By Jenny B. Davis
Hollywood can be a scary place, which makes it perfect for actor Carlson Young. The Fort Worth native is well-known within the horror genre for starring in two seasons of “Scream,” MTV’s television adaptation of Wes Craven’s iconic slasher franchise.
But Young decided she no longer wanted to live or die according to someone else’s script. She had her own nightmare to share — specifically “The Blazing World,” a psychological horror-fantasy short film she co-wrote, directed and starred in, playing a girl plagued by visions of a mythical realm who ends up being sucked inside. “The Blazing World” debuted earlier this year at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and the making of a full-length movie is underway.
But it hasn’t been all work and no play for this busy multi-hyphenate. Last spring, Young returned home to wed music producer Isom Innis, who also plays keyboard for the indie rock band Foster the People (they shared photos from the rehearsal dinner with People magazine), and she recently returned again to attend a cousin’s wedding. That’s when she stopped by Fort Worth Magazine’s office for this exclusive photo shoot and interview.
Q: Hollywood is full of stories about how actors got discovered, but I heard you launched your own career. Is that true?
A: I decided when I was 7 years old that I wanted to act; I just didn’t know how to do it or what it took. When the internet came around and I started Googling agencies, I wrote a cover letter and submitted it to an agency in Dallas without my mom knowing.
Q: She obviously came around, because you ended up starring in a Disney show called “As the Bell Rings” while you were still in high school. How did you continue this early success after completing the show and graduating?
A: As a result of the Disney show, I got a great agent and a great manager that I still have today. When I graduated from Fort Worth Country Day School, I made a deal with my parents that I would defer my admission to Southern Methodist University for a year to try acting in LA. But I ended up working consistently enough to stay there, so I transferred to USC and studied English and creative writing.
Q: You’ve had such diverse roles over the years, from horror to police procedurals to playing a student in the now-legendary Key and Peele “Substitute Teacher” comedy sketches. But there must have been some auditions in there that didn’t result in roles. How do you deal with the rejection that’s inherent in this industry?
A: It’s not easy! There are ups and downs, and it’s a journey. But every “no” positions you to appreciate the “yes.” I can look back at all the projects I tested for and didn’t get, and I can see how, where I didn’t get one role, something else came along that turned out to be better in the long run.
Q: Has it helped to have such a solid home base here in Fort Worth?
A. I think a support system is entirely necessary in this industry. My family and friends ground me; they lift me up when I need it. We also live in a day and an age when there’s no excuse for not creating your own material. I used to get discouraged when I didn’t get a part, but then I started thinking, Why am I getting bummed out about not getting this silly show? I got it in my head that I would create MY perfect universe of a movie, so I did.
Q: That’s the perfect segue to talk about your movie! How did you get the idea for “The Blazing World”?
A: It’s based on a recurring dream I was having while I was shooting “Scream” and writing a paper for one of my USC classes on Margaret Cavendish. She wrote a novel called The Blazing World in 1666, and she’s considered the first sci-fi fantasy writer ever. I kept having this dream where I was at a lunch table surrounded by all my childhood friends, and I was staring off into the distance where there was a hidden black hole. That ended up being the jumping-off point for the short film. My co-writer and I dove into that black hole and determined what my Blazing World looked like. I had the idea for the whole story as I wrote the short, but I knew no one would let me direct the feature unless I had this short. So, I made a little vignette of the bigger picture, and it got into a good festival.
Q: I’d say! How thrilled were you when your short was selected from thousands of entries to be screened at Sundance?
A: It was a blessing. I remember sitting in the audience before it was about to screen, and I was so nervous. I had never even shown my parents; that was the first time they had seen it!
Q: What’s next for “The Blazing World”?
A: It’s moving forward, slowly but surely. We have producers and we finished rewrites. We’re putting together the production schedule now, and the next step is going to cast. If I can make it how I can see it in my head – and I know I can – I feel “The Blazing World” will be, for all intents and purposes, my first mission statement as a filmmaker.
Short Takes: Carlson Young’s Top 3s
Advice for Aspiring Actors
1. Try your hardest even on small projects.
2. Do local work first to get all the experience you can. Local agents are great, and the work can parlay into an LA agent.
3. Study the work of your favorite actors and directors.
Favorite Horror Movies:
1. “The Shining”
2. “Possession” (Zulawski)
3. “Antichrist” (Lars von Trier)
1. Naomi Watts
2. Catherine O’Hara
3. Laura Dern
Styling by Jenny B. Davis
Blazer: Dolce & Gabbana, Neiman Marcus Fort Worth, $1,895
Blouse: Caroline Constas, Neiman Marcus Fort Worth, $395
Earrings: Alexandra Scarlett, byrd+bleecker, $176