Alex Essoe was kind enough to grant us a follow up after our first interview about her new film Midnighters. The film is now out in theaters and on VOD, and here is part two of our conversation for the release.
Andrew Hawkins: Hello again, Alex. How are you today?
ALEX ESSOE: Hello, Andrew! How are you?
AH: I’m great. I wanted to talk to you a little bit more. I know the other day we had your interview for Midnighters, and we got cut a little bit short. I wanted to see if you had some extra input on a couple of questions I had.
ALEX ESSOE: Yeah! Please, I’d be happy to.
AH: Very cool. Well the first one sort of piggybacks off of what you were talking about, playing these really difficult, intense roles. What do you think about the current state of women in film just getting all of these successes as directors and actresses, and how we’re gravitating more towards that? What are your thoughts?
ALEX ESSOE: Ooh, oh my goodness. I am very much a believer of being [unintelligible] of art. I think that if someone makes good art, then they should be rewarded for it, and if they make bad art, then they should not be rewarded for it. I think that we are entering an age now where—how do I put this? I think we are entering an age where it matters less what someone’s gender is and it matters more how good their product is, which is awesome.
It shouldn’t matter, it shouldn’t be a factor, and it’s becoming less of a factor, which I think is wonderful! I think that roles for women— especially in genre films— are becoming more interesting. To be perfectly honest, I feel like a lot of markets overseas kind of have the market cornered on new and interesting characters and actors. Because it’s such a huge business in America there’s an element of rehashing archetypes, stories that people already know work, you know?
AH: Sure, things that’ll sell, things that are really familiar.
ALEX ESSOE: Yeah, exactly. I feel like there is less risk being taken in general.
AH: Let’s talk about some of the riskier things. I wanted to get some more of your input because when we last spoke you mentioned two of your biggest influences were Gena Rowlands and Isabelle Adjani. I’d love to get your thoughts on how they inspired you, and I wanted to ask you with Gena Rowlands specifically: was it her work with John Cassavetes, like in A Woman Under The Influence, that got you the most?
ALEX ESSOE: Yup! It was specifically that performance. I saw it when I was just starting acting school formally, and one of the three channels I had in my apartment in Vancouver was Turner Classic Movies, which is what I was doing when I wasn’t in class.
AH: Oh, nice.
ALEX ESSOE: I was at home watching movies. And lo and behold, they did this whole month about the independent film business in America and how that sort of influenced people worldwide. It was one of the films that they screened of course, with Cassavetes being the father of the independent film in America. Shadows just completely changed the landscape of filmmaking.
The reason that not only is she my favorite actress, but he is my favorite director, is because they were interested in the new frontiers of story and character. They wanted to show the difficult sides to things, and A Woman Under The Influence, her performance in that— I have seen that movie, I can’t even tell you how many times, and every time, I discover something new. I mean, she just set the bar. Not only the character, but the way she played it. There was no acting at all, just a woman having an experience.
It completely changed the way I looked at acting and approached acting. You have to think of it as something that is boundary-less. When you first start acting class, you know, it’s intimidating, there are other people who are better than you, you have your own archetypal idea of what that feeling is and what the situation is that it’s so much more rewarding to just go into the wilderness and let yourself be surprised. And Isabelle Adjani in Possession; that subway scene is one of my favorite scenes in horror.
AH: Oh, it’s so good.
ALEX ESSOE: She is so unhinged and there’s just some practical effects and that’s it. She’s so in it, she’s so committed, she’s not afraid to be scary or ugly—
AH: Oh, it’s fearless.
ALEX ESSOE: —or too much. None of that matters to actresses like her, in general. And it shouldn’t. Otherwise, what are we doing this for?
AH: Sure. What does that help you with when you’re thinking about doing more in this field? You had mentioned doing your own sort of projects, are you thinking about producing, directing, writing, and following these kinds of darker themes and intense portrayals?
ALEX ESSOE: I would love to be able to generate my own work, and my own stories. And I’d love to do some of the darker genre stuff, I want to do comedies as well.
AH: Well, talking about one of your more fun genre bits, you had a great story in the anthology film Tales Of Halloween, where you got to be alongside some of the greatest in the genre, from Joe Dante to Stuart Gordon to Mick Garris and even Lin Shaye and Barbara Crampton. How was that experience for you?
ALEX ESSOE: Oh, my God!
AH: Do you have any stories?
ALEX ESSOE: Yeah, well I cornered Stuart Gordon immediately and gushed to him how much I love Dolls.
AH: Oh yeah. Dolls, From Beyond, Re-Animator…
ALEX ESSOE: Oh, Re-Animator is a classic. Barbara Crampton is just insanely gorgeous in that movie. I completely had a crush on her when I first saw that. I was like “Va-va-voom!” And she’s the sweetest person! She’s so supportive and kind, she really does this for all the right reasons, and Lin Shaye was just hilarious. She’s so dry, and has this hilarious personality. She’s so dry, and so giving, and so lovely. I could gush about all of them! Oh, and Mick Garris is a total sweetheart. Hell of a guy.
AH: That’s just the coolest.
ALEX ESSOE: (Barbara) still looks 25, it’s amazing.
AH: Oh, and her work in We Are Still Here is amazing. I know we’re getting close to wrapping up again. To finish our interview, I just wanted to ask you one last thing: do you have any final words for the audience who’s going to be looking out for Midnighters coming out soon? Anything you’d like to say about the film to wrap up?
ALEX ESSOE: Yes. This film is definitely not what you’d expect. It really has this atmosphere all on its own, and it has a very cool, original voice behind it. Come one, come all.
AH: Right on. Well, we’re looking forward to sharing it, thank you so much for the interviews and the follow-up. It’s been a great pleasure talking to you again.
ALEX ESSOE: Oh, it was my pleasure, Andrew.
AH: We look forward to getting the word out.
ALEX ESSOE: Thank you so much!
AH: You’re so welcome.