You are currently starring in Toxiphobia: Fear Of Being Poisoned,
an episode of the second season of In
Fear of - so what can you tell us about that movie and your
character in it?
Toxiphobia is about a particularly bad episode of anxiety
in the life of a woman who suffers from the condition and how it's
affecting her marriage. I play the wife, and Pete Mizzo plays my
husband. As with most mental conditions, it affects more than just
the person suffering from it; it affects their relationships, social
lives, work and more. You get a sense that this woman doesn't leave
the house that often (certainly not to go out to eat), and when she
does get the courage to do so, comes running back for fear of triggering
one of her episodes. The episode starts out with the couple sitting
down at what should be a casual, comforting place: the dinner table.
My character has not eaten or drank anything for two days and her
husband is trying to get her to eat voluntarily so she won't starve.
Because of her condition, she is reluctant to do so, and even
something that was prepared in her own kitchen by the one who loves her
most isn't going to change that. However, hunger and a little gentle
persuasion motivate her to try. The rest of the episode focuses on
what happens when her phobia (real or imagined) takes hold. I say
real or imagined because the episode has two elements; reality and
what she perceives in her mind. The phobia manifests itself in the
form of an evil witch (who will be played by Manoush Vasquez) and you will
know when my character is going through the paranoia based on my
interaction with her. We will be going back and forth from living
color to black and white. I'm excited to see how this will come out
and even more so how it will be interpreted by the audience.
How did you prepare for your role, what
did you draw upon to bring your character to life - and is the fear of
being poisoned something you can at all relate to?
was a little bit familiar with the phobia, it obviously isn't a common
one, and certainly not one I was expecting to be approached about. And
anyone who knows me knows that I clear my plate, so me refusing to eat
just wouldn't happen (HA!). Since I don't have direct experience
with this, I tried to play it as someone being pressured to do something
against their will, which is something we can all relate to. Thomas Norman
interview - click here], the director, was the one who really brought me up to speed on the
reality and severity of this condition. After reading the script, he
and I had several conversations about a friend of his who actually suffers
from this condition. In fact, this friend and his behaviors are the
inspiration for our episode. There's even a scene at the dinner
table involving the cleanliness of a water glass that is derived from
Thomas witnessing the incident firsthand. Beyond that, I researched
some testimonials regarding Toxiphobia and analyzed my own anxieties.
I discovered that it's not unlike any other obsessive compulsive or
eating disorder, really. People who become so consumed by what
they're eating and the manner in which they're eating that it's all they
think about. Things like being obsessive about personal silverware
or glasses (see above) or bringing your own cooked chicken breast to a
restaurant for fear of calories. The act of harboring any kind of
"safe" food in one's own bag that given the right opportunity
could even become "poison" in their mind.
to that, any personal fears you'd like to share?
Oh, I have
the usual girly ones; spiders, cockroaches (which I've had to get better
about in my almost five years in New York) and wood ticks. I HATE
wood ticks. Just typing the word made me shudder. I grew up in
the wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and had a childhood and
several large, hairy dogs that attracted them. In fact, anything
that sucks blood is not okay with me. Related to that, I have a fear
of veins and needles. I have never had to give blood or have an
I.V., and when that days comes it's going to be a problem for me. Even
related to that, I am afraid of contracting a horrible disease from
a medical procedure or a simple doctor's visit. What could be worse
than something ripping you apart from the inside especially if you thought
you were in a safe, sterile environment? I also have a fear of
drowning or being trapped under something. Perhaps I've said too
return to the movie: What can you tell us about your director Thomas
Norman [Thomas Norman interview -
click here], what was your collaboration like, and how did the two of you first
Thomas Norman and I first met on the set of season
one's Apehephobia: Fear of Being Touched. He played one
of the pairs of hands that were attacking me the whole time. Because
of the nature of that film (I was nude for a large part of it), I needed
to feel comfortable and safe. It was also my first leading role on
film so I felt extra pressure to do my best. Jeremiah Kipp
Kipp interview - click here]
and I discussed who would be involved ahead of time. We
had both just come off of The Days God Slept, a short film that
also involved scantily-clad women (this time in a mysterious gentleman's
club) a few months prior. It seemed only natural to use actors from
that film because we all knew each other and were already in a similar
situation together. I knew everyone who would be there in advance except
Thomas. A last-minute, but no less professional addition to our
little crew. Jeremiah and Scott W. Perry [Scott
W. Perry interview - click here] knew of him of as a
director and actor, so that was all the reassurance I needed. I had
to summon some serious, outward physical discomfort on that set (more on
that later). Ironically, it's because of his observation of me on that
shoot that he knew I could handle the role in Toxiphobia. If
Thomas hadn't been there, I probably wouldn't be talking to you now.
