ALEX ESSOE INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Richelle Charkot
Alex Essoe, lead actress in the film Starry Eyes, sat down to talk with us about horror, acting and getting into the mind of her character, Sarah Walker. Starry Eyes is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Richelle Charkot: Tell me about getting into the head of Sarah, specifically who she is in the latter half of the movie.
Alex Essoe: Sarah... she is someone who is an actor, and being an actor there's a lot of characteristics that a lot of actors share. She's hard on herself, has crippling self doubt, insecurities. The trouble with her is that she decided that the only way she can be validated as a human is through her industry; there's no other outlet for her self esteem. There's several people in her life that try to get through to her and present alternatives, but she doesn't listen because she's made up her mind. She's like the victim and the orchestrator of her own demise, which is what I found so interesting. While all these things happen to her, she's given a choice. In a way she gets exactly what she wants – to be a different person. The statement the movie makes is very allegorical – a lot of actors are looking for what Sarah accomplishes in some right, not just commercial success but to feel like they have purpose.
RC: How did you see Sarah when you first read the script? Were there any characteristics in the final product that you felt a strong need to convey?
AE: Yeah absolutely. My first impression of her was that I was very protective of her, I thought it was important to convey her loneliness and how completely alienated she feels, which may or may not be in her head. She's passive, keeps to herself. Instead of taking out any of her anger she directs it all inwards, which I found very fun to play.
RC: What first attracted you to the horror genre?
AE: Oh gosh, probably Dark Crystal.
AE: I know, right? It's great! When I was a kid it terrified me. Halloween was always my favourite holiday also. I love the genre because it is so limitless, there are no boundaries you can't cross, you can explore anything. It's very freeing that the narrative can go anywhere, especially when the storytelling is compelling.
RC: Were there any specific films that you watched or albums that you listened to while preparing for this role? If not, what films or albums could you liken to the tone of Starry Eyes?
AE: Oh, I'm glad you asked that. When I was preparing, I watched Gilda like, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. Rita Hayworth is the ultimate in that movie. Sarah has this pre-occupation with the Golden Era of Hollywood, so I wanted to really take that in. I listened to Cat Powers' version of "Troubled Waters" a lot as well, and "The Garfield El" by The Fiery Furnances. That song is madness, it's awesome. I didn't take too much else in because I wanted to keep it simple. As an actor you learn to plant triggers and associations.
RC: Starry Eyes has such a nightmare surreal quality to it; did you experience any bad dreams while shooting this movie?
AE: I have bad dreams all the time, so yeah, but I honestly don't know if it was the movie or just my brain. [laughs]
RC: What were some of the challenges with the makeup and prosthetics?
AE: The only real challenge was the time that it took because I really loved the makeup and prosthetics, I didn't even mind how long it took. There's that argument in acting like, 'do you work from the inside out or the outside in' and I think it's pointless because you've got to do both. With the homework I do and the practice for the character, it's one thing, but you get into those prosthetics and they start working on you, I swear. I love the makeup.
RC: What's one of your earliest memories with wanting to pursue acting?
AE: I think when I saw my mom when she was an actress in theatre. I grew up watching her perform, but it was when I went to go see her do Macbeth. She was playing Lady Macbeth and I remember being in the audience and not being able to recognize that it was my mom on stage. It was really neat.
RC: How old were you at the time?
AE: Probably about eight or so.
RC: Maybe not to the extent of Sarah, but why is it important to pursue dreams?
AE: I mean, what else are we here for, really? Human beings have gotten past the point of living purely for survival. There's this great book called Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, who's this psychologist. He talks about how people are motivated by a sense of purpose, you need real meaning in your life, and it's extremely accurate. Dreams are important because it's important to feel purposeful.
RC: What's next for you?
AE: I am currently in Charleston working with Marcel Sarmiento on Faceless. He did Deadgirl and "D is for Dogfight" in The ABC's of Death, which I totally loved, it's ill as fuck, just really cool. I'm also working with Brendan Sexton III in the movie from Welcome to the Dollhouse, he's great and I'm really excited
HorrorTalk would like to thank Alex Essoe for taking the time to chat with us!
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