An Interview with Deneen Melody – By Nic Brown

The saying goes “Don’t mess with Texas!” and although she may be based out of Chicago now, you’d still be well advised not to mess with native Texan Deneen Melody! She’s played everything from an assassin to one of the devil’s daughters. This former ballerina turned Scream Queen is not just an actress; she’s also a model who’s learning to do her own stunt work! Now Deneen is taking a break from learning how to fight on screen to talk with B Movie Man Nic Brown about her new projects, why she gave up ballet, and why some people may call her a nerd, but not to her face, remember she’s learning to fight!

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Nic – Deneen, how did you get your start as an actress?

Deneen – Well, before I got into film, I was actually a ballet dancer. Unfortunately, when I was 16, I broke my left foot during a performance. It was one of those situations where I kept telling myself that I could still dance and even managed to do so for a few years. However, I started to really struggle with pointe work, couldn’t handle long rehearsals, or even move the same way… and I realized I couldn’t dance professionally with an injury like that. It was probably the most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced, but I knew there was no point feeling sorry for myself, so I looked into other options.
When I moved from Texas to Chicago, there was an opportunity to explore all kinds of performance art. I did belly dance classes, aerial dance, and a little theater (which I did in school and always enjoyed)… but found myself really drawn to the world of film. So, I decided to go to an audition for a TV pilot about vampires… just to see what would happen… and ended up getting cast. That is really how it started.
From that moment, I was completely hooked and knew this is what I wanted to do. I absolutely love it and not only have I worked on some great projects, but I have met some of the most wonderful people.

Nic – What do you find is the most challenging part of acting for you?

Deneen – I know other actors feel this way as well, but there are moments when it is difficult coming across as natural on film. No matter your level of experience, you sometimes come across a role, or even just one scene, that just doesn’t feel natural to you. The way I see it, we aren’t just playing "characters"… we’re portraying people… and it is our responsibility to bring something real to the audience. So, at least for myself, I sometimes have to take time before a scene and remind myself that I’m not "Deneen" when the camera is going, I’m someone else.

Nic – You’re involved in a new project called MASTER’S DEVILS. Could you tell us a little about that film and your role in it?

Deneen – MASTER’S DEVILS is a film based on the comic book by Legion Studios, specifically a story written by Spider C. Guffey. Basically, there is a bar called "Slim’s" in which all these slimy, horrible, disgusting men go to drink and be… well… slimy, horrible, and disgusting. Then, out of nowhere, these 5 devil girls show up and put them in their place. I play the character of Devlynn Envy, who is kind of the animal of the group. She has crazy hair, messy makeup, and a hellish attitude. Frankly, the only thing she wants to do is beat the crap out of everyone. She is probably one of the most fun characters I have ever played and I enjoyed having a chance to not only be seductive… but also a bad ass.

The film also stars four other ladies that are all very beautiful and wonderfully talented (Lyxi Brinkman, Kristin Montgomery, Sofiya Smirnova, Kaylee Williams)… with Ari "First Jason" Lehman in a featured role. Master Legion himself, Ryan Mojica, produced the film and Terence Muncy of Warbranch Productions directed. The cast and crew were absolutely fantastic to work with, and I hope to do more with Legion Studios in the future.

Nic – Are there any other film projects you’re working on right now?

Deneen – Apart from MASTER’S DEVILS, I recently wrapped a short film called BLOOD KIN, which is a vampire story by Del Harvey. In this film, I play the lead character Simone, who happens to be a newly turned vampire. Vampires are sort of the crazy phase right now, but BLOOD KIN isn’t the typical vampire-human love epic. (There is a hint of a romance there, but it isn’t the focus.) Simone’s past is sort of a mystery to the audience, but you can see she feels a lot of anger and resentment towards her father (played by Craig Sunderlin) and that is actually what moves the story.

I’m also working on a horror thriller by Lawrence Lee Wallace called DARK HALLWAYS, which features an ensemble cast of Chicago actors, including Harold Dennis and Chad Meyer. It has lots of interesting characters (a serial killer and an assassin for example) and they are all trapped in this dark creepy warehouse. I won’t give away too much, but I can say that a lot of people die in this one.

