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Interview: Brooke Lewis

Photo credit Birdie Thompson

THE BOULEVARD OF BROOKE N’ DREAMS

An intimate interview with scream queen Brooke Lewis

The Universe speaks volumes and works in mysterious ways. The signs are all around us. We just have to open our eyes now and again. In recent times I have grappled with demons, as we all do. Somehow I’d lost my creative spark. Reviews were being neglected while piles of novels to read turned into mountains. Events were covered but rarely provided coverage on.

There just didn’t seem to be any point anymore. A few short months ago I had initiated a social media interaction with Ms. Brooke Lewis. I have to admit I knew very little about her. I took her as a very breath taking, vivacious and sultry staple to the film industry, specifically in the horror realm. Yet as I watched and observed her communication with others I swiftly realized there was so much more than meets the eye.

With a rejuvenated sense of intrigue I delved on in with my homework. The more I learned about Ms. Lewis the more fascinated and drawn I’d become. Always humble, down to earth yet forever a dreamer Brooke always takes the time to chat with fans and express perpetual gratitude. I may still be a long way from reaching my horizon but proud to say my spark has been reignited again. I’ll always credit Brooke for playing an integral role in that. She’s crystal clear evidence that sometimes you have to pass through the dark to reach the most brilliant of light. I’m beyond thrilled and honored to call her confidant and friend. We’d recently caught up via phone to discuss her film career, her Ms. Vampy alter-ego, Breaking Dating, her role as a personal life coach among the horror of it all.

DAVE GAMMON: I’d like to take opportunity to welcome my very special guest at this time actress, writer, and producer and board certified life coach Ms. Brooke Lewis. Brooke, you’ve had opportunity to illustrate your diversity through various genres as seen in Sinatra Club, iMurders, Sprinkles and Slime City Massacre to name just a few. Do you consider yourself a fan of the horror genre and what films have influenced or resonated with you?

BROOKE LEWIS: I wanted to first say that horrornews.net has supported and followed my career for so long and I am so grateful. You’ve supported me as an actress and as a scream queen, so thank you, thank you, thank you. Now to answer your question, I love and am a crazy, crazy horror fan. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a quote, unquote scream queen. Having that title bestowed upon me I feel strongly about that as a woman in the genre.

I was a crazy vampire fan as a kid. No surprise, looking at Ms. Vampy.

(combined laughs)

I was an ‘80’s girl. I grew up in the ‘80’s. I loved all those late ‘70’s, ‘80’s horror pictures. Starting with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original and I have to emphasize all the originals. Prom Night, to this day, the original is one of my favorite films. I’m such a Jaime-Lee Curtis fan. Oh my God I just go crazy because I get all excited. I loved Creepshow and Adrienne Barbeau. All the iconic scream queens that I looked up to, working actresses in T.V. and in film that do horror films. And then the original Halloween, The Shining, Carrie, anything Stephen King and then loved Brian De Palma. I could go on and on and on here but I love the horror genre.

Even as a kid, my parents divorced when I was two. It was me and Mom in the house. I was just raised to be a strong woman. I was always attracted to films and films that resonated most with me whether they were in the horror genre or outside the horror genre, powerful female roles. It’s created sort of who I am today as a woman and as an actress.

I remember Blow Out was a film I saw as soon as we got a VCR.

(combined laughs)

Right? And Nancy Allen. I want to recreate that role in a film. Dressed To Kill, Angie Dickinson. They are the ones that have inspired me most.

DG: Oh absolutely. That’s among good company there. No question. What has been your most memorable role to date and your most challenging?

BL: My most memorable role I would have to say. There’s a couple. That’s a tough one. So I’m going say, of course I’m biased but Ms. Vampy, which was my passion, character, alter-ego, Ms. Vampy is my heart and soul. She’s like the blood that pumps through my veins and of course she is the body of all my work put together. How she was created and how everyone used to say when I put the fangs in and had a modelling shoot, “oh you’re so vampy and a vixen.” Ms. Vampy was born and she came from my work over many years as an actress. From comedy, to horror to mobster movies then I wanted her to have a big purpose and a heart of gold. I wanted her to be the opposite of what a lot of vampires are perceived as. I wanted her to be pure good. And I mean she’s a mobster, the comedic Brooklyn vampire mobster. By far she is my passion and heart and most memorable role.

