There is something about a great leading lady in horror that seems to be missing these days. I’m talking about that quality that Jamie Lee Curtis or someone like Amy Steel had. I love the heroines that looked fragile enough to be the victim, yet smart enough to survive the nightmare. And if you long for the non-CW scream queen, you can get down on your knees and thank whoever, because Anessa Ramsey is that kind of leading lady. Her work in the fantastic new film THE SIGNAL definitely makes her one of my favorite women of horror. Smart? You got it. Sexy? Yep and not in a plastic sort of way. And vulnerable as hell, damn right! She is the real deal.
I had the opportunity to talk with her one on one although, there was a mix-up. We both thought the other was supposed to call. So finally, I sent an e-mail about an hour after we were supposed to start and luckily we connected. And I mean lucky for me. She is unbelievably charming and an absolute blast to talk to. There is nothing phony or plastic about her. And as I said, she is so damn good in THE SIGNAL that I insist someone out there get her back on film and quick. This was just a fun conversation which was enlivened even more by her friend Erica… Yes, Erica flashed her at the home stretch of the interview. With more friends like that, the world would be a better place.
So this coming February 22nd. Do all you can to catch the crazy and go see THE SIGNAL. It is funny, terrifying, and a refreshing change of pace from your typical horror flick. Although I don’t know if Erica will flash you when you go see it, but even if she doesn’t, THE SIGNAL is well worth your hard earned movie dollars.
Now you were part of the group of friends that got together and made THE SIGNAL?
Oh, yeah, I knew everybody pretty much but AJ [Bowen]. AJ I had not met before because I didn’t work on THE LAST GOODBYE with everybody else. And everybody else that worked on THE LAST GOODBYE, including some of the others, all went to college together at UGA, and I was not there either.
Now Mya was your first leading role?
As far as a film of this caliber, yes. I’ve been acting for a very long time but I didn’t start doing film until I moved to Atlanta in 2000.
What was this experience like for you?
It was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Actually, I’ll quote myself from another interview I did recently, it was like an elementary school field trip. I like to describe it that way because everyday we’d shoot for sometimes seventeen hours and you’re exhausted, but, you know, you get down at about one o’ clock and then you have to be back on set at five am. And we’re all like, ‘we can still make last call!’ [Laughing] Then we went out and had a cocktail and you go home, and you can’t sleep ‘cause you’re so excited. And then you wake up and you haven’t slept much, but it doesn’t matter ‘cause you’re so excited because you get to do it again. You know, for the entire shoot, it was a crazy challenge at times but it was an adventure. Obviously, you met AJ and you, I’m sure, heard about a lot of the people I worked with, and they’re all extremely talented, amazing and fun people. So I had a blast, it was wonderful.
Now when you read the script what was your first impression?
Well the scripts changed a few times. Not drastically, but… the first time we did the read through, the first time we all sat down together, the day that I met AJ, I don’t think any of us knew really what they were trying to do as far as the three transmissions. So it was a little confusing and it was very obvious that each section sort of had a different flavor, if you will, to it. It started out, you know, like I said, a bunch of people that I really respect as filmmakers and artists saying, ‘hey, let’s make a movie.’ and everyone going, ‘okay, yeah, let’s do it.’ I don’t think I really had any preconceived notions about what it would be or what it would turn into. But as far as the script itself goes, you know, I was still just really excited. I think I was just open to whatever. I guess I just need to say without rambling anymore, but it was very obvious that each section was slightly personalized for the director.
Actually, don’t worry about rambling… I love when people do it, it tells a lot about them.
Ah, it’s fantastic.
They pinched me when we were at Sundance before we started really getting used to having to do press last year. My co-stars would pinch me when I would be talking too much. [Laughing]
I personally like it [Laughing]. Now, your character [Mya] seems to be a difficult role.
Yes. It was, it was.
How did you prepare just on a basic, getting hyped up for the physicality of it. You get beat down a lot.
Well, I don’t get it as bad as some as far as the blood on my face is mostly everybody else’s… and the car wreck. I use music sometimes, like there’s the scene where I’m walking down the hallway, you know. I wasn’t allowed to see the hallway before that and I sort of had to be in the right headspace before that. I don’t know which version of the movie you saw, did it have Lou Reed “Perfect Day” cover?
