. Everyone is right in her face. It was a challenge to keep my cool and to show the progression to madness and righteous fury that she ends up giving in to. I didn’t want to show that too early. I wanted to show that as a ‘slow burn’ until she just explodes.
What did you draw from internally and externally to play the role of a troubled young nun?
Quinn: Whenever I get into a character, I start a diary for them to experience their driving force. So I explore Mary’s best time when she was most happy and fulfilled—when she had her son. I also asked my friends who had small l children if I could come over and play with them. I wanted to have that tactile experience with children. And that was huge because I felt like Mary always sees her son, Joey out of the corner of her eye like he never died. It takes a lot of energy to keep that fantasy going—as an actor and a person.
I’d never heard that—keeping a diary to help develop a character. Interesting.
Quinn: I think about a character’s life before the script starts and then go into the script to develop that life even more. There’s one line in the script where Mary mentions how when she was younger and got pregnant, she was a different person. So I thought, okay, what was Mary like at seventeen? So I wrote about Mary sneaking out of her window and going to parties. I made up her friends’ names and even picked out magazines she read—things to separate the character from myself. And that’s when I know I’m getting closer to creating a full person other than me.
What was your favorite scene?
Quinn: Well, as a producer and an actor, I’ll say that we only had Chris Sullivan for one day. We flew him to Oklahoma City. We only had twelve hours to shoot all four of his scenes with Mary. So that day, we were kind of making a mini-movie in the middle of this movie. For me, that was a joy. I had wanted to work with Chris for so long. He’s a wonderful person and an incredible artist. What he did in this movie, that day, might have been my favorite day in my life so far (laughs).
Had you not pursued acting, what career path would you likely have chosen?
Quinn: If my parents had not helped me when I was so young, I would have gone to an arts college and would have driven cross-country to L.A. at eighteen, and I would have just kept trying. I love trying to understand people and why they make certain choices–can I be empathetic and see where they’re coming from? So, yeah, I could never let that go. I’ve very obsessive. My parents always hated that about me. But it’s worked out for me.
What have you learned about the entertainment business that surprised you?
Quinn: How familial sets are. And once you meet people and work with them on projects that have lasted for some time, they really love you. And they become people that you know forever. You remember birthdays and when someone becomes sick, you become part of their family and their lives. I didn’t expect it to be that wonderful.
What were you like in high school? The girl most likely to…?
Quinn: (laughs) I moved out to L.A. when I was thirteen. I was home-schooled and already working at a young age. I did Castle when I was fourteen. The closest thing to a high school experience was all the pranks that Nathan (Fillion) pulled on me. He was constantly pranking me. He’d lift me up and have me hanging from the rafters.
Talking about Castle, do you still keep in touch with Stana (Katic) and Nathan?
Quinn: Yeah, when Nathan did a play downtown, we all got together, and saw the play. We’d also get together for Bar-B-Ques now and then.
Any advice for young actors trying to break into the business?
Quinn: There’s something that creator Taylor Sheridan said to me once at a party. I was explaining to him how caught up I was about work. He stopped me and asked, “How’s your life? For unless you’re living life and having real experiences, there’s nothing for you to draw on as an actor.” So I would just share that advice and boil it down to ‘you don’t have to feel like an artist.’ You have to live your life and your art will come organically. The art of acting comes from your everyday life. So live life.
AGNES is streaming as part of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.