When Kelsey Caesar had aspirations of being an Olympic athlete, he wasn’t thinking about starring in an all-Black slasher film. But the PAC-12 champion broke into the acting world in 2007, and now he’s making headlines in a different way. His upcoming film screened at SXSW last month and is a departure from the horror norm for featuring an entirely African-American cast. I recently spoke to Kelsey about the movie and his own personal journey that brought him onto an entirely different stage.
Brittany Frederick: The horror genre is traditionally not kind to Black characters; many of them tend to die early, not be well-written, or both. What was it like to be in a film where the Black characters were the main characters?
Kelsey Caesar: It’s so funny you mention this because this was actually a running joke for all of us, like “Which one of us is going to die first?” It felt like a normal film. One of us eventually dies, but it doesn’t matter because we’re Black, so it doesn’t matter which one of us dies first.
BF: That’s the catch with horror films. Sometimes there’s not a lot of time or space for character development. How much do we get to learn about your character?
KC: I think my character does have a pretty good arc. The lead who’s played by Teon Kelley, I think his character and the killer have really great stories. The director and writer did really, really well creating a story amongst the characters in this movie that you can get the message of what this movie’s about and think to yourself, “Ah, yeah, there is good meaning.” There’s good meaning to it regardless of what’s going on.
BF: There’s been a recent trend with films like Jordan Peele’s movies where the horror is more psychological than graphic violence. How would you describe the scares in this film? What can viewers expect?
KC: In a general sense I would say it’s a bit of both because the location, the game house, is honestly really scary. Even when we shot there, the house was haunted and it was very, very creepy and very big. It’s a really big house where we shot a large part of the movie. So as much as I was scared shooting it, I feel like watching it may be a little bit scarier.
BF: What was the filming experience like, then? Because you’re with your castmates for long hours in a confined space that’s now haunted?
KC: It brought us a lot closer, especially because we were shooting during the pandemic and everything has changed in the TV and film world, especially in production when it comes to shooting. We did a lot of talking. And I was a candy eater on set so I definitely hoarded all of the good candy and made sure I got it to some of my castmates. (laughs) We shot for like two and a half weeks and it was done. But nonetheless, we definitely made some pretty good friendships and good relationships on set with each other.
BF: This is one of the bigger roles in your film career to date. Your movie career is still developing, so is there any type of role or genre that you’d like to tackle next?
KC: Honestly, I wanted to do horror. I don’t know. I was just like, “Horror is something I have not yet tackled and I would love to be a part of it.” And honestly, through God’s grace I got three horror projects, this movie being one of them. I’m really happy with the work that I did last year [and] now I actually want to move on to something different. I really want to tackle a comedy. A really fun comedy. It could be an all-Black comedy. I think they should recreate The Hangover, but with a black cast.
BF: On the TV side, you were cast in an episode of Friday Night Lights, and then got cut from said episode. What was that experience like, especially since you’re from Texas?
KC: I was cast as an extra, essentially. There’s a lot of the rival football teams, so they gave me a line to say when we were shooting. I was like, “Oh, cool,” because I just wanted to see what it’s like to work on a TV show, because it was literally one of my first jobs. I went there and then it wound up being something bigger—and then I got super-excited to not be featured in the episode with my line. (laughs) But nonetheless, I’m still a fan of the show.
I was a fan of the movie when it came out. The movie and that TV show are very dear to me in the sense that was pretty much like my lifestyle. Not small-town, because I’m from Houston, which is a huge city. But the culture of football is still the same, whether you live in San Antonio, Austin or Lubbock.
BF: What’s one thing you’d want people to know about you?
KC: I definitely want everybody to go to the movie [with] a open mind, especially considering that this is the first slasher that has an all-Black cast. Definitely take that into consideration when you see this film and see how much good and what sense does it make when it comes to a new kind of horror. I want people to definitely look into this project and see that it is an original.
For more with Kelsey Caesar, follow him on Instagram and Twitter.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.