No, it actually had Heavens.
Okay, okay, so you saw the second one. The first one had a cover of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”.
Which is a brilliant song.
And not to be redundant, but it was pretty perfect, the irony and the sweetness to it. But I had that in my headphones while I was walking down the hallway. You know, and I stole AJ’s iPod a few times to sort of put myself in the right headspace, ‘cause we were laughing a lot on set and you can’t really do that and just drop into character. I got accused of being method a few times. At one point I chugged a cup of coffee because I’m very small and it causes an anxiety attack if I do that. So I did that on purpose. [Laughing] We all have our tricks.
No wonder your performance was so right on, you were freaking out.
Well there’s one time in particular that I did induce an anxiety attack and I won’t tell you which one. But there is only one scene in the movie where I’m actually having an anxiety attack for reals.
Now when I see it again, I’m going to be trying to figure out that scene.
Probably not the one you’ll think too. I mean, you gotta let me know next time you see it and I’ll tell you if you’re right.
Definitely. Definitely. Now this is such a terrific performance, and you don’t have a lot of film experience… I’m guessing you’ve done a lot of theatre.
How young were you when you started?
Well, I started performing in general when I was very young. I was a dancer, and a singer, and an acrobat, and a gymnast, and a piano player. So I was always in front of an audience in one form or another. And in high school, some of my friends in the choir were in theatre productions class. And it sounded like fun. That was something I hadn’t done before and I’m not opposed to being in front of an audience so… obviously. So I tried out for the class and I got in and haven’t really looked back since. I was probably sixteen or seventeen years old.
Are you ready for the release of this? Are you surprised that it’s actually getting a theatrical release and…?
We’re all… I like to say glabbergasted [Laughing]. It was such a Cinderella story you know, a bunch of friends going, let’s make a film, and then doing it and having a ball and then walking away, ‘well that was fun’ and then I think Dave Bruckner was the one that said, and I may be misquoting him… well, one of the directors said, submitting this film to Sundance was an offering to the Gods. I don’t think anybody actually expected us to get in. I was behind the bar slicing a lime when I got the conference call to tell me, and of course I cut myself [Laughing]. And then everybody showed up at the bar and we’re like, ‘Hey, we’re going to Sundance!’ And then we went to Sundance and it was like, well that’s fun, we’re at Sundance. And then that night, you know, we premiered, and then at four o’clock that morning, Magnolia wants to spend 2.3 million dollars to buy this thing. You know, its been a rollercoaster. But then that was what… a year ago? January of last year when Magnolia bought it and we came back here and we’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is happening!’ And then nothing. It’s been in conversation for a year and now it’s back. I’ve said a few times, I’d like to dig a hole and then have somebody dig me up in March, you know, [Laughing], ‘How’d we do? We do good?’ I don’t really know, I’m a little terrified.
It is a weird thing, the idea of a group of people getting together and making a movie and suddenly having it open in like somewhere between 500 to 1000 screens… is that correct?
In the US, yeah.
That just doesn’t happen very often.
Well it was supposed to be fifteen major cities and then you know, Shoreline Entertainment is doing the International. And from what I understand, we are having some foreign releases as well.
I know. I wanna see my movie overdubbed in Japanese [Laughing].
That would be cool.
Wouldn’t that be funny [Laughing]?
I was reading an interview with you and you mentioned THE EXORCIST being one of your favorite horror films. Were you always into horror or did it come with doing this type of film?
Oh no. I’ll tell you a stupid story. It’s kind of embarrassing, but… it won’t be the first time I’ve told it. When I was in sixth grade, I was the straight A student with the braces and the perm…yes [Laughing]. Hoop earrings… I was that guy. And I didn’t really have a lot of friends and… you know, I had advanced classes, I was a big ‘ole geek. And I got invited to a slumber party on Halloween. And it was this girl named Anne Cotton who I haven’t thought about in years, except to tell this story. We were going to watch a bunch of scary movies and that’s what we were gonna do, and I was just excited to go to a slumber party, you know. So I went over there, and we watched… I don’t even remember. I know we watched The Exorcist. And then we watched something else before that. And then we started to watch PET SEMETARY and I just couldn’t take it anymore. And I went into her bedroom and I dove under her bed and she had a waterbed. I remember the story in-between movies about Freddy Krueger coming out of the waterbed, so I couldn’t get on the waterbed. So I got onto the floor next to the waterbed and then I remembered the little boy from Pet Semetary with the razor blade and the Achilles tendon so I couldn’t be next to the bed either [Laughing].