My most challenging and shockingly I would say from a short film that is wonderful, brilliant from a director Roger A. Scheck. He wrote and directed for me to star in this production called Sprinkles. This has become the film that could. It’s in circulation in all the festivals and shows for six years. For the last five years that it has been touring I’m contacted by the festivals asking for something powerful as a lead woman actress. I’ve been so blessed. You may have recently seen on Twitter that it won me the ‘Best Actress In A Drama’ Award at the Actors Awards Los Angeles. That’s such an incredible accomplishment. So many things like this. I won Mediterranean Film Festival Best Actress. I gratefully won a lot of best actress awards for this role. It was something that was super challenging for me.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers for those who haven’t seen it. It will be online eventually but we are currently in talks about a small distribution right now. There are components of a Thriller. She is posing as a high-class call girl to get revenge. It’s basically a woman scorned. Again, I don’t want to give too much away but very deep, very dark, very challenging, very powerful.

Just a shout out very quickly, especially since you’re Canadian, you’re in Niagara Falls. To the Buffalo, Niagara one of my fondest memories was Slime City Massacre. Thank you to Greg Lamberson and again the movie that could, a cult classic. I won the B Movie Golden Cob Award for Scream Queen of the Year 2010 for that film. So that goes down as one of my favorite memories in my career. So, there you have it.

DG: Most excellent. I like your response because it provides a perfect segue into my next question. Your Ms. Vampy persona has been synonymous with advice to a variety of groups particularly teens. Describe the Teen Tawk premise and how Ms. Vampy was conceived.

BL: Thank you. So, going back and forth, Ms. Vampy was conceived in 2008, I had broken out in about 2007 in the horror genre, gratefully as a Scream Queen. I was doing some vampire modeling shoots. A company had made me very expensive, veneer fangs. We were shooting and we’d write things for vampire stuff. A marketing company had come to me, such a long story but I’ll make it quick.

Back in the day when web series were just being developed this company came to me and wanted me to be “Brooke Lewis Vampire Goddess.” It lead to how it could be empowering to teens and women. So, they wanted me to be Brooke Lewis Vampire Goddess and wanted me to push up my boobs even more.

(combined laughs)

Yeah, and I don’t want to say gratuitous but…

DG: Provocative?

Photo credit Birdie Thompson

BL: Yes, thank you. They wanted me to be more provocative, gratuitous a bit. It was so not me. I sat down and took the meeting, but, in the end, we turned down the deal. But I am a visionary and I thought they are onto something. Philly Chick Pictures, my own company, actually financed the very first Ms. Vampy show as an “Elvira-style” talk show host.

How it came about is I sat down and thought I’m going to do what inspires me. When we do what inspires us, we inspire others. I sat down and looked at my biggest body of work, which I’d said was comedy. At this point horror and mobster movies. I wanted it to have a fun, heartfelt purpose.

It resonated and Ms. Vampy was born. What everyone used to say, you’re so vampy. I came up with an Elvira type talk show host. I gathered all my horror star friends and did my first web series. I was not sure if it was going to bomb. I have a lot at stake here.

DG; Pun certainly intended.

(combined laughs)

BL: Right? I’m a well-known Scream Queen within the genre. I remember with horrornews, you guys covered it like crazy. I was like, ok, this is do or die. Pun intended. Right?

(combined laughs)

BL: But seriously, we launched the first web series and we didn’t know if horror fans were going to respond. When we launched the first web series, I remember it was a Friday and I was sitting at my home and praying. I’m going to either by loved within the horror genre or I’m going to be hated. Within, I’m not even joking but two hours, I sent out a press release the night before. We had sixteen different web sites cover it and give it rave reviews.

DG: Wow!

