Katy O'Brian from 'Love Lies Bleeding' talks about women's rage and strength : It's Been a Minute Erotic thrillers are meant to be sexy, bloody, and fun. The best of them also deal with shifts in culture that people are anxious about: Fatal Attraction was about the threat of working single women, and Basic Instinct got into bisexual panic. A hot new erotic thriller takes on women's strength and capacity for rage: Love Lies Bleeding is an 80's fantasia of big muscles and big hair with steamy sexy scenes and thrilling plot twists. It follows the story of a bodybuilder named Jackie, played by Katy O'Brian, who falls madly in love with gym manager Lou, played by Kristen Stewart. Host Brittany Luse sat down with Katy O'Brian to talk about strong women and the fantasy of wielding the rage that lurks just under the surface.

'Love Lies Bleeding' and the fear and allure of strong women

'Love Lies Bleeding' and the fear and allure of strong women

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Katy O'Brian and Kristen Stewart star in Love Lies Bleeding. Zoey Kang/A24 hide caption

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Zoey Kang/A24

Katy O'Brian and Kristen Stewart star in Love Lies Bleeding.

Zoey Kang/A24

Erotic thrillers are meant to be sexy, bloody, and fun. The best of them also deal with shifts in culture that people are anxious about: Fatal Attraction was about the threat of working single women, and Basic Instinct got into bisexual panic. A hot new erotic thriller takes on women's strength and capacity for rage: Love Lies Bleeding is an 80's fantasia of big muscles and big hair with steamy sexy scenes and thrilling plot twists. It follows the story of a bodybuilder named Jackie, played by Katy O'Brian, who falls madly in love with gym manager Lou, played by Kristen Stewart. Host Brittany Luse sat down with Katy O'Brian to talk about strong women and the fantasy of wielding the rage that lurks just under the surface.

Interview Highlights

These highlights have been edited for length and clarity.

On why Katy wanted this part

BRITTANY LUSE: What aspects of your story or Jackie's story did you want people to see?

KATY O'BRIAN: ... I tend to be a franchise baby — or was — and I wanted to make something original. And what's more original than a story about a female bodybuilder in the '80's, that's queer? '80's bodybuilding is the time for bodybuilding.

BRITTANY LUSE: It feels like the height — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan. And I imagine that the bodybuilding world must have been just going ham at that time.

KATY O'BRIAN: It was, but especially with women's bodybuilding, it was this interesting time period where they were kind of ironing out where they wanted it to go... They were trying to figure out how much muscle they wanted women to have on stage, which was really interesting. And we were also starting to see the visible usage of steroids in female bodybuilders. So as a time period to tackle, that was incredible — if it was modern day, Jackie would probably be an influencer or something.

On letting out the rage

BRITTANY LUSE: Huge themes in this film are muscles or guns or size - all symbols of power. But there's also a lot of rage. Your character, she takes steroids and they kind of liberate her to go fully into her rage. What was the commentary there about rage or power?

KATY O'BRIAN: Well, even before the steroids, [Jackie] punched this dude, [and] I think that you can see that it's already there. Like, we all have that. And especially as women, I don't know many women that haven't been at least harassed for their bodies or the way they look... So I think there is a little bit of that internalized rage for a lot of us. I think the steroids are just this drug of empowerment. So, yeah, she can finally start to let loose, and she sees it as a way to fix problems. So that's what she does.

On women fighting back without being ethically superior

BRITTANY LUSE: Your co-star, Kristen Stewart, said in another interview, "We are constantly watching movies about women triumphing over oppressive forces because we're somehow ethically or morally superior." And she basically said, you know, screw that. In this movie, I was rooting for both of your characters. But I also was like, 'dang, y'all do not make a single good decision in this whole movie.' What did you think about that?

KATY O'BRIAN: I loved it. You know, there's a lot of discourse of like — can queer people play villains, are we there yet? And I would like to see that because villains are the more interesting characters. It's just more interesting to see people make messes and get out of messes. [Our characters] surrounded ourselves with people who are worse than us. So you're like, I guess I have to pick someone to like.

BRITTANY LUSE: Yeah. One of the things I felt watching the movie was not only do women not have to be morally superior to people who are messing with them or abusing them, they can relish in their revenge, or relish in fighting back. It doesn't have to be this, "it was all she could do. She had to fight back to survive."

KATY O'BRIAN: Yeah. There's a weird message of hopelessness to that, to "she was so downtrodden that she had to spend the next seven months trying to prepare to be able to fight." It feels a little bit depressing. So it is kind of fun to watch a movie where they're just fighting right away, consequences be damned.

This episode was produced by Liam McBain with additional support from Barton Girdwood, Alexis Williams, and Corey Antonio Rose. It was edited by Jessica Placzek. Our executive producer is Veralyn Williams. Our VP of programming is Yolanda Sangweni.