When my mom came to pick me up in the morning, I was literally, wide awake, in the corner of the room, holding her cat against it’s will. I was sort of rocking myself… real standard, insane moment. I mean, it was probably, six or seven years before I could go back and finish Pet Semetary, and it’s not that scary [Laughing]. It screwed me up. And for a long time after that I slept with the lights on every night. If I laid on my stomach and my heart was beating, I would think my bed was shaking and… oh, it f*cked me up royally. But you know, at the same time I learned to really respect it. Like that is difficult to do. And even before I started doing film, if I would get too sucked into a scary movie I would start figuring in my head where the lights are placed. And knowing that there are at least twenty other people in that room. They’re just acting… blah, blah, blah. The only downfall of doing a horror film is that now I do know all the tricks, and I’m just waiting for that next movie that’s going to terrify me because I haven’t seen one in a very long time.
Well the The Signal is pretty messed up, in a good way. Which may be because there is a bit of a social commentary going on. Did you personally ever think about that going into the role, like what if this could happen, terrorism or whatever?
Isn’t it though? I appreciate that you see the social commentary because a lot of people ask if that is there on purpose and a lot of people don’t notice it at all. I think we’ve all sort of left it for the audience to decide how much of it is social commentary versus just sort of, entertainment. I think that there is definitely a message there. I think that is one of the reasons Stephen King wrote “The Cell” which unfortunately hit the shelves before our movie came out and now everybody’s blaming us for it. But in our defense, and do print this… we were done shooting that movie before “The Cell” hit shelves.
Yeah, that is what AJ and I talked about too.
And I am so tired of people yelling at me, ‘You totally ripped off “The Cell”’. We finished shooting this in 2006... let it go.
Anyways, I think the reason that it is such a popular subject lately is that it is an epidemic, I mean, not necessarily the terrorism aspect, but just how much we rely on our media, and our cell phones, and our radios, and our computers, and our televisions, you know.
I will tell you, I didn’t have cable for a very long time, PBS was my cable for a very long time [Laughing]. And I moved into this apartment almost a year ago, that came with cable, and I’ve turned into a zombie. I don’t have to get the signal, you sit down in front of the TV and you are a zombie. Is your brain actually working? I mean, it depends on what you’re watching I guess but it’s true… it’s there.
I know so many people that… and I was one of those people, that just get hooked. But I don’t have cable anymore for good reason, it does kind of make you a zombie, and I’m not a big fan of television anyway.
And again, it depends on what you’re watching. Like I watch a lot of History channel and stuff like that so I’m actually absorbing information, but you know, you turn on your Comedy Central and whatever, and if you’re not watching “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report”, what are you really learning. I enjoy getting my news for Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.
Yeah, I do agree with you on both of those shows. They are two of the best shows on television.
I mean right? I want cable for that. Plus I like The Food Network.
Now you mentioned that you were working on a short film, what else have you got going next for you?
I don’t know. I will say, all I really want to get out of this movie hitting theatres is more work, you know. I’m not trying to become a movie star or be a millionaire or any of the cliché things that people say like, ‘oh, I’m gonna be famous’, I don’t need all that. I just want to get more work that is challenging and I’m hoping for that. But right now, this is the only thing, so I’m waiting patiently for something to happen.
Well I’m looking forward to the release. I want to see it again. I think it’s a great movie and I think you give a great performance.
Well thank you so much.
I can’t wait for audiences to get to check this out… with the music, each of the directors and all of you guys, it’s a great f*cking movie.
You know, they just shot some webisodes. Each director just shot a webisode because these are transmissions one, two and three… that you saw. I think they shot twenty-two, fifty-five and another one that are all supposed to be taking place at the same time. But it’s all different characters and it’s going to be on the web sometime really soon. So keep an eye out for that too…
[And in the final moments of the interview…]
My friend Erica just flashed me! You can put that in the article [Laughing].
I will. Erica?
Erica. Erica Wilson.
Thank you so much, that was one of my favorite interviews… ever.
Oh, thank you.
Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.