Gavin Schmitt Interviews Actress Brooke Lewis
Brooke Lewis created Philly Chick Pictures in 2002. After growing up and beginning her creative dreams in Philly, she moved to New York City and got her break playing Donna Marsala in the Off-Broadway hit comedy “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding”. She made her living acting in New York for four years, before packing it up and heading to Hollywood. Never forgetting her ties to the LOVE statue and Geno’s Steaks, she created Philly Chick Pictures to further her acting and producing career.
On March 1, 2011, we talked about her career in the world of horror, and to promote her new film which has just been released. Brooke is amazing, fun, and a hard worker, and I strongly urge everyone to check out her films and her web series, “Ms. Vampy”.
GS: Hi, Brooke.
BL: Hey, Gavin. I’m so excited to talk to you today! I love Killer Reviews. When my publicist told me I would be talking to you, I was really excited!
GS: So, for people who don’t know, who is Brooke Lewis, and why should horror fans be aware of her?
BL: Brooke Lewis is a crazy, fun, passionate, emotional actress and producer. A vampire freak, and horror fans should know who I am because I have been dubbed a “scream queen”, and I am committed to doing really cool films and really cool roles — unique stuff in the horror genre and the horror community.
GS: You were cast as Mark Ruffalo’s girlfriend in 54 (1998), but apparently we can no longer see that scene…
BL: The bottom line is, I was really young in New York starting out my career. I was so amped to go in and audition, and they told me the part was for Mark Ruffalo’s girlfriend. I was in a scene with Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Phillipe, who at the times were not big stars yet. They were also starting off their careers. So casting brought me in and I nailed it. I booked the role. It was my first time being on a set, I had my own trailer, and I was hanging out with Ryan and Mark. It was so surreal. Everyone was telling me I got my break. But then I was on set for 15 hours, and I was hanging out in my trailer, and someone came in and told me they were sending me home for the day. We were behind schedule and word on the street said we were over budget. They called my agent and brought me back in the next day. Same thing happened. And that was the end of that — they cut out of the last five scenes of the film, and that was the end of my big break.
GS: So the scenes were cut before filming, they don’t even exist as outtakes somewhere?
BL: We never even shot the scene. We rehearsed it. I was in hair and makeup. I was a Jersey girl, they had a leather jacket for me, but we never shot it. It was heartbreaking. It’s actually happened to me a couple times. It happened to me on “A Man Apart” with Vin Diesel. So, I have to ask myself, “Is it me? Do I suck?” Of course, I know that’s just the business and you have to roll with it…
GS: In 2008, you appeared in films with David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Billy Dee Williams, Tony Todd and William Forsythe. Did you get to spend any time with them outside of the set?
BL: I did not get to spend time with David Carradine. I heard great things about him, but I did not get to work with him. I was not in any scenes with Michael Madsen, but I did get to spend time with him at the premieres. We took pictures together at the Los Angeles premiere and were able to chat it up. He is just so cool, he’s a super-cool guy. I did not have any scenes with Billy Dee Williams, but being an executive producer on that meant I was on set for many days. That man, I have to say, he is one sexy man. I don’t care if he’s 73 or whatever he is now — he is one sexy, suave man. And William Forsythe?
GS: William Forsythe and Tony Todd yet.
BL: We’ll save Tony for last. William Forsythe, again, since I was executive producer I was on set quite a bit. Both William Forsythe and Tony Todd need to be acknowledged on “iMurders”. I got to travel, we traveled for about a year on that one with the producers, hitting many horror conventions and festivals. William Forsythe and Tony Todd really got behind us on this picture, traveling with us. They supported every screening. Anyone looking to make a movie, hire these guys — they are all about promoting the film. Forsythe is unique, just so unique. He has so many different sides to him. One minute he can be tense, and the next minute he’s lovable and hugging you. He is a great actor with such intensity.
