Creepy films can be good, bad or even laughable. And, so can their creators. The new docu-drama film “The Creep Behind the Camera” dives into the macabre world Vic Savage, the con-man filmmaker behind the 1960’s B-movie classic “The Creeping Terror.”
Actress Laurel Harris, best known for playing ‘nice’ women in “Odd Thomas” and American Girl’s “Saige Paints the Sky”, makes a complete character reversal reminiscent of Joan Crawford’s ‘Mommie’ antics for the creepy new film.
Laurel Harris reveals more about portraying dark characters, her younger fans and working with Willem Dafoe in this recent interview.
Give us an overview of your role in “The Creep Behind the Camera.”
LAUREL: It was a thrill to portray ‘Helen’ in “The Creep Behind the Camera.” She’s the disturbed, psychotic Mother-in-Law to lead character, Art Nelson, played by the electric Josh Phillips. Helen uses her twisted sense of reality to inflict a “Mommie Dearest” type of torture on her naive and innocent daughter, Lois, played by a captivating Jodi Lynn Thomas. Embodying Helen was both exciting and wonderfully challenging at times since she can be sweet and cordial one moment, then instantly divisive, threatening and manipulative the next.
Did you do anything specific to prepare for the role?
LAUREL: To portray Helen’s level of psychosis I decided to continually “layer” in character traits, if you will, and keep a really broad palette of emotions heightened and available. I enjoy diving as deep as I can with a character to figure out what makes them tick and Helen’s neurosis definitely allowed for that. Since she could quickly swing from one end of the emotional spectrum to the next, I knew I had to keep it especially real and fresh in each scene. This woman could be triggered from any number of emotional cues simultaneously, so staying acutely alert to that was key.
Have you seen the original “The Creeping Terror” and what was your impression?
LAUREL: “The Creeping Terror” is such a cult classic that it’s hard to watch and not laugh! Apologies, Art. I know this was your masterpiece, but come on….a large carpet-looking monster devouring people whole; and practically in slow motion? What’s not to laugh at….or uh, like?!
What do you think audiences will take away from this film?
LAUREL: I think what audiences will take away from the film depends on the viewer. Some might be struck by the sheer tenacity of this sick and demented man. Others may not get past the tragedy of the victims who lie in his wake. Then, of course, there is the ridiculousness of it all. I think most will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek approach that director Pete Schuermann takes in the film to show us what can happen when a fame-focused fanatic gets caught up in the lure of Hollywood’s bright lights.
You also appeared as Willem Dafoe’s wife in the film “Odd Thomas” – what was that experience like?
LAUREL: Surreal, is one word that comes to mind in working with Willem Dafoe. I kept pinching myself that I was getting to create alongside such an iconic film vet whom I’ve admired for so long. Willem is not only tremendously focused and talented; he’s also a great guy with a really easy going demeanor. I can’t say enough about how gracious he is. He always took time to sign autographs or chat with strangers who approached him during breaks on set. He’s a true pro in every sense of the word and I learned a lot working with him.
How does it feel having so many young girls recognize you for playing Mrs. Copeland in the American Girl film, “Saige Paints the Sky”?
LAUREL: American Girl fans are so much fun, and it really hit home for me when we were signing autographs at the Los Angeles premier. These brilliant, young girls waited patiently – some for hours in line – with their dolls, posters and parents to eagerly meet us and know the real person behind these beloved characters. I feel honored to have personified a part of a story that lives so vividly in their minds. They have been the best fans anyone could ask for…just adorable.
With such a diverse body of work — do you prefer comedy or drama?
LAUREL: Ooh…good question. Both! Comedy is always harder to play but I love the challenge. Drama is a place I live in more easily and never get bored with exploring. I find freedom in going off the deep end a bit with a character. It’s almost like getting a hall pass to act out or explore an emotional range you can’t do in public or on a regular basis, but maybe secretly wish you could?!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
LAUREL: I guess first and foremost, a special thanks to “Team Creep” for this awesome ride. The cast and crew on “The Creep Behind the Camera” were not only passionate about their craft, they were really united in seeing this film be a success. That makes a world of difference and I’m so glad their hard work is paying off. Otherwise, if anyone wants to keep up with me, there’s a link to subscribe to my newsletters at laurelharris.com. Thanks for a great interview and for reading!!
Thanks, Laurel — keep living in comedy or drama…and we’ll keep watching!
Find out more about Laurel Harris at: www.LaurelHarris.com