Exclusive: Kevin Bacon Teases His Character in New Horror Movie They/Them

They/Them is an upcoming film on Peacock that’s highly anticipated for many reasons. For one, it’s written and directed by John Logan (the man who wrote such massive films as Gladiator, The Aviator, Sweeney Todd, Spectre, and Skyfall), someone who has worked with many of the greatest living directors and yet has chosen to make his directorial debut with this film. Second, it’s concept of a traditional slasher movie set at a gay conversion camp is a playful but provocative twist on the horror genre. And then there’s Kevin Bacon.

The large cast of They/Them (which also includes Carrie Preston, Anna Chlumsky, and Theo Germaine) is great as a whole, but Bacon pops in a perfect performance as head camp counselor Owen Whistler. Owen’s a tricky part to play, someone who may have loving intentions, may be a malicious homophobe, or may be the slasher in the film.

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Kevin Bacon on Playing Toxic Characters

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One thing’s for sure — he believes in the ‘work’ of ‘gay conversion,’ something which may make him abjectly toxic and utterly reprehensible to many audiences. Kevin Bacon spoke to MovieWeb about the film, outlining his interesting process of navigating a point of emotional entry for his character:

I think that people who have chosen to do something with their life, like tried to convert somebody’s identity or sexuality, I think they’re obviously working from some kind of point of personal fear to the extent that they’re so terrified of either whatever’s going on inside themselves, or what someone else has told them about whatever it happens to be, the world, or politics, or religion, or whatever. That they have to try to force something on other people, that usually comes from a very specific kind of place of fear. So that’s what I tried to tap into with this guy.

Bacon has really excelled at villainy throughout his career without ever getting typecast, with wonderfully menacing performances in Cop Car, Super, Hollow Man, and several more. While it’s ultimately difficult to tell who’s a villain in They/Them (as it is in most murder mystery and slasher movies), the character of Owen is undoubtedly infected with dangerous, toxic ideologies.

“It never gives me pause that a character is toxic,” Bacon says. “I’ve done a lot of terrible things in my acting game to people and animals, children and adults, you know, I’m not afraid of that at all. I mean, I’m not drawn to bad characters. Sometimes people say, ‘Well, you must be drawn to them,’ but I play plenty of nice guys too. To me, the interesting thing is somebody who is complex and someone whose shoes I feel like I really haven’t walked in before, and that’s what this delivered.”

How They/Them Uses Traditional Horror According to Bacon

They/Them is a film filled with shoes much of the cast and crew haven’t walked in before. Logan puts on his director’s shoes for the first time and runs with it though, embracing tropes of the horror genre in a clever way. Bacon really enjoyed watching the master screenwriter make directorial decisions for the first time in his very personal first feature film:

I think that John did a really cool thing where he was obviously deeply affected by the idea that this gay conversion could even exist and that it still goes on in this country to this day. And rather than make a film that would be a small kind of dark drama, he decided to plug that idea into a very kind of accessible and in some ways very traditionally structured slasher movie, which was a really just great idea. On top of that, he wrote fantastic characters for both of us and so, I jumped on.

Bacon was at the premier of They/Them at Outfest on July 24th with his wife Kyra Sedgwick, though the film will only be streaming on Peacock, starting Aug. 5th.