The non-binary ‘Sabrina’ actor contemplates role on and off set
I don’t even ask Lachlan Watson about the Value Village cow onesie until halfway through our interview. But that’s how Watson first appears on Zoom, at one point even standing up to extend their arms out to proudly show off every inch of bovine glory.
Queer kids find inspiration in this onesie, the 21-year-old actor tells me, for a very simple reason: It gives them permission to be whatever they want to be. But then again, everything Watson has done thus far — from starring as trans kid Theo on Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” to being openly non-binary, to their new role on “Chucky,” embodying fan-favorite characters Glen and Glenda — does just that.
In the second season of the (very queer) “Chucky” series on Syfy, Watson plays the genderfluid kids of Chucky, the red-headed killer doll who promises to be “your friend till the end” and, since 1988, has demonstrated that he more or less means that in the most twisted sense. He co-parents Glen and Glenda with Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), his murderous accomplice.
On a rainy day in New York, Watson spoke about bringing Glen and Glenda to (real) life, inspiring LGBTQ+ youth and what it’s like to portray characters that represent a part of who they are.
Before starring in the show, were you a fan of Chucky?
I actually never watched Chucky when I was younger, because my mom thought that it would really scare me a lot. So that and “Wizard of Oz” were two movies that we never really watched because she thought that the Chucky doll would scare me and that the flying monkeys would scare me. And so I felt woefully out of the loop when the audition came through. Well, not the audition, but when my knowledge of Chucky came around, I kind of panicked because I felt so behind.
But the way that I got introduced to the franchise was through [openly gay Chucky creator] Don Mancini, because we did a panel together almost three years ago now. It was about queer representation in horror, and so I got to just listen to this guy that I didn’t know talk so lovingly about not only the franchise, but about Glen and Glenda, because that was what came to mind when he was thinking about queer representation and horror — these two always fluid and queer characters.
And so my first introduction to Don and Chucky was by just basically listening to a proud dad talk about his two weirdo genderqueer kids, so it was really special. And so then to now get the audition and the role and be filming and working and to be part of the family of Chucky, after being introduced to it that way and being able to play those roles that he was talking so lovingly about, feels very special.
Did he have you in mind for the role from the start?
I think so. He never told me straight up, because obviously a lot of my friends auditioned for the role, a lot of people that I know. A lot of non-binary actors went out for this role, and so it wasn’t just me. It wasn’t a hard offer. It wasn’t, “We just want you.” I auditioned like everybody else, but I immediately heard back. It felt like the same day that I auditioned, we heard back, and they were like, “Well, Don wants to do a callback with you. Don wants to talk to you.” Then it all just fell into place.
But I think he had an inkling on that panel however many years back. And this he has told me: that on that call, he saw Glen and Glenda in me, and what I was talking about, speaking about being non-binary and genderfluid and being an actor, I think he had a lightbulb moment of, “This could work someday.”
I’m wondering about the audition and about the human embodiment of these dolls.
The audition was tough because a lot of it was coded. I got the audition, nothing on it said Chucky. The roles weren’t Glen and Glenda. It was Rob and Tracy or something like that, and it was “twins of a murderer and genderfluid,” and it was very much hinted. I just knew the two twins are non-binary, and they’re weird, and they’re the child of a murderer.I just gave them what I felt it should or could be, because these characters are completely new. They’re essentially new characters in the franchise because we’re kind of starting fresh, having them not remembering their past. So I think it did it justice to treat the characters like a new thing.
I imagine you must have a lot of flexibility in a kind of absurdist killer doll murderer show. Oh, absolutely. It’s not always so much pressure. It’s more just like, you’ve got a big, open sandbox to splash around in. That’s something really special about “Chucky” — the gates have been busted down, and now we’re just telling crazy stories in a fun way and having fun with it.
What should people who know nothing about Glen and Glenda know going into this second season?
The characters are stumbling backwards into trying to figure out who they are through this second season and through this character arc as well. So the fun part is you really don’t need to know that much going in, because they’re just as lost as the audience could be, and they’re slowly uncovering these truths about their past and who they are and who their parents are.
And so it’s kind of convenient and very purposeful because it’s been a long time since “Seed of Chucky” [in 2004], which is where Glen and Glenda originally appeared, and “Seed of Chucky” also was not received that well. People really didn’t grow into it as much as I think they could have and as much as they’re growing into it now. And so I don’t think it’s a given that people know this story. I think it’s very, very helpful to have a clean slate and to allow the audience member to just jump in head first with us and just kind of stumble into unraveling this crazy set of memories. So luckily, I don’t have to do too much explaining, because the explaining will be done throughout the season.
And for maybe some of the same reasons you didn’t watch Chucky growing up, I’m guessing you didn’t see “Bound”?
