Forget all assumptions about blondes being dumb. Actress AnnaLynne McCord might play the bimbo-come-vixen on a host of television shows, from 90210 to Nip/Tuck, but in her most recent turn on film – in horror flick Excision – she turns on the pathos, playing a protagonist who reacts against a conservative establishment. Sure, she plays a psychotic serial killer, but detaching herself from the violent aspects of her character, McCord delves deeper into the underlying problems of a contemporary society that imposes myths and constructs on us to the point of making some punters go crazy.
Enjoy a deep and meaningful interview between AnnaLynne and Antonino Tati.
What made you get involved in a film like Excision, which is, quite frankly, extreme on all accounts.
Well you’d be correct in that assessment. It is extreme. I had a couple of reasons for wanting to do a film like this, the number one being a very selfish one. I wanted an opportunity to break out of what has become a stereotype role for me – my role as Naomi on 90210. I just wanted a chance to show people I’m an actress and an artist. I wanted to be able to show a broader range, and hopefully be able to book projects that satisfy my artistic craving a bit more than some of the more money-making projects I’ve done [laughs]. Also, to me there’s an incredible story underneath this art-piece and it’s reflective of a lot of American society and more conservative households.
Tell me more about that.
Well it’s a common thing to use dogmatic religion and legalistic views with complete ignorance to repress children. This is a coming-of-age story of a young girl who clearly doesn’t like the repression that she’s been subjected to – on an extreme level, yes, because remember, again, this is a piece of art.
Sometimes it takes extremes to shake up the system…
I absolutely agree. Especially since we’re talking about topics that go against extremists. You’ve got to be extreme. As artists I think it’s our job to challenge societal programming and societal viewpoints, religious and parental programming and so on. You’ve got to step up to your box and question your beliefs and the reasons why. We’ve got to ask, “I know what you believe, but why do you believe it?”. And it’s interesting because a lot of people will give you a whole bunch of answers that amount to nothing, and the truth is they were just programmed to believe it because they’re parents told them, and their parents told them, and so on backward.
What do you believe in?
I believe in spirituality. I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think having faith in yourself is a wonderful thing. Or having faith in a power that’s greater than yourself. But when it’s taken to the extreme where religion and dogmatic legalism has taken some of these beliefs and distorted them, it removes the spirituality. In my opinion, this film shows that repression will cause negative expression and this case, the main character Pauline becomes homicidal.
And we’ve seen that sort of thing happening in the news in real life…
We have. And I think the story in this film is something that can just about happen – and has happened. Kids going to school with guns and shooting up everybody. Anyway, I can certainly attest from my childhood that religious and legalistic repression did not help me in any way.
Let’s get to your acting. You started out in television on popular shows including 90210 and Nip/Tuck. What would you say are the major differences in preparation for a television role in comparison to a film role?
Well there’s a finesse to film that an actor has an opportunity to know the scope of their character from start to finish and can therefore create incredibly dynamic performances based on the amount of knowledge they’ve been given. In television, you only know from episode to episode so things can change drastically over the course of a series and the years of the episodics so it’s much more difficult to interlace a deeper, subjective sub-layer of your character without it being very general. With a film, you know the start of the story, the middle and the end, and that’s as far as it goes, and you’re able to build upon that and reach a truer depth. TV is more of a writer’s medium. It’s not an actor’s medium, not even a director’s. I know with my characters on some shows, I’m constantly questioning their circumstances and going, ‘This is not realistic!’’
And to think you’ve kept working on 90210 for this long.
We’ve just hit our 100th episode actually. It’s crazy. It feels like it’s been forever but sometimes you think, ‘Wow, how time flies!’.
Do you enjoy playing the bitchy role, or does it get tiring at times?
I think there are certain types of actors that are able to make a living playing themselves and we love them for it. Then there are actors who never play themselves and we love them for that. I tend to fall in the latter group. Playing Pauline in Excision was exposing for me because the character really reflects myself – not the homicidal, psychotic tendencies – but the inner workings – the way her mind works, the rebel going against the grain. I had to keep Pauline at arm’s length because we had such similar mind sets and mentalities.
Do you think in television, the character is reliant strictly on the script whereas in film the actor can come across more nuanced, making the character their own?
Kind of, but it’s not across the board. There are some wonderful shows on TV – like on HBO and Showtime – that make a point to truly create. Some shows that I’ve been in have a lot to do about plot. But don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful to have a job and to have been able to pay for my townhouse, but to have been able to do a film like Excision in my off-time has really revived my artistic desires to express.
You had some veteran film talent on set with you for Excision: actor Malcolm McDowall and director John Waters to name two. Did you get any tips from these guys?
It was wonderful to work with these guys, especially to have them come on board on a project where we were working on a dime and a prayer. To have that morale when they were on set, always professional. It was really just a learning experience working with them. They didn’t need to say anything. They’re professional, they’re talented, they come prepared and do the job. All these things that you would hope and expect from such respected professionals. So I think I just took that from it: you just be, you go and do your job and be professional, and you go home. That’s how the ones we respect do it.
It’s interesting that those two guys appear in this film: Malcolm McDowell with his association with A Clockwork Orange, and John Waters with his entire filmography off oddity. Both those guys have challenged the status quo and turned society on its head… I’m wondering if just those parts of their filmographies adds an intensity to Excision?
Put it this way, whenever John Waters appears on the screen, the whole audience erupts in a big laugh and applause. You can tell the effect that having him in the film has on an audience. John Waters – in fact, all of those guys – were just idols from my childhood. Our director, Rickie Bates, he says in his interviews that this was a love letter to all of the actors, artists, directors who made his view of watching films mean something. So having them all on board for our director was a very personal thing.
Do you think this film will become a modern cult classic?
The response that we’ve received is far beyond what anyone could have hoped for, for a film that was made on such a small budget. For four years Rickie tried to get this film made. No-one would do it, and we actually almost couldn’t finish the film. It was a bunch of Rickie’s school buddies from NYU who he hired and asked to help out with some favours. And one of his close college friends ended up saving the day because he was able to get the funds together when were literally two weeks away from ending the shoot because we were out of money entirely. We even got shut down by LA Film for three days because we didn’t have permits. It was crazy.
And how did your co-stars cope with it all?
Well on one day I was driving in the car with Traci Lords and she broke down a bit and said she didn’t think she could ever act again because it was pretty intense. We had a crew of people doing favours. Most people weren’t even doing their bit for living and didn’t know what they were doing. It was all done on hope and pray. At one point I was a department head on every department. I was doing set decoration, I was doing wardrobe… there were moments when we thought, ‘This is going to be a nightmare!’.
With all those components of chaos, I’m sure you’d be okay with it ultimately being dubbed a B-movie…
Just the fact that it got made into a movie made me happy. When Rickie called me to say that the DVD box had landed on his doorstep, and he said, ‘I just sat down and I started crying’. We’re just so happy that it has been received as well as it has by so many different outlets. Going to Sundace was, like, wow.
Well, thanks for the chat AnnaLynne, it’d be nice to see you up on the big screen a lot more in the future.
Thank you. And if I could, I’d really like to give a shout-out to all the lovely Australian talent. Your actors are absolutely incredible, and as an American actress, I’m constantly amazed by just the dedication of the craft by Australian actors. You guys are so concerned with the craft, and I have several friends from WAPA who I’d like to give shout-outs to. Cheers.
Excision is out now on Blu-ray and DVD through Monster Pictures.