Your new movie The Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper - in a few words,
what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?
The film is an experimental, continuous, one-take look at a girl, Cheryl
Cooper, who awakens in an interrogation room after a very terrifying night. It
is shot found footage-style and a definite psychological-thriller. I
am Cheryl Cooper and must go through a rather terrifying interrogation with
the detective to piece together the previous nights’ events.
What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how
much of Tommie Vegas can we find in Cheryl Cooper?
very fortunate that the script was written so detailed, that I didn’t
exactly have to draw upon much to bring my character to life. Everything
was rather vivid to me as the script went on and I was able to actually
imagine myself there in every single scenario scripted …and it was
pretty scary! Because of that, I think you’ll see a lot of myself in
Cheryl Cooper. I became her through every horrible experience she had that
did you get hooked up with the project in the first place?
Albert Pyun had asked Pollygrind Film Festival creator and founder Chad
Clinton Freeman for any recommendations he might have for an actress who
could pull this off. Chad recommended myself and two others.
Sometime after that I received an e-mail from Albert introducing the
project to me, and before I knew it the wheels had been set in motion!
entire film was shot in one single take - how much of a strain was that
for you as an actress?
I’ve got to say, an entire film in one
take was majorly nerve-wrecking! When I was first told it would be shot in
one-take, I figured, “Okay, I can do this!” thinking I’d have plenty
of time to get the script down and really make it something. Then I
discovered I had about a week to learn the script before rehearsal and
Yes, I only had about a week to devour the
script and fully become Cheryl Cooper. Now I’m good with memorizing. I
can look at a page and have it practically photographed in my mind. But
this was about 50 pages of dialogue … heavy dialogue … extremely heavy
emotions. I’d study from sun up to sun down and even during my sleep.
And the further I studied I became a nervous wreck physically sick to my
stomach. And not because of the dialogue or memorizing, but all the
emotions Cheryl goes through the entire film’s duration. There were no
cuts, no breaks … no stopping all these emotions for even a mere second.
I felt every single emotion Cheryl felt building up as she recalled what
happened. So add the stress of hoping to get the dialogue right, feeling
all these emotions that take you take all over the place and doing
everything you can to not screw up the take (because if we messed up 40
minutes into it, we’d have to start all the way from the beginning
again) … it was challenging.
What can you tell us about your
director, the legendary Albert Pyun, and what was your collaboration like?
is amazing! I loved working with him! He is so creative and has a mind
unlike many others, so what he envisions is truly his own. I was so
impressed with his dedication to this film, especially as it was all done
during a really bad time with his sickness of MS. His dedication and
creativity was something wonderful to witness, as many who fall ill of MS
may not have the ability to do so. But Albert did it with flying colors!
Our collaboration to bring Cheryl Cooper to life was very right on. What I
mean by that was we both had a similar take on Cheryl’s actions and
mind-frame each step of the way. I was in Los Angeles in the week leading
up to filming in Las Vegas and Albert and I would e-mail every day, all
day, up to the rehearsal going over every single detail. It was probably
the most easy-going collaboration I’d ever experienced.
Tommie with Shane Ryan
also have to talk about your co-star Shane Ryan [Shane
Ryan interview - click here] for a bit, and what was working off
Oh boy! Shane? Eeeww! Haha, I’m just kidding.
Shane is great. We’ve actually become friends ever since filming. Over
the years, Shane and I had several mutual friends but had never met until
the day before rehearsal when we decided to get together and go over the
script to familiarize and get to know one another. At that point, I
don’t think either of us still had any clue what to expect from one
another. Even during our rehearsals with Albert, we were still just trying
to figure out little things about our characters, try to remember all of
our blocking and just trying to remember the script in general. The day
of filming we definitely brought our A-game! If I previously thought I was
on a psychologically-thrilling rollercoaster going over the script myself,
I was highly confused now that Shane was there in the flesh as Detective
Ben. Shane was creepy as hell and made it so realistic for me that I
forgot we were even filming. Every aspect of the interrogation became
real. Just wait to see for yourself exactly what I’m talking about.
Shane totally rocked it!
What can you tell us about the shoot as such
and the on-set atmosphere?
The shoot went wonderfully! I
was so impressed with the fluidity of everything. As previously stated, it
was already nerve-wrecking knowing if I screwed up we would have to start
completely over no matter how far in to the script we had actually gone.
Then you add in the camera, the sound, Shane having to come in and out of
the interrogation room, Brittany (who plays Detective Bardo) having to hit
her entrance and exists perfectly timed … it could have been a complete
and utter disaster! But, if all the right elements are carefully added,
which in this case they were, it all worked magically! The atmosphere on
set was great as well. Everyone was really pumped and excited to be
working on such a great film and really looking forward to the challenges.
Any future projects you'd
like to share?
There are definitely a few things coming up
that may be in works, but I don’t want to jinx them! You’ll have to
“stay tuned” to find out!