No, I did not. I desperately need to now, but I’m concerned that my view of Jennifer Tilly as my beautiful mother might affect my viewing experience of “Bound.” [Laughs.]
It’s possible, but you’ve also acted with both her and Gina Gershon now, so I feel like it’s required viewing, right?
Yeah. Having Jennifer Tilly be my mom and Gina Gershon be Auntie Gina [in “Chucky”], I think it would be a little alarming to watch them make out and kill people, but possibly necessary nonetheless. Maybe I’ll try and convince Jen to let me watch it with her and get her commentary.
It isn’t so far off from what happens in the series, without giving anything away.
Not so far off.
What was that day on set like with both of them around?
It was a couple weeks, actually, having everyone around. My first impression of Chucky was season two, episode four, which is where all of the stars come out to play, and it was my first time working with everyone. It was my first time as Glen and Glenda. It was everyone’s first time figuring out the twinning and how to shoot both twins at one time, and it was like being on a roller coaster for two weeks straight. It was insane. There were so many personalities, so many jokes, so many comments, so much to think about. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because it was easy coasting from there.
You only experienced some of the Glen and Glenda dynamic. Thankfully not all of it.
Not that I know of, at least. I don’t know what my parents do in their spare time. They could go off killing people, but something tells me they’re not the type.
You play genderfluid in “Chucky” and you played a trans character in “Sabrina.” How does it feel playing characters who identify in a similar way as you do?
Ugh. That’s a big question. It’s hard to describe. It feels right. It feels correct to me that not only I got cast as a non-binary person to play non-binary characters, but it also feels very correct to me that a lot of non-binary actors that I know went out for the role. And as far as I know, I don’t think they considered a lot of people who weren’t non-binary themselves, which is in and of itself pretty revolutionary, so that feels more monumental than it should. It should feel like a 9-to-5, everyday job occurrence, that this is just how it works, but that’s not always the case. So it feels really, really special, but I also don’t know if it should feel as special as it does. I wish it was more common.
But it really does speak to how ahead of its time “Seed of Chucky” was and how revolutionary it is that these characters were established so long ago and are coming back to the screen now, because it couldn’t fit better. It fits perfectly. It fits like a perfect little puzzle piece in today’s society and the things that are important to casting nowadays. So I think it’s very special, and I think it is a door opened to have this alignment.
But then again, personally, it just makes my job easier. I love playing non-binary characters, I love playing transgender characters, and I also love playing cis characters. I pretty much like just playing the whole spectrum. I find it fascinating. That’s why I love acting. That’s why I do what I do, is to be everyone. So I don’t necessarily feel the need to limit myself to just characters that identify the way that I do, but it certainly makes my life a little easier to know that I can pull from my own lived experiences for a lot of what they go through.
While you’re talking about visibility, you’re one of the youngest, out non-binary actors. Do you have any memorable experiences with young queer people who have reached out to you to tell you what that means to them?
I grew up in North Carolina with my family. We all know how the American South is with young queer people. This was probably five years ago. I had just done “Sabrina”; Susie had become Theo. And this was a whole storyline that was happening. It was getting public attention. And I had started doing interviews, and I hadn’t done many before then, but all of a sudden I had this boom of interview requests, and I thought they were incredible, but I didn’t have a good scale for how far they went and how big the reach was for how many people were affected by my story, and by proxy, Susie and Theo.
Five years ago, my sister was babysitting in North Carolina, this adorable young thing who I think was 7 at the time. My sister was babysitting this person forever, and they were super, super sweet, and they were going by they/them.
And my sister told me about it, and I went to go help her babysit one night when I was home from “Sabrina.” This kid was adorable, super sweet, asking me all kinds of questions, but mostly just questions about my cow onesie or something. And their mom came home and had heard from Kinsey, my sister, that I was there helping her babysit. So she came home, and she immediately gave me a huge hug, and we stood in her kitchen for an hour talking, because she had read articles about me and interviews that I had done about my identity and who I was and growing up in North Carolina.
And she said that those interviews that I did were solely responsible for the family coming to the idea that the kid was genderqueer, and that gave them the ability to bring this up to that kid. And the kid was like, “Absolutely, this is great. That’s who I am,” and it was because of an interview that I did that got to her somehow. And she had no idea that I was Kinsey’s sister, she had no idea that I still lived in North Carolina. All she knew was that my sister’s sibling was coming to help, and then all of a sudden, Lachlan Watson was in their home. And she almost started crying and just told me all of these incredible things about how my words, not even Susie, not even Theo, not even Sabrina, but me, my interviews, had changed their life and had changed the life of her kid.
It still gives me chills to this day. This was a long time ago, and I always think about that and how cool that was, and how sweet it was. And I never saw them again. I went off to film the second season. We moved away from where we were, but that’ll stick with me forever.
Chris Azzopardi is the editorial director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ+ wire service. He 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 @chrisazzopardi.