In Alien: Covenant, Daniels will be terrified, convincingly, because Katherine Waterson learned the art of stillness from watching Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. “There were a few things that I thought she did so well,” Waterston said. “I’m such a physically spastic person, and she’s just so beautifully still in the first film.”
At an Alien Day Q&A panel with the cast of Covenant on Wednesday, Waterston finally answered the inevitable question about her character Daniels in the new movie. She’s a leader aboard the Earth ship Covenant and has drawn comparisons to her future-dwelling predecessor, Ripley, since the moment she was spotted by fans of Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. So how did Waterston make the character unique?
Waterston said during the panel that she hadn’t thought much about the comparison early on. She added, jokingly, that Danny McBride, who will play the Covenant’s pilot, Tennessee, kept telling her to not “fuck this up” when Waterston first came on set. The group had a good laugh, but then Waterston immediately sobered and called the comparison between Daniels and Ripley by Alien fans “undeniable.”
“I’m sure that the thought of [Weaver] in it was so terrifying to me that I had to put it way, way back in the back of my mind,” Waterston said. “The whole time we were shooting I never really thought about it.”
But, then, Waterston said, she had a moment of disbelief in herself: “All these fans love this woman, and what the hell am I doing here?”
Upon contemplation, Waterston said that Weaver’s Ripley probably inspired her more than she realized.
As Waterston points out, a natural fear reaction isn’t normally to spazz out and scream — people normally go still, frozen by adrenaline rather than lashing out with it. Waterston said she wanted to give the same kind of performance with Daniels, lending an authenticity that is so very Ripley to the performance.
Watch the full Alien Day Q&A panel below:
Alien: Covenant premieres in theaters May 19, 2017.