When looking at the trend of box office success and popularity of horror culture within the past few years, one doesn’t have to look farther than the youth market of today. Whereas horror, in large part, had become a saturated and diluted market exclusive to technically savvy but creatively uninspired studio filmmakers and exploitation friendly “auteurs” throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the children who grew up on Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps would later dive into horror head first as soon as the age of DVD hit. Suddenly, harder to find films became accessible and findable through the internet, the horror audience were skipping Scream’s in exchange for Saw’s and filmmakers who had grown up loving John Carpenter and David Cronenberg were now carving out their own serious takes on high concept horror.
But for these filmmakers to prosper as they do, they need equally devoted actors in their corner, especially those who have connections to the genre itself. Often times, this love for the genre shows in terms of embracing the odd and the extreme, and that embrace of the eerie exudes from Lauren Ashley Carter, who delivers a stellar and emotionally exhausting lead performance as Ada in Chad Crawford Kinkle’s Jug Face. Having previously made waves in Lucky McKee’s The Woman, also produced by Andrew van den Houten, Carter ventures into unfamiliar territory in Jug Face, entering a world with no recognizable definition and rigid fundamentalism in each and every scene. Impressive is the fact that Carter not only succeeds in her role, but makes every motivation and move for self-preservation completely believable and human, which makes the film that much more immersive. In conjunction with JUG FACE WEEK, Carter opened up to Diabolique about trusting her first time director, her identity as a genre fan and the wicked world of Jug Face…
DIABOLIQUE: You play a very crucial role in Jug Face, a genre film that almost entirely exists in its own world outside of anything we really know as an audience. What would you say attracted you to this role, specifically?
LAUREN ASHLEY CARTER: First and foremost, I loved the crew that we had; a lot of whom I’d worked with before on The Woman. The producer [of The Woman and Jug Face] Andrew van den Houten and I have become very close and he sends scripts for me just to read and to get my thoughts about them. Andrew was very adamant about me reading Jug Face, and I remember that I sat down for dinner before going to rehearsals and I thought, “You know, I’ll start it and finish it later.” I remember the whole time forgetting about my meal while I was sitting at the table, just being completely absorbed by the script.
It was the world of those characters and that family that is very concrete, and the depth and richness of the characters, despite the horrific things that happen to them, was something I hadn’t read in a script in general in a very long time. The journey that Ada takes is a very terrifying and hard journey, but as an actor, you love to play those hard, distressing roles. For whatever reason, we’re drawn to them. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to join the group.
DIABOLIQUE: Were you at all intimidated by taking a leading role in an unfamiliar world?
CARTER: Of course! Yes, definitely. You always feel pressure to do your best and when you know that the story revolves around you, it can become very overwhelming. But I was also working with an amazing group of people: Sean Bridgers, whom I worked with before on The Woman; Sean Young, who is an incredible performer and an incredible person, and she was a very motherly and nurturing person. [Young], Sean Bridgers and Larry [Fessenden] were there for me all of the time. We really just took it scene by scene, day by day. We did not get ahead of ourselves, and as long as I could focus on the task at hand and what I was doing that day, everything made sense. It went along smoothly and I wasn’t as scared as I was before I started that project.
DIABOLIQUE: When we spoke to Sean Bridgers, he mentioned that he had a lot of freedom in his performance, partly because the world of Jug Face wasn’t necessarily bound by familiarity. Do you think the fact that the universe that you were acting in was unfamiliar gave you more freedom for this physically intensive performance or do you think there were more rules established in this universe that it restricted your performance?
CARTER: I have to agree with Sean on that. I think that we were given a lot of freedom in the script. Sean and I would get together the day before we would shoot and we’d discuss the scene and what we were doing. There was a lot of room. Unfortunately, the thing about Ada’s character is that a lot of [what is happening] is out of her control. So much of Jug Face is her going through these things she’s never been through before and seeing these things at the time, and I think [that dynamic] works because I hadn’t gone through them so everything she’s seeing for the first time, I was also seeing for the first time.