Funny how things work out, eh? As far as being on set, Thomas
is a dream to work with. He knows what he wants yet lets you make
your own choices first. He is focused, lighthearted and extremely
professional. It also helps that he has firsthand experience with
the condition we're trying to convey so we can make it as authentic as
possible. We're having a great deal of fun.
Kelly with Peter Mizzo
You also have to talk about your co-star Peter
Mizzo for a bit, and how did you two interact?
and I met exactly one week prior to shooting. I always like to meet
anyone I'm in a scene with ahead of time (if possible) so we can at least
discuss the concept and read through the script. I didn't know him
or any of his work, but Thomas and Scott said "that's your
husband" so we Facebook-planned from there. We chose a windy
table and chairs in Bryant Park and had our introductions. We ran
through the script and were in agreement of the concept, so the only thing
we had left to do was memorize and be ready for filming. Pete was
very professional and patient with me. Because I am so new to film,
I really appreciated that. He plays the role of a man who should
have divorced me long ago with sweet restraint and compassion. You
won't see much of a loving relationship here until the very end. You
can tell that he really cares for me despite all the nonsense I put him
through. My character accuses him of poisoning her, even though she
probably places that blame on anyone trying to put her in a similar
situation. Because he is my husband, he gets the most of my
paranoia-fueled wrath. And Pete had to deal with a LOT of my wrath
in this; swearing, spitting, shoving, etc. I even hit him square on
the funny bone with a paperback thesaurus which resulted in us halting
production for about ten minutes. Sorry, Pete!
you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
The shoot is taking place in Scott's own house in Amityville, New York.
A perfect place for horror, and I learned that a great deal of it
has already been shot in this house. We use the dining room
and living room, and it's a small area but it's perfect for what we're
doing. Being in someone's residence, I felt a little self
conscious about screaming at the top of my lungs and throwing things
around at first. Once I was assured that it was okay and encouraged
to do so, I felt much better about it. I respect and admire
everyone I'm working with so there are no problems whatsoever. We
are a fun bunch, but know how to suppress the giggles and get down to
business. There's been a lot of laughter on set and will be more.
It's necessary when you're shooting something serious to find
moments of levity. In addition to Thomas and Scott, we also have
returning Cinematographer and Producer Steven-Mark Glassner (whom I also
first met on Apehephobia)
[Steven-Mark Glassner interview
- click here]. We also have the help of Heather
Drew (star of the upcoming Dysmorphophobia) and Matt Davis (Hydrophobia)
acting as production assistants. There was a lot of prep work for
the dinner scene, and they helped with everything and always made sure
(unfortunately) that my wine glass was full. They even had an iPad
with a clapboard app (the very presence of which makes me giddy because
I feel part of something professional) to keep track of the takes.
I think the beauty of working on something independent is the
passion that everyone has. Scott had an idea for years to make
this series and did. Thomas's words are brought to life by telling
this story. Steven-Mark Glassner's unique, artistic eye always
puts us in the best possible light in every sense. We all want to
make this the best it can be. You're only as good as your cast and
crew, and with "In Fear Of" we've really got something
have also had a role in In
Fear of's first season, in the episode Apehephobia:
Fear of Being Touched - again, what is it about and what can you
tell us about your character?
basically a surrealistic fever dream depicting a woman suffering from fear
of physical contact. It was a very different episode compared to Toxiphobia.
There wasn't a script, just a concept. It was shot entirely in
black and white and had a quick back and forth editing style. There
was no sound other than the score and I was the only actor you ever saw on
screen. Even though there were about seven other actors, they were
only shown as hands and arms attacking me. My character was a woman
experiencing three levels of the fear which were represented by different
wardrobe choices. Black dress symbolized tolerance, white dress was
discomfort, and nude was total panic and vulnerability. It was very
artistically done and I absolutely loved shooting it.
