EXCLUSIVE: Sara Paxton on Playing the 'Blue-Eyed Butcher': "It's Hard Not To Be Sympathetic Towards Her"

We love half-Mexican actress Sara Paxton, so when we found out her new movie Blue-Eyed Butcher is premiering this weekend (Saturday at 8/7c on Lifetime!), we called the talented actress to get all of the juicy details!

Tell us about your role in Blue-Eyed Butcher.

It's based on the true story of Susan Wright, who in 2004 was convicted of murdering her husband and stabbed him 193 times. I play Susan. I wanted to do this movie because it's probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done—I’ve never played a real person and I’ve never played a murderer before—so I thought it would be a challenge.

In preparation for your role, did you get to meet Susan Wright?

I didn’t. I really wanted to meet her, but they said that wasn’t possible. I did a lot of research for the role though. I watched a ton of news footage and courtroom footage and there are a few Dateline specials on the case, so I watched a lot of that—and interviews with {Susan} and her family to be as familiar with it as possible.

Lately, it seems like it’s trendy for Hollywood stars to play murderers in Lifetime movies. Hayden Panettiere in Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy and Rob Lowe in Drew Peterson: Untouchable. Did the success of those two films play a role in your decision to make this movie?

I actually did see Hayden’s performance in the Amanda Knox story. I thought the movie was really good and I thought she was exceptional in it. But actually, the reason I wanted to do this movie was purely because of how terrified I was. When I got the script from my manager, he said they were interested in me for the role and I wasn’t that familiar with the case, so I read the script and I looked up Susan Wright. I was terrified, like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ But I decided to do it because I was so scared. And because the more I researched the case, I was fascinated by this woman.

Why did you find her so fascinating?

What is so interesting to me is that there are two sides to the story—you can either believe Susan who said that she was the victim of domestic abuse for seven years and that one night she just couldn’t take it anymore and snapped. And then there’s the prosecution’s argument that she was planning it all along and that she’s like a doe-eyed vixen. There are only two people in the world who know what went down that night—one of them is Susan and the other is Jeffrey, who’s dead. So you don’t know his side of the story.

Have you made up your mind about what you think happened?

For me, it was impossible to choose a side because you just don’t know. Either way, I felt really sympathetic for Susan—I mean, I had to in order to be in her shoes regardless of whether you think she’s evil. Some people were saying she’s evil and others were like, ‘no she’s totally innocent.’ I think people should watch the movie and make up their own mind about how they feel about her.

I am fortunate enough to never have been in a situation where I’ve been the victim of domestic abuse. A big theme in the movie is: what are human beings capable of when they’re pushed to a certain point? Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real thing and I don’t know if Susan is just crazy or if she did have post traumatic stress from all of the years of abuse she endured. All I know is that, as a woman, and also the fact that I had to step into her shoes to play her—it’s kind of hard not to be sympathetic towards her.

Do you think this story shocked people so much in part because of how good-looking Susan is?

Well, I think a big part of it was that Susan was a pretty blonde woman, so of course the prosecution was like, ‘she lured him with her good looks.’ But I don’t know—because she was pretty? Does that mean she lured him? To me that’s not a good argument. During the case in 2004, they actually called her {The Blue-Eyed Butcher}. It was in the newspapers and on the news. That’s why the title is The Blue-Eyed Butcher.

Why should people check out the movie this weekend?

What I think is so interesting about the movie is that—you know when you’re watching a film and you’re like, ‘my God, that’s so dramatic and really crazy?' The thing about those moments in this moive is that they’re true. This is a true story—all of the things that happen, really happened. There’s actually a scene in the movie where my character is having a yard sale after she murders her husband and her lawyer walks up and says, ‘what are you doing? You can’t sell your dead husband’s things!’ When I first read the script, I was like ‘Isn’t it a little overly dramatic?’ They were like, 'no, this actually happened.' When we were filming the murder scene, and I was sitting on him in my underwear, holding a knife covered in blood, I literally had a moment where I was like, ‘oh my God.’ My whole world stopped and I was like, ‘she did this.’

Once you finished filming the movie in December, did it take you a while to get out of Susan’s state of mind?

Luckily we finished right before Christmas, so I was exhausted! And once we finished I went over to my parents house and I was like, ‘I’m not leaving my parents’ house for like two weeks.’ They fed me food and fed me all of these desserts and I gained like 15 pounds. {Laughs}.