In that way, the work was easy, because the moments that were very dramatic and shocking were first time moments. Some of the reactions in the film were very honest on my part in the sense that I was shocked by the other characters and what they were doing. So I can agree with both sides of that question.
DIABOLIQUE: Considering the genre-friendly cast of dependable actors you had to work with, did you all communally discuss the language and physical behavior of that backwoods society or was that a process left between each actor and Chad Crawford Kinkle?
CARTER: We actually had a lot of conversations with one another. Sean Young was in on it, and Sean Bridgers was only a little bit, since in the movie, his character was removed from the town and he’s out by himself, with his jugs. Dawai didn’t have as much of a social etiquette, not that everybody does, as you can see. But we definitely talked about how we wanted the language to be very similar.
I am personally very concerned about matching up some things with the mother and father characters, such as in The Woman with Angela Bettis, to try to get little pieces of what they do that would be passed down to the children. Even if you go to college and you live together with somebody, after a while, you start picking up their mannerisms. For me, it was very important to watch both what Larry and Sean Young did so that I could pick up a little bit on that. Within that, you can find your own mannerisms and what works for your character. But it was very important for us to all be speaking the same language and be coming from the same place, definitely.
DIABOLIQUE: In line with that answer, because you worked with Larry Fessenden and Sean Young in many of the more intense scenes of the film, did you feel like you had anything specifically to prove while crafting your performances opposite these actors?
CARTER: The one thing that’s always been the most important to me is to convey the truth and the reality of the situation in that there’s a difference between melodrama and truth. People act in certain ways, depending on the situation. Luckily for me, Chad let us take as long as we wanted and let us do as many takes as we wanted to in order to explore and figure out what the truth of that situation was.
Time-wise, we did really well; we didn’t have people yelling at us saying we had to get it done, shoot the scene and keep things going. We really did have the gift of time, and quite honestly, with the world created for us by the crew and the art team were so very real. So everybody came to set feeling very concentrated and very focused, and especially in the scenes I had together with Sean Young and Larry, I was just “in it” from the very beginning. They bring that vibe and presence with them that’s attractive and contagious, and you also respect it. It’s very powerful, so it was kind of like shit or get off the pot. You’re working with these awesome people, so you have to bring it. There was really no other choice, in my opinion.
DIABOLIQUE: Considering how far your character goes for the sake of self-preservation, was it difficult to remain objective to the character and the story when the role demands such a large emotional investment and empathy on your part?
CARTER: In this case, it was not. It can be that way. We shot a lot of the scenes out of sequence, so that helps sometimes because you’re constantly reading the pages and going back and forth. In the scenes that were very difficult for me, I always had Sean Young, Larry or Sean Bridgers there, and after every scene, I think it was important for everyone to remember where we were and what we were doing.
I’m not one of those actors who want to stay in that feeling or whatever horrific moment that is happening. I like to get up, walk around and do something else. It was quite easy to go back and forth but I do think its one of those things that sneaks up on you. You don’t go home and cry your eyes out all day or anything, but after a while, you do have that sinking feeling and you start questioning how you feel about certain things. It’s always nice to go back to the script. At the end of the day, you go back to the script; you read the pages and know that it’s a narrative and a story, and you have to remember that you’re telling that story.
DIABOLIQUE: Even though you had previously worked with Andrew van den Houten on The Woman, this was Chad Crawford Kinkle’s first feature film as a director. Did you have any trouble establishing trust with Chad as a director, considering the amount of blind faith needed for a project as ambitious as this one?
CARTER: I just have to say communication is key. [Chad and I] talked constantly, all day long, when we were shooting, before we were shooting, before I had even met him in person. We were constantly discussing everything, and it was in his best interests to keep me feeling safe and comfortable and that we were seeing eye-to-eye on everything. I wanted the same thing as well, having done independent films before and knowing that time is very important.
You don’t want to wait until you get [to set] to discuss things. When you get there, it may get problematic, like if it’s a sex scene or a scene where it’s physically violent or emotionally draining. It was just important to be talking to each other the whole time. There was something amazing about that. [Chad] was by my side the entire time and I wanted to give the best to him as well. Even if he said he was happy with a way that a scene just went, I wanted to do a few more [takes] and make sure he got what he needed.
