Actress Melanie Kinnaman talks with TV STORE ONLINE about her role in FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING (1985) as well as her work in the film THUNDER ALLEY (1985).
TV STORE ONLINE: I know from an early age that you became interested in dance and the theater...I was wondering if there was something that you saw at the movies or on television shows that influenced your decision to pursue acting as a career as you got order?
KINNAMAN: Well I loved musicals like Oliver. I went to see Broadway shows in NYC when I was growing up because my family lived close enough to the city. As for movies....I loved Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke and I thought that they were both just so incredible talented. When I was either five or six years old my mother took me to the movies to see MARY POPPINS (1964) and I thought that Dick Van Dyke was the greatest talent. He could do everything it seemed like and I inspired to that. Growing up I also wanted to sing and that lead me to doing musical theater. First I started out in the chorus and then I got moved into an acting role and from there the acting just took over.
TV STORE ONLINE: And you did some musical oriented television commercials early on in your career too right?
KINNAMAN: I did. I was nineteen years old when I did this big musical oriented Dr. Pepper commercial and I was paid like $30,000 dollars for that! That was a lot of money for a nineteen year old to have.
TV STORE ONLINE: I've heard about the Dr. Pepper commercial...I know it was called "The Prom" and it was nominated for an award but because it was in the late '70s you can't see it anywhere today. I was wondering what it was all about?
KINNAMAN: It was a 1950's themed thing. I was dressed in '50s era hair and make-up and we had to dance in that '50s style of dancing. It was really great. All the dancers in it were all from Broadway. The director of commercial was John Landis, who went on to direct Michael Jackson's Thriller music video.
TV STORE ONLINE: So how did FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING (1985) come to you?
KINNAMAN: I had done a bunch of theater on and off Broadway. I toured with musicals. Then I was on a couple different soap operas that were shot in New York City. Then I was cast on General Hospital and that show was shot in Los Angeles. So I moved out to Los Angeles and did that and then I started doing guest spots on shows like Hill Street Blues and Cheers....In the process of doing that I got called in for various feature films and that led to THUNDER ALLEY (1985), which wasn't a great experience but I learned a lot from working on it.
When I got called in for FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING it wasn't being called that and I hadn't even seen any of the other previous F13 films in the franchise. So I went in to audition for the Director Danny Steinmann and when they called me back in after that, Danny told me what the movie was all about because the script was very sparse and it didn't tell you much. I didn't know what to expect when I was cast in the film and so I decided to go and see PART 4 and that's when I realized that I was in for a rude awakening...laughing
TV STORE ONLINE: Going back to THUNDER ALLEY....Was that racy swimming pool scene that you had to do ever a point of contention to you when you were cast in that film?
|Melanie Kinnaman as "Star' in THUNDER ALLEY (1985)|
KINNAMAN: The pool scene was a big deal but the biggest problem came with the bedroom scene that I did with Roger Wilson. I ended up having to sue the producers of the film because there were certain shots in the film of my body that weren't supposed to be there. I mean, we had all sat down beforehand and blocked that entire scene out and it was in my contract with them in regards to what they couldn't shoot and what they could shoot. So I had to sue them and the Screen Actor's Guild backed me up and it delayed the release of it. The producers begged me to back off but I just couldn't. The shots that were cut were from the bedroom scene and the pool scene because I didn't sign on to do those. Plus, the director wasn't very honest with me either. I wasn't really concerned at the time with the camera angles because I trusted the director and I was focused on the acting.
TV STORE ONLINE: So with that "Star" character in the film....I mean, she's basically this "Coke Whore" so how much of that crazy dialogue for that character was scripted and how much of it was improvisation?
KINNAMAN: There was a little bit of both. It wasn't a well written film. I was given a bit of room to move but not a lot. The director was a ego maniac. He said that THUNDER ALLEY was his life story...laughing Star was a much more interesting character in the script but that didn't translate across in the film's editing. That was all cut out.
TV STORE ONLINE: Then with FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING....I seem to remember reading somewhere that when you went into to audition for "Pam" with Frank Mancuso Jr., you went in running like you were being chased by Jason. Is that really true?
KINNAMAN: Well, the first audition that I went in for...I didn't even know what I was going in for. But when they called me back to read again they told me to come in improvising that I was being murdered. I hadn't met Frank Mancuso before and so when he met me for the first time I had just walked into the door and I had started to scream.
|Melanie Kinnaman on the set of |
FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)
TV STORE ONLINE: With that "Pam" character....Do you invent additional back story for that character that goes past what's already there in the screenplay?
