You probably recognize Cassidy Gifford’s last name. The 21-year-old actress is the youngest child of NFL icon Frank Gifford and Today cohost Kathie Lee Gifford. Being in the spotlight runs in the family, and Gifford knew from a young age that she wanted to perform. “When I was little, I really wanted to be a Rugrat,” she says of the Nickeleodeon cartoon. “I didn’t understand that you couldn’t be an animated character.”
Gifford’s new movie is as far away from Rugrats as possible. The Connecticut native stars in the found-footage film The Gallows, out July 10. Produced by horror maestro Jason Blum (The Purge), the movie follows a group of teens putting on a high school play and being stalked by what may or may not be the ghost of a former student. Gifford plays the aptly named Cassidy, a not-so-nice teenager. “You can say mean—you don’t have to tiptoe around it,” says the actress, who last appeared in the 2014 Christian drama God’s Not Dead.
In one of the main sequences of The Gallows, Gifford is crying directly into the camera before being pulled by a noose down a hallway. It sounds physically draining, but Gifford says the emotional preparation for the scene was the most challenging part. “I would sometimes take a couple of hours to be by myself. I’d try to leave my stomach a little bit empty and drink tons of water. I had this one playlist that was my go-to. It became almost routine to get back into that place.”
Cassidy’s not the only Gifford kid making movies. Her older brother, Cody, a USC grad, studied to become a filmmaker. Does that mean there could be a family collaboration in the future? “That’s my mom’s dream,” Gifford admits. “My mom’s always like, ‘That’s perfect. You can just cast your sister.’ And it’s just, like, crickets.”
Even though Mom doesn’t call the shots, she’s proud of her daughter’s scream-queen turn. “We’re so excited for her!” says Kathie Lee, before adding, “Personally, I prefer that the next project be a romantic comedy, please.”