Actor Jamie Clayton shares how she prepared for her portrayal of Pinhead in the Hellraiser reboot. The latest adaptation of Clive Barker’s horror novella The Hellbound Heart comes out this October on Hulu. Clayton, known for her roles in Sense8 and Designated Survivor, stars as the leader of the cenobites in David Bruckner’s new iteration of Hellraiser. The Hellbound Heart tells the story of the “cenobites”, a group of supernatural sadomasochists who do not distinguish between pleasure and pain that are summoned to Earth from another dimension by an ancient puzzle box. The novella was first brought to the big screen as Hellraiser in 1987 by Barker himself, who directed and adapted the screenplay.
The film received mixed reviews at the time, but was generally positively received. Hellraiser has since become an icon of the horror genre, spawning its own franchise. Its 11th installment is Bruckner’s intended reboot, also titled Hellraiser, which he has previously stated seeks to embody the fearless approach of the original film. The 2022 Hellraiser took a major step in separating itself from previous incarnations almost immediately by casting a woman, Clayton, as the primary antagonist Pinhead. The early reactions to Hellraiser have all praised Clayton’s performance, with many deeming her Pinhead fresh and exciting.
Clayton now talks with Inverse about her process in preparing her own take on the iconic role of Hellraiser‘s Pinhead. She explains how she worked with Bruckner to take risks in recreating the character while exploring new territory. Clayton also describes the measures she took in order to protect her mental health as she immersed herself into the darker themes of the film. She says:
“I wanted to bring something completely new and fresh to the character. I didn’t want anybody to compare my performance to previous performances, which I think is why they wanted to cast a woman. It takes the burden off the audience because it makes the comparison harder.
“But in terms of preparing for the role, I listen to a lot of music. I make playlists for all my characters. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life so I really brought all of the torment, the pain, the anguish, the loss, the suffering, the joy, and the sensuality, all through the discussions that I had with David [Bruckner] about what the Priest’s intentions were, why she was doing what she was doing at any given moment, why she would ask a question she was asking.
“There were nuances that I wanted to bring out, and David really helped me get there in all the conversations we had. We had time on set to play, to do different takes, to try different things. I mean we would do one take, and then another that was a complete 180. I would do one super angry and then do it like she was hungry for sex and blood. So there was time to explore. I stayed in therapy the whole time we were filming. It was dark!”
What To Expect From Hulu’s Hellraiser Reboot
Audiences may be apprehensive about yet another Hellraiser installment. Though its first sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II was successful, the rest of the franchise was negatively received, with the later ones winding up with straight-to-video releases. However, as hinted in Clayton’s interview, the new Hellraiser‘s decision to cast a woman as Pinhead guarantees a fresh approach to the film series. So far, the reboot is already getting positive attention from critics following its September 28 festival premiere. Actor Doug Bradley, who played Pinhead in the first seven of nine Hellraiser sequels, has also praised Clayton in the reimagined version of the role.
Despite the franchise’s unfortunate history of flops, its timeless themes of sensuality and violence make Pinhead’s world rife for exploration in any generation. It seems as though audiences can expect a bold and modern reinvention of Hellraiser that still pays homage to the soul of Clive Barker’s classic story. Clayton comments show she took her part seriously, knowing that Pinhead’s motivations and nuances could help make or break the film. This could just become a modern reboot that successfully builds upon the original.