Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Strassman. There are many reasons why her name may be familiar to you! She is not only an actress, but also a voice over artist, and a dialect coach as well. She has appeared in recurring roles for both Amazon Prime’s Bosch as D.D.A. Laura Tribe and AMC’s Preacher as Dr. Slotnick. Recently she appeared in Shudder’s Creepshow episode “Times is Tough in Musky Holler,” which is where our interview starts.
Michelle Patterson: I must admit I just finished watching Creepshow in its entirety last night. As soon as I started watching the series I felt this mad desire to watch everything. I have to say out of all the episodes, “Times is Tough in Musky Holler” was probably the most intense of the series. I was on the edge of my seat because I knew something was going on, but obviously, until the last three deaths, you don’t truly know.
When you were filming, was there a person in full zombie garb actually coming toward you at that moment?
Karen Strassman: There were a couple of different zombies. There were two zombies that were completely fake and created by some of the best puppeteers in the country. And then the zombie that ate me was actually a real human being. She’s a gal that does a lot of stunt work for The Walking Dead so she’s really good at creature stuff.
The two others were mechanical and manually operated puppets. We were under some scaffolding very low to the ground. The victims were sitting on apple boxes with our heads poking through the scaffolding. They made slats through scaffolding so the zombies were on top but the metacarpals themselves that were connected to the hand and all that we’re funneled underneath and the guys who were operating the zombies were lying on their backs on apple boxes basically between our legs because it was so tight down there.
It’s so cool to watch and be a part of. They couldn’t even see what they were doing which shows that they were incredible at what they do on top of the puppets being extraordinary.
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#BehindTheScenes of yesterday's episode of @CreepshowTV #Creepshow playing Leslianne Dowd opposite @DavidArquette in “Times is Tough in Musky Holler” under the inspired direction of John Harrison and Greg Nicotero @gnicotero only on @shudder …just in time for #Halloween!! As always, thanks to #FeldsteinParisCasting and my team at @stwtalent! . . . . #karenstrassman #actress #voiceoverartist #dialectcoach #preacheramc #boschamazon #siliconvalleyHBO #residentevil2 #residentevil2remake #hollywoodactress #filmactress #americanactress #actressstyle #cuteactress #femaleactress #filmography #filmindustry #hollywoodlife #hollywoodactor #sagaftramember #womeninmedia #womeninfilmandtv #womeninhollywood
MP: To learn that they were mostly puppets for me is insanity. It really shows how much work Nicotero takes into what he does and how much he cares.
What do you think your character was thinking upon seeing the zombie coming her way to destroy her?
KS: Oh terror! Just horrible terror because what we were told about the story is that we had set this thing up for our victims. So we basically already knew what was going to happen which was even more terrible.
MP: There is something absolutely terrifying about knowing that there’s a contraption out there is now going to be the death of you.
KS: It’s kind of like if you know three weeks in advance that you’re going to go to the dentist and you know you’re going to have a root canal. Even two days ahead of time. Those two days are not happy days.
MP: I know that her character seemed like a mere gossip that put scenarios into motion at times. Do you think this was too harsh of a crime for the character despite her having a hand in on the same fate for others?
KS: No because she was responsible for the death of the zombie who ate me. If the viewers look at it again, they will see in the beauty parlor that I’m actually gossiping about her. And she gets killed because I’m gossiping about her and she’s also in the salon in that one little comic scene. She caused other deaths too from what I was lead to believe. She was a baddie.
MP: Do you prefer playing a bad guy?
KS: I do, I really do. I grew up really being a good girl. When I was in the sixth grade I won the Best Citizenship Award. All my friends referred to that as the goody-goody award. it was my identity to be a good girl. we all have our survival techniques when we are children. I don’t even like to kill insects. I don’t like to hurt people I’m actually really afraid of hurting people in real life. It just breaks my heart to hurt somebody. It’s really fun to allow my shadow side to come out and explore those parts of my own humanity because we all have that. We all have different facets of ourselves. I think it’s healthy to get in touch with that. I’d even say that it’s the repressed part of me getting to come out. The repressed bitch in me gets to come out. I do enjoy that and I’m surprisingly good at it.
MP: I noticed you play the character Barbara Dowels in Tom Six’s upcoming film called The Onania Club. Based on the synopsis I read it’s about strong independent LA women who are aroused by the misery of others. What drew you to want to be part of such a film?
