Interview - Melanie Papalia

The Children of Samhain's Tribute to 



Since the beginning of horror films, strong women have always been present. There has never been a shortage of female characters who aren't afraid to fight back when pushed too far. These are tough women that don't need a man to save them; because they aren't twisting their ankle running from the bad guy, they're picking up an axe and aiming for the villains head. And behind every one of these roles is an equally strong and extremely talented actress to bring life and nuance to the character. Who can forget Janet Leigh as Marion Crane or her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode? Who doesn't remember iconic roles like Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, or Sigourney Weaver as Ripley? Hell, almost every picture made by Alfred Hitchcock featured a strong female. Now, perhaps it comes from being raised by a strong woman that I am drawn to these characters, but it makes me happy to see the next wave of strong leading ladies kicking ass onscreen. A new school of hardcore heroines who are taking tough to another level. To me It seems like there has never been a better time for women in the genre, and luckily there are certainly no shortage of them. From Katherine Isabelle in American Mary to Sharni Vinson in You're Next, badass women are taking over...

So in honor of them, we'd like to introduce a series of interviews with actresses, directors, writers, and musicians in what we like to call: A Tribute to BADASS WOMEN OF HORROR. Our first interview featured Sharni Vinson (Patrick, You're Next) and for our second interview we present the extremely talented Melanie Papalia (Smiley, The Den). Enjoy. 

Leo FrancisFirst let me say thank you for taking the time to do this. It was a pleasure getting to meet you at the Q&A for The Den. I have to say, I enjoyed it even more after seeing it in the theater. I was extremely impressed with your performance. I absolutely loved that your character refused to stop fighting back. I am a huge fan of strong women in horror and your work in films like The Den and Smiley, which is why I was excited at the opportunity to ask you some questions. I thought that it might be fun to do this interview via Skype or something online, but with you track record, I decided against it. 

Ok, first Smiley and now The Den… Are you trying to become the poster child for avoiding sites like ChatRoulette? During the Q&A after the screening you talked briefly about doing some research on one of these sites, and how violated it made you feel. Was this research done for both films, or primarily for The Den? Why do you think people are drawn to these sites?

Melanie Papalia: Ha, no definitely not! Yes, I researched Charoulette but only for The Den. The whole premise for The Den was really Chatroulette so thee was no way around it. I'd prefer to stay off those sites at any cost but it was pretty imperative for The Den. Honestly, I don't know why people are drawn to them. From what I witnessed, I really didn't see how anyone could make friends. So maybe it's just an escape?

LF: The character you play in The Den, Elizabeth, turns out to be kind of a badass. Where did you draw inspiration for a role like this, and is there a particular actress, character, or performance you were trying to emulate or that influenced you?

MP: Total badass. To be honest, no. I didn't picture any other actresses' performance. I just knew I had to bring the fight. Part of the reason we like Elizabeth is because she's strong and puts up one hell of a fight to stay alive. I think if anything, it was just seeing too many scary movies where the females don't get the opportunity to be strong, smart, or put up a fight. In getting that opportunity I knew I had to BRING IT!

LF: What are the traits that define strong women, in your opinion? Who are your strong female role models professionally? And who are your strong female role models personally? 

MP: I think confidence is a big one. But it's a confidence with no arrogance. Confidence + wisdom - the arrogance = strong. Someone with their feet planted on the ground and who understands to not take life too seriously. You fall, you get up. End of story. Professionally -  I could go on, there are so many. Just look at any female in my field (or in the public eye) who has overcome and done some good. Personally - my mother. Hands down.

LF: During the Q&A you touched briefly on double standards that audiences have with men and women's roles, based on a negative audience reaction at an early test screening of the film in which your character is being unfaithful to her boyfriend. Why do you think these double standards still exist? Do you think that shows like Scandal are an indication that things are changing? And what do you think can be done to change those perceptions?

MP: I'm not sure why they still exist but it's complete BS in my opinion. Not saying I agree with cheating, because I don't. I was just using cheating as an example of the double standard in film. Woman can't get away with much in film without coming off in a bad light. Maybe this goes back to centuries, decades ago when women weren't as liberated and were suppressed  I don't know. It's awesome that shows like Scandal are pushing the boundaries. If a man can do it, a woman should be able to too. it's 2014!!

LF: How much of your own stunt work, if any, do you do? If so, what is the most dangerous stunt that you've performed? Have you ever been injured on any of the shoots? 

MP: I feel like I dod probably 70% of my own stunt work. Because this movie wasn't shot like regular cinematic film, it was meant to be seen as real. I really wanted it to be me in every shot. Of course, I'm not a stunt person so anything considered dangerous I wasn't allowed to do but for the stuff that was a "maybe" I would just get the stunt team to show me how. They were great! I've been a dance my whole life and I'm pretty athletic, so I pick up that kinda stuff pretty quick. Oh yeah, definitely been injured. Cracked ribs, sprains..but I basically just walked away from The Den with a lot of bruises and sore muscles. 

LF: You seem to be building your horror resume, have you always been a fan of the genre? If so what do you think the appeal is? What was the first horror movie you ever watched? Do you enjoy acting in horror films more or less than a film like American Pie?

MP: Ha, yeah. I guess I've done a few creepers. Always been a fan. I love a good scare. I think the appeal is the excitement of a scare. One of the first I ever watched (that I remember because I started watching young) was a Jason movie. Friday the 13th. 'Cha Cha Cha' use to haunt me as a kid! I wouldn't say I love acting in any type more than the other. They all offer something that excites me and I feel like I have a lot to give to each drama. I definitely needed to go do something a little lighter after I finished The Den.  

LF: I thought I heard you say that you had a background in dance. Is the correct? What style of dance and where did you train? Does having a dance background better prepare you for a physically demanding role like Elizabeth? 

MP: I've been a dancer since I was 3. I trained in Vancouver BC until I was 18 and then spent a lot of time in LA training after that.  Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip Hop, tap, you name it, I've done it. But I'd say the first four are more my area. I think being a dancer 100% prepared me physically. Being physical with my body is just second nature.

LF: Have you been trained vocally? I can't help but notice that you have an amazing range and control over your voice. Does having to scream while filming tire your voice out? Do have a favorite 'Scream Queen'? 

MP: Yeah, I've trained a bit vocally. I sing for things when I have to, and I'm starting to enjoy that more, but in private I love singing! Great acoustics in the shower haha. Thank you! Having to scream definitely tires out my voice but normally during those scenes there is a lot going on so the scenes just get me pretty exhausted as a whole. My favorite scream queen..can't go wrong with Jamie Lee Curtis. I'm gonna give an honorable mention to my fellow Canadian Neve Campbell though.

LF: What scares you? We're all scared of war and disease and things like that. But when it comes to horror films, what genuinely scares you? 

MP: Anything that's a real threat. I include ghosts and aliens in that. 

LF: Name a film you walked out of at the theater.

MP: One. But I'll never tell haha

LF: If you could punch one person in the face, who would it be?

MP: Can't pick just one.

LF: Has anyone ever made you feel 'star-struck'?

MP: I'd say Halle Berry. But only for the first 5 minutes. She's such an amazing, normal person that she makes you forget who she is. Lovely human.

LF: What's your favorite horror film of all time and / or the scariest movie you've ever seen?

MP: My favorite horror movie of all time would have to be The Strangers. Real threat and a slow creep. Gets me everytime I watch it.

Thanks again to Melanie for taking the time to answer my questions. The Den is now available on iTunes, VOD and in select theaters. Cheers. 

- Leo Francis