By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Lucy Hale wasn’t alive yet when the popular adventure series “Fantasy Island” wrapped after seven seasons on ABC in 1984. However, her parents were fans of the weekly show that starred acclaimed Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban as the mysterious host on a magical tropical isle where different guests each episode would get to live out their fantasies—which usually didn’t play out the way they expected.
In this big screen reinterpretation of that beloved series, a handful of select guests are invited to an island paradise with the expectation of having their dearest fantasy realized, but as the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Hale, 30, plays Melanie, a young woman with a chip on her shoulder who has arrived on the island to exact revenge against a former high school classmate who used to bully her. When she realizes what is entailed in her wish-fantasy, the reality of getting even by getting a chance to actually physically torture her frenemy is worse than she expected, but she has to see her fantasy to “it’s natural conclusion.” Further, there are secrets about the island, its dapper host (played by Mexican-American actor Michael Pena) and the other guests who also think they want to live out their wildest fantasy.
“Fantasy Island” reunites the petite brunette with her “Truth or Dare” director Jeff Wadlow for their second Blumhouse Productions collaboration.
TV audiences will recognize Hale from “Pretty Little Liars,” in which she played artsy Aria Montgomery for seven season. She subsequent headlined another show, the short-lived “Life Sentence,” in which she played a young woman who has survived terminal cancer and has to learn to live with the choices she made when she thought she was dying. She now stars on the “Riverdale” spinoff “Katy Keene,” which debuted on The CW Feb. 6.
Getting a chance to star in the big screen remake of “Fantasy Island” was an exciting opportunity for the Memphis, Tennessee-born actress.
Wadlow (“Cry Wolf”) directs the film from a screenplay he co-wrote with Chris Roach and Jillian Jacobs. The fantasy horror film is produced by Jason Blum (“Get Out”). Joining Hale and Pena in the cast are Maggie Q, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Jimmy O. Yang, Michael Rooker and Parisa Fitz-Henley, who plays Mr. Roarke’s tall, beautiful assistant (in contrast to the TV series, which starred little person Herve Villechaize as Tattoo.)
Dressed for an interview in a black mini dress accented by diamond-like crystals and sparkly chandelier earrings, her brown hair cropped just below the chin, Hale is eager to talk up her new film and TV show.
Having begun her career at age 13 as a contestant on “American Juniors” (a spinoff of “American Idol”), she has been busy building a music and acting career ever since. She admits she never had a Plan B, never went to college, because she always was focused on becoming a performer.
Q: You shot “Fantasy Island” on location in Fiji. What was that like? Horrible, right?
Hale: I know. Poor me. It was so beautiful. It was almost a year ago. We were there for about two months. We kind of got a little bit of Island Fever, though. By the last week, we were like, “We need to get home.” But it was amazing. It was on my bucket list of places to visit. You could say it was my fantasy to go there. (She laughs.)
Q: Were you familiar with the TV series?
Hale: I knew the concept of the show. I knew there was this island where anything and everything could happen. I knew about Mr. Roarke and Tattoo. But I hadn’t seen any clips. I still haven’t seen the original show. I knew it was very different from the movie we were making.
Q: How did the role of Melanie come about?
Hale: It was my second movie with Jason as the producer and Jeff Wadlow as the director. I remember Jeff wanting to remake “Fantasy Island” when we were shooting “Truth or Dare.” He called me up one day and said, “We have this script. I have a role for you that I don’t think you’ve ever played before. And we’d love for you to be a part of it.” So, it was a no-brainer for me. I love Blumhouse; I love the genre. I got to go to Fiji. I got to play I’d never played before. So, I thought, this is going to be a blast.
Q: What was the biggest challenge of playing the character?
Hale: Melanie is someone who is malicious and wants revenge, and so my moral compass is very different from hers. So, I had to step inside her head and validate her decisions of inflicting justice on her high school tormentor. She sees it as the only option she has. I couldn’t judge her, which was hard because I would deem her nuts. Accepting her mindset was really the challenge.
Q: “Fantasy Island” is a horror movie but touches on the reality of bullying. What did you think about that aspect?
Hale: One of the bigger messages of the movie is bullying can have very long term effects on someone. Melanie has felt tormented her whole life. I can somewhat relate to what it was like. Everyone can relate to being the outcast at some point. Some people can deal with it better than others. It’s an epidemic; it’s toxic. I don’t really know how to break that cycle. It’s a real issue.
Q: How do you feel about the way that it plays out in the movie?
Hale: It was fun to play, as an actress. Going to that extreme is not a real possibility in real life for most people. But getting to have fun with it was cool. Obviously, it’s morbid and terrible all of these things Melanie is wishing upon this other girl.
Q: Are you a fan of the horror genre?
