In the horror genre, female icons tend to fall into two specific, if unfortunate, categories: topless kill-of-the-hour or ass-kicking femme fatale. And yet there are so few badass beauties that can stand amongst the boys, going punch for punch and putting their bodies on the line for their craft. In this regards, actress and veteran stuntwoman Patricia Tallman has been raising the bar high above her contemporaries, not only dropping bad guys dead left and right, but being drop dead gorgeous while doing so.
Fans of the actress have watched her through Babylon 5 and Army of Darkness, yet her die-hards remember her as the lead in the Tom Savini-directed, George A. Romero-produced 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, where Tallman played the iconic Barbara but with a twist of voracious fortitude. While preparing for her Night of the Living Dead (1990) reunion panel at Calgary Horror-Con, Tallman spoke to Diabolique about her career as a zombie-killin’, Ash-fightin’ horror heroine…
DIABOLIQUE: So, what brings you to Calgary Horror Con this year? Have you ever been to Calgary before?
PATRICIA TALLMAN: I was invited! That’s all it takes! Invite me, and I am happy to come if I have the time. I have never been to Calgary, so I am excited about coming up there. What should I make sure to see? If you’re reading this, go to www.facebook.com/patriciatallmanpage and let me know!
DIABOLIQUE: Most horror fans know you best from the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. Were you at all intimidated by stepping into the leading role of Barbara?
TALLMAN: I was so terrified by the original Night of the Living Dead. I really didn’t understand why they wanted to remake it. Once I read the script, though, I could see what George [A. Romero] wanted to do with the remake, and couldn’t wait to sink my teeth, as it were, into that role.
DIABOLIQUE: How was it like working with Tom Savini as a director on Night of the Living Dead (1990)? Did the atmosphere on set lend more to a flexible, intuitive performance or were you more rigid and to-the-script?
TALLMAN: Oh, nothing about working with Tom is ridged. We worked very organically. I think the work is very honest and real, and that is what makes it so effective. Tom is wonderful to work with. We all had a great time on the set.
DIABOLIQUE: Many women who work in the horror genre know that even though the fans can be loyal, roles within the genre can be thankless or shortchanging. How do you feel about the relationship between women and the horror genre? Have you ever been hesitant about taking a role in a genre film that may depict women negatively?
TALLMAN: Horror has created some of the very first female BAMF-ing heroines! Jamie Lee Curtis [in Halloween], Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, and myself in Night of the Living Dead (1990) were all survivors of our situations. Sci-Fi had to catch up to horror, in that regards! I have turned down roles I just couldn’t be proud of. I am very happy I was able to have played Barbara, however.
DIABOLIQUE: You also worked in one of the most memorable scenes in Army of Darkness. How was your experience on working on that film? Had you been a fan of the previous Evil Dead films?
TALLMAN: The Evil Dead films were SO scary, I really couldn’t watch them. Working on Army of Darkness was very tough. We didn’t have a big budget, and as a stunt person, I was down in the dirt, quite literally. I was very grateful for the work, and many of my friends were on that set. The KNB guys, Bill Moseley, Bruce Campbell, several stunt people… we had a great time and made the best of a tough working situation. Bruce worked so hard! He set the tone [for the whole experience]!
DIABOLIQUE: You’ve had a vast array of television roles over the years. Do you approach your television roles any differently than your film roles?
TALLMAN: No matter what the medium, you are judged on your performance. TV is very fast, so you have to do your work at home, mostly by yourself. Many actors who are on series have an actor they hire to work with them on every script so they are as prepared as they can be when they are on set. There isn’t time to rehearse and discover great moments. Film can give you a bit more time. But you use the same techniques, no matter what camera you are in front of.
DIABOLIQUE: Aside from acting, you’re one of the most prolific female stuntwomen in the business. Was there any stunt that you were particularly hesitant about doing? What process do you prefer more?
TALLMAN: Every stunt made me think hard about what I was about to do, how and why. You cannot take anything lightly. It’s the easy gags that will bite you! Whenever I was about to do a stunt, I’d think “God, I wish I was only acting!” And when I was about to shoot an acting scene, I’d think “God, I wish I was only doing a stunt!” I love doing it all, but it’s nerve wracking. I wrote a book detailing my acting and stunt work called Pleasure Thresholds, which you can get at www.b5pat.com.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any projects currently in the works or awaiting release?
TALLMAN: I am currently partnered with Joe Straczynski in an independent production company called Studio JMS. He is the creator, I am the CEO. We have a deal with Netflix for a series co-created with the Wachowski’s called Sense8 that will be released in the fall of 2014. We also have a slate of projects we are developing. We’ll see!
You can see Tallman alongside her Night of the Living Dead (1990) collaborators Tom Savini, Tony Todd and Bill Moseley at Calgary Horror-Con on Saturday, August 3rd at 9:00 p.m. Tallman and more, including Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jessica Cameron and Michael Berryman, will be present throughout the Con, which takes place from Saturday, August 3rd to Sunday, August 4th at Hotel Blackfoot in Calgary, AB. For more on Patricia Tallman, visit patriciatallman.us or follow her on Twitter: @PatriciaTallman. For more on Calgary Horror-Con, and to purchase tickets, please visit the con’s official website, and you can visit their official Facebook and follow them on Twitter: @YYCHorrorCon.
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from MontclairStateUniversity, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.