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“Love Lies Bleeding” is Ripped: Actress Katy O’Brian Talks Love, Sex, and Vulnerability

Katy O’Brian is a Breakout Star Who Shines in Loving and Hilariously Violent Crime Film

English film director Rose Glass’ second feature film is “Love Lies Bleeding,” a hilarious and intense story about two women who meet by chance in the American Southwest. It’s described as an electric love story in which reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family. “Love Lies Bleeding” is an A24 Films release. 

The film, which was in limited release in Los Angeles and New York since last Friday, is now opening nationwide on March 15. For the release of this wondrous and brilliant film, I spoke with Katy O’Brian, a martial artist and bodybuilder turned actress who took on the role of Jackie and excels with her work as an outwardly tough but vulnerable woman who only wants to be loved and appreciated. O’Brian has also starred as Elia Kane in the hit Disney series “The Mandalorian.” and “The Walking Dead”, among other roles. 

“Love Lies Bleeding” has an excellent cast that includes Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Jena Malone, and Anna Baryshnikov, with Dave Franco and Ed Harris. You can buy tickets at LoveLiesBleeding Movie

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Dolores Quintana: To start at the beginning, what attracted you to the role?

Katy O’Brian: It was just like: the similarities were too real. I didn’t know anybody else that fit that mold. I actually had a fan send me the casting call because I guess they were struggling to find someone for the role of Jackie. So they put out an open casting call, and someone sent it to me and said, “Katy, why are you not auditioning for this?” I was also thinking, “Why am I not auditioning for this?” Queer, female bodybuilder from the Midwest, working in an A24 film with Kristen Stewart and Rose Glass., I’m like, “Um, hello, I’m here.” 

So, I made a PowerPoint and tossed it in through my agent. I said you have to get me an audition for this. It wasn’t until after the callback that I found out it was based in the 1980s, which is the most iconic and best time to be a bodybuilder. It was also a very fun fashion time in the world. Everything was shifting into this weird digital era.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 05: Katy O’Brian (L) and Rose Glass seen at the Los Angeles Premiere of A24’s “Love Lies Bleeding” After Party at the Rainbow on March 05, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for A24)

Every new thing I learned about it made me want to do it more. Then, when I finally read the script, I almost took a little step back because it was terrifying. I genuinely paused and thought, “Can I even do this? Am I capable of doing this?” And then, I just had to do it. It was something that I was so passionate about, and there was no way that I would forgive myself if I backed out. 

Dolores Quintana: Your performancefantasticzing. It really is. You have such a strong connection to the character, and you’re able to show great enthusiasm and love for the character and some of the character’s darker sides. How do you relate to Jackie?

Katy O’Brian: I mean, obviously, we have this bodybuilding aesthetic, which, on a superficial level, we have a lot of checked-off boxes. I think there’s something unique about breaking the mold with the character, but I also come from the Midwest, where it is a more conservative environment. It’s about how much you want to feel appreciated for who you are and who you really want to be. 

But we have a lot of differences. Jackie has a lot of pain that I don’t have, and she’s got a lot of potentially tragic history. That actually just made me hold her close and make me want to do her justice. To show her in the best light but also in a really soft way because she’s a human being. She has this hard-ish exterior to some people, but she is just someone who wants to be loved and cuddled and protected. I really thought that that was important to tell because I think that so often we look at someone and think, “Oh, they can take care of themselves or whatever.” I just don’t think that’s the case.

I think people are so much more vulnerable than they might appear to be. That’s the big thing that I wanted to show, and the big thing that drew me to her was her vulnerability and her desire for love and true romance. 

Dolores Quintana: That’s one quality that Jackie has. It’s like an aura of power, the smile that she projects outwardly. But one of the things that really came through with your performance was that she was really protecting herself, that inner core of damage and fear. That’s how I interpreted it. It seemed like maybe she got into bodybuilding because she was trying to protect herself. 

Katy O’Brian: We played with that idea in the backstory. But, in the initial backstory, for example, maybe someone might stumble upon a porn magazine and think, “Oh, I like women.” and that is their awakening. In this case, Jackie stumbled upon Lisa Lyon magazine, who was this famous, late 70s bodybuilder, and it was the first time that she felt attached to something. 

It was the body that compelled her more than sexuality. That is what Rose wanted to show, that it was the body that compelled her but also alienated her. That was where the obsession began. Yes, in a way, you do feel stronger; you feel powerful. You feel like you can’t really hurt me now. It is an armor. Behind that, obviously, is somebody that doesn’t want to get hurt.

Dolores Quintana: There is a lot of humor in the film. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but I think I know what you think, and you might know what I mean. With certain deaths in the film, you’re just like, whoa, wait a minute. That was really funny. 

Katy O’Brian: Yeah, yeah, it was. It’s kind of cool. I just heard this Bryan Cranston interview in which he says that when you’re playing comedy, you have to play it like it is the most serious thing in the world. Because it’s the seriousness and the absurdity that make it funny. We found a lot of those really funny moments in the moment. So there’s, there’s a certain death where one character is more concerned that they were being cheated on or that they were cheating than they are about this death that just occurred. That was found in the moment. It was so funny. Kris said, “Wait a minute, I wouldn’t be worried about her. I’d be worried about my love.” So that’s one of my favorite parts of the film. 

Just because of that, and because Rose has a way of pairing violence with comedy and the absurdity of the situations, and wants you to laugh at them. I liked it because I feel like so many people are afraid of it. They just want to be so serious all the time. They’re afraid of whatever that moment is being laughed at. But I think it was really important. In order for all of this silliness, and the craziness of this movie to work, and the melodrama and all of that. I think it had to be taken with a grain of salt. It had to be just ridiculous. Otherwise, the audience is thinking, “No, that was a bit much.” 

Dolores Quintana: I think that there’s a lot of joy in the film. Lesbian joy, and in who they are, and their sexuality, and who they are to each other. There is no male gaze in the scenes where they are intimate with each other. That joy is the thing that makes it so enjoyable to watch. watch characters, not just enjoy themselves, but really have that connection and vulnerability and that intimacy that’s built out of joy. But how do you feel about it? 

Katy O’Brian: I love it. I love that Rose very specifically didn’t want it to be a gay quote-unquote coming out movie. She just wanted the gayness to be there and not be commented on or a problem or part of the conflict or anything. That’s how I live my life. So why shouldn’t other people get to see that? 

I do love that, and I love that they were so just immediate and passionate. They just dove so headfirst into it, and it became this almost addiction. It’s almost like I push this person away. We go through the wringer within the first couple of weeks of knowing each other and decide, “Screw it. I’m gonna throw my whole life away for this other person.” It’s insane. It’s not healthy. I hope that people don’t take this as a model relationship. Kristen’s got a very rebellious attitude. It was fun to do with her because she’s like, I just want to like stick it to everyone. It was just one giant middle finger throughout the whole film.

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