What was it like,
actually, as I have put it, "swimming in a sea of hands"?
in a sea of hands" was a very unusual yet strangely comfortable
experience for me thanks to the people that were involved. Personally,
I don't have a fear of touch, but I can relate to feelings of confinement
and feeling smothered at times. That was one of the things Jeremiah
and I discussed for the episode. Living in New York subjects you to
huge masses of people every day; in the streets, on the subways, in
stores. It can be overwhelming even to people that have been living
here for a while. You're tolerant of it to a point, because you have
to be. But sometimes it gets to be too much. We wanted to show
the anxiety and the phobia escalating. Jeremiah and I drew on those
experiences for the concept of this episode. I'm not afraid of
touch, but I am a hand sanitizer-toting New Yorker who tries to avoid
touching surfaces inside mass transit at all costs (thanks, Mom). So
for the episode, I imagined that all those hands on me were dirty. And
they were. They belonged to people who drove or took mass transit in
from New York and New Jersey and not one of them washed their hands before
we started. They were on my face, my feet and more intimate areas
when I was at my most vulnerable. And I'm so thankful to the actors
that were involved. It's kind of crazy that they commuted all the
way to Astoria to be part of something where their faces weren't even
shown. It definitely made a huge difference in my performance to
have seven pairs of hands instead of just two or three. That amount,
the force of hands pressing down upon you, and my own anxieties about
hygiene helped me channel the anxiety I needed for this episode. Having
people around me that I knew and trusted gave me the freedom to do it
without judgment. And I had a say in whose hands went where. You
might say they were "handpicked" by me.
also have to talk about your director Jeremiah Kipp [Jeremiah
Kipp interview - click here] and your collaboration with him for a
Jeremiah Kipp is the reason I am involved with In
Fear of and the reason I will be involved in anything in
the future. He and I are so much alike in our psyches it's uncanny.
Every time (and I've told him this many times) I read an interview
about him or how he discusses his projects it parallels my introduction
e-mail to him. Speaking of e-mails, that's how my involvement came
about. Up until this point, whenever Jeremiah approached me with a
project I responded right away with a resounding "yes". But
when I was reading about the character and that I would have to be nude, I
had to give it some serious thought. We had just wrapped The Days
God Slept (where I played an exotic dancer) and I was even
uncomfortable with that at first. But being totally naked on camera
is another story. I almost didn't do it, but I knew what
Jeremiah wanted to achieve with this episode: disturbing elegance. The
concept was so up my alley and I really wanted to be part of it. So
I said I would do it under the following conditions: certain parts of my
body would not be shown, everyone present in the room would be selected by
me, and our crew would be as professional and make me feel just as safe as
the previous film. I'm so glad I didn't pass on this project, and am
very proud of it. Again, I probably wouldn't be talking to you now
if I wasn't in this. When you feel comfortable and safe you can do
anything that is asked of you. I came to realize that the nudity
would only enhance the episode because it represented vulnerability.
I wanted the audience to feel uncomfortable and invaded. You
wouldn't have felt that way if the hands were only touching my clothes.
It had to be this way. We didn't set out to make anything
gratuitous or erotic, we set out to make something visceral. Jeremiah
delights in the beautifully macabre and so do I. We work so well
together, and I look forward to working with him as often as he'll allow
How did you become involved with the In
Fear of-project in the first place?
distinction goes to Jeremiah Kipp. I was so fortunate to meet
Jeremiah in January of 2012 (on the set of Aaron David Gleason's music
video for Fate) and even more fortunate that he wanted to
continue working with me on other projects. I wouldn't have met him
if it wasn't for Xiomara Cintron (Podophobia,
referring me. He took a chance on me and it has paid off for both of
us. As I said earlier, after The Days God Slept, he
approached me with the concept of In
Fear of. He
explained that his friend and collaborator, Scott W. Perry [Scott
W. Perry interview - click here], had an idea
for a web series exploring phobias. I loved the idea, but then
needed a little bit of time accepting the reality of the episode we would
be shooting. Thankfully, it all worked out for everyone. It's
wonderful that people are really enjoying what we've done. I'm
excited that this series has brought together so many creative independent
filmmakers and performers. I'm so grateful to Scott for the
opportunity, and proud to be part of the original cast.
