*Interview* Actress, Scream Queen and Genre Veteran Brooke Lewis Bellas

[Photo courtesy of Brooke Lewis Bellas]

AR: Thank you so much for your time Brooke.

BLB: Thank you, Jeff it’s an honour to be here.

AR: What inspired you to become an actress?

BLB: I was such an emotional and empathic child and I knew I was destined to share my emotions with the world in some way, shape or form. I was such a crazy kid, I would sit by myself at the television and literally talk to the characters on my favourite TV shows and I would visualize myself in the actual scene in the shows. I know it sounds nutty, but I’m nutty and I suppose that’s what makes me a creative person and at times a decent actress. I knew in my heart I was meant to do something unique and share emotions with the world and do something that would evoke emotion in others. I also think I was such an insecure child I needed some sort of external validation or love or admiration, I am being brutally honest about that. It brought me toward the entertainment industry and I gravitated toward something in the public eye where I could reach the masses.

AR: You have the ‘Scream Queen’ title, that must feel like a badge of honour?

[Photo courtesy of Brooke Lewis Bellas]

BLB: It is absolutely a badge of honour for me! I know that sounds crazy at times. People would say to me, “Brooke you have performed on Broadway, network sitcoms and yet you graciously embrace being titled a Scream Queen” and as a scream queen I always say in public and in interviews, like the night I was honoured to walk the SpikeTV Scream Awards in 2010 and was asked by major television stations on how it felt to be called a Scream Queen and to me a Scream Queen is a sexy, powerful actress in horror films or television and for me, it is and was bestowed upon me after I acted in Kinky Killers on SHOWTIME which I acted in with Oscar-nominated Charles Durning and other wonderful veteran actors. All of a sudden fan mail came in, and I was getting offers to appear at horror conventions from Texas Frightmare Weekend to Crypticon Seattle, Weekend Of Horrors, HorrorHound Magazine, It was just amazing and I feel it is something I have embraced and I have worked very very hard to have that title bestowed upon me.

AR: I am going to assume you were a fan of the horror genre growing up?

BLB: HELL YES! That’s the funniest part, I never thought I’d star in horror films growing up and become a known scream queen. I loved vampires when I was a little girl! I was obsessed, I know it’s a little weird and crazy *laughs* maybe that’s where my Ms. Vampy character was inspired in some way and I grew up in the 80s, so watching the great originals once we got a VHS player I would rent the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I loved An American Werewolf In London, it was one of my favourite as a teenager. Prom Night with Jamie Lee Curtis who is one of my forever scream queen inspirations. I was an absolute horror fan. I remember being at Sundance in 2004 and seeing Saw and that was my inspiration, so I called my producing partners, and they wanted to produce a film together through my production company Philly Chick Pictures. So I said I wanted to do a psychological horror thriller. Saw had just released and people were running down the road screaming. That’s what I wanted to make and I hadn’t even seen it yet. I was kind of like a visionary so that’s how it all came full circle.

AR: You mentioned Vampires, what would be your favourite vampire movie?

BLB: Great question, There is that part of me that is a teenage girl, and I am a Twilight fanatic, the very first one. It’s such a beautiful film all teenagers should watch and Lost Boys is one of my favourite from my teenage years also Interview With A Vampire if you want to get sophisticated. It’s cinematic, such an exceptional film, brilliant.

AR: I haven’t watched Interview With A Vampire In years.

BLB: OMG me too, we need to go back and watch it! I will hold you accountable.

AR: Who would be your idols in the industry?

BLB: In cinema overall I will say actresses like Meryl Streep, she is just impeccable, you have current day Viola Davis who is just perfection on the screen, when it comes to horror and sci-fi I look to Sigourney Weaver from Aliens who is so badass and such an inspiration or Sean Young who I have been so blessed to meet at conventions. For the horror genre my obsessions are Elvira. I can’t believe I have gotten to do so many horror conventions and pop culture conventions and I have been in booths next to Elvira, she is just beautiful. I mentioned Jamie Lee Curtis earlier, some others are the scream queens from yesteryear who are real talented actresses and television stars like Adrienne Barbeau, The Fog, Creespshow, those films inspire me so. I want to follow in their footsteps and have a career like Jamie Lee Curtis or Adrienne Barbeau.

AR: You have had a successful career.

BLB: Wow! Thank you, Jeff. That means the world to me because when it’s us we don’t always feel like we have hit the success we want to, we always want more. I know I always aspire to do and be better, and so I just really wait and hope for my big TV series to hit.

