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Interview: Laura Ortiz talks ‘Holliston’, ‘Hills Have Eyes’

Laura Ortiz on FEARnet's HOLLISTON

Laura Ortiz on FEARnet’s HOLLISTON

As of late, the residence of horror-comedy hybrids have primarily been on television, with Todd and The Book of Pure Evil pleasing crowds with Raimi-esque delight or Reaper garnering a growing cult following after its far-too-brief run on the CW, who essentially are riding a similar idea in a more machismo frame with Supernatural. At the forefront of the horror-comedy resurrection on television is Holliston, the brainchild of Hatchet mastermind Adam Green who brings the horror fan’s perspective into the world of situational comedy.

However, one of Green’s strongest weapons on Holliston is Laura Ortiz, playing a morbidly innocuous doppelganger of herself and sneaking in some of the series best moments in the process. With Season 2 of Holliston debuting this Tuesday, June 4th at 10 p.m. on FEARnet, Ortiz gratiously offered her time with Diabolique to speak about Holliston, The Hills Have Eyes (’07) and more…

DIABOLIQUE: As an actress working on the second season of a horror-comedy sitcom like Holliston, is working on a genre hybrid more appealing or perhaps more challenging?

LAURA ORTIZ: Holliston is definitely one of the most appealing things I’ve done, mostly because I get to work with my friends for once. Obviously, the director and actors have been my friends since years before this project. With Adam, it’s sort of rare that a director gets to hand-pick his cast and crew without the input of networks and whatnot. With this project, I’d heard of it… gosh, eight years ago? When I first met Adam, he told me about his movie, Coffee and Donuts, which is actually kind of a romantic comedy. That story became a pilot for UPN for a while, and then Adam just waited for it to be available again. Once he had a chance to re-vamp the script, because it was something very close to his life, he told me the idea. I thought it was genius, and then he said, “By the way, do you want to be in it? I wrote this part based on you.” I was more than excited. This has been a pretty unique experience since I’ve known about it since before I was even a part of it, and seeing all the different changes and makeovers it has gone through. Holliston mixes following my passion and my friends, and it’s very awesome to get to play everything that I’ve gotten to play before but all in one project where the part was specifically written for me. As an actress, it’s a dream come true.

DIABOLIQUE: Your character, “Laura”, on Holliston is very interesting because her macabre interests and her cheerful demeanor are oxymoronically juxtaposed. Since the character is based on you, did you try to approach the character objectively?

ORTIZ: Well, this character in particular is one that Adam wrote based on me, but I did my homework. I tried to figure out where she came from, who she was outside of me. It’s interesting because I get to see how Adam sees me. I had no idea that he thought I had a sick sense of humor, but he’s pointed out things from our real life that I guess make him think that way of me. So, I still did a lot of character work that I instilled on her because even though she’s based off of me, she’s not me, and I don’t always talk like that. I don’t always do the things that she does. But with this, it was also a privilege that we got to do all of this [research] in rehearsal, so even though I did that work, we got to go into the office every day for six months and just sort of play, which you don’t necessarily get to do on other shows and movies. Through interacting with everyone else, we played around with deep down who we all were and not just as us. I got to know Joe [Lynch] as his character, Adam as his character and Corri [English] as her character. From that, that really informed who I was and where I fit in, so even though we all did our own work, together we came alive before we got on set. We did that before every season, even though we’ve only had two seasons.

DIABOLIQUE: On the show, you get to interact with not only Adam, Joe and Corri, but also different celebrities from the horror, comedy and rock ‘n’ roll scenes. Is there anyone who has yet to appear on the show from those backgrounds that you would like to work with?

ORTIZ: There are so many that I’d like to work with. There’s no one standing out in my mind right now because we’ve gotten to work with so many cool people, especially this season. This time, we have everyone from Bailee Madison to Caite Upton, not Kate Upton but Caite Upton, which was really funny to see what she’s like in real life. She’s the girl from that Youtube video where she was Miss South Carolina and she answered that question horribly. We had her on the show, and she was really sweet. We had Seth Green again… I don’t know what I’m allowed to say. We have people from all areas, not just horror, and I’m not sure who I’d like to work with. As soon as this is over, I’ll go, “THAT’S the person I should have said.” My mind is blank right now.

HOLLISTON's Laura Ortiz

HOLLISTON’s Laura Ortiz

DIABOLIQUE: On most sitcoms, girlfriend roles are often times a thankless job, but you really turn the role into something likeable and fun. Is there any specific direction you would like to take the character?

ORTIZ: This season, actually, is not like season one, where my character was sort of just comic relief and whatnot. It’s not necessarily like there was a lot of depth to her. I mean, I personally think she has a lot of depth, but I don’t think the audience sees that. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “Oh, you play the cute, kind of dumb one, right?” And I’m like, “She is NOT dumb. She is a genius, first of all.” In this season, you get to see a lot of that. You’ll see just how out there, crazy and sweet she can be, interesting or not, but you’ll also get to see a very serious side to her in the second season, more towards the end. You get to see what REALLY matters to her, and she’s tested in a lot of ways. Although the show is so funny, there’s some very real things the characters have to deal with, “Laura” being one of them. It was actually so awesome to have such a great arc in Season 2. It was something that naturally progressed over this season, but for example, look the skunk episode in Season 1, where I get arrested with Corri. I remember when we were  rehearsing, I was playing it very big but then, right beforehand, I thought, “No! That’s not how I’d do this! I watch a lot of crime television and I want to play it like a drama.” The material is already ridiculous, but that’s what makes it funny. But I don’t want to do it over-the-top. I wanted to be genuinely scared, like she really was freaked out. It wouldn’t be for the moment when other stuff comes up, where she’s very funny. I have another monologue in Season 2 where I was like, “I want to do it like a 1950’s detective.” And I did, and Adam liked it, so it was kept in. But it’s cool because my character’s so quirky and out there, and you don’t know what to expect from her. I get to have fun and give her little, different accents sometimes, and I can definitely, in my head, take the scene elsewhere.

