Hello Tonya, welcome and thanks for sitting down with me today! How are you?
I’m swell. Flying from LA to New York for performances and writing to you!
Fantastic! Well first things first, could you just introduce the film and your character to readers?
Bastard is the most visually beautiful horror film you may ever see. It’s got everything a horror fan wants: intelligent writing, creative kills, disturbing gore, sexy lighting, brilliant acting and a hot classic car. My character, Rachael, owns a bed and breakfast in the middle of fucking nowhere, where a bunch of dysfunctional, sociopath kids show up seeking lodging. All hell breaks loose.
And what was it which initially grabbed you about the project Tonya?
RACHAEL. Rachael is a driven, independent and deep woman. I wanted the chance to bring all her complexities to life. The screenplay, written by Patrick Young, is tight. From the first read, I felt comforted by the thoroughness, wit and detail of his writing – I believed in the script.
Acting in horror is some of my favorite acting! Watching horror gets me all squeamish and tense. But that’s the point, isn’t it? I grew up playing ghost in the graveyard in the fields of my Michigan farmtown and saw Children of the Corn really young – I had nightmares for years. When you actually grow up and live in the middle of nowhere, the solitude of corn fields, the country road or your own huge house can be absolutely terrifying. Oh, and my dad was born on Halloween. So my family celebrated year-round with a coffin on the front porch, monster cosplay and scaring the shit out of each other in the woods. I was raised on Nightmare on Elm St, Hellraiser, Carrie and Texas Chainsaw. Later, I really loved the exploitation style and beauty of Rob Zombie’s Devil’s Rejects. Now I am fascinated with 1950s and 1960s grindhouse of all subgenera: occult, slasher, sleaze, martial arts… I don’t enjoy rape-revenge subgenera. I do especially covet the old dorky scifi.
That’s a fascinating upbringing! Now Bastard is an interesting role for you to take on because it doesn’t call upon your athleticism but is focused purely upon character…
Actually, this role required substantial athleticism in the stunt scenes. I often audition for acting-only roles and when I mention I do my own stunts, I invariably get to bust some badass moves! Graham Hooper was an exceptional stunt coordinator who dedicated himself to the safety of his actors and responding with authority and compassion to any physical surprises. In stunts, there are always physical surprises. It was my honor to work with him and the stunt scenes are creatively unforgettable because of Powell Robinson and Patrick Young’s direction, Hooper’s coordination and the naturally talented stunt actors’ execution.
How does the experience of performing with your body in the burlesque work you do compare to acting in a project like Bastard? Does it change your relationship with the camera and audience?
My training is in theatre first. Yes understanding legit theatre staging, lighting, script analysis, direction-taking, acting technique and entertainment quality lays a solid foundation for an on-camera actor to grow from. Some of the theatre I do is burlesque performance, which I am very passionate about, and you bet it affects my on-camera acting as well as my daily life. Burlesque is about loving your self, going to a place where most women (and men) are uncomfortable, putting some rhinestones on it and celebrating it! Burlesque trains a deep, sincere confidence, self-acceptance and respect for maturity. All of those things make a better on-camera actor. The camera picks up every detail and if you are “acting” sexy or “acting” tough, we can see it’s an act. Burlesque teaches the entertainer that there is nothing more sexy, tough or beautiful than who you are. No acting required. Plus, I’m not shy with my body on set, either, which comes in handy when changing costumes in outdoor locations, allowing special effects to get up in your personal biz or performing nude/sex scenes. Sometimes I suspect that others are shyer about my nudity than I am!
Haha! You seem to do a bit of everything; you do burlesque, you act, you throw knives, write… when did you first start out in the arts? What was your first love?
My parents gave me the opportunity to try everything! I played volleyball, tennis, softball, track – I drew, sculpted, made movies, played clarinet, sang – I delved in carpentry, baking, sewing and auto body work. But it all started when my mom caught me wiggling my little three year old butt in front of the television to a couple of a cappela tap dancers on Star Search one day. She put me in tap classes at the age of four and I went on to make rhythm in STOMP and concert tap companies in NYC and Los Angeles. Mom and dad brought me with them to the community theatre auditions when I was six. Whether it be acting or dancing, I haven’t stepped off of the stage since. It is a genuine delight to add film as another avenue through which I can perform, entertain and express my creativity.
Fantastic! And finally Tonya what else do you have coming out soon which we should all be keeping our eyes open for?
I am co-host on Travel Channel’s Street Cred with Pen Jillette and right now you can see me as the black market contract killer, DEV, in the comic book styled series The Kill Corporation (here). Many of my films are available on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or iTunes including Dark Space, The Butchers and Bold Native. While you are there, watch me fight Zoe Bell in the film Raze and look for me playing the sophisticated hussy Shelia Cummings in A Better Place (Best Independent Film, Hollywood Reel Film Fest 2015) later this year. Also I am producing my own horror film, The Art of Murder (here) with Seraph Films. I produce the live stage and classic car show Pinup Pole Show (here) and you can see me performing all over Los Angeles, the US and the world (here).
Excellent, thanks so much for chatting with me today!
Of course, thank you for talking to me. So long!
And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this chat between Tonya and I. Make sure you check out some of the links to her other work above and also leave a comment in the box below!