Hale: I think you could say so. I always have, ever since I was a little kid. I would sneak in and watch horror movies. I love being scared by movies. I don’t know that it’s intentional that I’ve done quite a few (horror movies) but they’re fun to make and fun to watch. With this movie, there’s adventure and suspense and drama and romance and even comedy. There are so many parts where it’s really funny. I feel that Blumhouse does that with a lot of their movies. There’s a reason why they’re the kings of horror right now.
Q: What would be your fantasy?
Hale: I have a lot of really unrealistic ones like having days with people who have passed away, or talking to animals or being able to fly. As for a realistic fantasy, I’d like to drop everything for a year and be able to travel—with someone else paying and calories don’t count. That would be great.
Q: What was it like seeing Michael Pena as Mr. Roarke?
Hale: With his white linen suit with long sleeves the whole time. I felt so bad for him because it was like 105 degrees. He’s amazing onscreen and off. He loves film; he loves learning. It was great to work with someone whom I admire
Q: You stayed aboard a cruise ship while making this, right?
Hale: Not exactly a cruise ship. It was a just large boat. The whole cast and crew stayed on it. The crew was lovely. But we were in very cramped quarters. The reason we stayed on the boat is because the island with the house that you see in the movie was in the middle of nowhere. It’s also where they shoot “Love Island.” We’d take little boats to the island every day to film for 14 days straight.
Q: Was it pretty smooth on the boat?
Hale: Yeah, but there was an earthquake in Fiji while we were on the boat so there was a half-day where were concerned that there would be a tsunami warning. Luckily, we were fine; it was all good.
Q: What are your thoughts on revenge?
Hale: You can go the route of Melanie or you can go the route of Lucy, which is, “I’m going to take the high road and be happy and successful,” and that’s the best revenge ever. Live your life. Don’t let anyone have power over you. In the words of (“Frozen” character) Elsa, “Let it go.”
Q: One of the big differences between the series and the movie is the tie-in between the guests in the movie which you didn’t have on the show.
Hale: What makes the movie interesting is that you slowly realize that they’re on the island for a bigger purpose and everything’s connected. They slowly start to figure that out. The audience is aware of it sooner than the people on the island.
Q: How hands on is producer Jason Blum?
Hale: He didn’t come to Fiji but he’s very invested in his films. He writes the loveliest emails to everyone—before, during and after. He sent one the other day about how proud he is of everyone. He’s a very busy man with a lot of projects going on but he really goes out of his way to reward everyone and lets everyone know he appreciates their hard work.
Q: Why is this a good Valentine’s Day movie?
Hale: You know, horror, love—it can be the same thing sometimes. Movies, in general, are a good first date. You’re forced to be close to someone during this one and, hopefully, it’s a good conversation starter.
Q: Will there be a “Fantasy Island II?”
Hale: They’ve definitely set it up to make it that. Fantasies are endless.
Q: Are you in?
Hale: I hope so. We’ll have to see how opening weekend goes.
Q: You’re starring in a new TV series called “Katy Keene,” which is a spinoff of “Riverdale,” right?
Hale: Yeah, and it’s quite different from this project. It premiered last week. We just wrapped Season One. It’s tonally a different show from “Riverdale.” The only tie-in is that we have Josie from “Riverdale” on our show, which takes place five years in the future. It’s about these people in their early twenties living in New York City chasing their dreams. Each has a different goal and dream. I play an aspiring designer. It’s kind of like “Sex in the City” meets “Gossip Girl” meets “Devil Wears Prada” meets “Riverdale.” “Katy Keene” is from the Archie Comics. She’s a lesser-known character although she’s been mentioned a couple of times on “Riverdale.” She’s known as the fashion “It” girl.
Q: Are there any downsides to acting?
Hale: I got into it when I was pretty young. Most of it is good; I’d say 95 percent of it is amazing. But it can also be brutal; rejection isn’t fun. It makes you question your self-worth every day but you learn to deal with it. You add in social media into it and try to keep up with that whole game, which it is. So, everything isn’t as it seems. It’s not all glitz and glamour, that’s for sure. But it’s fun and it’s been rewarding.
Q: Most of the roles you’ve played have been contemporary characters. Is there a period you’d like to visit?
Hale: I’d love to do a period piece. I shot a film called “Son of the South,” set in the ‘60s in Alabama. I had to speak with a southern dialect. But I’d love to do something set in the Victorian era.
Hale: Yeah. I mean, I say that now but I’d probably be fainting on set. I’m at that point in my career where I’d like to try new things.
Q: Does being an actress help you understand yourself better?
Hale: I don’t know if it makes me understand myself better, but it makes me understand people better, because that’s what acting is. It’s having empathy and stepping into someone else’s shoes without judging, but it has become my form of self-expression. I sometimes have a hard time articulating how I’m feeling but I can always express myself through another character. I’m happy that my job can help me express who I am a little bit more.