Sarah French (Actor, Death Count)
The Horror Revolution: First off, what's your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Sarah French: That’s a loaded question and I'll give you the long answer because why not, ha-ha! It all started when I was a kid. I loved going to the video stores, sifting through the VHS movies and looking at the killer artwork on each of the boxes. That’s kind of how I chose the movies I wanted to rent. It was all horror. My mom was very religious and didn't want my sister and I to watch horror films. She would never let us watch anything on TV or in film that had any kind of violence or gore. So naturally when your parents tell you not to do something, you want it even more. One day my grandma was babysitting us girls and she took us to the neighborhood video store. One box cover caught my attention that day. It was Childs Play. I immediately wanted to watch it. So somehow my sister and I tricked our grandma into renting it for us and that’s where it all began. I fell in love with horror from that day on. I was about 5 years old, and I haven't looked back. The draw was being scared. I loved that feeling and wanted more. In general film is an important part of life. It gives you an escape from the everyday horrors, anxieties, stresses of life and lets you immerse into another world. It’s an escape and we all need that sometimes. To this day Childs Play is my favorite horror film because that’s how my journey into my love of horror began. This film also scared me the most as a kid, because killer dolls, come on!
THR: You were excellent in Death Count; I was excited to see you in the film! What was filming like, being basically by yourself for almost the entire movie?
SF: Honestly it was a challenge. The most challenging part about the filming process is not having another actor to play opposite of. It’s kind of strange actually. It’s a challenge because you can’t play off their energy or emotions. You really have to invent it in your head on how you think they would be talking and reacting, then I would have to react to that. Acting is reacting and if the actual actor isn’t there its tough. Luckily our script supervisor, Ben Stobber, was there and read the dialogue of the characters and gave me something to work with. So, thank you Ben!
The nice thing about working solo was everything felt so real. The only people in the room with me while filming was our director/DP Michael Su and our sound Shane Sharpe.
When its intimate like that it makes everything so much more real. There were no distractions, just a few of us doing our thing, and working very well together. Michael Su did an amazing job pulling double duty as director and DP. At this point I think this was our 8th project together, so we really have that trust and bond with each other which makes things run very smooth. We shot my scenes in the cell over a period of 3 days which is crazy to even think about. But everyone was so on point and organized, it made for such a wonderful shoot. Shout out to our amazing SPFX team, Haley Dunphy, Junior Rubio, and Nessa Giacoletti. They really nailed it and I'm so grateful we had them on this shoot. They were efficient, hardworking, fast, and so good at what they do. The gore in this film is really well done and we couldn’t have worked as fast as we did if it wasn’t on point and realistic, so great job team!
Most don’t know this but the end of the film, which takes place in a warehouse and was a completely different location from the cell location, was actually shot first! We shot the ending of the film first which was crazy because at that point my character has gone through hell and back and I had to know how she would be, mental wise, at that point. Luckily for me I knew my character inside and out, knew how I wanted to play her, and in going over it with Su, we made it work. It was just stressful because there was a lot riding on my shoulders, and I needed it all to feel right because it’s such a big moment. The awesome part about the ending of the film was I have a scene with Michael Madsen and it was such an honor to work with him! He kept telling me how great I was doing, he was very nice and supportive and in a scene like what we were shooting, it made me feel really good.
THR: There was some surprising gore in Death Count, more than I actually thought there would be. Do you think that horror movies that don't skimp on the gore are better, or do you prefer when they leave more to the imagination?
SF: Thank you! Like I said earlier our SPFX team really nailed it and put their all into the film. A film like this one though, your gore has to be spot on just because this film centers around it. As far as gore in horror in general, it all depends on the script and story. For example, my film BLIND. Multiple people get killed in the film but there is little gore. That is because the film isn’t about that, that’s not the main focus. In that case, less is more. Leave it to the imagination. But for Death Count, well, you need to see it all. So, I'd say it just depends on what you’re going for and what you want to show and not want to show.
THR: Outside of Death Count, what's your favorite movie that you've been in, and what's your favorite role you've played?
SF: That’s a tough question to answer because they're all special to me in many ways. But if I had to pick a favorite movie and role, it would have to be my character "Faye" from my films BLIND and PRETTY BOY. Faye is special to me in many ways. BLIND started from a dream that our director Marcel Walz had, and writer Joe Knetter took that dream and created the screenplay BLIND.
In BLIND, Faye is an actress that is at the height of her career, she lives in a beautiful house in the Hollywood hills, and decides to get laser eye surgery. Something goes wrong and she ends up blind. We meet her a year or so into her life as a newly blind woman. She’s depressed, she’s not working, she feels alone, her whole life is turned upside down. The friends she thought she had have all drifted away, because let’s be honest, in Hollywood if you can’t be of value to someone, your Hollywood "friends" disappear. So, throughout the film she is trying to find herself and regain her life back and within that she starts to fall back in love with herself and Luke, played by Tyler Gallant, who has been by her side since she started therapy. She is also helped by her friend Sophia, Caroline Williams, who she met in therapy as well. While Faye is trying to regain her life back, she’s being stalked by "Pretty Boy", played by Jed Rowen. This is such a special role for me because there is so many emotions going on throughout the film. When I read the script I cried, I felt Faye and what she was going through. I immersed myself in that character. Even when we were done shooting, weeks after I would find myself crying in the bathtub and going through cupboards without looking. It was that close to me.
