Mysterious new pastors, a series of disappearances, apocalyptic signs of biblical scale; what’s a loving mother, and wife of a cursed town’s mayor supposed to do? I sat down with Crystal Balint in the virtual sense to find the answer.
Balint portrays Dolly Scarborough in Midnight Mass, the latest horror-mystery from the talented mind of Mike Flanagan.
A person of faith and a member of her local church community, Dolly’s life is completely changed when her faith is put to the test by a series of so-called miracles.
Crystal, who had been on vacation with her family off the coast of Vancouver, graciously took some time to talk to The NOC and take us inside the mind of Dolly Scarborough.
So how did you feel when you first got the role?
Balint: So I didn’t know much about Mike Flanagan, I was probably one of the very few people in the world who had not seen Hill House yet [laughs]. I’m just not really a horror fan myself, so I just never got around to watching it.
So when I got the opportunity to audition for it, around 2019 before the holidays, I quickly taped it. My character description was very short, I think about a sentence long. No details about the project or even what it always called, so I had almost nothing to reference. And about a week or two into the new year, I got a call about joining this new [Mike Flanagan] project and I had kinda forgotten about it! Because the holidays were such a mad rush at the time. Then when I went and looked it up, I was floored by who was attached. Me and my partner went back and binged The Haunting of Hill House to prepare, and after that I was just in love!
Can you tell us about the challenges on set that arose and how you guys overcame them?
Well ya know, pandemic [we share a hearty laugh needed during these trying times].
So production was actually meant to run from mid-March 2020 and finish around June. But we only really had enough time to do a full table read and a cast dinner before the production started getting these letters saying there would be a hiatus and we didn’t know when it would be over. I would say that was a huge challenge for both the actors and the producers. I’m sure as time went on there were probably a lot of scary moments for the producers trying to figure out how to come back during this. We were one of the first productions back up and running in August! So at that time, there were a lot of things and changes as a group we had to sort of face. Things like incorporating PPE and constantly wearing masks, how to properly wash your hands.
These were for sure a challenge on the filming process, because it’s such an intimate process generally speaking. You spend a lot of time with people. But we did it! We managed it and I think we did it with gusto!
Midnight Mass has these character moments, where we usually get a monologue of some sort that lets us in to the character’s thoughts. Unfortunately we don’t really get a moment like that with Dolly during all of the chaos. What might have been going through her head as the whole thing’s going down?
When we first meet Dolly at the top of the show, she’s in a pretty dark place. She’s the mayor’s wife so she has to keep her head up and keep up certain appearances, you know? But she’s had a difficult bunch of years. Her daughter has been, for lack of a better word, maimed. And that’s a huge blow to her. At the same time, she’s had to watch this community that she’s grown with sort of crumble. So she’s not in a very positive place, it’s very destitute.
And she relies very heavily on her faith.
I’d say there’s a scale when it comes to relying on faith in this show. Bev being like a 10 [laughs] Dolly’s not quite there. I’d say she’s more around a 7. She believes, but she hasn’t found a lot of solace in the last couple of years. So for her. The story of Midnight Mass is one of real catharsis. She gets what she’s been asking for, she gets the “gift.” So she’s really jumped on board very early on because she can’t help but believe when she starts to see the rejuvenation of her, her daughter, and her community. I think if she had a speech, I think that’s what it would be based in. Just “Look at these gifts, how can we look away from them?” It’s only once it’s too late that she starts to really wake up from that.
Midnight Mass deals pretty heavily with the subject of religion, faith and the various interpretations of the Bible. Did your views influence your portrayal of Dolly, or did portraying Dolly have an effect on your real life views at all?
I think for me, my personal relationship with my faith or what I believe in didn’t really affect me in reading or portraying the role. I recognized it as Mike’s baby, this personal thing he’s been working on for quite some time and most of his career. I saw the beauty in the journey he went on as a person of faith and his own journey of exploration with his faith.
What I will say about my experience with the show after and what I loved about it is what if left me with. Just really wonderful, deep thoughts that I can really consider. I find myself now, even here at this little getaway, just looking at things around nature and thinking about some of those monologues. What is the meaning of life? What does happen when we die?
So I think what’s lovely about [Midnight Mass] is there are so many perspectives laid out from so many different characters, and that makes it very difficult to get offended. The examination in the show is not of religion or of faith, it’s really about what people do with it. Faith and religion in the wrong hands can be devastating, but it can also uplift and support in the right hands. It’s a human experience show and it’s about how people might examine their own reality.
You can watch Crystal Balint portray Dolly Scarborough in Midnight Mass, currently on Netflix. You can also look forward to seeing her in Mike Flanagan’s next Netflix project, Midnight Club when it premieres in 2022!