Abbey Monnin plays the character of CASSIE in End of the Cornfield. Check out our interview with Abbey and learn more about her experience voicing Cassie, her other roles within the podcast (Producer, Story Creator, Co-Writer, Co-Casting Director), and her future projects.
How did you develop the story concept and when did you bring your co-writer, Spencer Channell, onto the project?
I came up with the story concept one night walking around my hometown at 3AM. It was July, the cicadas were loud, and I was listening to an audiodrama for the first time. I thought it was a really cool idea. Before the pandemic, I also went to LA TheatreWorks all the time. They take plays and record them live with a foley artist. So, the idea that you could maybe write something specifically for a podcast and add all of this great cinematic sound design to it, I thought that was really cool.
I knew I wanted a cowriter on the project because I’d never written a finished script. Thinking about my strengths as a writer, I thought the characterization and dialogue would be easier for me and plot would be more difficult. Spencer is really fantastic with story sequence/plot stuff. When I brought Spencer on, we ended up really clicking and I had him write his version of episode one after I gave him mine, and we ended up melding those together through rewrites. From there, we started writing versions back-and-forth of all of the episodes. Took a lot of emails and version numbers to create this podcast. It’s a pretty even 50/50 split on who wrote what and we plan to continue collaborating at some point.
Where does fiction begin? What pieces of the story are based on something real from your experiences growing up in small-town Ohio? What pieces are completely fictionalized?
The most “real” part of the story is New Wilton, Ohio. The town is heavily based on my small hometown. When I was in high school, we had one cop. The school is k-12 in one building, no traffic lights, crime is non-existent, and everyone knows everyone. No one has ever been murdered. We also have acres and acres of cornfields. So, I thought that would be an interesting place to set a murder mystery. We also have a hometown softball alumni tournament every year. So, the fictional town has very real roots.
The characters themselves though are all fictionalized. Cassie does share a lot of characteristics with me so I would say that is another parallel. There is a phone call that happens at one point in the story and that is loosely based on a conversation I had with one of my classmates when I was in college. The rest is really my imagination mixed with Spencer’s imagination.
What was your writing process like working with a co-writer? How did you make sure that you were both writing something that would ultimately end up cohesive?
This is the part where I would have thought it would be difficult. It wasn’t. Writing with Spencer was seamless. He was so open to my ideas and wasn’t shy about sharing his own. We really passed versions back and forth, then would hop on a call to go over finer points. We argued about some of the specifics, and ultimately we both fought hardest for the things we wanted most and caved on the others. It worked so well.
How would you describe your character Cassie?
Cassie is sweet and playful, she is intelligent and can be witty. She likes to banter a lot and throws comments back quickly. She is a voracious reader. Stuck in her thoughts sometimes, always down to problem solve and try to fix a situation. She’s both emotional and practical.
Is there a moment or scene (without giving any major plot points away) that resonated with you?
There are a lot of moments that resonate with me. There’s a moment early on in episode two where Cassie is trying to convince the group to do something and they all convince her to do the opposite. Ultimately, it’s not the best plan and she gives up and agrees. I think in real life I relate to that because I hate to be part of a bad plan but sometimes you have to let people do what they’re going to do.
Do you have a favorite episode of the podcast? Why?
Ahhhh! It’s too hard to choose. I really love them all.
As a first-time producer, what has the producing process been like? What was it like recording? What are some of your upcoming projects?
It’s been rewarding and exciting though time-consuming. The best part by far has been assembling the team. When you’re the sole producer on a project, you get to make all the calls when it comes to the team. I really believe every person who worked on End of the Cornfield is a talented, cool, creative, hard-working person.
The recording process was probably the most fun for me, overall, because it allowed me to do what I love the most — act. Bringing it back to the people involved, Trevor (our director), really gave me a gift that weekend with letting me relinquish the producer hat and focus on acting. He showed up with so many ideas and so much preparation that I felt safe to let go. The cast came ready to play and the energy in the room was really special. Loved it. I’ve also been loving hearing all of the choices Joseff (our sound designer) is making week-to-week in post. He has a gift for melding compositional elements with naturalistic sound and it’s made the post-production process a real joy.
I heard an interview with Jordan Peele the other day and he said you got to get people who are excited about your vision and then get excited about their vision, see what they bring. I think that’s what we did, at our micro level. That was our process for the podcast. Everyone was excited to come on board, and everyone really brought their own thing to the project. Each person was truly part of the vision. If you choose the right people to bring onto the project, then it really becomes about championing them as you work. Make it possible for people to shine and do what they do best.
The next project is a dramatic short film, a psychological thriller, that explores what happens in the aftermath of witnessing a traumatic event. It’s from the perspective of a couple. That’s all I can say for now.
Favorite place in LA: Point Dume
Favorite hike in LA: Los Liones Trail
You can follow Abbey Monnin @IG