*Note from Dave* I felt the need to introduce you to the person who conducted this interview and explain a little about his inclusion on this site. Randy Gaston runs a great online publication called The Horror Newsletter. We’ll be talking about the newsletter in another article later today. As part of running the newsletter, Randy has had the chance to interview some of the genres brightest and most interesting stars. This interview with Ashley Laurence was conducted as she was promoting the film Lightning Bug which if you have not yet seen you need to get off your ass and check out. Enjoy the interview!!
If someone had asked me recently what I knew about Ashley Laurence, I would’ve said “Hellraiser I & Hellraiser II”, those were instant 80’s classics in the eyes of the genre fan. Ashley played a confused and orphaned teen named Kirsty Cotton for Clive Barker’s Cenobite classic series “Hellraiser”. Kirsty finds herself in the throws of a world turned upside down by the resurrection of her Uncle Frank who eludes final pain by resurrecting through the floor by a single drop of her father’s blood. I love Hellraiser II; the end sequence with the doctor in the hospital was absolutely incredible. Kirsty’s role and salvation relied on the fact that she needed to turn in family members to this legion of death. Who would think that a cube named “The Lamont Configuration” could be so powerful?
Fast-forward, some twenty years later, I find myself settling midweek with a film in hand “Lightning Bug”. The names were rather familiar, both Ashley and Kevin Gage (Heat) would share the screen for a good piece of this film. So with no real preconceived notion of what the film was about, Lightning Bug skimmed the laser plain inside my DVD player. Admittedly, it was by far the best 90 minutes I’ve spent watching a film in a while.
Lightning Bug throws a curve your way from the onset. You have to wonder what is going on and subconsciously book mark it for future reference. Ashley plays an abused and battered single parent who moves and two sons from the throws of a dangerous husband in Michigan to the respite and solitude Alabama. Her character wears the dialect of a southerner well and quickly she adapts to the lifestyle that is Alabama, circa 1982. Eventually, she remarries to find that her husband of choice has a violent and destructive temper that she must come to grips with.
This is Ashley’s best work to date. Her demeanor and lines are heartfelt and pairing with the aggressive dementia of Kevin Gage’s character Earl, Ashley continues to show that her range and ability to assimilate to any role is not far out of reach. If this is what we can expect more of in the future, this will be her landmark role in film. This role of abused housewife was earmarked by Robert Hall with Ashley Laurence in mind.
Opportunity knocked again this past week and found me in a position to interview this actor. I was honored and thankful for Chris Roe Management for setting up this interview. And of course to Ashley, who continues to work the Horror Convention circuit and enjoys painting in her spare time as well as prep for several films in the future. This film was a canvas for one of her masterpieces.
Q&A With Ashley Laurence
RG: This role was by far your best, how were you able to put it all together using a southern dialect?
AL: It is my best role to date. It was a matter of preparation. Often times in this profession you get a job and in a week you are working on it. In other professions, you wouldn’t go and try a case without being prepared. I haven’t always been given the luxury of time before I start a role. I also worked with a dialog coach; I wanted it to be authentic.
I am an oil painter and I like to do my paintings and create layers and it is my job to do the same thing with characters and I haven’t always had the right opportunity to do that. In this instance I was and that was very exciting for me. I got to create a full human being instead of just saying lines.
It also helped that Robert (Hall) new what he wanted about the feel of the whole script and what he wanted and what the scenes meant to him and he was able to express that. It’s great when you get a director who knows what they want and that they can articulate that to you.
RG: Did you spend anytime before the film was shot with Brent and Lucas?
AL: The scene in the haunted house after Bret’s character effects had been destroyed; that is our first scene. I had just been introduced to Brett the night before, I actually walked on the set and what I found out later was that the day before I arrived they had filmed in the hospital where they wheeled my dead body through the hospital corridors. It was like a doppelganger effect and everyone was looking at me creeped out. They had just seen the dummy version of me on the gurney.
AL: Did you know that the man pushing the body on the gurney is Robert’s brother who also played all the music?
RG: No I didn’t know that….
AL: Yeah his brother played the hospital worker.
RG: You are playing a mother who picks up the wrong penny and wrong guy and get abused over and over again, how do you choose to take on a role like that knowing you are going to be shown as abused and mistreated to such great lengths?
AL: I was playing a character based on a real human being. I realized that I had to play the role of that woman who was being abused with integrity. I actually had made a lot of phone calls and spoke to a lot of people who worked with battered women. I wanted to give it the respect it deserves. It’s hard to believe that there are people that seek that lifestyle out. I wanted to understand the dynamics of finding yourself in that situation.
