Mimi Cave’s “Fresh,” now on Hulu, is truly disturbing.
It’s the story of a young woman named Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who thinks she’s found the man of her dreams in Steve (Sebastian Stan), whom she meets at a local grocery store. But as she prepares for a romantic weekend, she finds out who Steve really is – and it’s utterly terrifying. To say more would be grounds for imprisonment. But we’ll say the film is a sharp, subversive, and often very funny look at modern courtship, male/female power dynamics, and the wealth divide. It’s a doozy.
TheWrap sat down with “Fresh” screenwriter Lauryn Kahn to ask all the questions you probably had after watching.
Spoilers for “Fresh” follow. Watch the movie on Hulu, then come back for a few seconds.
Where does “fresh” come from?
It came from several different things. It came from wanting to try to write a horror movie.
And growing up, watching them, loving them, watching them every weekend with my best friend in elementary and middle school, and then being too scared to watch them and having nightmares and being like, Alright now I can just watch the trailer and read all the spoilers but still loving the spin that a horror movie brings to you, kind of wanting to put a different genre spin, or a different tone, and being inspired by that tone that emerged that sort of says, ‘This is nice to have it all if it’s grounded and you believe these characters. In real life, it’s funny, it’s scary. Like, wait a minute, different things are happening. So that was that challenge.
Did you watch any particular movies to inspire you?
It was kind of like around “Get Out”, “Killing Eve”, “Barry”, “Parasite”, more recently, where I was like, Wow. You can do all the things, and it’s okay. It was kind of like permission to explore where there’s real violence, real stakes and real fear, but also a levity well placed to even it out. Because personally, when it comes to horror, I can’t live in darkness all the time. I don’t find it funny.
And I want to somehow have a nice ride with such a crazy topic. I think those movies, and even “Squid Game” now, didn’t inspire me, but seeing that they’re all different things. There are moments of levity, and then there is such shocking violence, all of it.
When you were writing, you had to have in mind that you had to find good actors, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
Oh my God, yeah.
What did you think when Daisy and Sebastian signed up?
I mean, I had seen a bit of “Normal People,” and I think what was most exciting is you can tell she’s so amazing, but she was so enthusiastic. There was not a moment of hesitation. It was like, “I get that, and I just want to do it and immerse myself in it.” And that was really exciting, because she seemed to really understand what we were trying to do and make it grounded and real and understand how that can happen to a woman, basically.
And she’s so talented. And the same with Sebastian. I think he had a good fear of this role and immersing himself and making it his own and doing this crazy research, watching him talk to criminal psychologists and doing all this research on serial killers, it was so amazing to see the way they dove head first. And then you work on creating them once the actors sign up, and certain things they say, or the way they do a certain thing, “Okay, that feels more natural.” Or, “I wouldn’t say it right now.” And it was also fun.
Were the musical cues written into the script?
I have to say that Mimi is really good with music, so there have been discoveries along the way and things that have changed, of course. And there were musical cues written all along, knowing that we probably couldn’t keep a lot of them. The one that Mimi and I decided on, “What do we have right now that we need right now?” And that was, we kept Peter Cetera’s “Restless Heart,” which is – spoiler – it’s in the first operation. And then “Golden Girls”, the theme song of “Golden Girls” has always been important.
Were there any deliberations on how quickly to introduce Sebastian’s villainy?
I think when I was writing it, I think there were more nods to the camera early on, and it was more for the reader. More like double meanings, things he did, things he said that didn’t really feel right once we got ready to film, and it just showed too much of our hand.
I think the important thing in my mind was, as an audience, that you wanted to believe it. You wanted to ask questions and feel like you’re on this adventure of this romance that’s beginning, and say, “Maybe I fell for it. I may have been there. He is a very good manipulator. He’s a sociopath, he’s a psychopath, but it could have happened to me. And I think it was about hooking the audience before cutting the rug and finding that rhythm.
Have you determined what organization he’s a part of?
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m fascinated by the super-rich and the darkness that probably surrounds them when you reach a certain level of wealth. And again, more recently, this was addressed in “Squid Games” – when you can have everything at your fingertips, what, at that time, brings you joy? What makes you happy when you can literally have it all? And years ago, I heard a dark story about someone ultra-rich who scarred me. I think there’s a fascination with that and the idea of something bigger. It’s not just him doing this, but there are people involved, and it’s a network. And just with the dark web, black market, and cryptocurrency, and all those nefarious things that are going on. God, I hope it doesn’t actually exist, but I’m sure some shitty stuff does.
Let’s talk about his wife.
Mimi and I kind of, kinda want to leave her backstory to the public. But I think most people can relate to what she stands for, in terms of upholding the patriarchy and supporting something that doesn’t ultimately have its best interest in mind, but wants maybe a certain life and accepts a certain destiny. Or maybe she became the mastermind. I think his character is left open to interpretation a bit, which I think is fun. And I have my own ideas, but it’s interesting to see what Mimi thinks and what people who watch her think. And who exactly she represents, I think, is a bit open to interpretation.
There is an emblem on the plates that nods to the occult. Is black magic involved in this group?
Mimi and the art department worked tirelessly to create this emblem. And there are so many different things with symbolism behind them. like you have to smash the stake and the goat head and the one eye, it really speaks to a lot of different things. And there’s a lot of depth to what he’s saying, and he was definitely picked for a reason in this secret occult club that I think was definitely particular and very intentional.
This obviously debuts on Hulu. They need streaming content. Have you thought about a “Fresh” anthology show, more adventures in this universe, something like that?
There were mentions of the sequel at some point, or how you would play.
I mean, just in conversation. It’s not like it’s… It’s more like, “How would you build this? What does this next chapter look like? And I kind of thought about it. I’m definitely a bit addicted to this tone and genre. I have another idea for more than one TV show I’m toying with, it’s a fucked up noir thriller with a weird levity. I don’t know this world in particular, but certain elements and themes definitely inspire me for my next idea.
“Fresh” is streaming on Hulu now.