‘Renfield’ Star Jenna Kanell Talks about Playing Carol, Working with Nicholas Hoult and Nicolas Cage, and More!

Jenna Kanell as Carol in Renfield

Jenna Kanell is no stranger to the big screen or to the horror genre. She currently stars as Carol in Renfield, which debuts in theaters today.

The horror comedy follows the story of Renfield (played by Nicholas Hoult). He is the tortured aide and dedicated servant of history’s most narcissistic boss, Dracula (played by Nicolas Cage). And after centuries of servitude, Renfield is ready to see if there’s a life outside the shadow of The Prince of Darkness.  If only he could figure out how to end his codependency, and perhaps he can with a little help from his support group, which is where Jenna’s character, Carol, comes in.

We chatted with Jenna about playing Carol, working alongside Hoult and Cage, and her most memorable moment from production. Check out the full exclusive interview below!

Our Exclusive Interview with Jenna Kanell

Jenna Kanell
Jenna Kanell at the premiere of Renfield

When Renfield first came across your radar, how was it described? And what was your initial reaction? Did you originally go out for the role of Carol?

Jenna Kanell: The original Renfield breakdowns expressed a desire for interesting characters with comedic timing and requested multiple takes. So I interpreted that as permission to play with the material. I’m pretty sure I auditioned somewhere around six times, for various roles.

In the callbacks, director Chris McKay was so open and kind. He created an environment where I could really lean on my improvisational training and have fun. Ryan Ridley’s script beautifully blended genres, too. So on a whim, I sent along my action reel and ended up performing my own stunts in the film. Originally, the character of Carol was written as a man! 

Renfield Filming
The Filming of Renfield

How did you prepare for Carol? What did you know about her? And what did you construct yourself for Carol’s backstory and personality?

Jenna Kanell: After finding real codependency support groups online, I attended a number of virtual meetings with the intention of understanding it from a place of compassion. From there, I fleshed out more of a backstory for Carol’s journey with codependence, taking just a teaspoon of inspiration from my own previous relationship with a manipulative narcissist. 

Throughout production, Chris McKay encouraged us to perform things as written, then to put our own spin on them. So once he helped me find Carol’s strong, specific point of view, I’d try to come in with all sorts of options for him to choose from. Some of that quirky chaos even made it into the final film. 

Renfield Filming
Renfield Filming

What was the vibe on set working with Nicholas Hoult and Nicolas Cage?

Jenna Kanell: Unparalleled. They’re so talented that watching them work was like an artistic masterclass. At one point, I had to remind myself that I was, in fact, on camera as well and needed to continue performing. Because it’s that easy to fall mesmerized by the way they dance together. 

Nicholas Hoult is such a genuine, sweet human, and an incredibly present, generous actor to anyone lucky enough to share a scene with him. Nicolas Cage is a presence and a force, constantly experimenting with his craft in a way that brings it to life right in front of you. 

Then again, the entire experience kicked off for me at the table read in New Orleans with Nicolas Cage and I talking about cats. So I had a feeling that things would only go uphill from there. 

Renfield Filming
Renfield Filming

What’s your most memorable moment from this production? Is there a memory or lesson you’ll take to future roles and projects?

Jenna Kanell: There was a moment on set, in the middle of the night, in a gymnasium full of intricately rigged lights and stunt wires and a camera on a massive crane, around which an army of people flowed, all seamlessly executing the needs of their departments, all collaborating to turn what began as Robert Kirkman’s idea into an experience for people around the world. And it all culminated in the hoisting of a vampire Nicolas Cage high above our heads. And I remember thinking, “Oh, this is magic. I can’t wait for people to see this.” 

Renfield Support Group
Renfield’s Codependency Support Group

Do you want to see a sequel to Renfield? (And should Carol be in it? Because I feel like she needs to finish her share.)

Jenna Kanell: Of course, we need a sequel! Renfield has only just begun his journey toward self-love and independence. And that sort of growth is an ongoing, daily practice. We surely haven’t seen the last of a timeless icon like Dracula, who I could personally see thriving in the political sphere.

And yes, maybe one day, Carol will even get through a share. 

You have a number of upcoming projects – what other upcoming Atlanta-filmed projects can you tease?

Jenna Kanell: I just had the opportunity to work on a studio film as a creature for the first time, which was a beautiful and bizarre experience. I can’t wait to speak on in more detail later this year. And I leave in a few weeks to act and stunt in a movie I’m brushing up on my martial arts and motorcycle riding for.

But one of the things I can certainly talk about is an action comedy short film I just wrote and directed (and acted/stunted in) alongside a killer Atlanta team. We’re in post-production now. And I can’t wait to share it with the world. 

Renfield is out in theaters now!


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