DIABOLIQUE: You also appeared in Chillerama, in both Joe’s “Zom-B-Movie” and Adam’s “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”. Even though Adam’s segment goes in line with his twisted humor, were you afraid of any potential fan backlash from the short or did you embrace the subversive nature of the short?

ORTIZ: I definitely embraced it. It’s my kind of humor, and Adam’s Jewish so he can make fun of it, right? It’s funny because with my part of it, I was just hanging out at home that day and he was like, “Hey! You want to be in this? You can be Margot!” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, sure, but I don’t speak German.” “You don’t need to! Neither does Joel [David Moore]!” And I said, “Oh. Wait, what? What is this?” So, I went in and I was like, “Oh, I totally get what you’re doing. This is genius.” And I think a year later I shot the other part of Chillerama that I’m in with Joe. And I was like, “Sweet, I get to be in a movie in a movie in a movie. This is great.”

Laura Ortiz in THE HILLS HAVE EYES

Laura Ortiz in THE HILLS HAVE EYES

DIABOLIQUE: You had your breakthrough genre role in Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes. How did you feel being a part of a remake of such a revered film? How was it like to work with Aja on his first project following High Tension?

ORTIZ: God, I was very fresh in L.A. when I got that role. Obviously, it was amazing. I was there for the ride, just wide-eyed and bushy tailed. Nothing could have gone wrong. Nothing did. At this point in my career, I was mainly watching everything. I was learning, and that was  the most exciting thing. [My projects] have all been exciting experiences, but that one was very unique in that it was my first everything. It was my first time working with a director, first time I’d been given direction, first time being on a set. Alex Aja was so nice, and so sweet. He’s very specific with what he likes. There were so many times where I got to just sit, and Peter Locke would be talking about The Hills Have Eyes (’77) and all the stuff he’s done, and I was more of a fan and a student than I was anything else. But that whole experience was amazing. I was very proud of the shots that they got in, and I think we did [the original] justice.

DIABOLIQUE: Much of the horror community agrees. It’s one of the few remakes that has a life outside of the original. There are elements that both films share, of course, but The Hills Have Eyes (’06) stands on its own merits. But, nevertheless, you also appeared in Hatchet II. How is it like working with Adam as a director as opposed to an actor? Were you at all involved with the first Hatchet in any way, considering you have been longtime friends with Adam?

ORTIZ: I created the whole Hatchet franchise… I’m just kidding. I think I met Adam right after he did Hatchet, actually. I think I was looking for stuff after The Hills Have Eyes, and a bunch of people were coming up to me with projects they were doing that I might be right for, and Adam was the only person who didn’t talk to me, he just came up and said, “Who’s your agent?!” And then I told him, and then I didn’t hear a word from him. I didn’t even see him write it down. Six months later, I came and auditioned for him for a movie he was doing called God Only Knows, which was another romantic comedy. I booked it, and then the project never really moved. You know, in Hollywood, things will take forever. So then I went to the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and I made friends with all these people and I ran into Adam. I was actually going to see his movie, and I didn’t even realize. It was Spiral, and since then, I was a bridesmaid at his wedding. We all became very close friends. As to working with Adam as an actor as opposed to a director, he actually directed all of Season 1 of Holliston. It’s been the same relationship. The one thing I loved about “Anne Frankenstein” was that it was really quick, as with Hatchet II. If you’re around [Adam] while he’s filming, you may end up in his film. He does a lot of improv, he’s always in the moment, he’s always like, “That’d be funny too!” I just happened to be around his house or around there while he was filming for Hatchet II. But he’s a great director. Great actor. Better friend.

DIABOLIQUE: After Season 2 of Holliston, do you have any genre projects lined up? Is there anything specifically you’d like to do on the next season of Holliston?

ORTIZ: I’d love to do a haunted episode where we all actually would go to Salem and one of us is confused for a witch. It’d probably be me. Or it’d probably be Corri, and I’d be the one not helping her. Or maybe we could do Holliston goes to Hawaii. That’d be amazing, for me, location-wise. We actually have a found-footage episode in Season 2 that we filmed IN Holliston, MA, and that was probably my favorite episode to shoot. Maybe more location episodes? That’d be great. Nothing else going on, no. Pilot season just ended, and that was a very busy time. I’d done a pilot called SUPER CLYDE, with Rupert Grint, so we were waiting to find out if it had went or not, which it didn’t. But SUPER CLYDE could get picked up as a mid-season replacement!

As previously mentioned, The Second Season of Holliston premieres Tuesday, June 4th at 10:00 p.m. EST  on FEARnet. Check your local cable provider for more details and listings. Keep watching DiaboliqueMagazine.com for future Holliston coverage!

–  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 Montclair State University, where he recieved 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.

About Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Fangoria Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, 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.

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