KINNAMAN: Well, you have to. How I set her up in my mind was that she came from a very small town and a broken family and a battered mother. She rose above all that and became very strong from that as the oldest child of three. It could've gone either way for her. She could've become a drug addict but instead she became a strong person who was able to do anything that she set out to do. It was difficult for her to find work but then she found that job at the camp and that's when you meet her for the first time.
TV STORE ONLINE: PART 5 aka A NEW BEGINNING is such a strange entry into the F13 franchise. It's so surreal with how it plays with filmic time. It's edited weirdly and the camera angles are very unique...Were you guys aware of those aesthetics at play as you were working on it?
KINNAMAN: Not during the shooting because I wasn't ever with the group. I did very few scenes with the group. I was either isolated or working with John Shepard who played "Tommy". When you're on the set you don't think about what the film is going to look like. But, Yes, I knew it was a strange movie. The Director Danny Steinmann was very strange. The very first scene that was shot in the film was the scene where Pam goes out and greets Tommy when he's out in that van. I was the first one coming out of the gate. I was very optimistic about it but when we started to shoot; from how it was being directed and how I was being treated I knew that I needed to just take a deep breath and make it good. It was really great as an actress though because you were able to find your own strength and run with it.
TV STORE ONLINE: One thing that is always interesting to me about A NEW BEGINNING is that it's the first film in the franchise where there is blatant exploitation of it's female cast members. Actresses take their shirts off for no good reason and in relationship to your character; you're wearing a see thru white shirt that's been drenched by the rain for the last 30 minutes of the film. Was that something that was bothersome as you were working on the film?
KINNAMAN: I didn't even know. I was sick and I had the flu during those scenes where Pam is running from Jason in the woods. The biggest obstacles were the quieter scenes. I liked those scenes because I wanted to show what kind of character Pam was but Danny Steinmann didn't want to go that way. I thought those scenes were important because they established more of that back story between Pam and the character Matt who was played by Richard Young. I liked those scenes and Danny fought me on those. He was more concerned about the scenes with the wet shirt. I wasn't aware at the time we were shooting those scenes that you could see thru my shirt. I was concerned with running through the woods. I can understand why they did it that way though. After the whole experience with THUNDER ALLEY I was just glad that I didn't have to take my clothes off in FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING and that my character was looked at as a survivor. That was a very important aspect to me.
TV STORE ONLINE: You have one of the best screams of any of the other actresses from the F13 film franchise...How do you feel about becoming a scream queen?
KINNAMAN: That's funny. It's interesting how people look at certain things because I've been put on the list as having one of the worst screams out of any of the actresses in the F13 movies. I think that if I'm labeled a scream queen it's just because of the character of Pam and what she was going through and not so much about the scream.
TV STORE ONLINE: I've seen you mention in other interviews the fact that Pam didn't die at the end of A NEW BEGINNING because it wasn't written in the script...So if she didn't die what happens to her after the movie is over?
KINNAMAN: I was signed on to do FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6 when the script was in the works but then John Shepard decided that he didn't want to be a part of it. Because our characters were sort of joined at the hip we would've had to have done the film together and I was disappointed at the time that he didn't want to do it. What I heard afterward was that my character was going to live for quite a while in PART 6 but that she would probably die in the film. By not doing PART 6 my character survived! A fan brought this up to me just a few weeks back and I had never realized it. By not bringing Pam back for PART 6 she'll always live on. She's the only person in a FRIDAY THE 13TH films that got away from Jason. That makes me feel so great. On celluloid I'm alive forever.
|Lunchtime! Melanie on the set of |
F13: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)
With that being said, I think that Paramount made a big mistake because there is no continuity between PARTS 5 and 6. I thought that John Shepard as Tommy was wonderful. He was so great, and I think that if we would've done PART 6 together that it would've been better than PART 5. It would've been interesting because they were planning on turning Tommy into Jason Voorhees.
TV STORE ONLINE: Then what about that fun chainsaw scene in A NEW BEGINNING...That fight where you pick up the chainsaw and go after Jason in that barn...
KINNAMAN: Tom Morga was the stunt coordinator and we rehearsed it a bunch of times. I didn't know what I was doing but Tom rehearsed me through it so I didn't hurt him. It was very heavy. I was stunned when I first picked the chainsaw up and realized the weight of it. Once I had picked it up someone came over to me and turned it on and once it was buzzing it was twice as heavy.
TV STORE ONLINE: How many takes on that scene where you throw the chainsaw at Jason?