AR: When selecting scripts/roles what draws you in, character or story?

BLB: That is an incredible question, I struggle with that conflict presented in that question. When I was younger I would get very drawn to a script because of the role I was being offered, especially if it was a direct offer or a wonderful director would come and ask me to be in the movie and let me select the role I wanted. I have had that opportunity, in a movie titled Slime City Massacre, I chose a supporting role. That being said when I was younger I would have gone after the role that excited me and inspired me, now I’m a little more seasoned and more of veteran in the industry in that capacity I really have to read the script and be inspired by the story overall. There are so many more components for me now. The role must speak to me and I have to fully know I can deliver the best performance I can give, whereas when I was a bit younger I would have said “Ah yeah, I can do this role” and would have chosen it due to the character and the overall picture and finally delivery isn’t exactly what you had expected, anticipated or hoped for. At this point for me in my life and career there is a combination of both. I also want to add to that, Jeff, and say that especially in the indie film world where I have, I say this humbly, made some mark hopefully and I get the direct offer sometimes and there have been times I have had to turn projects down due to other components involved in it. For me, it has to make sense in ever way and it has to have a solid script and screenplay. That’s where it starts for me every time, It has to be a great role and it has to be a director I want to work with or a director with experience, hopefully a cast that will have some cache name with it. All of those components are important to me as I am getting more seasoned in the industry. I want the whole package.

[Photo courtesy of Brooke Lewis Bellas]

AR: With that being said, you have read and chosen a script, how do you prepare for your character?

BLB: These questions are really powerful! For me, it always starts with the script. I am one of those actresses that will tear through the script. My acting coach, Tim Phillips, who I must say a big thank you to has taught me to break down and dissect the entire script and seeing the visuals and pictures and understanding where you are in every beat and moment. I then go back to my lessons in New York where I studied with Anthony Abeson, and he was very much about teaching me the “magic if” and sense memory and keep me in the space of feeling. In a nutshell, I am a method actress to the best I know how to be. I have been known to do a lot of work and put in time for roles and it comes back and bites me in the ass. iMurders for example, I was an executive producer on that, and we were developing the project for about a year before we filmed and I would watch a lot of the TV mystery/crime dramas where I would look at the young female lead FBI agents, Detective characters. I would spend time watching Law & Order, Criminal Minds and try to emulate some young female detectives that were badass and sexy ladies. With iMurders, which is probably one of the films I am most known for, I got the worst feedback of my entire career, reviews stated things such as “Brooke Lewis looks like she should be starring in a camp slasher flick, not a sophisticated mystery” they went onto say I showed too much cleavage. It was so ridiculous as on TV the actresses were wearing far less and unbuttoned far more. Those are the types of things you learn as you go and I try not to make the same mistakes I made in the past. I really do my homework and sometimes I succeed and others I fail miserably, but isn’t that what life’s about?

AR: You haven’t failed miserably, not many actresses have as many credentials and own their own production company.

BLB: *laughs* thank you, thank you so much, I am incredibly flattered by that, as I still see myself as having a long way to go.

AR: What lead you to start your own production company?

BLB: After making a living acting right out of college for four years in New York and making a nice living out of it and being signed with a top tier agency, I decided to take a chance I had auditioned for some TV stuff in Hollywood which I then decided to move to Hollywood and guess what that top tier agency wouldn’t take me in Hollywood as I didn’t have enough TV credentials then I signed with a smaller agency. I didn’t have contacts here or family in the industry, so I really had to figure out ways to maneuver the Hollywood industry and this was many years ago now. I had decided I wasn’t going to wait for the phone to ring, I am going create my own opportunities. I went and took a bunch of producing classes, I took producing workshops and then I jumped onto friends’ productions and said I’ll help out for free to learn the ropes and I did it hands on. My advice to young filmmakers is get the hands-on experience, there is nothing like it, that’s how I learnt the ropes. I realized I was good at it and it comes naturally to me, and I am a good producer. I saved and raised a bit of investment money and launched my own production company. I did it only because I love acting more than anything, I did it as a way to create opportunities for myself first and for most as an actress and to make a living, when I wasn’t acting, I could pick up some production jobs. I think you need a smart business mind to be a great producer and I think you also need solid social skills, which I am blessed with both. I have worked and studied for both as well. That’s how I launched Philly Chick Pictures.

AR: Producing would be quite risky? I mean if you’re starring you go in and do your bit. Whereas when producing you have invested money?

