SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “Resident Evil,” now streaming on Netflix.
Before 17-year-old Siena Agudong heads off to New York University for school this fall, she made a stop at New Raccoon City for Netflix’s “Resident Evil” series. Based on the popular video game franchise, the horror show is filled with decaying zombies, bloody chainsaws and monstrous undead animal hybrids. For Agudong, who’s appeared in several Nickelodeon and Disney Channel projects in her young career, “Resident Evil” marked her biggest role yet and her jump into horror.
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She plays Billie Wesker, one of the twin daughters of Lance Reddick’s mysterious father and Umbrella Corporation scientist Albert Wesker, who fans of the video game will recognize as one of the franchise’s biggest villains. With her sister Jade (Tamara Smart), the two girls uncover the sinister secrets of Umbrella, which include a zombie virus, undead dogs and a cloning program that was hiding a clone of their father named Bert (also played by Reddick).
After being bitten by one of the zombie dogs, Billie becomes infected with the virus, but thanks to Albert and Umbrella’s experiments on her when she was younger, she’s able to partially resist the undead urge for flesh. That is, until the finale where she’s briefly overcome by the sickness and bites into her classmate Simon’s (Connor Gosatti) arm — and he’s then killed by his own mother and CEO of Umbrella Evelyn Marcus (Paola Núñez) before turning becoming infected.
In the final moments of the season, Albert sacrifices himself to blow up the Umbrella lab, but his clone Bert rescues Jade and Billie and they all drive off together. However, something has clearly changed between Jade and Billie — probably because of Billie’s zombie bite. As we see in the future storyline set in 2036, Jade and Billie are still alive (and played by Ella Balinska and Adeline Rudolph) but they seem more likely to murder each other than hug it out. Billie now runs Umbrella and she shoots Jade and leaves her for dead, but Jade is able to barely survive.
With Variety, Agudong explains what the future may have in store for young Billie and Jade, her zombie makeup process and shooting that tense bite scene.
Were you familiar with “Resident Evil” before you got the role?
To be honest, I had no idea about the franchise. My manager sent a link so I could get familiar with it when I was going into the audition. In order to prepare for the role, I ended up watching a bunch of people play the games. I got a sense of the world and also how scary, gory and intense it was.
Are you a horror fan?
I am not a horror fan, but as an actor I really like playing roles in horror. So this was cool to play around with, but watching it back was really hard because I was scared and I even knew how it happened behind the scenes. There’s this moment where Billie is in Umbrella Corporation, it’s the syringe and eye stab. I can’t even watch it, and I knew exactly how it worked. Even the chainsaw, nope. I can’t handle it.
How did you shoot the eyeball scene?
The close-up was fake, but it was a syringe with a dull point. I would go super slow and on the side of his face, and then right after that he had a sponge full of blood and he was pressing it down on his eye. Even though I didn’t touch him, the blood was coming out.
You and Tamara play such convincing sisters, how did you two become so close?
Tamara and I hadn’t met before filming. We met a few days before filming at the pool and talked for hours. We knew we had to develop some sort of relationship, so there was this process of, “Let’s get to know each other, what happened in our lives.” I have three sisters; she has two older sisters. I think it was important to both of us to have that banter and mimic that close-knit relationship. There are so many moments in the show where we switch who’s the older sister and younger sister even though we’re twins.
How did you and Adeline, who plays older Billie, decide on how to play the same character but 14 years apart?
Because we had such limited time because of the filming schedules, every moment we had with each other, it went straight to getting to know each other and talking about Billie. Obviously they’re in completely different situations and in those 14 years, Billie changes so drastically. Adeline and I talked about the hair, for one. She and I were discussing if the hair should change in the 14 years. We were given so much creative freedom. We also talked about how she and I would approach a certain scene and our opinions. We brought both of our creative minds and tried to come up with something.
How long was the makeup process to turn you into a virus-infected person?
The shoulder bite took about two hours — sometimes 30 minutes, it varied. My makeup took 45 minutes. My hair — with the colors and everything — every morning they had to re-dip it in this temporary dye because the colors changed drastically throughout the show and it kind of correlated with how Billie was feeling. The blood in my mouth, all that stuff was new to me. It was exciting, and actually really nice to sit in a chair for two hours to talk in the hair and makeup trailer.
What was the fake blood made of?
I don’t know what it was but it tasted like sugary gel. In the beginning it wasn’t so bad, but at the end, oh my goodness. That was definitely something I wasn’t looking forward to getting more of.
How did you shoot the bite scene?
It took maybe five to seven close-up shots. I was telling Connor I was really nervous because it’s such an awkward shot. How do you fake a bite? You can’t. I actually had to put my mouth on his arm. Take after take, he was a trooper, but I didn’t want to hurt the guy. But the prosthetic looked incredible and just trying to get that on the spot where the bite marks are was a bit awkward.
Did you ever actually chomp down on his arm?
I tried so hard not to hurt him. But eventually he was like, “Just do it, just bite me. It’s fine. I want it to be real.” So he was talking me through the whole thing, like “Let go.” It was really fun to shoot, as dramatic and emotional as it was.
We see how divided Billie and Jade are in the future, and in the finale things are pretty broken between them. How irreparably changed is their relationship?
I wish I knew. All of the actors are developing their own theories. None of us know what happens, so we’re riding this out with the audience. Where we left off, Billie changes so much and Jade goes through so much. I’m excited to see their dynamic change and also just how crazy Billie will get. I don’t know what happens with her, but she’s very different and it will be a lot to explore.
One of my theories was if there are any clones of Billie or Jade hanging around Umbrella.
Possibly, possibly. I think that would be great. I would love that. [Reddick] was brilliant in that. Even hearing him in the table read, he read all of the parts in that scene. He developed every single character and clone and it sounded like someone completely different.
With Bert as their new father figure, how will Billie and Jade get along with him?
I think they’ll push him away as much as they can until they realize they do need him. What’s neat is they’re left in such vulnerable state missing their dad. They’re gonna cling on to some sort of authority figure, I would hope. A vulnerable, sensitive, sweet, giving man like Bert is exactly what they need. I think he’ll protect them as much as he can.
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