BL: So that had evolved into doing a lot of current event like stuff with Ms. Vampy. I sat down and said I am so blessed right now. Everybody is responding well to her. Surprisingly I have had a lot of young people say, ‘Wow Ms. Vampy is so amazing, you’re the next Elvira.’ I could only wish.

(combined laughs)

But that’s a great comparison. She was always one of my icons. Ms. Vampy was sort of born of Mona in My Cousin Vinny, I always wanted to play a role like that. I said to myself, ok I’m going to sit down now because I have an incredible blessing.

What really inspires me? I mean if I look down the road and think of my five-year plan, what would I want to do with her? I want to make a difference and that’s part of my brand. That’s part of my theme. As you know Dave, and the readers know in everything I do I want to inspire, I want to change, I want to make a difference, I want to empower women and teen girls. I’d like to empower everyone. But you know? You have to start somewhere.

I sat down with my producer partners at the time. We took off a year, right when the economy was crashing and we wrote a screen play, Vamp It Out. I put together I love music and Ms. Vampy coming from a mobster family to Hollywood to pursue her dreams. Sometimes our dreams don’t always pan out exactly as we expect them to. Sometimes they’re even more powerful. She puts together a teen girl band the Mini Vamps.

It’s all about fighting for the underdog. It’s all about reaping your dreams, following your heart and never taking no for an answer. I could cry right now because I have to remind myself of this every day. I have to remind myself that even if I have a bad audition, it doesn’t matter. You know you have to live your dreams.

Ms. Vampy was born. We wrote Vamp It Out. Another scene from Brooke’s life is I’m always been challenged by Hollywood and its standards. I’m sure no one would be surprised to know that the executives within Hollywood started slamming the doors on us and saying ‘ok this is really powerful but we don’t understand that how could an Elvira type character, Ms. Vampy is a vampire, how could she be a positive role model for teen girls?’

DG: Right….

BL: So again, with having a door slammed in my face I was inspired to show them. By show them I mean proving. I did Ms. Vampy’s Tween Tawk, Teen Tawk and In Between Tawk. It was a web series. Well more like a pilot. A pilot talk show that we cut into a web series. It was to inspire teen girls with all the issues they’re dealing with. I took a lot themes from Vamp It Out. We hired Alison Buck, my manager, and the casting director, and we did auditions for days. We wanted the perfect teen cast. And we got it. Boy did we get it.

I learned so much from those girls. It was amazing. All the issues that teen girls struggle with and you would think not just things like boys and dating, but things like making powerful choices. That was surprising. I went in thinking ok twelve to fifteen-year-old girls are going to be talking about boys, they’re going to talk about their clothes and I learned so much Dave. It was so much deeper than that. One of the main themes was, ‘I’m so afraid of making the wrong choices.’ ‘I don’t know how to make the right choices.’ ‘What if I screw up?’ And those were some of the ongoing themes with the girls. I thought wow this is really powerful.

So, we went and totally re-vamped. Pun intended again.

(combined laughs)

The screenplay, which is now in development as a T.V. series. It’s so amazing and all the messages within my shows. It went on to win, and I’ll shout out here to all the readers because that’s still on the award show circuit, just a month ago, at the Los Angeles Film Awards, such a huge honor for me honestly, they honored me with Inspiring Woman in a Film for the talk show.

DG: That’s phenomenal.

BL: Yeah, so thank you! I mean that’s really my mission. So from that, just quickly I was saying that the book was born. It’s Ms. Vampy’s Teen Tawk: There’s A Lotta Power In Ya Choices.

Just a shout out, just one. It won ‘Best Young Adult Book’ at the Paris Book Festival Awards and it also won honorable mention at the San Francisco Book Festival. So, it’s been incredible.

DG: Amazing…..amazing.

BL: (laughs)

DG: What I admire about the Ms. Vampy character is that often when we think of horror and what associates and embodies horror there is a lot of stereotypes, prejudices, and negative stigma put behind the name. When you can embrace something that produces something positive like this it’s a wondrous thing really.

BL: Bam! You just nailed it. You just said it and that’s like I said before when the executives said they didn’t understand how a vampire could be a positive role model for teen girls. I had to show them how. Now to the Universe’s ears, years later and I never gave up on it. We’re on the threshold of opening up some really, really big T.V. doors right now and I can’t talk too much about it but now it’s like people are finally getting it. People and such overall great universal messages of humanity, people are now accepting other people that are different, unique. Even eight years ago that wasn’t so much.

DG: Absolutely. Weird and bizarre is the new norm. I like it.

BL: Thanks. I love that. That’s great. That’s me. I embraced being a scream queen. The greatest fans in the world are the horror fans. I will stand behind that forever. Why can’t I be a scream queen? Why can’t I be a scream queen and a horror actress and also have positive messages, bring positivity into the horror community. There’s no reason why I can’t.

DG: I couldn’t agree more.

BL: Thank you.

DG: Let’s talk about Killer Rack. It’s a very fun comedy…..

(combined laughs)

….horror mish-mash…a-hem…

BL: (laughs)

DG: …..What was working with Debbie Rochon and Jessica Zwolak like? What was the overall mood on set?

BL: Ok. So first and foremost I was not on set. I voiced. It was the most fun, campy, crazy film. A most wonderful film and again a shout out to the magnificent director Greg Lamberson. Greg first hit me up when they’d first gotten the script from Paul. Paul McGinnis who wrote this hilarious piece. It was so in the vain of a Greg Lamberson style film, following Slime City Massacre. I’ve had such a great relationship with Greg and everyone over there in Buffalo.

He said, ‘ok I need a voice for the Killer Rack. The boobs….

(combined laughs)

…right? ‘I want a Mae West style.’ I’m like Greg, you’ve got to be kidding me. You want me to do a film called Killer Rack? And he said just read the script, just read the script. Because I laughed when I read the title. I’m like Oh my God. And this is empowering to women? This is the antithesis of what I do.

‘Just read the script.’ Right. So I read the script. And low and behold and unless you see it, you won’t get it people but it’s actually empowering to women. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. So it pin points all the stereotypes that women face. Whether cat-calls or going back to my personal life coaching stuff, trying to be perfect, trying to look perfect. For whom? Who are we trying to look perfect for? The Lovecraftian surgery boobs that Dr. Thulu, the incredible Debbie Rochon at the hands of these women and Jessica’s character peak on Betty.

So to answer your question, and that’s what I love about Greg Lamberson films is there is always a subtext and a powerful message. So this is really telling women look at the extremes in which we go to try to look good for men and other people. Sometimes look at the outcome is worse, what women do.

That is the truth. Look at Hollywood right?

Women in their thirties from face lifts to bad boob jobs are getting violently sick because of it and it’s bad. They think that this actually empowers women and the guy she’s supposed to end up with loves her no matter what. It’s the truth. That’s what I love about this film. It ended positively.

So backing up, I never got to meet Jessica, but I’m so impressed with her and remember I got to watch the film as I voiced it, from L.A. I voiced the character from the studio. I got to watch and I was so impressed with Jessica. As a new comer to the industry, she nailed it. She’s also a local Buffalonian and she nailed it.

I mean what can I say about Debbie Rochon? We started in Slime City Massacre together. We’ve had an astounding working relationship. She really is an incredible veteran great. She is a scream queen whom I look up to.

DG: That’s excellent. For fans unfamiliar with Breaking Dating, outline the overall concept. What was your most unusual interaction on the show?

BL: That’s so funny. So the concept was, this is a great story. I meet this guy online dating and we did not end up dating, we ended up becoming best friends. Michael Bronte. So our relationship develops as each time we go out we talk about our experiences and nightmares with online dates. We become the best of friends. He’d call me on the way home from a bad online date. He’d tell me the story as I’m reading a script on my couch at midnight. We’re laughing our butts off. It’s so challenging dating in Hollywood. It truly is.

DG: Oh yeah, I’m sure.

BL: Yeah, you know that.

DG: So here I am as all these reality shows are being developed around me and I had an opportunity come up to discuss a talk show, reality show as a dating expert. So we’d talked about me doing it solo. We’d talked about bringing in a male counter-part. He was perfect. So I was the dating expert and was the dating jaded guy. He hated online dating.

So that’s how the concept came up. The production company encouraged us to be maybe a little more sexy, but I really wanted to make it a smart show, an informative show, really break it down. So I came up with the title Breaking Dating, sort of newsworthy styled show. You know Breaking Bad which was popular at the time but Breaking Dating. We’re going to break it down in all its elements, the online dating, the disasters that people are going through online dating right now and that’s how it all came to pass.

Let me think, the most challenging or unusual interaction on the show (laughs) was probably when we’d had call-ins. When you are on a talk show and you open the phone lines for callers to call in, you really take a big risk. You have no idea what’s going to happen and you’re live on air. We had a couple kooks. We had a guy that called in and wanted to know how to get a date with me.

(combined laughs)

You know it was flattering but…and then you get the callers that call and they don’t know when to stop talking. They just want to keep going and have their five minutes of fame. They talk and talk and talk and don’t know when to stop. It makes things very interesting. I would have to say by far the most unusual things occurred when we opened up the lines to callers.

DG: No filter. Absolutely.

BL: (laughs)

DG: Whether through social media, your films, your book Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess, the public has become equally aware of your philanthropic side. What are some of the charities you’ve been involved with and how has each been passionate for you?

BL: Great. Love that question, yes. My book is Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess and I am incredibly philanthropic. I’ve always been very passionate about charities that again empower women, empower teens, for teens, anti-bullying and I’m very active with breast cancer charity work. I’m also very passionate about charities that involve the AIDS foundation and I am a proud Celebrity Ambassador for the Breaking The Chains Foundation.

I feel like, with philanthropy, I hate to look at it like this but I’m being honest, my theme with Ms. Vampy and a lot of my work too is always fighting for the underdog. Fighting for those less fortunate or in need, I also almost forgot one I’m always involved with in which is feeding the homeless. The Los Angeles Mission, around all the holidays you’ll see me feeding the homeless. I feel like I’m so blessed and I know I’m no A-list star, but even at my level in Hollywood I’m so blessed to have what I have. The career I have, the lifestyle that I have and I think anyone that has any humility and heart know with that comes giving back. The importance of giving back. So, for me who has food on my table every day and goes on about complaining about messing up an audition and to go back to the Los Angeles Mission and see people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and for me to be able to make that meal happen is extraordinary. It’s fulfilling.

For me to be able to go to gay teens who are being bullied and let them know and coach them, they have a support system. I mean the number of suicides that have taken place over the last several years. I have a big gay fan base and it’s not surprising. It’s a big theme for Ms. Vampy in order to make a difference. She lets you know that she’s bad ass and it’s ok. So any of the anti-bullying organizations are so important and another that is really close to me as for a number of years I was partners with Sean Decker, Dread Central Starlets and Bowling for Boobies for Breast Cancer.

I’ve done so many. I’ve done the horror calendar 2009. I was a Hot Hunks of Horror Hottie. It went to benefit breast cancer.

We also did the stickers for Killer Rack. Thanks Jason McFiggins for the benefit for breast cancer. So those are the one’s I’m most passionate about.

DG: I really admire the ideology to want to make a difference, to pay it forward. I think we can all take a lesson from that page in the playbook.

BL: One hundred percent, especially the people in Hollywood. I’ll be forthright about it. I live in a place where everybody is give me, give me, give me attitude. Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine. It’s sickening. There is such a lack of coalition here. They forget how fortunate they are. I see so many entitled, young rich kids. They do nothing to give back. It upsets me.

DG: Understandably so. Let’s talk about Be You and Be Fearless. What was the inspiration behind personal life coaching and how has it impacted your life?

BL: So funny enough, Be You and Be Fearless is my business and my theme again. That inspiration came from two things one, 2009, 2010 when the economy had crashed I’d lost everything. My investors had pulled out of my production company and it was the first time in my life I had to reevaluate everything and come up with a new game plan. At the same time in 2011, I had done Ms. Vampy’s Teen Tawk which was getting crazy accolades. I fell in love so much with all my teen involvement and all their lessons and other issues and said to myself you know what this is inspiring.