What got you into acting in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
photo by Vincent McLean
think acting was the eventual road I was on no matter what. I always loved
to entertain and to be entertained. As a baby, my mother had me in a few
baby pageants. As I got a bit older I was involved with gymnastics and
jumped at the chance to perform in every single recital! Come middle
school time, I was involved with choir and lived for the end of the year
Disney musical we’d perform. I was also introduced to dance during this
time, so in high school I auditioned and joined the school’s dance team
and performed all over with them and was even selected to perform as an
American All-Star dance member from the American All Star Dance
also joined my church’s theater group during this time. I think that was
the first moment I realized in all I had done with gymnastics, singing and
dance … no matter what, there was acting involved. And I’d watch all my
favorite shows and movies thinking, “I could do that! I SHOULD be doing
that! Why am I NOT doing that?” So I decided to do exactly that. I spent
a few years before truly jumping into the acting to scene to study the
business side of acting and really getting a firm grasp on things many
people don’t get informed on early enough and regret later. Then I
started studying with coaches in classes in Las Vegas, taking several
carefully selected workshops that would allow me to work on my “craft”
and meeting people involved in acting in Las Vegas. This led me to even
more “formal” training with acting. I didn’t attend any performing
arts school or colleges for my training, but rather with private coaches
in private or small sized classes to gain personal guidance.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Interrogation of
A majority of my film work prior to The
Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper consists of features and shorts working
with many in the Las Vegas independent film community, as I am from Las
Vegas. People such as Mike Lenzini, Darren Flores, John E. Carson, Forrest
Avery Olinger, Alex Colonna and even Chad Clinton Freeman! All great
people to work with!
photo by John Davis
How would you describe yourself as an
actress, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
very serious about what I do. I’m a mixture of all different types of
methods and techniques that I’ve learned and either failed or succeeded
with. I also draw from personal experience. Mainly though, whether in
description of myself or even regarding technique it all boils down to one
thing: emotions/emotional. I’ve experienced a lot in my short years and
have also found that I easily empathize with others whether it’s the
happiest moment ever, or a serious heart-wrenching situation. Even through
someone’s words in a script, I can memorize their emotion, feel it and
succumb to it. It’s always been very handy in allowing myself to truly
bring a character to life!
(and indeed actors) who inspire you?
Oh boy, where do I begin?!
Betty White, Judy Garland, Sandra Bullock,
Meryl Streep, Bette Davis, Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates.
For the men I’d have to say Willem
Dafoe, Edward James Olmos, Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks,
Robin Williams and Gene Kelly.
The Wizard of Oz is still my number 1
favorite movie ever since I was a little girl! Along with every single
Judy Garland movie as well.
I’m also a fan of: Pretty much any Wes Craven film ever made, Triangle,
Labyrinth (1986), Pete’s Dragon, The Artist, Halloween (1978),
Interview With a Vampire, Some Like It Hot, Singing in the
Rain, The Crow,
The Blair Witch Project, Dead End (2003),
10 Things I Hate About You and
Clueless (I’m a 90s girl!), What Dreams May Come, The Notebook and
About Eve. I could seriously go on for days!! I love movies!
... and of course, films you really deplore?
know, I can’t really recall any films that I actually deplore. Probably
because I refuse to watch anything if I think I won’t like it. Even if
I’ve watched a film that was just so-so, I still manage to find things I
like about it.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
My primary website is
but for anything immediate, up to date or to just get to know me you can
find me on facebook at either:
as well as on Twitter - @tommieleevegas - and Instagram - @tommievegas.
Anything else you are
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper premieres in Las
Vegas on October 30 and I hope to see many new faces there. Red carpet
starts at 7:30pm with expected guests listed below here. Film starts at
8pm at The Galaxy Theaters at The Cannery Casino in North Las Vegas on a
beautiful 65 foot IMAX screen and tickets will be available at the door or
you can purchase beforehand online through Pollygrind’s website!
There will also be a sneak peek at Cyborg Nemesis (dir. Albert Pyun), the
Pollygrind Film Festival awards ceremony, several award winning shorts and
a viewing of Road To Hell (dir. Albert Pyun) to wrap up the night!
Expected guests are Sasha Mitchell (Kickboxer 2, Cyborg
Nemesis), Joei Fulco (Cyborg Nemesis), Tommie Vegas (The Interrogation of Cheryl
Cooper), Shane Ryan (The Interrogation of
Cheryl Cooper), Brittany Bochart (The Interrogation of Cheryl
Scott Paulin (The Right Stuff), Norbert Weisser (Shindlers's
Pyun (The Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper, The Sword and the
Cyborg, Nemesis, Captain America
(1990)), Cynthia Curnan (Road To Hell),
Kelly Schwarze (Territory 8), Michael Su (The Interrogation of Cheryl
Cooper), Olivier Gruner (Nemesis), Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Road To
Streets of Fire), Tony Riparetti (Mean Guns, Brainsmasher,
Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper), Michael Tushaus (Territory 8, The
Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper) and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules).
for the interview!
Thanks for the questions! J