The young teen who started her acting career in the cult horror film Sleepaway Camp has been making movies since that movie first came out in 1983. According to IMDb, Felissa Rose has 116 movies to her acting credit, many of them in the horror genre.
In May she has two new films available for streaming on demand: the creepy tale A Nun’s Curse and For Jennifer, the latest in the Jennifer franchise.
We sat down with Rose and had a chat about her life in the horror biz.
How are you making out during the pandemic?
I’m doing well. I’m still working on projects that I can do at home. I just did two animated shows and two different iPhone films. So still working under the circumstances, and for me, it’s a nice pleasure because I’m traveling so much that being home with the kids and my family is really nice.
As someone with more than 30 pending productions over 2020 and 2021, it must be difficult with everything shut down.
Well two of them were supposed to be in production right now, one at the end of March and then the other the end of April, so they both got pushed. So they’re postponed and we’ll certainly begin production as soon as we’re able to leave the house. But fortunately I had finished a movie that I’m super thrilled about called Scream Test, so that was in Florida, we filmed that January into February. And everything else has kind of been post, like Terrifier 2 and Step Daddy and a bunch of others that I had just worked on prior to the quarantine.
Two of those productions get released for on demand in April and May. Let’s talk about them. First A Nun’s Curse. Tell me about the movie.
Well, it’s near and dear to my heart because I love Tommy Faircloth so much, the writer/director. He’s one of my closest friends and we collaborated together. He wrote and directed Family Possessions. And that was the first film we worked on together, we had met at a convention. So we started this great friendship and then just had a ball on Family Possessions, so when he told me about A Nun’s Curse, I thought, “Wow, not only does it sound exciting, but the character is so insane.”
I love the idea of playing such a villainous, dark character that I really haven’t played in a while at least, so it was exciting. And then to work with him and that cast was just simply thrilling for me.
Religion and horror films are kind of synonymous. Did you enjoy being a nun?
I did. I had never played one before, so for me, anything that’s seemingly a challenge and a character that I had never stepped into before is always more fun because you’re exploring new territory and creating a person that you’ve never gotten the chance to act as. And she’s so incredibly rooted in evil and dark and crazy, it was a lot of fun working with the FX artists as well, Tony Rosen and Sean Krumbholz, they created the look, and when you have that dark exterior, that really creepy look, it just lends itself to become that.
As soon as I was in the habit and in the makeup and the sclera lenses, it all came together.
Where do you get your inspiration when taking on a character like Sister Monday?
I studied at Strasberg and it’s all about sense memory, a lot has to do with music, and in my repertoire of life I generally pull from anything that would create anger, and that’s hard for me because I’m generally such a positive, happy person, so I have to really go all the way on the other side. There are other films that inspire me and other performances certainly, and I put that all together and that’s how you come up with the energy.
And certainly the location was unbelievable, and Tommy’s idea of how he wanted her to act and all the motivation he had written on the page.
Sister Monday is one creepy character. Of all your roles, which one do you think is your creepiest?
Wow, that’s a great question. I really feel like Sister Monday’s definitely in the top five. I played a character in a movie called Zombie Killers with Dee Wallace and Billy Zane and that character, Lia, is the preacher of the town. And every time it was reviewed, people would say I was scarier than the zombies, and I really had to go there. She’s another religious character. Wow. There’s a theme here in my life. And she was really angry.
So I think between Sister Monday and Lia in that film, in Zombie Killers, the two of them are pretty evil, pretty dark, so they had similarities.
For Jennifer is also out now. Tell me about this one.
Oh, For Jennifer is part of the whole series that started with James Cullen Bressack and Hunter Johnson and now Jody Barton, and I was fortunate enough to strike a friendship with all of them years ago. The horror community is so small, and they had me in 2 Jennifer and that was really fun because I played an actress and I come in and I audition for a role, so Hunter gave me great direction there and we just had a lot of fun with my cameo.
And then when they brought For Jennifer around and Jody said he was on board to make that film, they called me and said, “Oh, do you want to reprise your role? What do you think?” And first of all, any time I get to work with good friends, it’s a pleasure. It’s wonderful. It’s like a family reunion. And then to play this character again was definitely so much fun and we had a great time. Tiffany Fest is one of my dearest friends, so I loved being on that set. It was really, really nice.
Is it hard to step back into the character after you haven’t played her for awhile?
No, I don’t think so because certainly once you get into the script and definitely for me when I’m on set and in costume, you pull all of that together and reminisce and go back and feel all of the feelings of, like I said, it’s definitely sensory for me. So I just jumped right back into it and felt like her again.