The same goes with the sequel PRETTY BOY too. It was such an honor to bring Faye back to life for a second time! The first day I stepped back on set, in costume, in character, I cried. It was an emotional moment and I'm so grateful for the opportunity. Joe Knetter wrote beautiful scripts with so many layers and gave me so much to work with. Its character driven and I love those kinds of scripts. You feel for the characters and you're along for the ride with them. Marcel Walz directed his heart out with both films and gave so much beauty to them along with Thomas Rist who DP'd BLIND and added so many beautiful colors and beauty to each scene, same goes with Michael Su who DP'd PRETTY BOY and added so much beauty to that one as well.
BLIND is a 70s style slow burn drama with horror elements and PRETTY BOY is our ode to the 80s style slasher. We all love horror, and we want to incorporate the different time period feels to each film. BLIND is available on most streaming platforms through Uncorked and PRETTY BOY should be coming out later this year through Lionsgate. We also have more planned up our sleeves... so stay tuned!
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
SF: Kurt Russell, without a doubt! Do I need an explanation??
THR: You have a nude scene in death count, something that you have some experience with in your past roles. Do you think that nudity is important in horror? Does it add to the role depth or is it more to draw in an audience?
SF: Nudity has been a part of horror since the beginning of time, honestly. Horror and nudity go hand in hand, that’s just the way it is. Sometimes it’s just blatant nudity for no reason and other times it helps propel the story. For me personally, when I do nudity in a film now it has to help drive the story. It has to propel it, not just nudity for nudity. For example, in DEATH COUNT, *spoiler alert* I rip open my top to show my breasts. I do that because it’s the only way that my character can think of to get more likes, to help her survive. It’s an important part of the story and needed to be there. I’m not going to lie, I've done films in the past where the film makers needed someone nude and I was willing to do it, for the right price of course. Nudity has never been a problem with me. I'm very comfortable with my body and have no problem showing it, as long as it’s done tastefully, for the right price, and pertains to the story and helps to drive it.
THR: You have more than 80 credits as an actress, which is incredibly impressive! Have you ever thought of moving behind the camera or taking on other roles in the industry?
SF: Thank you! I've worked really hard to be where I'm at today. I'm very selective with what I take now and generally turn down a lot. But I have a path I'm on and if it doesn’t help me move forward, I can't do it. I've already moved behind the camera besides an actress.
I just formed a production company with Marcel Walz and Joe Knetter called Neon Noir. Our goal with the company is to create visually stunning films that are both artistic and commercial. We just wrapped our first feature film under our new company called, "THATS A WRAP", and are deep in post-production as we speak. It’s a giallo slasher that takes place in a film studio! Marcel Walz directed it, and Joe Knetter and Robert L. Lucas wrote it and we have great talent like Cerina Vincent from Cabin Fever along with Monique Parent, Dave Sheridan, and Robert Donavan along with many more amazing cast. Our DP is Marcus Friedlander nailed what we were wanting the film to look like, and his team is just as amazing. We are very excited about THATS A WRAP and can’t wait to get it out there! We're looking at a November premiere in LA and a release hopefully soon after. Lots of great plans for that film and the future of our new company! We have a whole slate of films we're planning, and the future is looking really wonderful.
THR: I read that you were super into heavy metal, which is awesome. I recently watched Allegoria, directed by Spider One from Powerman 5000, and obviously his brother Rob Zombie is an incredibly talented director. Why do you think there's such a huge crossover from hard rock/heavy metal and the horror genre? (And what's your favorite band?!)
SF: First of all, my favorite band is KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, hands down! I love them as humans because they're all great guys, but most important to me I love this band because they always have a positive message within their music. It’s very raw, real, and uplifting. We all can relate to their lyrics in some way and I love that. Want to know something awesome? I worked on one of their music videos 2 years ago! (From the album Atonement-I am broken too) It popped up on a casting site they were casting for their new song at the time, and I submitted right away! Days later I get a phone call and they offered me the part. Crazy right?? I was over the moon! Living in LA has its perks work wise, because if I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t get the opportunities I do here compared to anywhere else. I'm so grateful.
A special shout out to a few more of my favorite bands, Oceans of Slumber and Witherfall! We were able to get a song from the lead singer of Oceans of Slumber (Cammie) and the drummer (Dobber) from their side band, Genoa, for our film BLIND. The song is called House of Grief and it was perfect for our film, I still can't believe we got it, it was amazing.
With Witherfall, I did their music video Portrait from their record Nocturnes and Requiem and instantly fell in love with the song and now I'm a huge fan of the music and band! All really great guys and they're super talented. For those metal heads reading this, be sure to check out these bands, you'll be happy you did!
I think there’s a huge crossover because both horror fans and metal fans typically search for things that are not necessarily mainstream. It speaks to us. Someone we are drawn to the energy, the fear, how it makes us feel. There’s a natural connection to both the films and the music. It sucks you in and allows you to express a side of yourself that you may normally have to keep hidden.
