Chucky Is A Family Affair For Fiona Dourif [Interview]

"Child's Play" and all things Chucky have always been a part of Fiona Dourif's life. Her father, the Oscar and Emmy nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor Brad Dourif has a remarkable career spanning over four decades, but for a huge subset of society, he'll always be known best as the voice of Chucky and the serial killer Charles Lee Ray. A few years into an acting career of her own, Fiona was brilliantly cast as the wheelchair-using Nica Pierce in "Curse of Chucky," and returned only to be possessed by half of Charles Lee Ray's soul in "Cult of Chucky." Now, four years later, Nica has returned for the USA and SyFy series, "Chucky," and she's still got a part of Charles Lee Ray's soul within her. 

Fans of the franchise have been impatiently waiting for Fiona Dourif's return, and she's back in a very big way. Not only did we get Nica Pierce, but we were also given a completely unrecognizable and transformative performance of Fiona Dourif in prosthetics, made up to look like her father as Charles Lee Ray in the original "Child's Play." The resemblance was uncanny, unsettling, and absolutely perfect. 

I was fortunate to chat with Fiona Dourif about the "Chucky" series and learned what it's like to continue on with the family business when it's one of serial killers and supernaturally possessed killer dolls.

Becoming Charles Lee Ray

The internet seems to have been unable to stop talking about your amazing transformation into Charles Lee Ray. I know you've talked a little bit on that with SyFy, but I'm curious what the process is like to not only inhabit Charles Lee Ray as the man in the 1980s but then also as Nica being inhabited by Charles Lee Ray. What's the process like to create the differentials between those two?

We tried to make it different, sort of like the way I walk as Charles Lee Ray, and my dad tried to help me. There was a lot of walking behind him in Woodstock. There was a lot of watching the pretty limited clips of when he actually appeared in the series as Charles. There was practice with that. And then I think the difference between Charles' and Nica's body is his experience of just getting to be a woman and having sex across America. I think he's just a little more empowered, he's enjoying it a little bit more. I think as Charles, when he was young, he was tiny, he was just discovering who he was and what he's capable of. And I think when he is [inside] Nica, he is having so much goddamn fun.

"Nobody is freer than Charles"

Oh, totally. And I guess on that note as well, in episode 5, you have the scene where you go from being Charles Lee Ray and then dropping to the floor and now you're back to Nica. Like, what kind of headspace do you have to be in to pull that off?

Well, first of all, I feel so lucky to be able to get paid to have my imagination lock that down of what it would be like to have your soul leave your body from the top of your head and drip out through your toes and then collapse. It's all these fun themes to think about. I feel just insanely lucky. I keep saying that, but it's really true. I gave myself permission to sort of make my rendition of Chucky my own. I felt like I'm close enough to my dad and our genetics are close enough that there was going to be enough of that original character coming through. If I sort of leave that aside and decide who he is and how he works for me. 

It's a really fun character to play, and here's why — because nobody is freer than Charles [Lee Ray]. I mean, I think he's terrified of oblivion, but beyond that, he is confident and capable of anything and so powerful and having so much fun and so f***ing free. And so living to the limits that one can live. And it's just a really fun way to walk around the world, even if it involves murdering people.

"I just knew it was going to be good"

Taking on the reins of such an iconic character is hard for anybody, but you're doing so from one that is synonymous with your father. Does that add more pressure? Does that make it easier? I know you've probably been asked that a million times, but I'm going to do it again.

I mean, but this is a different situation, right? I think when I was first cast in "Curse of Chucky" 10 years ago, I was the most terrified because I hadn't done that much. At that point, I had only been acting for about six years or something. And I remember the pressure of trying to continue something that's so celebrated, that's been a cornerstone of my dad's career. 

My dad has done so much, but you go to fan events and people ... it's all Chucky. I mean, there's something about this character that's just hit in the zeitgeist where people just f***ing love him. And so I remember that being pretty intimidating. And then when it came out and was reviewed really well, I got a little bit more confidence, same again with "Cult of Chucky." And then with this, I read the scripts months before we were in Toronto and I just knew it was going to be good. Usually, if you're starting with scripts that are that strong, even if everything goes wrong and you still end up with something good, nothing really went wrong, right? We kind of understood that we were making something that was going to be good and that doesn't always happen.

All in a Day's Work

Because Don Mancini has had creative control pretty much the entire way through, "Chucky" has a legacy of being the franchise for the queer kids. And now, this series more than ever. Although it is still Charles Lee Ray inhabiting Nica's body, you and Jennifer Tilly have these scenes that are adding an additional layer of queerness to this franchise that's so beloved for it. What is that experience like?

Yeah. What happens when I'm with Tiffany and Charles has left and then it's Nica trapped with this woman who's f***ing crazy who just needs love so badly? There was a lot of talk about that and kind of me imagining those scenarios. I think in the end Nica sort of pities her. I think one of the beautiful kind of cornerstones of Jennifer's performance as Tiffany is ... She's deranged and capable of anything but also so vulnerable, right? The core of her, this is just a woman who's kind of been treated like s***. She makes all the wrong decisions with men and she just wants to be loved and who hasn't been there, right? And I think Nica wants to help her through it and get the f*** out. I think there's pity there. Pity and maybe some sex.

It's a traumatizing situation, but you make the best of it.

You can make the best of it, yeah. There's always a worse situation to be in than having to have sex with Jennifer Tilly, it's true.

If having sex with Jennifer Tilly is the worst thing that's going to happen in someone's life, you're pretty blessed, I like to think.

(Jokes) It's not going so badly, yeah!

"It was ... deeply terrifying."

(laughs) I know that, historically, Chucky's not CGI, he's a puppet and they typically will play your dad's voice. What is it like to act against your dad's voice in a puppet?

When I first had the first encounter with Chucky with my dad's voice and me acting, because they play the voice, so it's a practical puppet, right? So you get this entity to really act with and his eyes move, and you can really kind of talk to him, and I asked Don [Mancini] to have the puppeteers read it. I was like, "It can't be my dad's voice, it's going to just be distracting." I love my dad. He's honestly one of the softest, kindest, strangest men you'll ever meet. There is nothing scary about him. And Don refused. He was like, "No, no, no, no. We want to try it with Brad." And it turned out it was so much more unnerving and so helpful to have the specific voice of the person who's provided you comfort in your life being like, "I want to f***ing kill you." It was really personally, deeply terrifying. And it was just helpful. It was helpful. And it worked. And then it just got to continue on in this crazy lucky way.

"Chucky" plays on Tuesday nights at 7:00 p.m. PT/10:00 p.m. ET on USA and SyFy.