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An Interview with Jackie Kelly, Star of Tennessee Gothic

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2019

Films starring Jackie Kelly on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Tennessee Gothic - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character?


Thanks for chatting with me! Tennessee Gothic is a dark comedy about a couple of simple-minded country-folk, Caleb and Paw, who graciously invite a seemingly endangered young woman, Sylvia, to take shelter on their farm. After a series of bizarre and ridiculous events, it appears the young woman is not who she seemsÖ I play the character of Sylvia, a flirtatious and cunning young woman who is much more dangerous than what meets the eye.


What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and honestly, how much Jackie Kelly can we find in Sylvia?


You will honestly find very little Jackie Kelly in the character of Sylvia. Of all the roles Iíve played over the years, Sylvia is the one I have the least in common with. She is very seductive and charming to the opposite sex, which are two qualities I donít really possess in real life. Iím a horrible flirt and often feel painfully awkward in contrast to the vivacious confidence that Sylvia exudes. But thatís what made the role so much fun for me. It was a challenge and it gave me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. I studied a lot of films at the recommendation of director Jeff Wedding to get into character. A handful of titles include Risky Business, The Fourth Man, and Bad Timing. Watching femme fatale flicks was a huge part of the character development process.


How did you get involved with the project in the first place?


I worked with Jeff Wedding and producer Katie Groshong on a film directed by our cinematographer Eric Stanze [Eric Stanze interview - click here] titled In Memory Of prior to being cast in Tennessee Gothic. We all clicked on set, even though their time with us on that film was brief. When Jeff pitched Tennessee Gothic to me, I was 100% down to participate. He and Katie are such great people to be around on set, so it was impossible for me to turn down the opportunity.


To what extent can you identify with Tennessee Gothic's particular brand of "Southern horror"?


Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I canít say I identify with the southern horror we created in Tennessee Gothic a whole lot. The characters in this film are honestly so foreign to me in real life and their antics are unlike any that Iíve ever actually experienced. But I am absolutely a fan of Southern Gothic fiction and I appreciate the darkness of the genre. In my teenage years, I spent a lot of time devouring the gothic fiction of authors like Flannery OíConnor and William Faulkner. Iím intrigued by themes like religion and violence being intertwined with quaint, country life. Fun fact: I used to have a pet rat, Flannery, named after the late author.


Do talk about your director Jeff Wedding, and what was your collaboration like?


Jeff Wedding is one of my favorite directors to work with! He spends so much time with his actors, helping them understand the characters and their motivations. Working with Jeff is a truly collaborative effort, and he never makes you feel like a mere puppet in his play. Heís so passionate about his art and itís a joy to watch him make it come to life. Heís a true indie auteur, and I hope to work with him again in the future.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We had so much fun making this flick. The film was shot over the course of about a month. Most of the cast and crew lived together during the duration of the shoot, sleeping on air mattresses in a vacant church we had access to near our main location. Everyone involved in the project shared the same amount of passion that I have for storytelling, and I think it really shows in the final product. There were a lot of giggles between takes and the comradery of the team was exceptional. I couldnít have asked for a better cast to work with. Those folks are hilarious.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I star in an arthouse horror film called The Man in Room 6 by director Trevor Juenger [Trevor Juenger interview - click here] and producer Carrie Juenger, which wraps principle photography very soon. The film also stars Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here] and Debbie Rochon [Debbie Rochon interview - click here]. In addition to this, I am currently in pre-production with Eric Stanze [Eric Stanze interview - click here] on another feature film.


From what I've read, you've started acting at a rather early age - so what made you want to become an actress, what can you tell us about your early days, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I started doing live theater when I was twelve years old. I actually wanted to be on Broadway back then. Being on stage was something I really enjoyed, but filmmaking became the ultimate goal once I reached high school. I fell in love with horror cinema, and went to school to get a degree in screenwriting. While in college, my stage acting dwindled, but I started to get in front of the camera on some indie productions. It wasnít ever my intention to get so involved in the acting side of filmmaking, but Iím really glad it happened.


Before doing movies, you did your fair share of theatre - so how does performing on stage compare to acting in front of a camera?


Theyíre totally different animals, both difficult in their own ways. In the theater, you have to be really sharp. You canít mess up and you canít rewrite dialogue to work better for you as a performer. The cues are the cues, no questions asked. But you also have a lot more leeway to be big and animated. That is not the case as much with film acting. You canít hide from the camera, and subtlety is really important. I much prefer acting for movies, as filmmaking is the most rewarding and collaborative art form that Iíve ever participated in.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Tennessee Gothic?


My first film role was in a short called The Dress. Thatís when the acting bug really bit me and I became more serious about pursuing the craft. Following that, I starred in my first feature film In Memory Of, which I also co-wrote. Iíve kept pretty busy over the past few years, acting in a number of features and shorts.


How would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?


I have no formal training as an actress, and therefore feel like Iím kind of just winging it a lot of the time. I donít really bring any ďtechniquesĒ to the table, just a passion for transforming into different characters and making myself vulnerable. I will say, I am much more comfortable with delivering emotions with my eyes and expressions than I am with delivering dialogue. I really like to portray dark and emotional characters. I find acting to be very cathartic and it has helped me to deal with my own demons quite a bit.


Actresses (and indeed actors) who inspire you?


Some of my favorite actors are Sissy Spacek, Chloe Sevigny, Mia Farrow, and Paul Reubens, to name a few. Oddly enough, I am also super inspired by the entire cast of Trailer Park Boys. The performances in that show are so underrated and brilliant.


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Your favourite movies?


Gummo, Nekromantik, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dead Ringers and ReAnimator are the titles that immediately come to mind. I have a penchant for horror and darker subject matter.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Honestly, I really dislike superhero movies. Except for The Toxic Avenger. I love the monster hero.


Your website, Facebook, whatever else?


I am on Facebook and my Instagram is @actressjackiekelly. You can keep up with my film work on IMDb here:


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD