James Morgart (JM): When we first met (oh, so many years ago), I was in a graduate program for Accounting and you were mostly taking on modeling work, how did you break into film? More specifically, why horror films?
Suzi Lorraine (SL): Isn’t it amazing what has happened in the last 8 years! Can you believe we’ve been friends all those years – geez! My break into horror films was completely intentional, and strategic. I started modeling to make some extra money during college, signed with an agency, and fortunately that led to small roles in film and tv. So I had a small resume, and then began targeting horror production companies via mass mailings/submissions. I figured if I reached out to 50 companies, and got 2 replies, well that would be a success. And the rest is history. In terms of why, exactly, horror films move me…. Well, I’ve just always had an affinity for them. Since I can remember in fact. Something about being scared makes you feel alive. Plus it’s just entertainment – plain and simple. It’s fun. It’s like having an affinity for roller coasters. And I think most human beings have an interest in the underbelly of society, and people who do unthinkable things. They can live vicariously through horror films, and no one gets hurt. Except, well… my nickname in earlier years was “Grace” and you can bet I have taken a fall plenty of times on movie sets!
JM:. Do you remember the film we were working on back then, Love? Your acting on that film was so phenomenal, it’s a real shame that part of the footage was stolen. Did you ever think we’d be making a film like Won Ton Baby! after working on that little project?
SL: Ah, the perils of low budget filmmaking and psychos having access to important files… I was bummed that movie never came to fruition, as I thought it was a really powerful message, and I really felt that character. Although, for the record, let me state I have never been bulimic. How can you ruin a perfectly good meal? Life is too short, and I’m far too hedonistic. ;-) “Won Ton Baby!” was a treat instead of a treatment! That brilliant little devil baby is going to steal the hearts (and livers) of many before he’s done. The coolest thing is that his entire body and face is covered in slime, but his elvis like pompadour is perfectly dry. And it was an honor to work with you and Jen and everyone else on it. I really think everyone poured their heart and soul into the movie, and I think it shows in the end product. And thanks to our amazing editor Ken Yankee and composer Mars for doing such a kick ass job in post production.
JM: You’ve worked on so many films over the past few years, what was it like to see a project you’d dreamt up through from beginning to end?
SL: With “Won Ton Baby”, I felt like I had more invested compared to any other film I’ve worked on. Having creative control, as well as being able to act in the movie, was a great experience. I am a proud Mama that baby Won Ton was successfully “birthed” and brought to fruition. But I could never have done it without you and Jen and every other person in our cast and crew. It was neat to be on the other side of the camera, and see things from a completely different angle. The casting process was really interesting for me, as that was the first time I was interviewing talent, rather than the other way around. Having been to so many auditions myself, I think I had a lot more empathy for the actors than if I hadn’t walked in their shoes before. I know what it’s like to walk in a bit nervous, excited, and wanting to give a great performance and make a good impression.
JM: Won Ton Baby! premiered to enthusiastic audiences in State College and in London. How did it feel to experience an audience’s reaction to a film that a year and a half ago was just incubating in your head?
SL: “Won Ton Baby!” was one of the few horror/comedies that premiered at the Gorezone Film Festival that particular day. So I think the readers found it to be a breath of fresh air amidst a lot of serious horror fare, and they were cracking up at all the right parts. I noticed as soon as the Baby came on the scene, he literally stole the show, and fans were eating up his one liners. One fan at the theatre was so inspired that he drew a picture of baby Won Ton and his trademark umbilical cord/killing implement.
JM:. This film finally presented you with the opportunity to step behind the camera and a play an intricate role in the production end of the project. Has getting involved in the production end of things something that has always appealed to you? Will we be seeing more Suzi Lorraine productions in down the road?
SL: Not so much. I want to focus primarily on acting, because I think there’s so much more I want to do from an acting perspective. Perhaps later down the road, I’ll take a more active interest in directing or screenwriting. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. If something really moves me, then I would consider producing and or/directing.
JM: Won Ton Baby! marks the third production we’ve collaborated on, how does our work relationship differ from the working relationships you’ve had with other indie horror filmmakers?
SL: No other filmmaker allowed me to strike a gong before. (Note to perplexed readers: in the Chinese restaurant set, an authentic Chinese gong was prominently displayed. It was just itching to be struck, and strike I did. Repeatedly. Whenever I needed a little shot of juvenile glee) It was a most marvelous sound. I want to get one for my house.
JM: Though you’ve been friends with both of them for quite some time, this was really your first time sharing screen time with Debbie Rochon and Gunnar Hansen, what was it like getting to work with such highly revered mainstays of the horror genre?
