Halloween-Fanatic Laura Donnelly on How Her Spooky Traditions Drew Her to “Werewolf by Night”

Halloween-Fanatic Laura Donnelly on How Her Spooky Traditions Drew Her to “Werewolf by Night”

Laura Donnelly in Werewolf by night

Laura Donnelly grew up in Belfast, but there was one thing that set her family apart from most people they knew. “Quite unusually for growing up in Belfast in the ’80s, my family was really into Halloween,” she tells POPSUGAR. “And we always had very big Halloween parties and still do to this day — it’s kind of the biggest festival in my household.”

Donnelly’s Auntie Paula was the official party planner, and Donnelly credits her with giving her a “big love” of Halloween. Her sister Helen was also a major horror fan, and Donnelly would watch with her. “Of course, as little sisters do, you just latch onto whatever your big sister likes,” she jokes. “And she watched all the Hammer horrors and all the Universal Monster movies and all of that stuff. And I got really, really into them.”

So when the chance to star as Elsa Bloodstone in Marvel’s “Werewolf by Night,” the production company’s first “special presentation,” came her way, Donnelly’s love of Halloween — combined with her appreciation of the MCU — piqued her interest in the role. The special premiered on Disney+ on Oct. 7, and Donnelly stars alongside Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell, the titular werewolf.

To prepare for her role, Donnelly dove into the comics in which Elsa appears, including the “Nextwave” comic book series and the character’s standalone novel, “Elsa Bloodstone: Bequest.” When the actor finally read the script, she realized that the Elsa on the page was different from the one she’d met in the comics. “Werewolf by Night”‘s Elsa is at the beginning of her journey of self-discovery. “She’s trying to figure out who she is in the context of her father passing away and now coming back after a long absence from her family home,” Donnelly explains. “It was more about taking the inspiration from the comics, but then really trying to root her in a kind of really human way.”

Donnelly says even though they were shooting a Marvel project, the set felt more like “a little indie movie.” There were days when, right before shooting a scene, Donnelly, Bernal, director Michael Giacchino, and writer Heather Quinn would sit down and rework a scene. “We would go back into it and dig in,” she explains. “And Gael was brilliant at just being able to really collaborate in that way and be able to figure out how we would bring our different characters together and make it kind of sing.”

The special features some incredible fight scenes, another part of the job Donnelly relished. She already had a lot of martial arts and stunt experience thanks to her role on HBO’s “The Nevers,” though she did have to pick up a new skill set for Elsa: sword fighting. “I felt like I would never be able to get the hang of [sword fighting[ and then [you] do it, and you get one shot under your belt, and you start feeling a bit more confident,” she said.

Donnelly says joining the MCU has been “surreal.” Back in September, she was on hand at Disney’s D23 Expo when they premiered the trailer for the movie; she’d seen the finished film for the first time just the night before. “All of that is when it started really occurring to me that this is part of this wider universe, and that is something I’m still getting my head around,” she admits.

But she’s ready to play Elsa in any MCU project that might come up. “I will do whatever they present me with. I love playing Elsa,” she says. She’d love to bring her on the journey to becoming the woman she is in the comics and “get her to that point where she is that very fierce version of herself, but without ever losing that humanity and that vulnerability to her.” She adds, “And I’d love to explore that relationship between her and Jack a little bit more as well. We were just seeing the beginnings of that, and that’s something that seems to me could be something very beautiful that is just blossoming.”

Where Elsa could pop up is anyone’s guess, though Donnelly would love for the character to interact with some of the people she’s teamed up with in the comics. Those characters include Monica Rambeau, Blade, Ghost Rider, and Morbius. Elsa’s comic allies include Moon Knight, and Donnelly loved that Disney+ series. “I love Oscar Isaac. I think he’s incredible,” she says. Is that a hint that she could appear in a second season of “Moon Knight”?

“I’ve no idea what their plans are, so I just hope to get a phone call,” Donnelly says.

“Werewolf by Night” is streaming now on Disney+.