ComingSoon had the amazing opportunity to speak with horror icon Barbara Crampton about her roles in the psychological thriller Alone With You, the dark comedy King Knight and the video game Back 4 Blood. Crampton appeared in classic films such as Re-Animator, Chopping Mall, and Puppet Master, among countless others.
Alone With You is out now in theaters and is coming to on demand, digital, and DVD on February 8, 2022. Meanwhile, King Knight is out February 17 in select theaters, on demand, and digital.
Jeff Ames: You’ve had an extraordinarily successful career. At this stage in your career, what do you look for in a script or project?
Barbara Crampton: I think I like to play characters that I haven’t played before. I don’t think I’ve played everything, yet. I recently played a vampire. I always wanted to play a classic character, so I was able to scratch that off my bucket list. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to play more complicated characters. You know, sort of unforgiving mothers like I play in Alone with You, or complicated caretakers or people that are running things and taking charge. I feel like my characters as I’ve gotten older have gotten more interesting because I’m not, as Jeffrey Combs referred to me in Re-Animator, a bubble-headed coed, although I don’t think I played the part like that.
A lot of times in my early career I was a young damsel in distress and I’m not playing that anymore. I’m playing more take charge women and I think the landscape has changed across the board for women in films, especially in horror films where we see more emerging writers and cinematographers and directors who are women. I’ve been able to play more characters with more agency. I appreciate that and hope that continues. I don’t want to repeat things. If. I don’t have some sort of arc to play or have anything to provide the production, it’s not necessary for me to be in a movie, but if I feel like I have something to offer and it has some emotional relevance that’s what attracts me.
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How much of you is in these characters you play? I would imagine as you get older and develop more life experience, it lends a certain amount of nuance to your roles, right?
Sure. Early on in my career my acting teachers would always say, “If you were this character in this situation, what would you do?” So, every character is you – even the characters who aren’t nice or very likable. I don’t think that any bad character – if you want to term a character bad – is really a bad character because every person in life can justify their actions. We see it all the time in politics. Everyone feels a little bit like a martyr. Everyone can justify their actions.
In Alone with You, I’m playing this mother who is really kind of unkind and judgmental. I don’t think that’s necessarily me ever, but there are aspects of that that I can access inside of me that I wouldn’t necessarily actualize in life. Anything about the potential of me, Barbara, being overbearing or judgmental in certain situations — how would that come out if I played this character? So, you have to use yourself. You can’t ever think this character’s not me at all. If you don’t use yourself, you would turn into a character who’s a cliché. I guess we’ve seen that when you see some acting that’s not authentic or truthful. You have to find that part of yourself that’s inside of you that you can illuminate for empathy’s sake to show an audience and everybody can justify their actions.
In Alone with You, she’s just not as thoughtful or worldly as her daughter is, which is why so many things come out of her and why you can understand why she is the way she is. You know, she’s religious and that plays a part of it.
One of the difficulties in this role is you have a limited amount of time to convey all of that. Is that challenge fun for you?
Oh, it’s fun. I always try to illuminate who the person is from inside and hopefully come up with someone who has a beginning middle and end. I wouldn’t accept a role if I felt like a character was really flat or didn’t do something or didn’t have an arc or meaning in the story. Where’s the love in this role? Where’s the hate? Where’s the yearning? Where’s the desire? You can find that in a good role, even a small one. You can find all those colors.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’re in the dark comedy King Knight. I’ve read other interviews where you’ve said you’d like to explore comedy a little more. How was your experience on that film different from Alone with You?
In both of these movies, I play complicated mothers and judgmental and unforgiving people. But I always wanted to work with Ricky [Bates Jr.]. I didn’t think I’d be able to, I’ve always been an admirer of him for a long time. But I think he reached out to Travis Stevens or Ted Geoghegan and asked to be put in touch with me. I thought, oh this is a dream come true! These things happen. I was talking with Ricky on the phone for an hour and we had a great chat and then he sent me the script and asked me to play this mom; and said how cool it would be to work together. So, yeah, I put it out in the universe, and somebody heard me when I said I wanted to do a little comedy. Horror is my home, and it’s where I feel really welcome and supported by fans and journalists like yourself, but I’ve always wanted to explore another genre and comedy would be it.
It was exciting for me to be able to work with Ricky on this and also for him – he doesn’t do comedy. He does dark and brooding. He’s a filmmaker who has his own specific style and I was really intrigued when he sent me the script. It’s sort of a love letter to one’s self about being true to yourself. It’s not a hard-hitting comedy, it’s charming and it’s lovely and it’s a movie about hope and being true to yourself – a delightful light comedy. I had the opportunity to play the antitheses of what that is. The lead character of Thorn played by Matthew Gray Gubler, you can understand his challenges and where he came from in life because of who his mother is. So, that was really fun for me and exciting to play alongside Matthew and other players in the film.
You recently lent your voice to the video game Back 4 Blood. What was that experience like?
Thanks for bringing that up! That’s another thing I can scratch off my bucket list is being in a video game and playing a badass, really intense fighter. She’s a woman who is suffering from cancer. I’m not sure if people get that through the dialogue, it depends on how many times you play the game. There’s been a lot of challenges in the world and I fashioned her after the Linda Hamilton character in The Terminator. It was just so exciting to be in a video game and to play such as a strong, fearsome, brave, courageous character.
It’s also really cool because as I’ve gotten older there are roles my kids appreciate. So, for Back 4 Blood, my son was so excited because I’m in a video game – and he was like, “I’m going to play this game with my mom!” And in King Knight I play Mathew Gray Gubler’s mother and my daughter had been a fan of Criminal Minds, so she was so excited. So, I get to give something to myself and also give my kids something as well.
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So, do you see more voice acting in your future because I also see you have a role in Dota: Dragon’s Blood Season 2?
Yes, I play a priestess in Dota and that was fun. It was really just for one scene. It was a smaller part, but it was great and fun. The creator of the show is a big horror fan. But I would love to do more voice-over work. When I was a young actor, and I was concentrating on everything on the screen, it was such a niche industry to me, just voice-over acting. I took some voice-over classes and made a tape, but I didn’t know how to crack into that genre at all. There are people who are really good at it who make a career out of it, and I don’t think I’d be able to do that but to be able to have that bag of tricks in my arsenal I would love to have the opportunity to do more voice-over work for sure.