In January, I start working on AS NIGHT FALLS, which is the newest film by Joe Davison (100 TEARS, EXPERIMENT 7)… and also stars Dwight Cenac, Raine Brown, and Debbie Rochon. This movie is going to be an absolute BLAST and I can’t wait to start filming. Not only does it have your typical blood and gore, but it has tons of stunts and fight scenes. There are also several projects I will be filming next year, including a DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT! remake by Alan Rowe Kelly and Anthony Sumner… but I can’t give out much information right now.

Nic – When people think of the “movie business” they think of Hollywood. Do you find Chicago to be a good place to find opportunities as an actress?
Deneen – Hollywood is overrated… I personally prefer being in the Chicago area. I mean, of course I wouldn’t turn down the chance to work on a project in Hollywood if given the chance, but there are plenty of talented filmmakers outside of Hollywood. A lot of actors think that the only way to make a name for yourself is to "make it big" in Hollywood, but I disagree. I’ve met and have worked with so many wonderful directors, actors, and crew out here in Chicago… and I am very thankful for all the opportunities that have been presented to me.
Also, the opportunities for actors are not just in Chicago… they are all over the place! I know plenty of fantastic filmmakers in Florida, Arizona, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.. just to name a few.

Nic – I understand that you are experienced in fight training and that you are also taking stunt classes. So are you going to add stunt person to your resume?

Deneen – As an actress, I definitely enjoy being able to do my own fight scenes and knowing how to handle myself, but I don’t know if I’d ever be able to do the hardcore stuff. I’ve had classes with Lazy Brown Productions and Asylum Stunts in Chicago…and the stuff that they do is simply amazing! I cannot express how much respect and admiration I have for these guys… because it takes so much focus and dedication to do what they do. Maybe one of these days I can focus strictly on stunts, but for now, I enjoy just being able to take classes for certain things…and watch the professionals do the rest!

Nic – Do you have any interest in stepping behind the camera as a director or writer?

Deneen – I have to be honest and say I really prefer staying in front of the camera! I have produced films and I have done work behind the scenes with Breakwall Pictures, but I have no desire to actually get behind the camera and direct. Writing is something I have considered, as I do have a few ideas floating around, but even then… I would rather just work with a writer on bringing those stories to life. Acting truly is my passion and everything else just sort of falls behind it.

That being said, I have SO much respect for filmmakers. Since I have and do work behind the camera at times, I know just how difficult and stressful it can be. In film, there is always so much focus on the actors, but it is the crew that really holds everything together… and without the director, the writers, the producers, and everyone else…there would be nothing.

Nic – What are your thoughts on why the horror genre is so popular?

Deneen – You know… I think a lot of it has to do with the people involved, specifically indie horror. I mean, we may be a little crazy, but we’re a fun group…and I can honestly say that I’ve met some of the nicest, most genuine people working in the horror genre. Everyone is really supportive of one another and there isn’t a lot of superficiality… just lots of blood, sex, and gore.

Besides… who doesn’t love a good horror movie? Even people that say they can’t watch scary movies still watch them… and they know it. There is something fun and exciting about letting yourself get scared.

Nic – Some people believe horror films objectify women, others say the genre has opened up doors for women to play more empowered characters. How do you feel about women’s roles in horror?

Deneen – Oh, I don’t think it objectifies women… and if it does… it is only because people let it. I personally don’t feel offended when I see a hot girl stripping down in a horror film, because it isn’t like anyone is forcing the actress to do it. That is her choice… and if she doesn’t care, then whatever. Besides, there are more and more films being made in which the woman is the survivor… the bad ass… so I am on the side of horror opening doors for women. Every script that has been presented to me in the past year has had at least one strong female character, and if anything, it is the men that are being objectified. 

Nic – Would you want to be known as a “Scream Queen”?
Deneen – Well, I’ve already been called and labeled that, so I guess I don’t have a choice in the matter…. which is fine by me. I know a few actresses that don’t like the "Scream Queen" label at all, but I don’t mind. If anything, I consider it an honor, since a lot of actresses that I admire and look up to fall in that category. Besides, I don’t feel it restricts my acting abilities. Just because I enjoy being covered in blood, creeping around dark abandoned areas, and screaming like a crazy person… doesn’t mean that is all I can do…although, I do prefer it!