SL: They were both a riot! When I think of Debbie, I can forever see her saying “child services” in this deep, low monotone, which was one of the highlights of our “inside” jokes on set. Lou Martini Jr was not present during a scene in which Debbie and I were doing close-ups, however, he had a line that led me to my next line. So, every time, Debbie would change from her normal voice into a deep, Lou imitating voice and say “child services” like a ventriloquist, in order to lead me to my next line. It was really late at night, and we kept wondering if the DP was capturing her while she was pretending to be Lou. The thought of it kept cracking us up. “Child services” then became a tagline for the movie. At least in our hearts! ;-) And Gunnar is an amazing actor, and an incredibly talented guy. It was really neat for us, because Gunnar stayed on set with us, even after his scenes had wrapped. Everyone wanted to be on set the day that Gunnar was there. He is a legend. I would love to work with both him and Debbie again. And Lou as well. He did a fantastic job as the detective and as the Elvis impersonator, and we’ve gotten lots of feedback from fans who really enjoyed his performance too.
JM: Won Ton Baby! makes references to several indie horror films and follows the style of 70s and 80s low budget horrors like Dracula vs. Frankenstein, what is it about indie horrors specifically that attracts you to the genre?
SL: I love the fact that there are less “rules” when it comes to indie films. Filmmakers are not forced to adhere to as rigid a formula, as is often the case in studio films. The formula of course, is based on including certain elements (cast, plot, big explosions, etc) that are certain to draw an audience, but it can also be rather risk aversive and perhaps even overly PC. With indies, anything goes, and your imagination is the limit (and budgetary constraints, of course!).
JM: I know you grew up a big fan of Stuart Gordon’s Dolls and Frank Hennenlotter’s BasketCase. What other horror films and filmmakers are you a fan of? Who would you love to work with one day?
SL: I’m a big fan of “Evil Dead” and “Drag Me to Hell”, so I would love to work with Sam Raimi. I’m on the same page as him from a humor perspective, and I love how he blends horror with comedy.
JM: What about horror writers? Are there any writers or particular books that appealed you to growing up?
SL: Do you know, as a child, I read all the VC Andrews books, and while not horror per se, they were incredibly twisted and depraved! If only parents knew what their children were reading, holy crap. Some of that bizarre stuff still sticks with me to this day. And I read it when I was about 7 or 8 years old. After that, I definitely read tons of Stephen King – It, Half Past Midnight, Night Shift, Pet Sematary, Christine, Needful Things, etc etc etc. And I’m also a fan of Edgar Allan Poe. Go figure. As a wee young Suzi, meaning elementary school years, I would read everything I could get my hands on – I’d check out like 15 books over the summer break. Children who are voracious readers have a tremendous advantage over their non-reading counterparts. It pays off in spades down the road. It think it nurtures creativity and imagination too.
JM: Horror seems to have a bad rep or stereotype in its relation to women. What are your thoughts on that? That is, do you think women are treated unfairly in the horror genre? Do you find there’s more or less opportunity for them in terms of upward mobility or less?
SL: On the acting side, there is probably more work for women in horror, particularly in B horror movies. There’s almost always a female protagonist in horror films, and certainly a number of victims. This opens up the floodgates for potential female roles. Behind the camera, it’s changing slowly but surely, but it’s still a man’s world. In terms of whether horror films give women a bad rep or stereotype them, you know, I think it really depends on the film itself.
JM: What sort of advice would you give to aspiring actresses who want to break into the horror industry?
SL: Choose your roles wisely. Remember film is permanent! Don’t be too nice and don’t be a pushover, but on the other end of the spectrum by all means do not be a diva! Reputations, for better or worse, travel really quickly in the industry. For the 6 degrees of separation that may be “Hollywood”, there are about 2 degrees of separation in the b indie horror world. Study your craft, and expect to pay your dues by working hard in the beginning for little or no money. Do it because you are passionate about it. As Debbie Rochon said in an interview I read when I was first starting out, Remember that what you’re working on now is the most important project in the world. Whether you’re working on a $10,000 movie or a $10M movie, treat it as if it’s the most important work you will ever do. Give it 110%. This project, the one you’re working on now, is the one that will get you your NEXT project. That always rang true with me and just makes so much sense.
JM: What’s next up for Suzi Lorraine? Do you have any projects in the works? Will we get to see you make a directorial debut one day?
SL: Next up for Suzi Lorraine is a tasty brownie I’m about to eat. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I am going to consult with my psychic advisor and will get back to you. ;-)
JM: You knew this question was coming…will we be seeing a Won Ton Baby! 2?
SL: Damn straight. We’re already tossing around some great ideas for the spawn of baby Won Ton! Get ready for more politically incorrect thrills and kills… So excited about “Won Ton Baby 2” I want to begin the casting process right away and get this baby rolling! And by the way, thank you, Jersey J, for doing this interview with me. You are an incredibly talented screenwriter and director, and mouse wrangler, and as I’ve mentioned to you before, Won Ton Baby! is the best script that has ever come across my desk. I expect that you will reach the heights of such greats as Stuart Gordon and Sam Raimi before Won Ton Baby can shake an umbilical cord.
JM: Haha, thanks for taking the time for doing the interview for the HNN readers and for giving me (and everyone else) such a great story and performance in Won Ton Baby! You’re as awesome of a person and a friend as you are an actress, so I’m just counting down the days to when we can work again on something
Interview: Suzi Lorraine (Scream Queen)