BLB: If you’re an executive producer you are financially investing in the project that’s why they always tell you “don’t go to family and friends for investment money” and I’m serious. I have done executive producing where I raised large amounts of money and funding years ago for films. I have also raised smaller amounts for lower budget projects and yes, I have also been a full-blown producer on a number of projects and that’s where you are running the entire show as a producer you are doing the day-to-day nuts and bolts of the production and it is one of the hardest jobs I think you could ever find. I produced and acted in a successful film titled Sinatra Club. It was a mafia drama based on a true story centering around John Gotti, it was the night he became John Gotti… As in the John Gotti. It was such a great story, and I was working with mobsters out of the witness protection programme. Salvatore Polisi was the main guy. He wrote a book wanted to make a film about it, so we did. I had found the script at a Halloween party in 2004. We made the film, shot it in the summer of 2009 and then released and distributed it in 2011, that was a full-blown seven years of my life I was one of the main producers. It was one of the most stressful things I have done.

AR: While we are on producing, you have a new show upcoming titled Red Rooms. What can you tell me about it?

BLB: I am executive producing it and it’s a Philly Chick Pictures project. So I am running the entire show. Fortunately, I am in partnership with Joshua Butler who is director and creator of the show. We are doing it as a steaming series, Joshua and I met in 2008 on the horror genre circuit. He got picked up by MTV and had a TV series and has since become a very successful TV director and one of my very close friends. We had been wanting to work together and has discussed doing a sequel to his show Vlog. Well I made a suggestion to shoot proof of concept, which we did in October last year. We were going to bring it to fruition and do a full-blown shoot but Covid-19 appeared. I went to Joshua and said “We should finish filming this, I have an idea” — this was way before everyone started doing this and I said let’s finish this virtually. If anybody could have done it, it was Joshua he is pretty, incredibly, brilliant. We did and we filmed. Now we are in post-production it has been a wild ride, and we have been working around the clock. The theme is about the dark web, the deep dark Web, it’s sort of like The Purge, there is these wealthy people who pay these dark cults to abduct people and bring them to a room where they physically and mentally torture them and people pay money to watch this on the Internet. That being said, we’re in a pandemic so everything is CGI, As we can’t hire FX crew. We are focusing on the psychological torture, and we have an incredible cast. We also have an incredible composer named Luna Pan, she is composing the entire series via Australia, so you see how virtual this is!

AR: Sounds amazing, do you have a release in mind?

BLB: We actually don’t because of Covid-19. We are taking our time in post-production to make it perfect. Hopefully at the end of next year all being well.

AR: For fans eagerly awaiting your next film you have a zombie movie due out soon, titled Day Of The Living Dead.

BLB: Yes, I am super excited, that will be on On Demand worldwide. I worked with the badass director Thomas Churchill. We did this a couple of years back, it’s the glitz and glam of the 1950s and I play a supporting role and it’s a really cool role. I am running the Deadly Sin Cigarette company, and I am at the helm trying to find out alongside a detective — George Lazarus, what is happening as people are smoking our cigarettes and filing these claims they’re becoming sick and turning into zombies, If you’re a zombie fan you will love this. It has a very throwback vibe to it, I think it’s really mystery fun and t delivers the blood, guts and gore. It’s like an homage to Romero, whom we all love. It’s definitely very Romero-esque.

AR: Sounds great, cannot wait as I love a zombie movie. Minus what we mentioned what’s next, Brooke?

BLB: So shout out to another film I’m executive producing and acting in from the incredible Staci Layne Wilson, it is titled The Second Age Of Aquarius, it is smart and hilarious it’s a comedy, sci-fi, music movie. It’s an indie film in which I play the supporting role Tawny Stevens. I am a young mum stuck in New Jersey, and I am a 80s rocker mum. It’s fantastic, fun and filled with heart!

The other one that just released is talented Marc Clebanoff’s The Mourning, which I was a co-producer and played a supporting part in, it is on Tubi TV and will be on Amazon Prime soon. It is a drama, romance with a supernatural sci-fi twist. That stars Dominique Swain, Louis Mandylor and many more!

Another Marc Clebanoff TV project titled Stripped, that I am a producer on and play one of the lead roles, and l got to act in it opposite the incerdible Casper Van Dien, everyone keep an eye open for Stripped next year!

AR: Thank you so much for your time Brooke, it was a pleasure having you on

BLB: I am so honoured and grateful, Jeff, thank you for spending all this time chatting with me!

AR:Good luck with all your upcoming projects, come back, so we can talk more

BLB: Thank you, I am definitely holding you to it!


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