RG: You and Kevin Gage played well together, how was it working with him on this film?
AL: Kevin Gage is amazing; he is a huge asset to have on any project. He is lovely to work with and in between takes where he would beat me up and knock me about; he would kiss my forehead in between takes. There is one scene where the character goes back to the trailer and she heads back into after her son tells her that there is a present for her. I turn and then there is Kevin in character punching at me, in one of the takes, I think the one on film, he extended his arm and missed my nose by I’d say a fraction of an inch. He’d pulled that punch back because his knuckles were right on my face. We both just looked at each other like “Holy Shit!” There was a huge sigh of relief from me and the crew because he is a big and powerful guy.
He has played a lot of bad guys and he is profoundly professional. I always feel that I was in very good hands.
RG: Most of your role is playing a parent that is in search of a better life for her children, but no matter which state you move to; Michigan or Alabama, people are people.
AL: People make choices; the hardest thing to wrap my mind around is understanding that she is someone who actively chooses not to participate. She makes an active choice to be inactive. I went through the airport and at the local retail stores and I spent a lot of time being someone who chose to be inactive. I was learning how to retract and understanding how you could be victimized by your environment. It was difficult for me and I had to give it the respect it ultimately deserves.
RG: So how do you take this role knowing that you as a person would have probably gotten out of the situation once the first punch was thrown? Yet you have to sit there and recoil and accept that this is your life and what you choose to do?
AL: I think what happens with a lot of abusive cycles is that it starts to erode your self-esteem. You start to feel that it is your fault and especially if someone professes to love you and then you think they are doing things in your best interest so then you reflecting on what you’re doing wrong and your self-esteem starts to become depleted as you doubt yourself. You lose confidence and stand up to someone either because you can’t or don’t think you deserve it in any combination. As well as she had two sons and wanted them to have a great Christmas and be happy. She didn’t realize that she had any other options or paths.
RG: It seems that in film people forget to realize is that people just can’t leave situations. For example, when you watch a horror flick it seems bravado to say “I’d just leave and not look back!” and we know that in real life there is a separation that can often cloud judgment and ability to reason.
AL: If it’s all you know, then that’s all you really know. And if you never experienced it then it’s hard to speculate and formulate what their ideas are. I don’t believe that she had any other options. When she finally decided to protect her boys at any cost, it really is at any cost.
RG: And that is the ultimate last measure of his possessiveness is his ability to take her life.
AL: That is when they are in the car and they have that interaction and she stands up for herself in that final moment. It ultimately costs her, her life.
RG: That sequence is interestingly shot.
AL: That was my first scene shot with Kevin and we were on such a tight budget we didn’t have the luxury of time and most of our scenes were night scenes where we would go to work at 6PM and not get done until 6AM the following morning. We did Kevin’s driver’s side coverage at 4:30AM and the sun started coming up so we couldn’t complete my scene. The first thing the next night we shot my scene. The whole scene took 2 days to shoot.
What they also did, God Bless those guys, and they put this black felt and a big light, as well as a 1980 Rock band fan blowing as this all, happened so they lowered my body across theirs as if it were a conveyor belt out of the scene. It was great it was collaborative and everything was working with everybody to make a great product.
RG: Can you tell me about your paintings and art?
AL: What you see on my website is actually a little smattering that someone threw up there for me, I was the odd shy kids that stayed inside most of the time and drew. So that is something that I have always done and still love to do.
RG: Ok give me one Hellraiser question? You pretty much grew up Kirsty.
AL: I was 16 when I started shooting that film.
RG: I would be remised if I did not ask at least one Hellraiser question, and mine I always wondered how you got involved in Hellraiser?
AL: I had been in a teenage drama workshop because I had a crush on a boy. I took this workshop and a girl who works there who was also interning at New World at the time said they were casting this movie and couldn’t find the lead. They had gone to Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. She had called me and asked me if I would go down and audition for this film and it was the day that Clive Barker and Chris Haig were going back to England that day. So I went over there and I read and Clive was terrific and he said “Would you retest for this?” So they flew me to England and had me retest and said “I am going to have to fight for you because the studio wanted a name, but to me you are Kirsty!” I got it because he fought for me.
RG: What is interesting is that they are still making more of these films. I guess you have to look back and say its very popular. I notice that you do a lot of the horror convention circuit.
AL: Yeah, I just started conventions. This is a new world for me and I haven’t done them before. My friend Camden had said “You should do this, it’s a lovely opportunity.” You have no idea that you been a part of something that has a big following. I literally had no idea. People have been so gracious that it’s been wonderful.