And I feel like I try to be really specific with a lot of the roles I have especially portrayed as recently, within the past 10 years, a lot of them are bigger characters. I look at each one of them like a child and they have their own unique story and biography. It’s interesting as an actor when you create these people. It becomes just a part of your life and you step right into that.
And another creepy role I forgot was Rootwood, which just came out last week, not to give too much away, but that’s out now, a movie by Marcel Walz, and that’s in my top few.
This whole journey for you started with Sleepaway Camp. That film is a cult classic – what do you remember about filming it?
Oh my gosh. Since it was my first, it’s kind of like my love. I always say it gave me a life, it’s the fabric of what keeps my whole life going. I remember pretty vividly, I was 13, and I remember wanting the part really badly because I thought it would be so exciting to make a movie. It was my first role in a professional film and it was like going to camp.
I loved the whole cast. We immediately bonded, like most films do, and we were all young teenagers. And we did all things that kids do at camp, first love and playing sports and boating, and it was just really a wonderful experience, and we’re still a family and still very close to that cast. And it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
You were only 13 when you made that. Did you already set your sights on horror or did that film set the pace for your future?
I think that movie really set the pace and brought me in because then I became a huge fan and like I said, I went on to study. I went to school after I graduated, and once the internet came about and we saw there were websites dedicated to the movie and people were like, “I remember that movie. Do you remember?” And we started doing conventions, FANGORIA was our first convention in like 2000 or 2001, and we noticed that there was an audience.
So other horror directors started calling me and I really loved horror movies so much that it was just a natural marriage between myself and working in the genre.
What was it like as a young actress at that time?
In the 80s it was so different because I really wanted to be a musical theater actress and I was always singing and dancing and thought maybe I’d do some off-Broadway or perhaps Broadway. I had my sights really set on that and it was innocent. We were shooting on film, it was very different just being in the industry at that time. It was fun. I was a kid, I didn’t take it too seriously, and I certainly didn’t think about a career.
Like I said, I just went with my flow and it came into my life. Although I studied it in school, I wasn’t always sure that it was something I wanted to pursue professionally. But as I got older, I realized it was definitely my passion and I put all of my energy into it. So it grew. I wasn’t one of those kids who just stayed in the business and I was hardcore working all the time, I really wasn’t.
They called me ethnic. So at the time in the 80s you saw a lot of blonde hair and blue eyed young actors in commercials and on TV, so New York Magazine did an article on me being this ethnic New York actress. I didn’t even know what that meant. It was a different time even for the look of actors. And then as I got older and I really started pursuing it, things changed fortunately and we see much more diversity in television and film now, and it all came together and it’s definitely the greatest love of my life aside from my family.
You had a very interesting nude scene at the end of the movie. Tell me about the experience of becoming a man. That must have been interesting as a young girl.
It was definitely original. When I read the script it was shocking and unique and we hadn’t seen that before. So although on the page it was thrilling, we didn’t know what it would look like on the screen. And originally Ed French, the FX artist was going to mold a penis and put it on me, but then they realized, how would they do the entire nude scene because I have still have breasts and I wasn’t 18, so that wouldn’t happen.
But then when they made the mold of my face and put it on a young boy when we first saw the end, it was completely shocking on the screen. I think that end scene got an audience because of that. It was provocative for the time and it was odd being a young girl, and I took my eighth grade class to see the movie. It was an interesting experience to see. The first penis I saw was my own penis, so it was weird. Definitely interesting.
Your acting career was starting, but you decided to go back to school. What made you make that choice?
Well, my parents always instilled in me that they really wanted me to get an education because they saw that the industry was so fickle and you really didn’t have any security in just saying like, “Okay, I’m a young person and I think I just want to be an actor.” In the arts, there’s always something that you need to do to generate an income. So they definitely reinforced, go to school, get an education, and then from there, see if that’s really what you want to do. You’ll mature, you’ll grow up a little bit.
And so I did, I went to school and I actually started my own business after college where I would have actors and artists work temp and perm jobs while they were looking for work in the arts. So it was fun being a business person, and I always figured show business was not only about the creative talents of people, but certainly you had to understand the business side of it.
And so I ran that agency for several years until I really saw that I wanted to be back working as an actress.
Out of more than 100 movies what is your favourite?
I love that question because I’m always like, “I don’t know.” I wish I could choose, but it’s like choosing a child who’s my favorite, and I have three children and they’re certainly all the greatest joys of my life.
Sleepaway Camp was the first, so it would be safe to say that that started everything and is definitely up there, but I’ve had a lot of great experiences and I’ve worked with so many wonderful filmmakers that I’m very lucky to have just been a part of the genre for as long as I have.