- Universal Studios Orlando is celebrating its 30th Halloween Horror Nights, while Universal Studios Hollywood kicked off another season.
- Current and former employees, or “scareactors,” told Insider behind-the-scenes details about the event.
- They also gave advice to aspiring scareactors about the job.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
According to a current scareactor at Universal Studios Orlando who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, people don’t need a monologue to land the coveted job.
“The scareactor audition process for Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is different from other haunts because instead of proving your acting or improv skills, it is more personality and looks-based,” the current scareactor said.
“The audition mostly consisted of standing in front of casting directors, stating your name, and a horror-based interview question,” they added.
Ashley Young, a former Orlando scareactor from 2013 to 2018, agreed, saying: “The audition is like a type-out audition. They have all of the characters already in mind, and they bring you into a room to see who can fill the roles.”
Characters like Jack the Ripper required full-face prosthetics, so preparing and removing makeup took additional time, they said.
“My call time was usually around three or four in the afternoon,” the former scareactor, who performed between 2006 to 2014, told Insider. The scareactor added that his shifts were sometimes 12 hours from when they arrived to when professional makeup artists removed his prosthetics at the night’s end.
Young, who played a walker in “The Walking Dead” scare zone, noted that a scareactor’s call time depends on which cast they’ve been assigned to. She said scareactors typically arrive between 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and leave between 12 p.m. and 2 a.m.
“How long it takes can be determined by the specialization of the makeup artist,” the former scareactor said. “People specialize in movie makeup, high-def movie makeup, and theater makeup.”
The current scareactor said that although prosthetics are lightweight, “the only thing that can be challenging would be if a prosthetic covers one of your eyes, so your eyesight is impaired for several hours.”
However, makeup artists remain at the park in case scareactors need a quick touch-up.
“So a scareactor will scare someone, then whoever you’re working with will see that, and they can jump in as well,” she said.
The current scareactor added: “In the houses, scareactors whose spots are across from one another may work in sync so that it becomes a great double scare.”
“Maze scaring is very physically repetitive, and it involves a lot of stress injuries,” the former scareactor said, referencing their time at a Friday the 13th attraction. They had to repeatedly open and close a large barn door as part of the task.
“It was a full-sized barn door, so it weighed about 15 pounds (7kg),” the former scaractor said. “They want you to scare and then reset within six to 10 seconds, so my left arm was getting wrecked.”
Young called the job “demanding” and added, “there’s definitely been a few times that I’ve been touched inappropriately. I have been grabbed and hit.”
Sometimes guests have physical reactions to being scared, which once resulted in Young being “smacked,” she said. The former scareactor said they experienced an unprovoked punch to the face and was once bandaged after a frightened guest threw a cell phone at his head.
Guests who make inappropriate contact are intercepted by security and Halloween Horror Nights’ management. The guest who threw the unprovoked punch was escorted out of the event, the former scareactor said.
“You don’t want to linger,” Young said. “Depending on your role and your position in Halloween Horror Nights, you can either be a jump scare or something unsettling to look at.”
“If I can hear you screaming multiple rooms away before my scene, I’m looking forward to my turn,” the current scareactor, who got her start in 2018, told Insider.
Young noted that guests who avoid eye contact or try to hide behind others are easy pickings, while the former scareactor pointed to guests who were glued to their phones.
“That’s the people who get targeted because you’re like, “Oh, this person’s going to be such a satisfying scare,'” Young said.
“Having one arm, a lot of people — because it’s Universal — think that it’s not real,” Young said.
Young said some scareactors drop out of the event because they can’t handle the verbal abuse launched by guests, which can sometimes target innocent actors assigned to unpopular characters.
“Guests come into the park, drink alcohol, and think they can say whatever they want to us,” Young said.
“Suddenly, you’ll see a guy looking around for a place to hide, and he’s like, ‘Shh! I’m going to scare my friends.’ And it’s like, ‘no, you’re not going to scare your friends. I’m going to scare your friends,'” they said.
“If you’ve been working in the dark for the last three hours and all of a sudden somebody shoots a bright light in your face, you can’t see anything for 10-15 minutes,” they said.
They added that some break rooms were dimly lit when they worked at Halloween Horror Nights so scareactors’ night vision wouldn’t fade.
“My advice for anyone who wants to audition to be a scareactor is to keep trying even if you didn’t get a role,” they said. “They may not have needed your look and body shape that year, but they may need your look for the next.”
They also mentioned that hopefuls should work on their “stamina and endurance.”
“Come in understanding that this type of performance is very toiling on the body,” they said. “For instance, the chainsaws are real — not foam fakes — and weigh about 15 pounds (7kg). Halloween Horror Nights is a marathon, not a sprint.”