Empire Spotlight: Kathryn Newton Is Unstoppable

Kathryn Newton

by Beth Webb |
Published on

The Lisa Frankenstein star on how horror has found a place in her heart.

Last October, Kathryn Newton had the kind of pinch-me moment that only Kathryn Newton could have. The actor was visiting Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood, where her body-swap slasher Freaky had its own maze featuring extras dressed up as her weapon-wielding, serial killer-possessed character. “It was my version of having a Disney princess ride,” she tells Empire happily.

Horror has been a constant presence throughout Newton’s career, from her first leading movie role in 2012’s Paranormal Activity 4 to the upcoming Abigail, in which she plays a member of a criminal crew pitted against a ballerina vampire. Yet there’s a twist: Newton is, in fact, a total scaredy-cat. She recalls her first frightening trip to the movies, where she watched the Diablo Cody-penned Jennifer’s Body. “I was so scared that my popcorn was falling out of the bucket. I was shaking so much. And that movie is not even considered a horror film.”

Honestly, one of the biggest goals of my career was to be a Marvel superhero. I would do it forever if I could.

Cut to some 15 years later and Newton seems to have gotten over the experience, as she now stars in Cody’s monster-movie comeback, Lisa Frankenstein. The ’80s-set teen horror follows solitary Lisa, who accidentally resurrects a Victorian bachelor who will protect her honour at any brutal cost. He’s also mute, meaning the film rests on Newton’s amplified performance. “At the end of the day, what you want to do is something that scares you,” she says. Armed with Cody’s script, the actor and director Zelda Williams worked on creating something new and surreal inspired by the likes of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. “We’re both alike in the way that we’re bored of seeing the same kind of characters in the same kind of high school,” she explains.

©Sam McGuire

Newton’s appetite for trying new things has grown over a particularly long career for a 26-year-old. She was just four when she landed her first job — an HBO short film called Bun Bun. “I didn’t even say my lines half the time. I just thought I was dressing up,” she laughs. Over the years on set, from her stints in horror to supporting roles in Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Newton worked on making her performances more authentic. Even when she was acting opposite tennis balls for Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, where she played Paul Rudd’s on-screen daughter, Cassie Lang. “Trying to be grounded was definitely the biggest challenge,” she confirms. “Because we’re on a big Volume stage and I’m looking at somebody dressed in a grey onesie and he’s making weird alien noises and I’m supposed to not laugh. It was very difficult for me.”

Lisa Frankenstein
Lisa Frankenstein

Further plans for Cassie Lang within the MCU are unconfirmed, but if she were to get a Nick Fury-style recruitment call for more adventures, Newton says she would be excited. “I started watching those movies when I was eight years old. So they’re a big part of my life. Honestly, one of the biggest goals of my career was to be a Marvel superhero,” she says, before adding, “I would do it forever if I could.” And her dream Avengers co-star? “My instinct is Hailee Steinfeld [Hawkeye’s Kate Bishop],” she muses.

It’s safe to say that no matter how excited Newton might be for that call, she’s certainly not waiting around for it. She’s got vampire ballerinas to fight and undead bachelors to deal with. As scaredy-cats go, this one can sure handle a few monsters.


The Show: Girls

"I just did a rewatch. I'm obsessed with Girls, and I think being older now [means] it makes more sense to me. I wrote down every book that Hannah – Lena Dunham's character – reads, and I just bought all of them."

The Podcast: Smartless

"I love [this podcast] with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett."

The Album: 'Tattoo You' by The Rolling Stones

"I like [Mick Jagger]'s songs about love. And it's easy to dance to."

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Empire. Photography by Sam McGuire, shot exclusively for Empire in Los Angeles.

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