A Gayer ‘Scream’

Jasmin Savoy Brown is on a mission to make Mindy, her ‘Scream VI’ character, as queer as she can

Photo courtesy of Paramount.

It took five “Scream” movies and 25 years before LGBTQ+ horror fans got what the original film only alluded to: full-blown, uncoded queerness. Kevin Williamson, the openly gay screenwriter of Wes Craven’s 1997 slasher satire, pleased many queer fans last year when he confirmed the widespread theory that the original killers, Billy Loomis and Stu Macher, had a relationship that was, he said, “very sort of homoerotic.” 

But the franchise’s 2022 relaunch, also named “Scream,” went beyond queer coding. The film introduced Mindy Meeks-Martin, a queer Black horror film geek who managed to survive yet another Woodsboro massacre at the terrifying hands of Ghostface.

With a pronoun pin, an array of pro-gay shirts, and a girlfriend she’s not shy about kissing, Mindy, who is played by Jasmin Savoy Brown, returns queerer than before in the new “Scream VI.” There’s also, of course, the fact that she’s no longer living in the small town of Woodsboro but in New York City — a move that, despite the group’s effort to escape and heal from their gory, gruesome past, proves useless after Ghostface follows her and the “core four,” Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) and her twin brother Chad (Mason Gooding), to the Big Apple.

As for Brown, she’s leaving her mark on more than just an iconic horror franchise: on “Yellowjackets,” the Showtime series about a group of plane crash survivors returning for a second season on March 24, she portrays the teenage version of Taissa Turner, who is also queer. Recently, Brown talked about “Scream” gay fan fiction (she felt that sexual tension with Amber, too), her influence on Mindy’s queerness, and how progress for LGBTQ+ characters in horror movies is sometimes as simple as just getting stabbed like everyone else.

Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream VI.”

I was going to tell you that you are my favorite character of the core four. I don’t want to make anyone jealous, but they have to understand that I’m incredibly biased here because I’m also queer.

Right, OK? Well, here’s my question for you. We’re going to turn the tables here. I’ve been interviewed all day. If someone else in the core four were to come out as let’s say bi, who would it be and why?

Oh, it would be Mason.

That’s what I think. It would totally be Chad, right? It would totally be Chad.

Purely wishful thinking, and I can’t be the only man out there who’s wishing that.

[Laughs.] I think most queer men are wishing that. And Mason said today, if we survive and if they write that as his story that he would be happy to play it and he could see that for Chad. So let’s make it happen. Petition for Chad to be bi.

Where’s that paper at? I’m ready to sign. So I want to start, and this is not a spoiler because it’s in some of the photos that have circulated, but in the movie, you wear a Lavender Menace shirt.

Yeah, how cool is that?

It’s very cool. And please tell me that that was ripped right off of a hanger in your own closet.

Oh, I wish. I wanted to keep that shirt so bad. But that I owe all of the credit to my incredible wardrobe team who helped me bring Mindy to life on “Scream VI.” They were like, “Mindy’s in college and so she’s exploring her identity. Maybe she’s exploring with her gender.” I said, “I think Mindy is exploring all of those things and is expressing herself in her clothing and her style.” Now that she’s in school in New York, she’s learning about Stonewall and she’s learning about amazing queer poets and making her own clothes, like the Lavender Menace [t-shirt]. And I’m really excited for people to see that.

L-r, Melissa Barrera (“Sam Carpenter”) , Jenna Ortega (“Tara Carpenter”), Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”) and Mason Gooding (“Chad Meeks-Martin”) star in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream VI.”

What was it like for you as a queer person to be part of that process?

It was just such an honor and so much fun because it’s very collaborative with this group of filmmakers, which isn’t always the case. Mindy’s onscreen kiss in “Scream V” was my idea that they accepted and same with the kiss in this film. And I appreciate that they’re welcoming feedback in ways that we can help bring her queerness more to life than it already is on the page. But I also love that Mindy is a queer person who’s experiencing trauma separate from the fact that she’s queer. The trauma that she’s dealing with is the same as everyone else: getting stabbed and everyone you love dying. But her trauma has nothing to do with coming out or being gay. No one could care less.

How happy did it make you to be able to delve even deeper into Mindy’s queerness in this movie? I’ve been following this franchise for a long time, so I know how rooted it is in queer theories. But to be a part of someone’s journey as an overtly queer character has to be exciting, but maybe it comes with a lot of pressure.

There is pressure, but the pressure for me comes from a place of wanting to do right by the fans, and especially the queer fans who have stuck by this franchise. They stuck with this franchise for five movies before they got a character who was out and queer. And now for her to come back, I really want everyone to be happy and proud and so that’s where the pressure comes from.

But to get to dive more into her queerness was really fun. And if Mindy survives, I hope that we would get to continue to explore that, and that maybe the queerness onscreen will just continue to multiply, that it won’t just be Mindy and a friend or a girlfriend, but maybe the random cop or maybe Ghostface is wearing stilettos. Who knows?

In my mind, Ghostface is wearing stilettos now. I’m not sure I can see any of the screen movies now without Ghostface in some pumps, so thank you so much.

You’re welcome. Thank you TikTok for giving me that image in my head. Pole-Dancing Ghostface, I’ll never unsee it.

Maybe there’ll be a Ghostface coming out movie.

Honestly, I would cry. That’s why Ghostface is so angry.

Hayden Panettiere (“Kirby Reed”), left, Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy Meeks-Martin”) star in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream VI.”

