SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you haven’t seen “Resident Evil,” which is now streaming on Netflix.
Before 17-year-old Siena Agudong heads to New York University this fall, she made a stop in New Raccoon City for Netflix’s “Resident Evil” series. Based on the popular video game franchise, the horror show is filled with rotting zombies, gory chainsaws, and monstrous undead animal hybrids. For Agudong, who appeared in several Nickelodeon and Disney Channel projects in her young career, “Resident Evil” marked her biggest role yet and her jump into horror.
She plays Billie Wesker, one of the twin daughters of Lance Reddick’s mysterious father and Umbrella Corporation scientist Albert Wesker, whom video game fans will recognize as one of the franchise’s greatest villains. With her sister Jade (Tamara Smart), the two girls uncover Umbrella’s sinister secrets, including a zombie virus, undead dogs, and a cloning program that hid a clone of her 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 is able to partially resist the undead’s need for meat. That is, until the very end, where the disease briefly overcomes her and she bites off her classmate Simon’s (Connor Gosatti) arm, and is then killed by her own mother and Umbrella CEO Evelyn Marcus (Paola Nunez), before to get infected.
In the final moments of the season, Albert sacrifices himself to blow up Umbrella’s lab, but Jade and Billie are rescued by his clone Bert and they all leave together. However, something has clearly changed between Jade and Billie, probably due to Billie’s zombie bite. As we see in the future story set in 2036, Jade and Billie are still alive (and played by Ella Balinska and Adeline Rudolph), but they seem more likely to kill each other than hug. Billie now runs Umbrella and shoots Jade and leaves her for dead, but Jade barely survives.
With VarietyAgudong explains what the future holds for young Billie and Jade, their zombie makeup process, and filming that tense bite scene.
Were you familiar with “Resident Evil” before you got the part?
To be honest, I had no idea about the franchise. My manager sent a link so I could get acquainted with him when I went to the audition. To prepare for the role, I ended up watching a group of people play the games. I got a sense of the world and also how scary and bloody and intense it was.
Are you a horror fan?
I’m not a horror fan, but as an actor I really like playing horror roles. It was cool to play with this, but seeing it again was really hard because I was scared and even knew how it happened behind the scenes. There is a moment where Billie is in the Umbrella Corporation, she is the syringe and the stab in the eye. I can’t even see it, and I knew exactly how it worked. Even the chainsaw, no. I can not handle it.
How did you film the eyeball scene?
The foreground was fake, but it was a syringe with a blunt tip. She was going very slowly and to the side of her face, and then right after that, she had a sponge full of blood and was pressing it against her eye. Although I didn’t touch it, the blood was coming out.
You and Tamara play such compelling sisters, how did you become so close?
Tamara and I did not know each other before filming. We met a few days before filming in the pool and talked for hours. We knew we had to develop some kind of relationship, so there was this process of “Let’s meet, what happened in our lives.” I have three sisters; she has two older sisters. I think it was important for both of us to joke around and emulate that close relationship. There are so many moments in the show where we switch who is the older sister and who is the younger sister even though we are twins.
How did you and Adeline, who plays the older Billie, decide how to play the same character but 14 years apart?
Because we had such limited time due to filming schedules, every moment we shared went straight to meeting each other and talking about Billie. Obviously, they are in completely different situations and in those 14 years, Billie changes drastically. Adeline and I talked about hair, for example. She and I were discussing whether hair should change at 14 years old. They gave us a lot of creative freedom. We also talked about how she and I would approach a certain scene and our opinions. We brought our creative minds and tried to think of something.
How long did the make-up process take to become a person infected with the virus?
The bite on the shoulder took about two hours, sometimes 30 minutes, it varied. My makeup took 45 minutes. My hair, colors and all, every morning had to be re-dipped in this temporary dye because the colors changed drastically during the show and it correlated to how Billie was feeling. The blood in my mouth, all of that was new to me. It was exciting and really nice to sit in a chair for two hours talking in the hair and makeup trailer.
What was the fake blood made of?
I don’t know what it was, but it tasted like sugar gel. At first it wasn’t that bad, but in the end, oh my god. It was definitely something he didn’t expect to get more of.
How did you film the bite scene?
It took maybe five to seven close-up shots. He was telling Connor that he was very nervous because it’s such a weird shot. How do you fake a bite? You can’t. In fact, I had to put my mouth on his arm. Take after take, he was a soldier, but he didn’t want to hurt the guy. But the prosthesis looked amazing and just trying to get it in place where the bite marks are was a bit awkward.
Has he ever bitten your arm?
I tried so hard not to hurt him. But finally she said, “Just do it, just bite me. It’s okay. I want it to be real.” So he was talking the whole thing to me, like, “Let it 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 the actors are developing their own theories. None of us know what’s going on, so we handle it with the audience. Where we left off, Billie changes a lot and Jade goes through a lot. I’m excited to see the dynamic change of her and also how crazy Billie will become. I don’t know what’s up with her, but she’s very different and there will be a lot to explore.
One of my theories was if there are clones of Billie or Jade hanging around Umbrella.
Possibly, possibly. I think that would be great. I would love that. [Reddick] he was brilliant at it. Even listening to him in the table reading, she read all the parts of that scene. She fleshed out each character and clone and 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 it away as much as they can until they realize they need it. The good thing is that they are left in such a vulnerable state missing their father. They will cling to some kind of authority figure, I hope. A vulnerable, sensitive, sweet and generous man like Bert is exactly what they need. I think he will protect them as much as he can.