Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview with Actress Michelle Tomlinson

Donned Scream Queen of the Month (Nov. 2009) and the recipient of the 2007 Shriekfest Film Festival’s “Pretty/Scary One to Watch” award, Michelle Tomlinson is receiving rave reviews in four separate feature films currently captivating audiences throughout the film festival circuit.

Tomlinson earned the Pretty/Scary Award for her work in The Cellar Door, a horror and psychological thriller that is earning its own recognition for improving upon the girl-trapped-by-a-serial killer storyline. The award is sponsored by the online magazine Pretty/Scary: For and By Women in Horror which called Tomlinson’s performance, “groundbreaking.” Scream TV said, “Ms. Tomlinson is fascinating to watch in this role … (her) strong performance as (the heroine) Rudy is one of the most exciting in recent memory.” A sequel to The Cellar Door is slated for production in 2010.

Tomlinson also stars in the Kevin Tenney (Witchboard) directed, humorous, high-concept horror film Brain Dead. Brain Dead was honored with the “Best B-Movie” award at the ShockerFest Film Festival, and has picked up nominations and awards for visual effects, makeup, screenplay, and best horror feature at over a dozen film festivals.  The film just finished a theatrical release and is being released on DVD. George’s Intervention, a tongue-in-cheek horror comedy feature directed by JT Seaton is also making the Festival Rounds with 11+ Film Festivals.

Tomlinson’s acting abilities span far beyond just the horror genre. She also currently stars in the indie drama Indelible, which has received several awards on the festival circuit and just wrapped shooting two features back to back (Second Class Citizens playing a white supremacist and …Xtra Man playing a fluffy and vapid ex-stripper!)

In her approach to her craft, Tomlinson exhibits the kind of discipline and creativity one might expect from the child of a Marine and an artist. While festivals feature the work of scores of actors, rarely does a performer enjoy four feature films (playing diverse characters) circulating the festivals at the same time.

Fatally Yours: What are your first memories of the horror genre and what drew you to it?

Michelle Tomlinson: Watching Freddie scare the hell outta teenagers with my Dad. I love gory special effects, even since childhood. I always wanted to play the girl who gets to kick the villains ass.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Michelle Tomlinson: Taking ordinary circumstances, adding a twist of lime and making even the most mundane moment explode with suspense and fear. Also something that can get deep in your psyche and disturb you at the sheer possibility of ‘that’s something that could actually happen.’

Fatally Yours: When did you discover you wanted to pursue acting as a career and how did you set about fulfilling this dream? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Ever since I was about six. I did a few plays when I was a kid then switched gears in high school and focused on Video Productions instead. I got to learn the other side of the camera. I picked acting up again when I was in college at ENMU and got my Bachelor’s in Theatre. Shortly after graduation, I scooted to L.A. It seemed like the logical next step.

Fatally Yours: Was there one specific role you played in a horror film that made you want to pursue more opportunities in the horror genre or have you always wanted to act in horror? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Hands down, it was working with Kevin Tenney in the Feature Film Brain Dead. Not only did I have a blast with my character, work with the greatness that is Kevin, I also got to see some really cool special effects happen behind the scenes. I fell in love.

Fatally Yours: Many of your performances have been very well received. Do you have a favorite character you’ve played or performance you’ve given? 

Michelle Tomlinson: It might sound nuts, but I love them all. No matter what character it is, I still see room for growth and improvement in every film I’ve been in. I love the process and the experience of getting to put on different “skin suits” and consider myself blessed I’ve been able to do that and that some people dig it.

Fatally Yours: What upcoming horror films are you working on?

Michelle Tomlinson: There’s a sequel to The Cellar Door in development that I’m particularly excited about.  I have a few other projects in the fire, but that’s the one that’s horror.

Fatally Yours: When can fans expect to see more webisodes of The Mis-Adventures of McT & A, your web-series with Kimberly Amato? 

Michelle Tomlinson: As soon as humanly possible. Amato and I are working on our scheduling for that as we speak and talking about different avenues and ideas of shooting things simultaneously across the coasts. The short answer: SOON.

Fatally Yours: How did The Mis-Adventures of McT & A come about?

Michelle Tomlinson: A Skype meeting in the middle of the night. We were up late and brainstorming. Keep in mind I live in LA and Amato lives in NY…So when I say middle of the night it was around 11:30pm here and 2:30am there. We got a little slap happy and started tossing out ideas and came out with that one. It was Amato’s original concept and we both tinkered with it from there.

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

Michelle Tomlinson: Simply being a part of it is something I am extremely proud of. I have met life-altering people in this genre. I’ve accomplished one of my lifelong goals: To be in horror flicks.

Fatally Yours: Are there certain roles you haven’t taken or will refuse to take because they are too exploitative or make you uncomfortable? 

Michelle Tomlinson: It takes quite a bit to make me feel uncomfortable in a role. That doesn’t mean I haven’t turned down a role here and there, but ultimately if it’s a good project I’m in. I’ve done the nudity thing, but it was something that added to the storyline of the film. Not to mention it was in a blink and you’ll miss it section. I suppose if I were asked to run around naked for the majority of a film just for sales, I’d respectfully decline.