Nic – As an actress, who have been some of the biggest influences on you?

Deneen – There are so many that I admire! Growing up, I had always loved Sigourney Weaver in the ALIEN films and Lori Cardille in DAY OF THE DEAD… because they really opened the way for stronger female roles. I think these two have been the biggest influences on myself, because I really don’t like playing weak spirited women.

I also admire Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, and Cate Blanchett… because all three offer so much to their art. Kate Winslet has especially impressed me in all of her work. (Admittedly, I also cannot sit through FINDING NEVERLAND without crying… it gets me every single time.) Rose McGowan is another actress I enjoy because she is unique… her performance in Planet Terror is one of my absolute favorites.

Of course, I have also been fortunate to work with many wonderful actresses that continue to influence me every day. I really appreciate being on set with so many dedicated, talented, and respected ladies. If I was able to mention them all, I would do so, because they certainly deserve it.

Nic – When you’re not making movies, what do you like to do for fun?

Deneen – I’m the type of person who has so much fun just sitting at home playing video games or watching movies like LORD OF THE RINGS and STAR WARS. Call me a nerd, dork, geek… whatever you like… but I enjoy it! I also love going to Renaissance Faires and Anime/Video Game/Comic Book Conventions. When I lived in Texas, I would go to the Texas Renaissance Festival every year, and actually really miss it.
My boyfriend and I also LOVE playing laser tag! We’re both pretty busy, but when we have free time, we’ll drive to a laser tag arena and kick major butt. There is something really adventurous about laser tag… I always feel like I am in one of the Alien movies or something.

Nic- So you enjoy going to Ren faires and cons… does this mean you dress in costume for them?

Deneen – You better believe I do! When I go to the Texas Renaissance Festival, I always dress up as some sort of elf… because elves are the best. (I have the pointy ears and everything!) My favorite characters to dress up as though for Cons though would be Jill Valentine from the Resident Evil games and Aerith from Final Fantasy VII. Jill is fun because I feel like I would totally be ready if a zombie outbreak may occur in the middle of the day… and I LOVE going as Aerith because she is such an iconic character, as well as my personal favorite in the Final Fantasy series. She may not be a fighter like Tifa, but she is extremely brave and strong in her own right. I like that about her.
I really want to dress up as Cassie Hack costume from the Hack/Slash comics one of these days, but now since I’ve worked with Legion Studios, I admit to being a little biased towards dressing up as a Devil Girl now. Hehe.

Nic – How do you think the internet is affecting the film industry for both the major studios and the independents?

Deneen – I’m not sure how it is affecting the major studios, but it sure is helping the indie crowd! Those of us involved in indie filmmaking are now able to really promote our stuff… we’re reaching tons of people through the internet, which is something that was difficult before everything started going online. Actors, directors, musicians, photographers… we are all able to connect and network even if we are in different states or countries. People are also posting their trailers, promotional pictures, cast information, updates everywhere… facebook, myspace, twitter… and even if you don’t like those sites, you can’t deny that at least they get the word out!

Nic – What would be your dream role? (Who would you want to work with and what would the project be, something like that.)

Deneen – More than anything, I want to play a role in some sort of fantasy or science fiction epic… like LORD OF THE RINGS and STAR WARS. Those are the types of films that really get to me, and I would probably freak out (in a very good way) if I ever had the chance to be involved in something like that. In fact, there is a fantasy comic from the 80’s that I would really like to see as a live action film, and I find one of the characters especially interesting due to her complicated nature. So, who knows? Maybe one of these days… I can convince someone to make it, ha ha!

I would also love to work with Quentin Tarantino, especially after the KILL BILL movies. He tends to use a lot of badass women, blood, and hardcore action… which is right up my alley. Yeehaw!


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Photo credits:

Jessi Tetzloff, Ou Bai, Collin Martin, Eddie Eng, Legion Studios.