DIABOLIQUE: Did you, as an actress, want to bring anything to this role that had not been on the script or in your initial characterization of Ada?
CARTER: It was important to me to bring specificity, and to always be there and in the moment for everyone. I remember having seen myself in some films before where there were a couple of takes where I thought, “Wow, I wasn’t as present in that take rather than the 25 takes we had done before that.” Also, I just want to be constantly aware of everyone around me and where I am and where my focus is.
I’m a horror movie fan; I’m an avid fan and have been since I was five years old. My father and I watched horror movies so this is a genre that is very close and very important to me. It’s a dream come true that I’m able to fulfill that dream and work with the people that I have. And even if it is movies that are as corny and cheesy as the Sleepaway Camp trilogy, and in the second one, when you see Pamela Springsteen, her specificity is incredible. It makes you want to watch it and it makes it truthful, even if it is a genre that is controversial to a lot of people. Just like a million other horror movies from the 1970’s or the early ‘80s that were really wonderful, they always say, “The acting was so good.”
I want to bring that same specificity and intention that one might have doing a classical piece to the horror genre. It’s important to always do your best work, no matter what the film is. I felt that was something I had to bring to the table and that’s because I think my heart was in the right place when it comes to making horror movies.
DIABOLIQUE: Were you at all discontent with Ada’s eventual fate within the film or was that something that attracted you to the role, considering not many films would have gone that route?
CARTER: You see, the struggle that Ada went through, when I read [the script] was something that appealed to me. I was like, “Oh, I can do this. I’m just going to be going through hell. I’ll be great at that.” I felt that I was really in it, and when you start these scenes and you’re in that hell, the one thing that really hurt was that Ada had no moment of pleasure. There’s really not any moment where she finds happiness, and in most other stories, there’s always a moment where there are lovers or scenes of real hope. In Jug Face, Ada is fighting to get that feeling or that possibility [of hope], and she falls short every time. That was something that became very difficult as the days went on.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any future projects in development or awaiting release? Do you want to keep playing in genre roles?
CARTER: I’ll continue doing horror until the day I die. I love it; it’s so much fun. I also love doing comedy, which is something that I know there are a lot of actresses in horror and drama say [they’d like to do]. Like, Sean Young would ask me, “If you could do anything, what would you like to do?” I’d say, “Well, I’d love to do comedy. I’d love to do a sitcom.” Sean Young went, “Me too!” So comedy is always something I’d love to be doing.
I do theater a lot, too. Right now, I’m in Lewis Black’s play, One Slight Hitch, for the second time in Cape Cod, and it’s a real fun show. I get to jump around and be crazy. Right now, I’m actually starring in and co-producing a dark comedic thriller called Dosey. I’ve been keeping updates all the time on my Twitter and my facebook page, and once it gets made, I’ll get it out there to people. So that’s one to watch. It was written by Lukas Persson, and we’re going to release a few short films before the feature and get up an interactive website to get that fan base started for it. I’m really excited; it’s going to be fun.
As mentioned before, Jug Face is releasing this Friday, August 9th in select theatres, and the film is still available for rental now on iTunes, Amazon and VOD platforms. The film is also releasing on DVD and Blu-ray on October 15th, 2013, and is available for preorder on Amazon and other retail outlets. For more information on the film, you can visit its official website here or visit here for a list of screening locations. For more from Lauren Ashley Carter herself, you can follow her on Twitter: @LAC_Voyager.
For more information on Lauren Ashley Carter and Jug Face, including our exclusive interview with Sean Young, check back later on DiaboliqueMagazine.com during our JUG FACE WEEK! Additionally, you can check our previous JUG FACE WEEK interviews with producer Andrew van den Houten here and star Sean Bridgers here, Chris Hallock’s interview with Jug Face director Chad Crawford Kinkle here. Also, don’t forget to pick up Diabolique Issue #17, our incredibly great and star-studded horror-comedy issue, which is available for preorder now, available at the App Store now for iPad / iPhone users (Free with a Digital Subscription!) and will be on shelves and available for Digital Download on other platforms soon!
– 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 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.