Usually people sorta pick one thing and stick with it, but you’ve actually done a wide variety of things like stage acting, film acting, writing, radio, personal appearances, etc… Do you ever feel overwhelmed by it all and how do you avoid getting burned out?
Yes I always feel overwhelmed because I always have a hundred things going at once. But that seems to be the way I like my life to be seeing it’s been that way as long as I can remember! I do feel tired sometimes but I think the love of what I do and the excitement of new projects keeps me going. Sadly, I don’t make Hollywood wages, at least right now, so I can’t go off for a month to some remote location and recharge my batteries. But if something comes up that I really want to do it’s extremely hard for me to say no even if I don’t truly have the time to fit it in. I do manage to fit in all the good stuff though.
You moved to New York from Canada when to study acting when you were only 17. What inspired this move and what sorts of obstacles did you have to overcome to make it happen?
I was accepted into a community college in Vancouver in the Theater Department. I worked three jobs and saved up enough money to get me through the first term. Then all of a sudden I decided I wanted to move to NYC to study with the great acting teachers who actually wrote the books I was reading and would be studying from. I belonged to the Actor’s Alliance Company in Vancouver so I contacted someone who belonged to the Actor’s Alliance in NYC and was able to become her roommate when I first arrived. It was a huge shock getting used to the mice and cockroaches in NYC. I never saw anything like that before, at least IN people’s homes! It was an adjustment but I was always a loner so it didn’t freak me out to come to a new, big city and not know anyone.
You did a variety of off-broadway plays early on with various theater companies. How does stage acting compare to film acting? Do you find that one is more challenging than the other?
You know they are both extremely challenging. One is not harder than the other, they are both completely different techniques! I always loved film work more but I think because I could focus on the inner details of the character. Stage is something that you have to completely respect too. I also thought it was a little more interesting to capture my work (for better or worse) on film or video. But there really is nothing like stage it’s incredibly invigorating and a real test of your concentration.
You had your first acting role in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains as an uncredited extra, which basically started you down the path to a full and prolific career in acting and other mediums. How did you end up getting that part, and did you realize at the time what a life changing event that was or was it more of a thing where you just enjoyed yourself and thought you’d give the whole acting thing a try?
It was a complete life changing experience for me. I really didn’t have anything at that time and when I worked on the film I threw myself into it like I was the lead even though I was simply a featured extra! I worked on it for 3 months and that was a long time especially at that age. I found a sense of self worth when I did a good job and the assistant director told me so. Then it was no longer a choice but a journey to become a full time actor.
You’ve received much acclaim for both your comedic and dramatic performances, and you do both wonderfully. Each style has it’s own techniques and timing, and often times, being a reviewer, I notice that people who are more dramatic actors lack the timing, style and believability to do comedy, and vice versa. Which do you find to be the more challenging of the two, and do you feel that any actor with proper training can master both, or is it more of a natural ability that you have to have to be able to pull off one, the other or both styles of acting effectively?
I think it takes understanding the difference between the two, knowing that the tempo of your whole being has to be different and training AND natural ability! I would also add one more style to the things I’ve done. Most would simply say it’s comedy but there have been a number of films that I have done in which I played the character with a flare that would come off as campy – intentionally. Like in Hellblock 13. You have to take it very seriously but also there’s a sense of tongue-in-cheek-ness in the writing. For me I love drama but it can also be harder for me. Comedy is hard too but it flows a little easier when I work but that completely depends on the people I’m working with too! You cannot fly in comedy if your partner sucks.
Without mentioning any names, have you been involved in films or even stage work where one or more of your co-stars were hired on their looks alone and basically ruined the whole production because of their lack of talent? If so, how do you deal with situations like that?
Oh yes. That happens all the time. People are hired for a variety of reasons not just because of looks and they are just not able to handle the role. It’s tough, very tough. The old adage ‘you’re only as strong as the weakest link’ comes to mind. I have sucked in some films too but it was never from a lack of trying! You just have to use every bit of concentration you have just to keep up your end but you know that it will never truly ‘fly’ when you’re with someone on a lower level than you. That’s why you want to always TRY and act across people who are on the same level or higher than you are. Then that’s when you really grow and see what you can do.
You’ve had a long relationship with Troma and Lloyd Kaufman. When did you first meet him and how did that whole relationship come about?
I first met Lloyd Kaufman in 1991 when I was interviewing him for a magazine. Upon meeting me he invited me to pose for some poster art then after that I just became more and more involved with the company. He’s a great friend and I will always cherish the projects I have done with him! Now we get each other acting gigs which is really funny!
You’ve had a fabulous and well rounded career. Was there ever a point, or maybe even one particular experience you’ve had over the years where you just sort of realized how successful you’ve become?
It’s funny. Sometimes things can happen when you realize that all the work you’ve done has paid off. Probably most noticeable in fan letters. Not letters that just say you’re pretty or something superficial like that, but you get letters that say you have inspired someone or made a difference somehow in their lives. That’s pretty amazing. Then again the opposite can happen too and you can hit road blocks or brick walls and you wonder why things aren’t a little easier than they seem to be. It really goes both ways. I think the saddest part is when you are really open and friendly with people you work with and they take you for granted or take advantage of you. That’s the sad part. Of course only if you have considered them a friend before that happened.
