Sticking with the Supernatural as a New Horror Heroine: 'The Witcher' Star Freya Allan Talks 'Baghead'

For her first lead film role, the English actor swaps Crown Princess Cirilla of Cintra for talking to the dead in an inherited eerie pub.
Sarah Ward
February 29, 2024

The Witcher wasn't Freya Allan's first acting role. But within a mere two years of her debut on-screen credit, she was in a streaming smash. The Netflix series arrived just as Game of Thrones ended, falling into the big wave of fantasy efforts endeavouring to capitalise upon the genre's Westeros-fuelled renewed TV popularity. It did just that, sparking two more seasons that've already aired, a fourth in the works — to be co-led by Liam Hemsworth (Land of Bad), who takes over from Henry Cavill (Argylle) — and both animated and live-action spinoffs. The Witcher also thrust Allan, the show's Crown Princess Cirilla of Cintra and one of its three central characters, to fame in a huge way.

The English actor isn't done with her time as Ciri yet, but she's now added a new first to her resume: her first lead film part. In fact, Baghead is only her second movie stint, after co-starring in 2021's Gunpowder Milkshake. One thing remains familiar, as it did when she appeared in miniseries The Third Day as well: Allan and the supernatural keep being linked. While that connection isn't purposeful on her part, the two-time Saturn Award-nominee — the accolades handed out by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, with Allan twice in contention for Best Performance by a Younger Actor in a Television Series — can see why it keeps happening.

"I think once you show a certain thing, people go 'oh, she's the girl that can do that'. And it's harder to break out of a certain box," Allan tells Concrete Playground. "But it's always a work in progress."

Susie Allnutt, Netflix

Baghead tasks her with getting otherworldly by talking to the dead in an eerie pub. Iris Lark, Allan's character, inherits the Berlin watering hole when her estranged father Owen (Peter Mullan, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) passes away. She didn't know about the bar's existence otherwise but, as encouraged by a disquieting solicitor (Ned Dennehy, The Peripheral), she's soon signing up to take it over. Inside, the run-down inn offers more than anyone could ever bargain for. In its basement exists an entity that can give patrons quite the deal: for two minutes, it will gift whoever sits in a chair opposite it the chance to spend time with a loved one that they've lost.

It boasts Talk to Me vibes, but the premise initially fuelled Alberto Corredor's 2017 short that's also called Baghead. The full-length version is the director's feature debut. At the movie's centre sits two key elements: the "what would you do?" question, as part of its grappling with grief; plus Allan as the twentysomething woman tussling with that very query — which Iris only learns about after the mourning Neil (Jeremy Irvine, Benediction) arrives with cash for his own date with the pub's other inhabitant — and then experiencing the consequences.

Taking the horror heroine route to the silver screen is a tried-and-tested path. After Baghead, however, Allan will next hit picture palaces in 2024 in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth film in the latest Planet of the Apes franchise. "Apes for me is my proudest project I've done so far. I just think that everyone involved is just superb at what they do. All the actors, I watched most of the film the other day, and they just killed it. So I feel very proud of it and I'm just excited for people to see it, and I hope that they can appreciate everyone's hard work," Allan advises.

We also chatted with Allan about her response to Baghead's setup, what she'd do in the same situation, how she chooses projects, her relationship with horror and taking on her first lead part — and The Witcher, of course.

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On How Allan Would React If She Was Given the Chance to Talk to the Dead for Two Minutes

"I would. Well, I wouldn't in this film, because there's a lot of risk factors involved. But in general, if I could talk to my grandparents, I definitely would.

It was two years ago we shot it, but I'm sure we must have had a conversation about it at some point while shooting. I feel like it's the inevitable question."

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On Allan's Initial Response to Baghead's Premise — and How She Prepared for the Part

"My first response as Freya, I was drawn to that element. I think grief is such a topic that everyone can really associate to and has experienced.

And so I think that's immediately something that's very easy to connect to, and is such a prevalent part of life. You can't really escape it. So I think that's profound.

I just came up with a backstory and made sure I had all the details I needed, and all the questions answered that I needed. And in regards to when she lost her parents, and understanding a bit more about peoples' experience in the foster-care system where she's come from.

And having just lots of conversations with people and their experiences around grief as well, even talking to my mum about it, and Alberto and the other cast as well — just having those constant conversations."

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On the Challenge of Taking on Her First Leading Film Role

"It doesn't necessarily feel totally different to The Witcher in terms of the pressure. I think I have the same pressure on every job I do. It never really goes, whether you have a smaller part or a larger part.

And also, it very much felt like I was a part of a team with Ruby [Barker, from Bridgerton] and Jeremy, who played Katie [Iris' best friend] and Neil. So, it felt like we were there to support each other."

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On What Appeals to Allan About New Projects — Including Baghead

"It depends. I think I definitely was at a place of still wanting to learn. I mean, I want to learn on every job I do, obviously — it's just a natural part of leaving a job, you always feel like you've learned even more for the next job.

I saw this as a great opportunity for that. It was my first lead in a feature and it was a great ground to learn in order to go into other projects with more experience.

And I would say from here, I love to do some stuff which is completely stripped back and has no supernatural at all."

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On Starring in a Horror Movie But Not Being an Obsessive Horror Fan

"I feel like it's an inevitability for every actor. You can't really be an actor and not have done a horror film — and actually it's, like I say, a great ground for learning a lot of things, because a lot of it actually does really revolve around physicality and building a heart rate. And you begin to realise how much physicality plays into being an actor. That really helped me for for other things.

But no, I'm not immediately a horror fan — I don't know everything about horror films, but I definitely have had great experiences of watching certain horror movies.

I really do think that they can be the perfect film for cinema, to go and have a have a real experience with your friends, and be scared and have a snack."

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Susie Allnutt, Netflix

On Allan's Journey with The Witcher So Far

"When I got that role, that was huge for me and it was so exciting. That character is always going to be hold a very dear place in my heart, and I feel very lucky to have specifically played her.

I think she really gets to have such an arc throughout the whole show by the end. But obviously, you do begin to want to do new things as well.

So I think when it comes to an end, it will be a bittersweet thing of saying goodbye to a character that I'm hugely grateful for, but also being excited to do new things."

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Baghead opened in cinemas Down Under on Thursday, February 22. Read our review.

Published on February 29, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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