‘Haunted House’ Star Rosario Dawson Loves Fantasy Films and Working With Dynamic, Diverse Talent

Fantasy films allow moviegoers to take in new worlds and envision alternate realities in an exciting and unique way. Whether they give a light-hearted jump scare with themes of family like Disney’s Haunted House or represent #girlpower taking over the galaxy like the Star Wars franchise Ahsoka, these cinematic works embody the just how far the imagination can take us while also building community.

Rosario Dawson knows just how important and engaging the fantasy realm can be. As an admirer of the genre and actress, she is no stranger to working on projects that range from sci-fi to scary horror flicks.

Dawson spoke with EBONY about the power of working with diverse casts, early memories of Haunted House, and more.

You’ve been working on some exciting projects in the fantasy/ sci-fi realm. Are you generally a scary movie/ fantasy/ sci-fi fan? 

Rosario Dawson: I love it. I especially love themed movies like ones for Halloween where you are itching to watch them around a specific time of year. Those movies bring back a sense of childhood nostalgia, and now we don’t have to rewind the VHS to watch.

I never wanted to do movies that are too creepy or gory but fantasy films can get a little intense. Against my older age, I’m getting nostalgic about all these other types of stories and things that I used to be able to be a part of. It’s really sweet because now I’m being asked to make videos for my friend’s kids because they’re so excited about Haunted Mansion and Ahsoka.

Haunted Mansion has been such a classic film and part of Disney’s legacy with the amusement ride as well. What inspired you to join the film’s reimagined version?

Haunted Mansion was my brother’s favorite ride. I love the history of it, as it’s one of the last rides to be approved by Walt Disney himself. I also enjoy the special effects of it and how the ride borders a fine line of cheery and funny and spooky and creepy. It tantalizes you with something that is right there on the edge of all of us. We’re always constantly thinking about our mortality, what comes after and the people we’ve lost. I’ve always thought that was so powerful to be a part of the ride’s experience. Disney the happiest place in the world but having this space that kind of also alludes to this other question that is a part of very much a part of life is special. I think this film in particular really deals with it. I just feel that Haunted Mansion is gonna hit all the notes. It’s got all the Easter eggs—more than a Taylor Swift music video. The little girl in me is kind of blown away that I get to be a part of this storytelling and that the Haunted Mansion that ride that I’ve loved for so long is my house!

Is a greater push still needed in the fantasy genre to showcase more representative stories/ talent?

That’s what I loved about Star Wars and Ahsoka. We’ve got to be able to see ourselves in the future. We’ve got to imagine that future to be different from what it is now. That’s why people like to build other worlds. They take so much from history and incorporate into this fantasy space. It gives us an opportunity to think bigger and better than where we are right now, be more profound and push our limits of imagination or creativity. I love how much technology is involved as well when we think of these concepts. We didn’t always have tablets or tech-infused accessories, but Star Wars did. I marvel at gadget belts and watches when I was a kid, so I wonder what else that we can imagine into our future.

I think it’s important that we have a lot of intention and consciousness with how we build what’s next. It’s the systems we create that are going to make the most impact for those coming behind us. Having someone like Justin Simien at the helm of the Haunted House film was great for this reason. This is not just some kind of remake—we’re actually we’re making something really special for us right now. This is also true of Ahsoka, and I’m really excited about it all.

Please note: This interview was conducted before the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike began.

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Updated: July 17, 2023 — 3:01 pm