Dennis Villelmi: Welcome to The Bees Are Dead, Miss Harris, or may we call you Alex? We’re indeed honored to have this opportunity to talk for a bit with you as you’re an actress who’s fast establishing a presence in today’s film industry.
Alex Harris: Yes! of course you can – and thank you so much, I’m certainly trying.
DV: First off, let’s talk about a project which at the time of writing was released to video with a fair degree of fervor, ‘Hellraiser: Judgement.’ Aside from the fact that it was filmed in your native Oklahoma, tell us how you got involved with the project?
AH: I actually read for the project out here in Los Angeles and put myself on tape for Oklahoma Casting Director, Chris Freihoffer. Both Chris and Director, Gary Tunnicliffe, really championed me throughout the casting process. As an ‘unknown actor’ landing a leading role in a franchise like this is pretty unheard of. Even if it’s the 10th instalment!
If your readers are interested in acting in film or TV, I can’t recommend Chris and The Actor Factory enough. He’s located in my home state of Oklahoma but he does weekend workshops in other cities.
DV: With the more recent instalments in the ‘Hellraiser’ franchise, there’s been quite a lot of disenchantment among the fans who feel it’s become something of a wayward series. During production, did you have the feeling that “H:J” would be the chapter that gets Clive Barker’s original vision back on track?
AH: It certainly has the potential. This film was a huge passion project for Gary Tunnicliffe – he has deep ties to the Hellraiser franchise and had been working on this story line for a long time. People are saying it’s more reminiscent of the Hellraiser comic series. Gary has a real gift for writing unimaginable horror and his practical effects are truly incredible. I think it has all the elements that true fans are looking for from a Hellraiser film.
DV: What was it like working with director Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who also plays this mysterious new character The Auditor?
AH: Gary is fantastic! A great director and actor. To be honest, after reading the script I was nervous to meet the guy – I mean, who comes up with this stuff! It’s absolutely insane… but he’s incredibly kind, funny, and lovely to work with.
DV: I read the graphic nature of some of the scenes were too much for certain cast members to stomach. Were you personally affected at any time during filming?
AH: Oh absolutely – as I mentioned earlier, the practical effects in this film are incredible. In one particularly graphic scene I had to really focus on my breathing in order to keep it together. It just looked so real!
DV: Did any alumni from the earliest ‘Hellraiser’ films drop by?
AH: No, but Heather Langenkamp of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ fame makes an appearance in the film. So cool – definitely a nod to the classic 80’s horror scene.
DV: So when did you decide that acting was the path you were going to follow? I’m guessing it wasn’t necessarily when William H. Macy doused you with taco sauce, though that sounds like an interesting anecdote. (Laughs)
AH: I can’t believe you know about that! (Laughs) That was during the filming of Rudderless. That scene didn’t make it into the film – but it’s definitely a story for the books!
As far as choosing acting as my path…I’m not sure…There was no definitive lightbulb moment for me. I can’t imagine not doing this – it’s such a big part of me.
DV: Is there a medium that you favor over others, such as theatre?
AH: Film – for sure. Don’t get me wrong I love theatre and would love the opportunity to get back into acting on stage! But I think what draws me to screen acting is the subtlety. On camera a raised eyebrow or a meaningful glance can change everything. There’s so many small choices that can really bring a character to life.
DV: What kinds of acting projects would you like to do in the future? Any veterans – directors and performers – in the industry you would most like to work with?
AH: Romantic comedy! A little different than ‘Hellraiser’ huh? (Laughs) I have a thing for films with quirky and flawed characters. I love acting in all types of film, but playing the ‘best friend’ to a romantic lead in a comedy is definitely on my bucket list. As far as industry vets I admire – Sandra Bullock… working with her would be a dream. I think every thing she does is fantastic. I can’t wait for ‘Ocean’s 8’ to hit theaters!
DV: Aside from acting, you’re also an accomplished artist. Tell us something about that. Do you have any other outlets of creativity?
AH: Oh thanks, you did your research! I love art in all forms. I went to school for fine arts, both painting and film, so I’ve had the opportunity to try my hand in lots of mediums; painting, writing, acting… painting has really been a great stress reliever for me and recently I’ve been trying my had at screen writing – but I wouldn’t call that a stress reliever! I have so much respect for writers, it’s incredibly difficult… but a great way for me to do character work between jobs.
DV: When you’re not busy with work, what do you like to do? Do you travel frequently!
AH: Get outdoors, try new things, eat great food! And yes – I travel as often as I can. I want to see the word, go everywhere… There’s nothing better than getting out of your comfort zone. It’s all about the experiences!
DV: So what projects should we be on the lookout for? You have another horror film coming out soon, don’t you – ‘All Light Will End?’ What’s that about?
AH: I do! ‘All Light Will End’ is a character-driven psychological thriller with some great twists. It has some classic elements of horror / suspense but felt really fresh and interesting for the genre. Writer / Director Christopher Blake Johnson is a great story teller with a real gift for crafting interesting and believable characters – I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!
DV: In your profession as an actor thus far, what’s the one thing you’ve learned that has really proven indispensable?
AH: Hmm, I don’t know… I still feel like I’m just getting started as an actor! But I do believe that kindness and appreciation are always indispensable, regardless of your profession. In my experience everyone who seeks a profession in the film industry is passionate about what they do. You have to be! It’s absolutely brutal… So, especially in film – appreciate the work and dedication of everyone around you… That, and don’t be late!
DV: Typically, how do you prepare for a role?
AH: Oh man… well, typically I read through the script a couple time before I start focusing on my role… It helps me to get a feel for the big picture. I like to define who my character is before breaking down individual scenes so I can make sure that I’m staying true to who she is and what she brings to the movie as a whole. I take lots of notes… That may sound a bit clinical (laughs) but it’s such a privilege to get to be cast in something – I like to have all my bases covered. For me the artistry comes into play during the performance. When I feel prepared, it’s easier to step outside of myself and truly experience the scene as my character would. There’s really nothing like it.
DV: Alex, this has been a real delight. We wish you all the best on your path as both actor and artist, and perhaps further down you’ll remember us here at The Bees Are Dead and we can talk again.
AH: Any time! – the pleasure is mine.