KINNAMAN: I think just a couple takes for that. The chainsaw scene and all of that stuff in the barn took the most amount of time to shoot after all of the scenes in the woods in the rain.
TV STORE ONLINE: Then you did that pilot of that Wes Craven television series called The People Next Door . Since that has never been released could you talk about exactly what the show was about?
KINNAMAN: That was so great and I really thought that the show was going to get picked up. It was such an interesting idea. It was so macabre for television. It was about this couple that lived in this house and the man was a cartoonist and everything that he drew would come to life. A lot of what he drew wasn't good. Mary Gross from Saturday Night Live played his wife. It was very clever. I played the girl next door and he saw me jogging by one day and he had drew this scene where my character had lost her clothes and later on in the episode I was a bridesmaid at a wedding and he was there and my clothes went flying off. It was done by the Lorimar Television Company. I think it was too ahead of it's time for television.
TV STORE ONLINE: Two words...Cop Rock !
KINNAMAN: Yes! I was on Cop Rock! It was fun and I got to meet Randy Newman.
TV STORE ONLINE: You mentioned being on General Hospital earlier....You were also on the NBC soap operas Another World [1964-99] and Santa Barbara [1984-93]. What where those soap days like for you?
KINNAMAN: You have to really be on your toes. You learn the art of memorization very quickly working on soap operas. It was great. You'd work fast too. You'd shoot a couple scenes then go learn your lines then go on to another scene. You learn a lot working on a soap. I remember on General Hospital...We were doing something on a yacht that was owned by John Wayne. They rented this yacht and they handed me some pages and said, "OK we're going to shoot this." They had changed the script an hour before we were to shoot. And shooting on that yacht made me seasick. I was on those soap shows like Santa Barbara and Another World at the end of the '80s.
TV STORE ONLINE: Those were good shows...Isn't it strange that all of the soap operas have more or less disappeared from the television of today?
KINNAMAN: It's because of reality television. I mean, soaps were popular for over forty years! It's very strange.
TV STORE ONLINE: You've also been working on a one woman stage show too.... It's called "Blond Black & Blue" right?
KINNAMAN: It is such a large production even though I'm the only actor in it. We had several back up dancers, back up singers, and a band that we did it with and it got very expensive to do. So we had to revamp it a bit. We've done showcases with it in NYC and L.A. I'll take it out nationally once we get a producer on board to back it. That's where it stands now.
TV STORE ONLINE: Can we talk about the episode of Cheers [1982-93] that you were in?
KINNAMAN: I'm only in that one scene at the end of the episode. I was in other scenes in the episode but they cut them because it's a thirty-minute show.
TV STORE ONLINE: Ironically, the character you play in that episode of Cheers is a wet t-shirt dancer...Has it been frustrating over the years to have been sexualized in a sense in your career as an actress?
KINNAMAN: Yes. But I've also learned over the years that if an actress has a certain look and I guess I have that or had that, it's what they choose you for. As an actor, you want to work so you reluctantly do it even though you want to turn it down. You do it because you consider it as a stepping stone for your career. That's why I did THUNDER ALLEY. I did that film because I thought that it was this meaty role that I could really do something with. But it wasn't. All actors think about that. You always weigh the pros and the cons of the role. You see it happening to almost every actress. If you have that certain look you get stuck doing a certain type of role.
TV STORE ONLINE: We're almost thirty years past the release of FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING. Are you shocked or surprised that these films have had the following that they've developed since that time? Why do you think today that they have the following that they do?
KINNAMAN: I am so surprised. I'm probably the most surprised out of anyone. People have to tell me that this is common with this franchise. Over the last couple years, I've been attending these horror conventions and meeting the fans and I think that the reason why the F13 movies have such a fan base is because that none of the horror movies of today are as good as the horror movies of the '80s. The FRIDAY THE 13TH films have a very organic feel to them and none of the characters in those films are jaded. They are fun movies. Everything is much darker today and the new horror films don't have that fun. That's just my opinion though.
TV STORE ONLINE: Where can we see you next?
KINNAMAN: I did a film with Tom Sizemore last year that hasn't come out yet and I'm not sure when it's coming out but people can watch for that. I did another film called SLASHER FEST '85 and that's coming out next year. I'll be at the Chiller Theater convention in New Jersey in October 2013 and next weekend (September 20th-22nd) I'll be at the Kalamazoo, Michigan Freaks N Geeks horror convention and I'm excited about that. Then in November I'm going to London for a screening of FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING.
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