You have a lot of films that are currently in production or in post. What’s the average shooting time for these films and how do you deal with such a heavy production schedule while still managing to find time for all the other things you do? (writing, festival appearances, etc…)
Well most low budget films are made in 10 to 20 days. That’s not even a month. And in a lot of cases people can only afford you for a couple or a few days. So it’s not so bad. You can make 15 movies a year, and while you’re busy it’s not as insane as it might seem.
Have you done any films that you wish would just get buried in a hole somewhere and forgotten? On the opposite side of the coin, what films have you been really proud of that you feel maybe didn’t get enough exposure?
Hell yeah, there’s probably a dozen films that I wish would disintegrate! And they probably will with time seeing most of them were shot on video! But the films I am most proud of are Nowhere Man, Tromeo and Juliet, Terror Firmer, American Nightmare, Hellblock 13, Witchouse 3: Demon Fire and Bleed…. so far. Not all of them have been well received but I know what I put into them so that’s why I think fondly of them.
You appear at a lot of film festivals and other public events. Do you find that when you meet your fans, they sort of expect you to be the same in person as you are on screen?
Sometimes they do. I have one fan that has asked my character from American Nightmare to marry him! But for the most part people are just really cool and I treat most people like friends because I am very appreciate of their support. I have never taken anyone’s support fore granted. I think some people are surprised at how ‘normal’ I am. I’m very down to Earth, not one drop of diva in me.
Have you had any weird experiences with a fan?
Sure. I have had weird fan mail from jail. One fellow was on death row for murdering a number of women. Of course I never contacted him back but that was weird and pretty gross. There’s a lot of people that want to monopolize your time at conventions. I love talking with all my friends and fans but sometimes you think to yourself it would be nice if they gave you a break after talking with them for about 3 hours straight. Then again, I also understand that it’s important to them to speak with me and I am always aware that their feelings are on the line. It’s a delicate balance really. You appreciate their support but you’re only human and sometimes it’s hard to ask someone to for a few minute break!
Obviously you have a lot of friends in the industry, but when it comes to making new friends outside the industry, do you find that to be difficult because you end up wondering if they like you for who you are or if they like you just because you’re famous?
It’s actually the opposite. It’s sad how many times I’ve been let down by people in the business because they have ‘changed’. Sometimes people can meet you and do really nice things for you, and you help them out anyway you can and then BAM. They have gotten everything they want from you and they move on, which is fine but it’s usually HOW they move on. It usually ends with a knife in your back. It’s so sad. Because you really considered them your friend. What a shock that can be.
What do you like to do to relax and have fun when you’re not working?
RELAX? What does that mean? Sleeping is considered relaxing pretty much. On a rare occasion I get out to a movie so I would saying watching movies in the theater. I am such a workaholic it’s crazy.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who wanted to get into acting?
Study to be a lawyer. If you still want to act then take as many classes with GOOD teachers as you can. MUCHO IMPORTANT! Realize you are not going to get rich doing this probably and you must accept the life of an ‘artist’ i.e.: poor.
What projects are you currently working on, and what do you have completed and coming out soon?
Rapturious is going to be coming out pretty soon! It’s a horror movie that is like 8 Mile meets Rosemary’s Baby directed by ex-Jerky-Boy Kamal Ahmed. I play the manager of an up and coming white rap star who is having some difficulties with drugs… or is it Satan?? Also I am working on an all Debbie Rochon DVD via Troma which will feature the best of my work with them as well as some really great new extras. Like an episode of Trailer Park, a show I made for Fangoria Entertainment. I just did a short film called Meat Market with Brinke Stevens and am about to shoot Bikini Blood Bath 2, reprising my role from part one as the crazy lesbian coach at a high school. I worked on a film called Dark Side of the Light, a comedy called Zeppo and I am continuing to write my book. I have just finished producing a show for Fangoria Entertainment called SLiTHER Behind the Scenes which is on the new film by James Gunn. I am writing for Sirens of Cinema magazine, Gorezone magazine in the UK and Horror Maniacs magazine in Italy. Plus about a hundred other things I can’t remember. I have a lot of great film work coming up with a number of people, nothing is scheduled solidly yet.
Do you have any upcoming personal appearances scheduled that you’d like to tell everyone about?
YES! I have quite a few but so many get added that the best thing to do it check the appearances section on my website to get the best and most current info. I will be at The New Haven Underground Film Festival in May and the horror fest It Came From Lake Michigan in October as well as a number of great conventions. I only book myself at events I really enjoy with people I really like.
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we wrap this up?
Just a HUGE thank you for the interview! All the best to the zine and thanks to all who read this crazyness!
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You can check out Debbie Rochon’s website at http://www.debbierochon.com and find out all about her, her career, where she’ll be appearing and more.
The top two photos in this interview and the cover photo are courtesy of Gary Cook.