If I have to do anything to support myself outside of acting then it’s going to be being a life coach. I found the Life Purpose Institute in San Diego and after two college degrees when I was young I went back to school and became a board certified life coach. Took the boards with therapists and somehow I’d passed (laughs).

I wanted my life coaching whether it was with life coaching and now I have a partner company dating coaching. I encourage and support people young people, adults, men and women to be you and be fearless. I believe in an old saying that we teach what we need to learn. Every day I am fighting to remember to be me, especially here in Hollywood, especially here in the industry, be me, be fearless. Brooke, I have to psych myself out and say be me, be fearless. Go to that audition be me, be fearless. Go to that network pitch meeting, be me, be fearless. So, as we see I carry the theme with me.

DG: That’s a really good motto to live by. What’s on the horizon for Brooke Lewis? What can fans eagerly anticipate for the balance of 2017?

BL: This has already been a wild ride of a year. Big, big shout out to our new short film that has hit the ground running in 2017. My dear, dear friend writer director Staci Layne Wilson who, out of upset one day, having lunch one day, wrote me the most incredible piece which as a female actress I play the role of Tonia in Psycho Therapy.

We are cleaning up at the award shows and festivals. And again thank you to the West Coast International Film Festival Awards, we just cleaned up there. We just won Best Director award. Best Actress and Best Actor awards for my co-star Ricky Dean Logan from Nightmare On Elm Street fame. We just have such an incredible piece. Thank you also to Bryce Campbell, all the producers and the incredible crew. It’s really an amazing thing.

We are now going to start as you’re aware all the genre festivals start coming up in August, September, October. We are so blessed.

I mean I don’t want to shout out too much because I don’t want to reveal too much yet.

About to hit Action On Film International Film Festival. Hollywood Dreamz they go together in August in Vegas, Baby. I think we will be shown at quite a few genre festivals this fall. So super, super excited.

Also, big shout out to me running around promoting Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess. Everyone can get it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.

I’m also promoting Ms. Vampy’s Teen Tawk: There’s A Lotta Power In Ya Choices book, so I’m touring the award festivals and book circuit for that.

DG: Very cool.

BL: Another big shout out to my brands that I’ve partnered with. Thank you so much to Metal Babe Mayhem, which is a rock-metal clothing line. They’d branded me last year and created and produced my brand, my star brand which are based upon my books ‘Rock Your Hot Mess’. They are awesome shirts for both men and women.

We also have a Ms. Vampy Design by pin-up designer Bill Bronson. He’s such an incredible designer. We have ‘Scream Queen Brooke Lewis’ which is pretty active. We’d launched in the fall and around Halloween.

And then I’ve branded a makeup company that I love, TASH Cosmetics. We have slated with make up for adults, teen girls. We have ‘Profess Your Hot Mess’ for adults. We have ‘Ms. Vampy Girl’ for teen girls. We have a skin care line now that we have created. Tash is awesome. I’m so grateful to have them especially the powerful women in my stable. I love it.

DG: That’s a lot of irons in the fire. Good for you. It’s exciting to have so much on the horizon.

BL: Really exciting. Oh and one more shout out, you’ll get the first exclusive. We’re about to shoot a sizzle reel and short film based on a feature that Markus Redmond wrote. Markus Redmond from Doogie Howser, back in the day. He is so awesome. It is called Allen + Millie.

I won’t give too much away, but of course I play a vampire. She’s a B-movie starlet who comes back as a vampire. It’s more like a Woody Allen style film.

One of my best friends will be playing the lead male role and that’s the wonderful horror icon Courtney Gains.

DG: That’s super cool.

BL: We’re really excited. We’re shooting in August.

DG: I want to thank you Brooke for this exciting, enlightening and entertaining interview. Of course on behalf of all the readers and fans at horrornews.net we’d like to wish you the best in the near future.

BL: Again, thank you so much for your time and your amazing, professional questions. Thank you the fans at horrornews.net. You guys have supported me from the beginning since I’ve been so blessed to become a scream queen. I’m forever, forever grateful. So please stay in touch with me.

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