Funny that you mention that. What did you make of Billy and Stu’s relationship? Did you ever think there was some kind of romantic —

Gay stuff? I’m sure there was some gay stuff. There so often is gay stuff that is hidden behind toxic masculinity and anger and violence. And perhaps if as a culture we embraced our gay stuff with more ease, we wouldn’t be so violent and angry.

What do you hear from queer fans who see themselves in Mindy and what does that mean to you that they do?

Oh, it feels so good. It’s like a relief that people are seeing themselves and feel represented and celebrated. It’s a relief and it’s exciting because I know how that feels. I know what it feels like to see myself on screen. And it’s something that fortunately is happening more and more. And it’s just such a concept to me that teenagers today will grow up having always seen themself on screen. That’s so cool. And to be a small part of that means a lot to me.

Yeah, I love seeing all of the art. People are so creative and so talented. And I haven’t really read any … I did read one fan fic. It was like, Mindy and Amber [from “Scream V”] were in love or something, and I thought that was funny. There was definitely some chemistry between Mindy and Amber in the basement when Mindy was like, “I’m the killer.” We were like, “Are we about to kiss right now?”

Oh, people were thinking that that was going to happen?

I think because we were thinking it might happen! In the moment it was kind of hot. I don’t know why.

Was there talk about that behind the scenes? I think we’re past the point of coding things…

It might be more because Gen Z, pretty much everyone is queer, kind of, right? I think there just is sexual chemistry. Also, Gen Z just isn’t afraid of or shying away from their sexual energy or chemistry as much as generations past. I think they’re probably the least Christian generation that we’ve had in this country, so they’re not afraid of sexual feelings. So I don’t think anything was coded. I think there just were vibes just for vibes. People caught that.

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream VI.”

Going back in your own life, when did you first experience queer representation in the way that people are experiencing it with Mindy? And what did that mean to you?

I know it happened before this, but the first thing that comes to mind, the first time I fully saw myself, every box ticked, was an episode of “Easy” called “Vegan Cinderella” with Jacqueline Toboni and Kiersey Clemons, an interracial, lesbian couple. One is vegan. They’re young and they’re trying to impress each other, and they’re early in their queerness. And she literally looked like me and Jacqueline Toboni ‘s character looked a lot like my ex in certain ways. And it was just like, “Whoa, this is actually my life and it’s so modern and they’re young and they’re having little dinner parties,” and that was so exciting. And also, they’re both really good actors.

I would love to do a project like that. But it meant so much to me. I didn’t know how hungry I was for it until I saw it. And I was like, “Oh my god, this is what it’s like to be a white man? No wonder they have the biggest egos ever because they’re constantly walking around seeing themselves reflected. That’s really cool.”

I think that the horror genre as a whole has not been especially kind to the queer community when it comes to representation. It sounds like you can at least acknowledge that because you’re shaking your head based on what you know.

Oh, absolutely. I don’t think it’s just the horror genre’s fault. I think every area of Hollywood was afraid of embracing queerness in a commercial sense for a long time, the same way that we’ve been afraid of all powerful beings, aka minorities. And that’s a shame because we’ve had many amazing stories to tell for a really long time. And queer people were used as bait and then tossed to the wind, whether that be in kill scenes or whatever.

But it’s really exciting that now “Scream” has a gay character who’s experiencing trauma, but the trauma isn’t that she’s gay, and that’s only fair. Mindy should also be getting stabbed up and chased and hurt and crying and screaming, but nothing to do with her sexuality. And that’s exciting and I hope that more of every genre continues to follow in the footsteps of these films and employ queer actors and have queer characters, but never talk about their queerness because what does that have to do with the story? Nothing.

I want to ask you about “Yellowjackets” because that’s also been a big queer role for you, playing Taissa. What can you share about Season 2? What can fans expect from her journey?

Well, Tai is just as gay as ever before. More hungry than she’s ever been before, probably older and younger. I can say that everything that you expect will be exceeded, that it’s really disturbing, and that everyone’s acting is even better than it was before. That’s the thing, is these casting directors did an amazing job. Obviously casting lookalikes or essence-alikes, but also casting really strong actors. You have to be really good. Because this season especially, my god, all of the scenes are traumatic. And some scenes you’ll shoot for five hours, and it’s literally just experiencing a trauma over and over and over at every angle. You have to kill it every time, and everyone does. I’m really proud of everyone’s work.

I don’t know how much you think about your influence, but last year, for example, you made it on the Out100 list. What would be your message to queer Black youth who might be like, “How did Jasmin get to where she is right now, and how do I do that?”

What a question. I can go so many directions with that. I think it comes down to community. I grew up in Oregon. And I love my friends and family from Oregon, but/and it’s a really white space. And so no matter how excellent I was, I was never going to feel that good because when you don’t have anyone that looks like you, that represents you in the room you’re in, you have no one to really see you and tell you that you’re on track or tell you that you’re loved and safe.

And so moving to L.A., I really was intentional about finding a community of my people, of queer people, of people of color — not just Black people, but anyone that isn’t just straight and white. My friend group is really diverse and really colorful in every aspect of that word. And so I have people that really see me and know me and can lift me up when I’m feeling bad and can say, “You’re killing it, girl.” Or like, “Hey, you need to take a nap.” Or, “Hey, I’m going to go grab you some food.” And we really lean on each other, and I think that’s the key to so much of my success: the people that I surround myself with. So surround yourself with good people chosen and make sure it’s a diverse group. Ties right back in the “Scream VI.”

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter.