Over the decades, vampire movies have made a star of many a young actor, from Kirsten Dunst to Kirsten Stewart. Soon, the same should be said of Ireland’s Alisha Weir, who at 13 years old, held Universal’s monster movie Abigail on her highly capable shoulders.

In the film from Radio Silence, which hits theaters today, Weir is introduced as Abigail, a ballerina enthusiast taken captive by a band of criminals seeking a $50 million ransom from her crime boss father. Brought onto the job Reservoir Dogs style by a figure named Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito), the gang soon realizes they’re in far over their head, as it’s revealed that what they believed to be their safe house is not so safe at all. No ordinary girl, Abigail is in fact a vampire who’ll make a game of picking them off one by one.

No ordinary girl, either, is Weir, who held her own opposite the likes of Melissa Barrera and Dan Stevens. Completing the majority of her own stunts for the film, she’s also said to have taken the project to the next level when she brought her skills as a dancer into play. She landed the part of the titular ballerina vampire following a Zoom meeting with the directors and a chemistry reading with Barrera, finding in the project a chance to realize her dream of working in horror, as someone who’s grown up with films like The Conjuring.

“A horror film was always on my bucket list,” Weir says, “because I was always so interested to see if it was really scary on set and if the actors that were scaring us were really scared filming.”

Not exposed to many vampire films prior to her work on Abigail, Weir had a big task before her in signing on. Her part was one requiring more range and skill than many a teenager might be able to muster, and she’d be doing it in an American accent, which was a new experience. Over the course of the film, her personality would split in two between “this innocent and sweet girl” demonstrating great vulnerability and “Abigail’s true, manipulative, sassy self” — a creature of the night possessing huge strength, a dark sense of humor, and a knack for one-liners.

“I had an amazing coach, Nancy [Banks], who really helped me understand the character and her two different sides,” Weir recalls. “I used to call it Abby and Abigail to help me, so every day when I was going through the script, I’d have two different highlighters to highlight the different characters.”

In her work on the project, Weir’s experience with different styles of dance, from “lyrical to jazz and commercial” — if not ballet, specifically — served her and the filmmakers well. Initially, ballet wasn’t intended to be a major part of Abigail‘s visual storytelling. But in discussions with Radio Silence and her choreographer, Belinda Murphy, it grew to become one of the film’s identifying features.

“The more me, Belinda, Matt and Tyler talked about it, the more the excitement built, the ideas built, and we all just couldn’t wait to do it,” says Weir. “It became a very big part of her character, so no matter what she was doing, she was always doing it in an elegant and graceful way, always leaping and chasing and pirouetting all over the place.”

Given her experience “learning routines,” diving into wire work and other forms of stunt work for the film was also a more seamless transition than it might have been for a first timer. When asked to what extent she wanted to participate in that aspect of the performance, she shared that she was eager for the opportunity to learn and tackle each sequence put forward.

Per child labor laws, Weir could only step foot on set for five hours a day, though she’d remain on the premises for an additional three hours of tutoring. An interesting facet of her experience was the fact that up until quite recently, Abigail‘s title and plot were kept under wraps, which meant Weir would have to live with a secret for quite a few months. “It was so hard to keep it in that I was playing a ballerina vampire. I was so excited to tell everyone,” she says. “When my friends were in the trailer, and they were first seeing me with the fangs and the teeth and the eyes, and in the costume with all the blood on, I think they were all pretty shocked.”

In the end, one of the greatest challenges of the project for the actress was the physical transformation she’d have to undergo, between sets of teeth and fangs, and contact lenses that would brighten her dark blue eyes for scenes that found Abigail on a rampage. Certain scenes involving corpses and blood cannons were “really, really freaky,” she says, and the teeth were an adjustment, as well.

“I got a scan of my teeth and they made them, and they were like retainers that went on the top and bottom,” she says. “At the start, they were so weird, and I had to get used to speaking in them, and also speaking in them with the American accent, which was quite different. Then, I also had stunt teeth, which were even bigger and took up the majority of my mouth.”

Born in Dublin, Weir began acting at age 3, following in the footsteps of her older sisters, who made her want to give drama classes a try. Beginning her career in theater, with productions like Annie and The Wizard of Oz at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, she came upon her big break in film when she landed the lead in Matilda the Musical, Netflix and Sony’s 2022 adaptation of the Tony-Award winning stage musical of the same name.

While that production had the likes of Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch and Andrea Riseborough in its ensemble, Weir spent most of her time acting opposite other kids, so working with an all-adult cast on Abigail was “a little bit strange at the start,” she admits. “But every single one of the adults was so kind to me, always made me feel so comfortable on set, was always talking to me, seeing if I was okay, asking me questions. I felt like I could ask them any questions, and I look up to them so much, not only as actors, but as people, as well.”

A lover of films ranging from Lindsay Lohan’s The Parent Trap to serial killer pic The Black Phone, Weir counts Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan among her acting idols. “She’s Irish as well, and she started from a very young age,” Weir notes, “and I think she an incredible role model and inspiration.”

While the actress would love to build a diverse portfolio of roles with work across genres, her one fundamental hope for her future career is modest. “I hope that if I keep going, I’m just still enjoying myself and loving it as much as I love it right now. I hope that I’m still happy,” she says. “As long as I’m enjoying it, and as long as I’m still feeling that excitement and that buzz when I read a script and I can really imagine myself into that character, I’d love to keep doing acting because it makes me so happy and excited.”

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