Thursday, February 18, 2010

Interview with Actress Tara Cardinal

Tara Cardinal is an actress, producer and philanthropist. She is the co-founder of the non-profit peer counseling organization “C.L.U.B.” (Children Living Under Blindness), founded when she was 12 years old. She has toured middle schools in both the US and Canada, educating children on their rights and resources since she was 15 years old. She now holds a degree in psychology.

In addition to producing feature films that inspire people, she is also currently the spokesperson for The Tenderness Tour, an organization dedicated to ending child abuse. She is also the star of the Warner Brother’s release Delivery, and has several films slated for release in 2010, as well as a number of television and theatre appearances. She is also a pro-style wrestler, sword fighter, and trains in MMA style fighting.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre? 

Tara Cardinal: Horror is the greatest genre for female actors. Horror is the only genre where we can laugh, cry, be in love, and kick ass.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you get involved in the horror genre?

Tara Cardinal: In 2006 I auditioned for the lead role in the horror/slasher film Delivery. And I got the role. For the next 3 months I worked on the film – and spent some time covered in blood – although my co-stars got all the guts. It’s a pretty gory film. One character gets literally screwed to the floor. Everyone’s death is a call back to something they did to the killer. It’s a great little movie, but you have to pay attention or you miss the stuff that makes it great.

After that I was hooked. Even though I live in Hollywood, and do the occasional TV stuff, or feature film role, I would rather do a horror film than any other genre.

Fatally Yours: What is one thing you’ve done within the horror genre that you are most proud of?

Tara Cardinal: Legend of the Red Reaper. It’s a fantasy/action/horror/love story from hell. Or something like that. On Red Reaper I got to try my hand at pretty much everything. Although we worked with several writers, I ended up writing the bulk of the story, and script. There are 25 pages that I co-wrote, and the balance of the 115 pages I wrote myself. I ended up producing the majority of it, and even got to direct a few of the actors. But what I’m most proud of is the way the amazing cast and crew came together to create this incredibly professional and cohesive group.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?

Tara Cardinal: Oh, that’s a loaded question. I can’t speak for other women, but I CAN tell you that as a writer, producer, actress and stunt girl, I’ve had men I’ve worked with stand in line to take credit for things I’ve done. In retrospect it’s flattering, but at the time it made me homicidal. Since then, I’ve found men randomly attributing my work to other men on set. A man who is comfortable with a woman as a partner, or in control, is very rare. I’ve been fortunate to work with two who really stand out, Jose Cassella and Timothy Willis. And certainly that’s not to say that other men with whom I’ve worked are misogynists, but those two in particular win the awesomeness award.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in horror, have you found it harder to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Tara Cardinal: Oh Sarah… where to start? In a few years when I’m out from under a certain nameless cloud I’ll share some stories. In the mean time, I will say on set, as a producer, the majority of the males I’ve worked with need to be “directed” by a man. I have no idea why that is. And of course at the high level pitch meetings like AFM, there’s no winning. As an Actress/Producer (in that order) I have to be appealing. Appealing = bimbo to a lot of these Hollywood guys. I could show up to meetings looking a business woman, but then I’ve short sold my product – which is bad business. I’m actually recruiting “men” to pitch my ideas to other men, as silly as that may be.

Fatally Yours: Have you ever felt exploited as a woman by any roles you’ve taken? Have there been certain roles you wouldn’t take because you felt exploited?

Tara Cardinal: I’ve turned down more roles than I’ve accepted due to exploitative scenes. Most nudity in films is exploitative. The fact is, you’ve got some overweight middle class guy, writing in these nude scenes in lieu of a good story, hoping that a pair of tits will sell their film. And I’m pleased to tell you as a free lance film finder – it won’t. It used to. But it won’t anymore.

In terms of low budget horror: Very few women have done nudity and gone on to have great careers. The ones that have impress the hell out of me, but the truth is, most go on to do other nude roles, or roles that only exist for their nudity. My talk show, Scream Queens Uncut (with me and Devanny Pinn) recently went to Vegas to cover the AVN (porn) awards. The one thing that really struck me was the female porn stars who expressed interest in performing in mainstream films, but can’t get good roles. And of course there have been one or two exceptions. But that’s it. I would guess it has something to do with the idea that a woman can’t be sexy/nude and powerful/talented/brilliant at the same time. And that for me is the definition of exploitative. Asking someone to do something you can not do for the sake of furthering your career to the detriment of theirs.

Fatally Yours: As an actress, do you feel roles in horror for women tend to be weaker or stronger than those for males? 

Tara Cardinal: The lead roles tend to feature strong females. Unfortunately a lot of those roles are supported by weak flimsy female characters, although that’s a trend that’s changing. Our hero James Cameron turned that tide with films like Terminator, and Joss Whedon carries his own strong-girl torch starting with Buffy, and moving on to other TV shows like Firefly. And it turns out that audiences WANT to see a strong girl kick ass. Or a group of girls kick ass.

Fatally Yours: What has been your favorite character you’ve portrayed?

Tara Cardinal: I hate to pick just one. Over all, it would be the Red Reaper. I loved playing a kick ass sword fighter who falls in love with the wrong guy. I also really liked playing Bibi in Delivery. Bibi was a sensitive artist torn between her responsibilities of taking care of her little brother, and being kind to a sweet soul that no one else cared about. It was like playing myself!

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles within horror whether it be roles in horror films, women behind the camera, women writers, etc.?

Tara Cardinal: I think over the last few years women have taken more control over their content. I’d like to see more women behind the camera. There are definitely more women writers and producers.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you look up to?

Tara Cardinal: I have a special place in my heart for ALL women who take part in this crazy business. Actresses, producers, writers, directors, P.A.s…The girl who held the boom for a day on Red Reaper on a metal pole that must have weighed 15 pounds. The film industry is still very much male dominated. We have to stick together and support each other. I have to say that one of my current idols is my roommate and co-host Devanny Pinn. She is beautiful, talented, and incredibly intelligent, as well as kind and good hearted. It’s an amazing combination. She brings me down to earth, and forces to me to have fun instead of being a 24/7 workaholic.

Fatally Yours: What would be your dream role?

Tara Cardinal: I would love to have a series regular on a TV show that runs for 5 seasons as an ass kicking super hero that lives to make the world a better place.

Fatally Yours: If you could be or work with any fictional horror villain in a film, who would it be and why?

Tara Cardinal: You know, I just told Tony Todd I wanted him to kill me last night. And I want him to do it as the Candy Man. That would be hot.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give aspiring women actors?

Tara Cardinal: First, find your boundaries and stick with them. Then, get training, and keep training. You can never be too good at your craft. After that, network.

Repeat as necessary.

Fatally Yours: In your opinion, what makes the perfect scream queen and who is the ultimate scream queen?

Tara Cardinal: I think there are different types of scream queens. The first and most prolific, is the girl next door who battles against all odds (and sometimes wins) against the bad guy. The girl who screams. And now… now there’s the girl with the gun (or in my case the sword) ready to rip your heart out. She’s the one who makes YOU scream. There are so many talented ladies out there working hard, who are amazing and unique, I couldn’t choose just one as the ultimate.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Tara Cardinal: Finding new ways to express an original concept motivates and inspires me. Finding new ways to inspire other people to be better than what they are is what has influenced me on most of my projects.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?

Tara Cardinal: To continue to create and be a part of high end horror films. As I say in my talk show, just because it’s horror, doesn’t mean it has to be bad!

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you?

Tara Cardinal: People (and non-people!) can find me at,, and

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