I had to save Tony for last because I spent the most time with him and starred opposite him, we played detective partners together. Ten out of twelve scenes I had were with Tony. And he is so well-trained, so talented. But he’s fun, too. Every day we would go on set for “iMurders” and he would (jokingly) ask what color thong I was wearing. And I would say I was going commando. Tony’s fun to party with. We had such a blast at all the conventions, and we learned a lot from working with him. And I think we worked well together despite our height difference (Tony is 6’5″ and Brooke is 5′). I was so excited and also scared to work with him, because as a little girl I knew him the Candyman, and that scared the hell out of me. I was freaking out.
GS: Tony Todd is like the last big horror icon I haven’t met yet, so I’m happy to hear he’s such a cool guy.
BL: He’s wonderful. So down to earth. He would party with us — make sure you get to meet him.
GS: You have repeatedly appeared in films with Charles Durning…
BL: I knew this question was coming.
GS: Is it coincidence, or do you have some sort of a deal worked out?
BL: Great question. It’s not coincidental at all. This started with “Polycarp” (now known as “Kinky Killers”), which had Ken Del Vecchio producing (he also wrote the script). He had a working relationship with BJ Davis for many years, and he brought Charles to the project. Then Ken and Charles struck up a relationship, and have worked out a deal together for appearing in Ken’s films. So that was not coincidental. If anything was coincidental, it was “Break”, directed by Marc Clebanoff. It was a very Hollywood, who-knows-who situation. You will notice Charles is in the upcoming “Room and Board”, which is directed by Julia Davis — that is BJ’s wife. It’s kind of incestuous…
GS: You’re jumping ahead now. The “Room and Board” question hasn’t come up yet! First, we’re going to talk about you being the writer-producer-star of the web series “Ms. Vampy”. Where can we see that?
BL: For you, Gavin, and all your readers… go to MsVampy.net — it launched March 2009 and it’s still there. Did you want to hear how it came about?
GS: I would love to.
BL: Ms. Vampy is me, my alter ego. I started out in other genres, and doing things off Broadway. I had pilots that failed in LA. I broke into the horror genre around 2006, and suddenly found a huge fan base. I simply cannot thank my fans enough. Some people came to me, and they said I was a scream queen, and they wanted me to be hot in an app for the iPhone. I did not like their idea. I said I was flattered, but scream queens were around a long time before I was, and there were plenty of other young women willing to show boobies on the iPhone. Not my thing.
But I thought about what worked best for me, horror and comedy, and I had always been obsessed with Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinnie”. I watched the movie over and over again, and when on set I would talk like Marisa Tomei as a vampire. People would crack up, and I thought “that is more me”. We came up with Ms. Vampy as a marketing strategy. I had big hair and high heels, and people would come up to me and say, “you’re so voluptuous, you’re so vampy”. So I ran with that. For the web series, I partnered with one of my best friends and business associates, Todd Tucker. We talked about it, we experimented, and we were scared that I would let my horror fans down.
But I think it worked out, because after the first episode went up, we had several horror sites cover us within a day. It was pretty unbelievable. I had so many people contacting me with screenplays. Around Halloween of 2009, I had women writing me telling me their husbands were in love with me, and they wanted to know how they could look like me and where I got my fangs. I was on to something! I was hoping to create a new Elvira character, since she was a huge idol of mine as a kid.
GS: In 2010, you were Co-Producer for “Slime City Massacre”, and also appeared as “Nicole”. As you probably know, Killer Reviews is friends with Greg, the director. How did you meet up with Greg?
BL: It was about three years ago, through Wil at Horror Yearbook (a rival site). Wil has become a friend of mine, and he talked to Greg, who was working on a remake to his cult classic “Slime City”, and Wil told Greg that he should talk to me. Greg got back to me, sent me a script, and I have to be honest — I was a little freaked out. A film called “Slime City Massacre” that was a sequel to a cult film from the 1980s? I was really apprehension and intuitively, I sat on it. I then read the script and really liked it. There is so much going on — gentrification, politics, war, drug addiction, abortion. Greg is a great writer and can send you such strong messages, much smarter than the title implies. I called him, and initially it had a much bigger budget. But then the economy crashed, and he decided to go ahead with the budget cut in half. The character of Nicole really spoke to me. There was some meat to it, and she had different layers. I had done the role of prostitute a couple times before. And did you hear the good news?
