Ella Hunt doesn't think she'd survive the Zombie apocalypse.
"I'm extremely clumsy and would probably trip over, and, probably, be eaten by zombies," the star of the new film "Anna and the Apocalypse," told NBC. If she did survive, though, she said, it'd be with a garden shovel. She's from "middle of nowhere" in Devon, the southwest of England, and her mom is an "amazing" gardener. So she'd use her mother's spade with its long handle and pointy head: "That would be a good zombie killing tool."
But in the Christmas-zombie-high-school-musical Hunt's character uses another tool in her fight for survival against the zombies: a massive candy cane.
And she does it dressed practically, a rarity in the world of female action stars; Anna wears a winter coat and biker boots. "I felt super empowered by getting to wear a big winter coat," Hunt said. "I just felt like that's what she'd wear."
Hunt performed all of the stunts in the action-packed film, which hit theaters last week. To get into character, Hunt used playlists; she does this with many of her roles. Anna's playlist had the songs from the film, of course, but also some classical music, and for preparation for fight scenes, AWOLNATION's "Sail."
In the film, Hunt plays Anna, a teenager who is dealing with zombies, but also the very normal woes of high school life, how there's "no such thing as a Hollywood ending" (something the characters sing about in an electric musical number: Yes, this zombie movie is really, epically, a musical.) And that's important to Hunt.
"I think it's an exciting time for women in film, because more and more we are seeing characters that aren't defined by one dimension of their personality," Hunt reflected. "I'm excited to play characters that are flawed and unlikable or characters that are likable but tricky and difficult and all the things that women can be." That is, moving past only having roles for women who are the "damsel in distress" or "the bitch."
Hunt was especially excited with Anna, the character Ryan McHenry and Alan McDonald had written. Anna, Hunt said, is a character who "is so well rounded, who is vulnerable, unsure and unsteady in her decisions, but also sassy and badass and cool and likable." She also feels young people deserve a more three dimensional portrayal. Anna gives her hope and inspires her to do more of that.
These exciting times for women are also exciting for Hunt, who considers herself a storyteller rather than an actress. After spending 10 years acting, beginning by dancing around her house in a tutu, Hunt has in the past few weeks entered the public limelight.
The 20-year-old actress was named Screen FrightFest Genre Rising Star 2018; she tweeted in response "So happy!! Big things to come." What are those big things?
Well, she'll be playing the very different character of Sue Gilbert opposite Hailee Steinfeld in the upcoming comedy Apple TV show "Dickenson," on the renowned American poet. She'll also star in "Kat and the Band," coming out later this year, and in the 2018 coming of age rom-com "Summer Night."
Characters in the film sing about the fallacy of the Hollywood ending, and Hunt agreed: "I don't think life has a beginning, middle and end. Obviously with storytelling it's important to give the audience the satisfaction of some kind of ending."
"The film is actually not about saving the world, it's just about survival," Hunt concluded. "That, to me, felt honest."
Life might not have a Hollywood ending, but Hunt is having her Hollywood beginning.