Kristina Klebe (Tales of Halloween, 2015) sat down with Diabolique to talk about Mike Mendez’s (Big Ass Spider!, 2013) new horror/thriller Don’t Kill It (2016)—now available streaming and on VOD. Klebe plays Evelyn Pierce, an FBI agent with an angelic background, while Dolph Lundgren’s body hunter, Jebediah, is tracking down demons from Hell. They cross paths, join forces, and face mayhem and hellish gore.
Diabolique: So tell me how this script came to you?
Kristina Klebe: Mike Mendez. I had worked with him once before–he produced Tales of Halloween, and then I worked with him on The Last Heist (2016). He called me like a week, maybe two weeks before they were shooting and was like, “Hey, are you free in December?” It was right before Thanksgiving. I was like, “yeah,” and he said, “I’m gonna send you a script. You’ll still have to put yourself on tape for it, we’re auditioning a few people.” So I did that, and I waited all Thanksgiving, didn’t hear anything–and then literally was cast four days before shooting, and it was because they’d had all this drama between producers–nobody agreeing on who they wanted blah-blah-blah. But I got the part, so that’s all that matters.
Diabolique: When you read the part, how did you know how to approach it? Did you understand your character right away?
Klebe: Yeah, actually. She’s an FBI agent. The only difference I’d say is she’s small-town, from a small town in Mississippi–which I’m not, I’m from New York City–so I can’t say that that was my personal experience. I’ve played a cop before, I’ve played an FBI agent before, and I felt that the cool thing that was in the script that I’d never played before, is that she is supposedly an angel. She’s a tough chick, but she has these birthmarks on her back that Dolph then sees and realizes that the reason that the demon likes her so much is she’s pure and she’s an angel, and if he were to get her then he could have the most power of, you know, everything. So that was cool. I like the idea of playing somebody that was good for once! [Laughs.] You know, had like good intentions, and who was from the light side, because I always play such crazy, dark characters. [Laughs.]
Diabolique: How do you play that duality throughout the film–in terms of being a tough chick and the way you approach being an angelic force?
Klebe: Well I think the thing is most times the people that actually are good at heart and have a good soul are sometimes very tough, because they have a lot more to protect. They need to protect themselves a lot more from the world than people who don’t have that, so I think it makes total sense to me, that somebody who has good intentions and wants to do good, wants to help people, has to–whenever they see people that are not like that in the world, it’s even more hurtful and so you kind of–I just think it makes sense that they create a cage around themselves and wrap themselves up in layers of protection.
Diabolique: How is Mike Mendez as a director?
Klebe: I think he’s a great director. He’s very technical like about the kills, and he loves that shit. I think he casts knowing who he is casting, knowing that they’re going to be good for the part and then letting them do their thing. I mean he obviously knew that Dolph was going to inhabit the character really well. He blocks our stuff and then he helps us if we’re having a hard time in a scene, but otherwise he pretty much is fairly hands-off in terms of acting stuff.
Diabolique: As an actor, what sort of notes do you look for from a director, or from Mike in general?
Klebe: Well, I would say Mike is not the kind of director that gives a lot of actor notes. There are so many different kinds of directors, right? He is a lot more visual. Personally I love when a director does direct me as an actor, but it actually is more rare than common. Directors have to be–I studied directing also, a little bit–the one thing I noticed in school is that none of the directors in my class knew how to talk to actors. They were all scared of actors, weirdly. They thought actors were just like strange phenomena over there. They almost looked at them like set pieces, which is so dysfunctional, because obviously a director and an actor need to talk and be really–I mean, look, a good director can make my performance so much better. I know that I’m gonna bring it anyway–either way, I will bring it, because I don’t want to fail on-screen and I want to do my best job always, but I think a good director can definitely heighten anybody’s performance. But it’s very hard to direct actors. It’s a craft in an of itself within directing, to be able to work with actors.
Diabolique: How was it to work with the original Punisher, Dolph Lundgren?
Klebe: He’s a big guy. He’s intense, he has a lot of presence. It was a little intimidating. And I’m not usually intimidated. I’m rarely intimidated, but I have to say, just meeting him at first, it was like–you know, I knew I had to hold my own. And I had to really hold my own, because he’s physically so present, as well as because he’s such a big action star, people already associate this thing with him. He was cool.
Diabolique: When you work with a big actor like that, do you have to work harder on your focus, to keep yourself contained and in character, when there is that sort of presence you have to work with?
Klebe: It’s bigger. At one point, I said I’m used to actually being the biggest character in a movie usually, even if it’s a smaller part, but I usually have a lot of presence. Next to him, I didn’t have that. So that was weird for me, because I had to kind of adjust. It makes me feel a little insecure, actually. It’s intimidating and so you’re constantly wondering, “Wait, am I doing well? I can’t tell!” The way you gauge things was off for me, a little. But I think the final result is great. I think people are gonna be happy. I think I hold my own! I hope so!
Diabolique: Do you have a lot of action scenes with him?
Klebe: Yeah, we pretty much do everything together in this movie. The action scenes are not like typical Dolph-style action scenes. There’s one crazy scene that Mike loves, where just everybody’s dying–that’s more action just in terms of just a ton of people getting killed, not really Dolph and I chasing anybody. But yeah, I’m in all the scenes with him, when we are chasing the demon. It’s a very different role for me.
Diabolique: Do you like that sort of role?
Klebe: Honestly, I prefer a character like in Proxy (2013), or in Dementia (2015), where the woman is really the–I don’t know, I guess I felt like the straight person in this movie, and so I don’t really like the straight character so much. I want to be “the Character,” the person that has the fun crazy stuff to do. It’s just more fun as an actor. But look: if somebody wanted to cast me as an FBI agent in a TV show on HBO or something I will not complain, and I will say, “Yes, this is my favorite role that I love to play all the time!” [Laughs.]