THR: Death Count was a really interesting character study, largely because most of the people in the film had most of their scenes by themselves. What did you use for inspiration in the film?
SF: How I work when creating characters and how I want to play them is, I read the script, memorize the lines, get an idea of the character, create a back story, and go from there. With this one I actually spent some time on the phone with one of the writers, Rolfe Kanefsky, and he helped me flush out the character and added a lot to the original story. Michael Merino wrote a wonderful script and Rolfe came in and worked on the rewrites, which gave me a good idea how I wanted to play the character. Inspiration wise I'd say, once I have my character down and know her front to back, I immerse myself in that world when I get on set, and its game on from there. I put myself in that world and what I would really do in that situation. For those who have seen the film or not, I'm a fighter and I don’t go down easy, just like in real life.
THR: What inspires you as an actress in general?
SF: I love to create characters that you feel for, that you can relate to in some way. I like to bring realism to every character you meet of mine on screen. I want you to follow the journey with my characters and be a part of their stories. I want you to be able to check out of the real world of everyday stresses and just be able to enjoy the journey in the film world. Life is already stressful and hard, if I can help you to check out of that for an hour in a half and just have fun, get scared, feel strength, feel positivity, feel anger, just to feel something other than your current life stresses, I know I've done my job. That’s what inspires me.
THR: Horror has a very mixed reputation when it comes to women. On the one hand, it's often been viewed as misogynistic for its brutality towards women victims, but on the other hand, Scream Queens are like the heart of the genre. Do you think that the horror genre is good for women, and if you think it's been bad in the past, do you think it's getting better?
SF: I feel like the horror genre empowers women more than anything, especially now a days. More and more women are becoming stronger and stronger in film, and I love to see that! Those are the kind of roles I love to take on, the strong female leads, and I've been fortunate to get many roles like that over the last few years. In the past I used to be that naked girl running around getting murdered or whatever, now I'm the lead female character kicking ass and taking names. It’s all a part of the growing process. Yes, back in the day I loved the small part victim roles, but as I get older, I've focused more on the strong female lead. For example, in the BLIND and PRETTY BOY franchise some may see Faye as the "victim" but that’s not the way I see her. Throughout BLIND she has to fight her own demons and within that she becomes stronger mentally. In PRETTY BOY things change and she has to become even more stronger mentally because now she’s not fighting her own demons, she needs the strength to fight for her life. She can’t physically fight, but she can find it within her to fight mentally and to not give up. This is a tough industry, there is no question about it. You have to be mentally prepared and strong because this industry will eat you alive if you are not. You need to stay strong and always keep fighting. That’s why I love playing characters I've had the opportunity to bring to life over the last few years, because in each character, there is always a piece of myself that is within that character and I sure as hell can relate to them!
THR: What's next for you? Do you have any projects in the works that you're dying to talk about?
SF: Always! I talked about THATS A WRAP, which we're very excited about, and I also have a super fun space adventure film coming soon as well! It’s called SPACE WARS: QUEST FOR THE DEEPSTAR, starring myself, Michael Pare, Olivier Gruner, along with many other amazing cast! Joe Knetter wrote a kick ass fun script and Garo Setian directed it. He really shined with this film. I worked with Garo on a film titled AUTOMATION a few years back, so it was really great to work with him again! I'm super excited about this film because I get to play an ass kicking, bad ass woman and I do all my own stunts in the film! I trained in Vegas with my co-star Tyler Gallant and we also trained in LA before the shoot. I've always done my own "light stunts" as I'd like to say, throughout the years, but this one I go all in with the stunts. I'm very excited for everyone to see this!! It’s a role I've always wanted to bring to life, and everyone did such an amazing job on it. You guys are going to LOVE it!! We're planning on having the premiere early November in LA and Vegas so keep your ears open for that and a lot more to come with this film!
I also have a tv show coming out on the Travel Channel and Discovery Plus in less than 2 weeks called, CURSE OF ROBERT THE DOLL. It’s part of Travel Channels GHOSTOBER event! The shows about the origin of Robert the Doll and what made him so nefarious. You get to meet his first owners Robert and Anne Otto... and I get to bring Anne to life in the show! So be sure to check it out when it airs! Lots of great projects happening and I'm always posting about them and talking to the fans! I love to share my work and you can find me on IG at sarahfrenchonline and on FB at Sarah French. I always have something new to share and there's a lot of great stuff coming up! Also be sure to check out DEATH COUNT on most streaming platforms and DVD/Blu-ray.
Also check out another film of mine that recently came out called DAWN. It stars Jackie Moore, Jared Cohn, and myself along with Michael Pare and Eric Roberts. That film is basically about a serial killer posing as an uber driver! It’s a crazy thriller. Jackie Moore slays as the serial killer; you guys have to check this out. Again, lots more to come so stay tuned for more!
THR: If you were actually in a Death Count scenario, and you were offered a last meal, what would you choose?
SF: Give me a beyond burger with all the fixings! (Yes, I’m vegetarian, in case you're wondering ha-ha!) Give me my protein so I can have the strength to fight these crazy mother fuckers!