What can you
tell us about your acting experience prior to In
Fear of, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
have always been something of a performer, but didn't get my confidence to
get on stage until I was in fifth grade. My first real experience
and realization of acting came from watching Saturday Night
Live as a child at my grandparents' house. I have been watching
that show since I was three years old. My grandmother would tape the
episode every night, and my brother, cousins and I would watch it the next
morning on the floor over a bowl of Trix. From those episodes, I
learned all the characters and impersonations of some of the most
memorable comedians of the decade. That show is the reason I moved
to New York, and I will be on it someday in some capacity. I learned
early on that I could mimic voices and dialects very easily and have
played mostly character roles ever since. Being from a small town, I
didn't have access to a lot of classes for acting or performing. But
I did have access to a great high school drama program and community
theatre group. I was involved in every show I could audition for in
high school. After high school, I studied Theatre at Northern
Michigan University. It was a very close-knit group of students and
faculty and I learned the Stanislaski-method. I
was pretty petite and looked young for a long time, so I was difficult to
cast in college. Not surprisingly, I was cast as children or weird,
character parts where it was up to me to stand out. I was frustrated
that I wasn't being cast or even considered for the parts my classmates
and roommates were. Looking back, it was for the best because it
allows me to tap into that weirdness so easily now. Beyond the
stage, I have zero on-camera training (which I hope isn't too
evident when you watch my episodes) other than what Jeremiah has been
gracious enough to include me in. But I try to be honest, I try to
be fearless, and I'm very in touch with my emotions.
future projects you'd like to share?
I am always looking
for new projects and to collaborate with new people (contact me!), but I
take opportunities as they come. It's a good thing there's no
shortage of talented, creative people in New York. I often help out
friends with video and modeling work and am also an audio book narrator
with audible.com. I try to have my hand in a little bit of
How would you
describe yourself as an actress, and what are some of your techniques to
bring your characters to life?
I consider myself to be a
canvas for the creative ideas of others. I do have ideas of my own, but
don't always have the means or time to see them through. If I had my
way, I'd be doing a photo shoot one day, a film shoot the next and singing
on someone's album after that. Like I said, I just love being
involved. Transformation is huge for me, and versatility is a must
in this business. The more you can do, the more you will work.
I'm not afraid to get ugly or weird and would rather be considered
interesting than beautiful. In fact, I rather love to be styled in
extreme hair, makeup and wardrobe. I've been fortunate enough to
fall into a group of friends who recognize this quality in me and utilize
it. Jeremiah Kipp has even compared me to Lady Gaga in interviews
for the willingness I have to take on a character. In my mind that's
the highest praise I could receive because she's my favorite. In
terms of bringing these characters to life, I am a very emotional person
and honest with myself. How can you be in this industry and not
be, right? I prepare for characters by doing any necessary research
ahead of time; reading about the person, location, learning a specific
dialect or voice, etc. When that's done, you plug yourself into the
equation and become the role. However, I would love to take more
classes to keep myself competitive.
Actresses (and indeed
actors) who inspire you?
Anyone who can completely dissolve
into a character and constantly surprise you; Daniel Day-Lewis, Charlize
Theron, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep,
Stanley Tucci, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and Cillian
Murphy just to name a few. I also respect people who take risks with
their career by accepting a smaller film outside a genre they're not known
Your favourite movies?
Girl, Interrupted, Fargo, Se7en, The Lovely Bones,
Unchained, Inglourious Basterds, The Little
Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty, and of course Weekend
at Bernie's 2. Way to round off the list, eh?! I like a
lot of film genres, but will be happiest with psychological thrillers or
anything that shows the darkness within oneself (especially women in dire
situations). I do enjoy comedies, but it needs to be smartly written
and relatable, like Judd Apatow films. But I'm certainly not above
the occasional stupid, Adam Sandler or Jackass-movie. I
love South Park and Family Guy, so I'm not too
high-brow. I also love beautifully done historical films like Shakespeare in Love,
Schindler's List, Lincoln, Titanic etc. Anything that evokes a
response in me is a good movie in my book. And I am a crier! Anyone
who knows me can attest to that, so prepare yourself if you see a movie
with me. Damn those emotions always getting in the way.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Most chick flicks
I don't like. I have a blacklist of actresses in my mind that I will
almost always avoid when selecting a film. It can be fun sometimes
when you just want to shut your mind off, but most times I need to have a
story and compelling characters. Lindsay Lohan and Sarah Jessica
Parker tripping into garbage cans just doesn't do it for me. We have
WAY too many of these movies, unfortunately...
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mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
independent artists and new work in your area, no matter where you are.
Give someone new a chance, and you can create some wonderful
collaborations and relationships. Thank you for interviewing me, and
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No, no. Thank YOU!