The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Jackie Kelly: This is always such a difficult question, because I’ve been consuming copious amounts of horror since my early teens. But the film I almost always come back to as my favorite horror movie is the original THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I think it’s a perfect horror film. The intensity of the performances and the visuals, the grating and immediately identifiable score, and the sheer maliciousness of the story make it the most iconic scary movie ever made. I’ve had so many conversations about this film, often with people who haven’t seen it in many years. And they always remember it as being really violent and gory. But it’s not. It’s very PG in its visual depravity. It’s what is left to the imagination that makes people remember it as so horrifically violent.
In terms of movies that actually scare me, the list is quite short. I love horror more than anything, but it takes a lot for a movie to genuinely frighten me. That being said, FUNNY GAMES leaves me with a genuine sense of fear and unease. Much like TCM, its power is in the fear of the unknown, what the camera chooses not to show you. FUNNY GAMES is one of the few films that has actually made me feel distrustful of humans.
THR: You were absolutely phenomenal in The Man in Room 6. What was it like working on the film?
JK: Thank you! The process of making this film was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My involvement as an actor spanned about 2 years on this production, so it was very close with me for a substantial amount of time. I was also dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in my personal life during the course of this shoot, so watching the final cut of this film left me with an equal sense of both pride and pain. But I am so honored that I got to help bring this story to life. Trevor is a truly creative mind, and the originality of his script made this an incredibly exciting project to be involved in. I love both Carrie and Trevor Juenger so much and have found them to be some of my favorite collaborators and humans. So, getting to work closely with them on such an epic project meant the world to me. I’ll never forget making this movie with them. We all poured a lot into this one.
THR: You played multiple roles in the film, allowing you to have different looks and acting styles in the same project. What were the challenges in portraying multiple people in the same film?
JK: Because the shoot was spread out over a long period of time, I didn’t find it too challenging managing three roles. I wasn’t playing one character one day, then immediately jumping into another character the following day. The shoot was split up into chunks, so I was able to fully focus on each character separately. Between the three characters, it honestly felt like I was acting in three different movies. Each character was very different tonally, but I was given time to breathe between my portrayals of each one. I will say that playing Charlotte was one of my favorite experiences ever falling into a role. I fell in love with her and sympathized with her bizarre plight. Bringing her to life was a really cathartic experience.
THR: What inspires you as an actress in general?
JK: I’m very inspired by all things disturbing and grotesque. I haven’t been able to figure out why exactly, but I’ve definitely leaned toward these types of movies since I was pretty young. I find a lot of beauty and feeling in the dark side of humanity. In terms of specific actors that inspire me, I really admire the work of Sissy Spacek and Michael Shannon. And I could watch Isabelle Adjani’s performance in POSSESSION on repeat and never stop being in awe of her greatness.
THR: How long have you been interested in acting? Was there any particular film or moment that you can identify that started you down this path?
JK: I started acting in theater when I was twelve years old, and continued doing that for many years before going off to college. But at that time, I didn’t really have aspirations of making a career out of it. I knew I wanted to make horror movies, but I didn’t think my involvement would necessarily be as an actor.
The film I always credit as being the turning point in my attitude and love for cinema is GUMMO. The first time I watched that as a teen was life changing. I had never seen anything so subversive or upsetting. I didn’t know people made movies like that. That ultimately set me on my path and solidified that I wanted to work in the medium of film.
I started taking acting really seriously during the production of my first feature film, IN MEMORY OF, which I was also a co-writer on. The entire shoot was this beautiful reminder of how much I loved the way performing made me feel. I could be big and vulnerable and expressive, and it helped me a lot with my mental stability. Since then, I’ve really designed my life around acting in films as much as I can. It makes me feel alive in a way that nothing else does.
THR:I read that you have a degree in screenwriting. Now that you’ve broken into the acting side of the business, do you prefer that side of filmmaking, or is there always going to be a special place in your heart for writing?
JK: I do prefer acting. I love writing and the satisfaction that comes with it, but acting produces this instant gratification for me. It’s like a drug, and it’s something that I crave. I also feel that acting has always come more naturally to me. I do still write when the mood strikes, and I have some fantastic writing collaborators, Eric Stanze and Jason Christ, that I hope to write with again soon.
THR: I’m calling The Man in Room 6 an epic horror movie, one that spans multiple generations to tell an all-encompassing story. It’s also incredibly long (though I also feel that it could be even longer and still hold the audience’s interest). Were there any special challenges in telling a story that covers so much ground and such a long length of time?
JK: Although the film is long, it didn’t really present me with any specific challenges relating to its duration. The script was so bizarre and engaging to me, so I was always eager to jump back on set and continue filming. I never felt bored with it. That being said, we were in production for a very long time. When we finally crossed the finish line, I remember it feeling very bittersweet. I was happy to be finishing what was arguably the most consuming project of my career. But there was a sadness about ending this adventure that involved so many wonderful and talented artists.
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
JK: David Lynch, hands down. I believe he’s the most fascinating, inventive cinematic artist of our time. I’m a fan of everything he’s done. I know some people have issues with Lynch, as his films often don’t wrap themselves up in a neat little package at the end. They’re confusing movies. But that’s the beauty of Lynch. You walk away from every movie with a lot of questions. There’s so much to explore and ponder in his work. Lynch is a god among men.
THR: What advice would you give to someone looking to become an actor?
JK: Be bold. Be unafraid. Fuck what people think of you. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest hurdles an actor has to jump over. I spent many years delivering what I believe to be stilted performances, something that was bred of the fear of making the wrong decision as a performer. Shamelessness is an actor’s greatest asset. This allows you to really play and experiment. I think a lot of newer actors are afraid of “over acting,” but I would personally much rather watch a large, insane performance over a safe and dull one. My life and work got a lot better when I learned how to cancel out all the noise and just act as if no one was there scrutinizing what I was doing.
THR: Do you prefer to work in horror, or are there other genres that draw your interest as well?
JK: I am a huge horror fan, but I really just love playing a meaty, dramatic role. As a film viewer, I love watching anything macabre and spooky, so these are the types of movies and roles that I tend to gravitate toward as an actor. I’ve always found comfort in dark art. I’m also a big arthouse cinema fan, and I’m always excited when I get to participate in something like that. You probably won’t see me take a role in a romantic comedy any time soon.
THR: What’s next for you? Any future projects that you’re excited about?
JK: I have lots of projects in the pipeline! I just wrapped on two horror features this September, and have several more projects lined up for next year. One to keep an eye out for is a dark drama/horror feature I shot in 2021 called OSCAR. TANGO. HELLWATER. It’s a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s OTHELLO and I’m really stoked for the world to see it. I play very against type in that one.
THR: Finally, how many Taylor Swift songs would you say that you listen to on any given day?
JK: I’m sad to say zero. No shade towards T. Swift, though. I find that the older I get, the more open-minded I am about Top 40 Billboard type stuff, so maybe I should give her another chance.