KS: It was a hard decision to make actually. The role was an offer. Tom and his production company contacted me and offered me the role. When I got on Skype to interview with him, I didn’t know what the film was about. I just knew his previous work and I thought to myself, “I don’t know if I can do that.” I was thinking when the interview started that I would talk to him and see what this is all about. But there was 99.9% of me that thought I would turn whatever the role is down.
Then as soon as we were on Skype we truly connected as artists. He told me about the project and that it would be extremely different from his previous projects. This would be much more of a psychological thriller and not graphic in the same way as his other projects. We talked about it and the basis of Schadenfreude. The word in German literally means taking pleasure from other people’s pain. We talked about how it’s such a part of humanity that people don’t acknowledge or admit. Even people driving on the highway, everybody slows down and rubbernecks because they want to see death. It’s fascinating and it’s exciting to people. It’s not the thought of “oh this is horrible let me drive past it real quick so I don’t have to see it.” Most people slow down and try to crane their neck to see something horrible. You get into the darker parts of this world and there’s a great part of the population, I’d say a privileged part as well, that finds release and pleasure in other people’s suffering. The film is an allegory. So in some ways, it might seem bigger than life but if you really look at life and what’s going on, in reality, it’s a lot worse than what you’re going to see in the film.
MP: You mentioned that you had a connection with Tom. What was it like once you were on set getting to work him?
KS: It was a really positive and uplifting working experience. He is a wonderful director and he gives his actors a tremendous amount of freedom. Not everything is set in stone so we are kind of co-creating with him. We also don’t even know what our lines are going to be when we arrive on set. I’ve heard Woody Allen does that as well. It makes you feel very alive and in the moment.
Working with the four other women in the movie, we just bonded so quickly. It was contrary to how things happen in the film and often with other groups of women. There was just such a sense of support. We all got so close and didn’t want the film to end. We are still all in contact right now and we miss each other. We went through a lot together throughout the course of the days. It was really such a wonderful experience of that shoot for so many reasons.
MP: It sounds like it was a fantastic set to be on because I’ve noticed that you don’t always hear about that camaraderie that comes on sets like that.
KS: There was an immense camaraderie in what we had to do in these roles. They were very daunting at first but became very liberating by the end of the shoot.
MP: I’ve noticed that the horror genre keeps weaving itself in and out of the roles you take on. Is the horror genre something you have liked your entire life? Or is the horror genre one that you never envisioned yourself being a part of ultimately?
KS: It’s a funny thing as an evolving actor it wasn’t anything I necessarily focused on or saw myself doing. And I actually don’t watch too much horror because I’m overly sensitive and very suggestible. So whatever I watch in a horror film those images will replay as I’m lying in bed at night.
I’m not one of those people who go oh my god that’s so cool! I am very susceptible and I will actually believe it and get lost in the story. So it’s difficult for me to watch, but it’s a funny thing because I really enjoy shooting that genre. There’s always such a heightened reality involved. It’s also a realm where you really get to play such wonderful character roles. One of my dream shows would be to be on American Horror Story. There’s so much creativity that goes on on that set.
I’ve come to just truly love the genre. And again it’s a funny thing because as much as it scares me to watch people being covered in blood on TV when I’m on set we’d be up until four in the morning shooting Creepshow covered in blood with bits of zombie guts on our face and our clothes…and it was just so much fun! It’s fun to create those fantasy worlds and dive into those realities.
MP: Creepshow wasn’t your first interaction with Zombies either. You have been in the Resident Evil franchise for a little bit, especially with Vendetta. You lent your voice to what most fans would consider one of the most heartbreaking scenes in Resident Evil: Vendetta.
Kathy White was a BSAA agent declared missing. Unfortunately by the time Chris finds her, both her and her son have been zombified thanks to Glenn Arias.
However, on film there wasn’t a big backstory for her and Chris. He obviously had such a profound reaction to her death. In your mind because of his reaction did you create a backstory for them? Why did he have such a strong reaction to losing her?
KS: I never explored that too much. That would be the kind of thing I would have explored if I were him. Because I was dead I chose to focus more on that part of my story. For most of these things, I would create a backstory, but we didn’t talk about it quite as much. And when I realized that I thought that’s cool. Let’s leave that up to the fans to project onto that. How did you feel about it?
To read more of our interview with Karen Strassman click here.