Last night, I had the privilege of interviewing Michelle Tomlinson, most famous for her role in 2007’s “Cellar Door”. Here’s how it went!
John Lepper: Thank you, Ms. Tomlinson, for this opportunity to interview you. You’re an actress with a large number of roles under your belt, many of them horror. While you dabble in other genres, what would you say keeps you coming back?
Michelle Tomlinson: Thank YOU for having me, John. It’s the love of the craft that keeps me coming back. I absolutely love acting.
JL: That’s great! Passion about the work is very important. Would you say you enjoy acting in horror especially? If so, why?
MT: I love the creativity behind all things horror. You get to go through some really bizarre circumstances that wouldn’t have the chance to happen in a romantic comedy or something. I was killed by cosmic alien slime in BRAIN DEAD–that’s not something we do every day! Another thing I love about horror is that it pushes us to our outer most limits on so many levels. My imagination gets tapped into much deeper, darker and more challenging places with horror, which is FUN. I always love a good challenge.
The make-up, blood and f/x with horror are a lot of fun as well. I’ve loved learning a little bit about practical effects and have much more appreciation for them vs prior to my being any part of the horror genre.
JL: So, you’re wearing multiple hats sometimes, too! Acting and prac fx are my favorites as well. I see that you are also a graduated theatre major. Not a lot of people think of professionally trained actors in horror, but it’s more prevalent than people think. What method were you taught? Can you tell me what it involves?
MT: I did indeed graduate with a BFA in Theatre Performance from ENMU in New Mexico. Theatre is 1000% my foundation and my first passion. In my collegiate setting, we studied a ton of different methods and styles of acting. When I moved to Los Angeles, I got a lot more specific and took a couple years of Strasberg classes and then a few years of Stella Adler classes. Arthur Mendoza taught Adler. He was a fantastic teacher who kicked my ass eight ways to Sunday to hone in on the discipline it takes to be an actor. What I love about Adler is that we have to focus on WHAT we are doing, every moment of a scene and that the imagination is the most limitless tool actors have in their tool belt. I’m not big on substitution, so Adler was a perfect fit for me. After years of scene study and college, I also studied with Amy Lyndon to learn more about the actual business side of the acting industry and more about booking jobs.
JL: I’ve heard good things about both Adler and Strasberg methods. I was taught primarily Chekhov with a little Stanislovsky myself. Can you give an example of how you’ve used your training in the creation of one of your characters?
MT: Aha! Yes, Adler hails straight from Stanislovsky, so we are speaking the same language.
I used to be really freaked out about crying and having to be vulnerable. In Adler classes, I learned how to access it. Then I got freaked out that I couldn’t STOP the crying and vulnerability once it started, and Adler classes taught me how to get out of it.
These were two huge tools for me to take into creating the character Rudy from THE CELLAR DOOR. Rudy was a girl, trapped in a box, and having to figure out how to get out and save herself.
Through the course of the film, there were 90 zillion moments of sheer vulnerability, crying happened, all that stuff that used to scare me as an actor! I was really excited to put to use what Adler taught me and shine a light within myself to be able to go days on days with those swimming around in me. I was exhilarated at the end of every day of shooting, just from the sheer joy of the emotional workout.
A couple other drama features that I did, OFFICER DOWN and UNDERCURRENT both had me working that vulnerability muscle and I just loved every minute of doing it.
JL: Very cool! It sounds like you really have figured out how to not only get out of your comfort zone, but to enjoy it! What would you say has been your favorite role so far? How come?
MT: Favorite role….. Hmmmmm. Not sure if that exists….? I’ve really enjoyed pretty much all the roles I’ve been fortunate enough to portray. All of them have their challenges. Carl Darchuk, the Director of PATHETICALLY CHEAP ADVENTURES…. cast me in my first broad comedic character. That completely freaked me out, because I had never played someone so vapid as Subtitle Girl in all my life. Then I looked at how many truly silly bonehead moments I have in my regular life and realized… I really could do it. With Rudy and The Cellar Door, I used my imagination of “what if” to take me to darker places… As Claudia Bush in Brain Dead, I got to be the tough smartass. All of them are fun and all of them are challenging. So I guess my answer is I honestly don’t have A favorite. I just like to have a good time diving into challenges.
And with Cheryl in AXE TO GRIND, I had the challenge of playing an uber cocky female who was a dominating girl who cared more about her red lipstick than any other living soul.
JL: A fair answer, to be sure. You really are someone very passionate for the art and that you choose to devote so much time to the horror genre is awesome. I want to thank you again for your time. Before I let you go, do you have anything more to tell the readers?
MT: Thank you! My passion for all things acting is exactly why I enjoy teaching acting to others. My three loves are Acting, Coaching and Producing–which I am getting into more and more. It’s a beautiful life and we are just damn lucky to be north of the grass on any given day. Thank you so much for the interview, John!
JL: It was my pleasure! And thank you again for your time! All the best in your endeavors.
You can look for Michelle in her upcoming roles in “Axe to Grind”, “The Divine Order”, and “The Resurrection of Malchus”!
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