Fatally Yours: Dario Argento once said, “I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man.” Alfred Hitchcock elaborated by saying, “I always believe in following the advice of the playwright Sardou. He said, ‘Torture the women!’ The trouble today is that we don’t torture enough.” What is your reaction when reading those quotes? 

Michelle Tomlinson: It really sucks that women have always been a target for violent and torturous acts in film. I know it’s twisted, but it’s understandable to a certain degree. We’re supposedly softer, weaker, nicer and more vulnerable than the fellas. The juxtaposition is that we’re actually quite the opposite in every way so we’re all playing against the type of who we really are! I also feel like most guys like the idea of being the hero to a damsel in distress. It’s a male dominated genre and industry. It only makes sense. This is where I quote Ani DiFranco though: “What if there are no damsels in distress… And I called your bluff… Don’t you think every kitten figures out how to get down whether or not you ever show up?” 

Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed by the stereotypical “bimbo in distress” who always seems to end up naked for no apparent reason that many horror movies feature?

Michelle Tomlinson: Yes. I do. I know T & A increase sales, I get it. Thankfully, it seems like we are heading into an arena where that’s not always the case and those aren’t always the roles. In watching The Strangers,  Liv Tyler did not once bare all. And she was most certainly a girl in distress. The lack of showing her rack did not lend to a lesser film. It scared the hell out of me plenty without it.

Fatally Yours: What horror movie would you say is equally fair in terms of men being objectified or at least, losing the same amount of clothes?

Michelle TomlinsonHostel.

Fatally Yours: What are your overall thoughts on how women are portrayed in horror films?

Michelle Tomlinson: My thoughts are conflicted. Sometimes women are shown to be these weak and feeble creatures with zero redeeming strong qualities. Other times, there’s some meat and strength to them. Like in Wolf Creek. Albeit the ending made me go nuts, there was some seriously strong and weak female character work going on simultaneously throughout the whole film. The roles are balancing themselves out. It’s not just high school bimbos getting axed whilst pleasuring the male lead anymore!

Fatally Yours: What has been the most challenging character you’ve had to portray? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Definitely Rudy from The Cellar Door. She had extreme moments of vulnerability that made me cringe. I don’t care to share my vulnerability with people just being me! But between the kick ass script that Chris Nelson wrote and an amazing Director in Matt Zettell mixed with me allowing myself to just GET OVER IT, I did get there. Rudy was such a cool ride.

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

Michelle Tomlinson: I would kick Freddie’s ass for scaring the living hell out of me as a child. As for being the Villain, I’d love to play a wicked twisted serial killer…Just to see if I could.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed more women becoming involved behind the camera as directors, producers, writers, etc.? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Absolutely. Look at Heidi Martinuzzi! The girl is her own mutli-hyphenate in the Horror Industry.  One of my best friends is Brooke Lewis, for those few who don’t know her, she’s been Producing and Acting in Horror Films. Her latest project is the critically acclaimed iMurders. Amato was a co-Producer on Under the Raven’s Wing and my girl Alexis Adkins is writing a series called Be Nice that’s more twisted than anything out there. So yes, I definitely see a rise with women on that side of the camera!

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

Michelle Tomlinson: Definitely the aforementioned females from the last question. I’m lucky because I actually know them and adore them. And of course there’s Jamie Lee Curtis and Lynn Lowry. Lynn was a joy to work with on George’s Intervention and Jamie Lee just seems like a bad ass who all but originated the term Scream Queen.

Fatally Yours: What would be your dream role/project?

Michelle Tomlinson: As far as non-horror, Amato and I have two feature film projects in development that are dream projects, Touch and Dreaming Reality. Touch is a really gritty Sundance indie drama and the character is a private investigator with a pretty serious past who has to kick a lot of ass in the present. Dreaming Reality is more a dramedy and the character is sassy as all hell. Both will be a lot of fun.
In the horror realm, I really would love to play some kind of supremely mental-case twisted chick who’s a serial killer. I don’t know why that appeals to me so much, but it’s just so beyond dark that I’m fascinated to see if I could pull it off and still keep the character likable in some respects.

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

Michelle Tomlinson: Always side with integrity and you’ll be ok. We get put in some pretty hairy situations sometimes and are forced to make some pretty serious decisions. When we start to make a dent in our careers, you’ll be amazed at the slime that will ooze up from the gutters in the form of a flashy smile and sports car.

Keep your head at all times and live in integrity.

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

Michelle Tomlinson: To me, a Scream Queen is a strong female character in a horror film played by an actor strong enough to pull her off. The ultimate? Jamie Lee Curtis.  Hands down. The more modern Scream Queens that I love and adore for their skill? Kimberly Amato and Brooke Lewis. Perhaps I’m biased, but I am attracted to focused and skilled human beings – so I think that my opinion is a strongly supported one!

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Michelle Tomlinson:  Never knowing when the end game is. I’m so in love with life and I’m excited to still be a part of it. My Mom, nature, animals and my friends all inspire me to constantly reach higher.

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

Michelle Tomlinson: To create even stronger and more interesting female characters set within extraordinary circumstances that creep people out and maybe even make them think a little bit. I just want to keep going, ya know? This is what I love.

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

Michelle Tomlinson:

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