GS: I don’t know. What is the good news?
BL: Last night (February 28), we won a Polished Apple Award. Do you know what that is?
GS: I am sad to say I do not.
BL: (laughs) I didn’t either. But, apparently, the cool part is that they honor both mainstream films and independents. For example, remake of the year was “Clash of the Titans”. And “Book of Eli” won best cast. So, “Slime City Massacre” winning among these films… that’s huge! That’s crazy! This makes us “the little movie that could”, and as producer this is the best distribution deal that I’ve seen. We’ve won awards from many film festivals, and I even won a Golden Cob Award for best scream queen.
GS: Let’s move into upcoming projects… What is “Dahmer vs. Gacy”, and why does it have ninjas?
BL: (laughs) Why does it have ninjas? I have no effing idea. I’ll tell you why it has ninjas: because the director is batshit crazy in a brilliant, talented way. I love him. The ninjas fit perfectly in there. This movie is so insane, so over the top, it has everything in there. Did you want to know what it was?
GS: I was more concerned about the ninjas. I thought the title was self-explanatory, then I noticed the ninjas.
BL: Honey, there is everything. There are the ninjas, there’s Axl Rose doing some crazy shit. There are televangelists, and it’s a sci-fi-action-horror-comedy. It should be available everywhere on April 8. The title is self-explanatory, but it’s so not what you think. It’s really campy, but also has a really smart message about government and science experiments. If you can get through the campiness, it’s really smart and a good critique of the media. I play a televangelist that is a take off on Tammy Faye Bakker.
GS: We have “Room and Board” (2011), which has horror icon Kane Hodder, and also Burt Reynolds. Please tell us more!
BL: Yeah, I already mentioned it is directed by Julia Davis and has Charles Durning. The cast also includes Robert Loggia and Michael Pare, who I love. William Katt, Darcy DeMoss. Youshould go on IMDB just to check out the cast. It was a low-budget film, shot down in Louisiana. It’s basically about a bed and breakfast, and cannibals…
GS: The final upcoming project I want to ask about is “Mondo Holocausto!” (2011), which sounds like an homage to 1970s Italian horror… please tell me I’m right.
BL: You are good, Gavin! You nailed it! It’s hilarious. It’s a really good script. The film is written and directed by Anthony Sant’Anselmo, who does voices and animation for “South Park”. The film is half-acted, half voiceovers. You nailed it.
GS: If some people are in it, and some are voices, how do you fit in?
BL: It’s funny, because when I auditioned, I was ready to do a voiceover. Felissa Rose does a voice. But I got Laura, who is an on-screen actor. One of the reasons, which is an inside joke in the horror community, is that I have never been killed. So, the horror directors want to be the first to kill Brooke Lewis. I think that was one of the motivations for Anthony. It’s a great script, so I hope we get to this one later this year.
GS: That’s all I have for questions. What did I miss?
BL: Well, last year was a tough year for independent film as you may know, and I would like to give a shout-out to two short films that are hitting the festival circuit now. One written and directed by Roger A. Scheck (who had previously done “Nobody Loves Alice”) is “Sprinkles”. I play Maura, a call girl, and it’s really intense. The other one is “Choose”, which Robbie Bryan (director of “iMurders”) wrote and directed. There are some big names attached, like Andrew Hollander, who was the composer for “Waitress”. Josh Turi, who won an Emmy for makeup work on “Saturday Night Live”. It’s about a young couple who get pregnant and then they find out the wife has a terminal brain tumor — the husband is forced to choose about the life of the child.
My big project right now is “Vamp It Out”, and I am trying to get bigger name Hollywood people interested. I have Todd Tucker working with me, and hopefully one day Ms. Vampy will be like another Elvira. There are messages I want to send to teen girls about inner beauty and following your dreams. Ms. Vampy says, “When you are faced with fear, look deep inside, find your inner vamp, and vamp it out!”