UKHS – Thank you for your time and welcome to UK Horror Scene. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and how did you get into acting, stunt work, dancing and producing?
NJ – Thank you! I come from a classical dance background, and also started modelling around 18 or so. I was strictly a stage performer until my early twenties, and I became full-time in film around 2009 after one of my modelling agencies made me start doing background work and I fell in love with the process. I was playing a dancer on an episode of Law & Order and was approached by the show’s stunt coordinator, who asked if I had any interest in learning the practice of stunt work. I of course said yes, and began a never-ending training process on the complicated profession of stunt performing. I began producing live shows when I was very young with my performing arts school followed by my ballet company, so producing is second nature to me regardless of the medium.
UKHS – OK, let’s talk about ‘The Cemetery’. The movie was released on DVD last year and the film won four awards at the renowned underground film fest Pollygrind. Congratulations on winning best newcomer, Natalie. What can you tell us about the film and your character Andrea and what is it about the horror genre that you enjoy so much?
NJ – Thank you again! Yes Chad and his fest Pollygrind are really great, they works hard to support the best indie films all over the world. The Cemetery is a wild, vulgar, violent ride. We spent a long time getting it finished, and it’s very close to my heart. My character Andrea was one of my favorites and most fun to play. Within the film she ends up getting possessed and attacking her friends, and there are few more enjoyable things than getting to play an animalistic maniac. I started watching horror movies in my early teens, but as young as four or five I had already become pretty obsessed with ghosts and things that made me feel ‘spooky’. That interest came from the family who lived across the street from us. They had three boys and I spent many of my days with them. Their dad was way into that stuff and so were they; I remember they had a tarantula and all those Time Life books that came in a series about strange & unusual mysteries..one about UFOs, one about poltergeists, etc. We also couldn’t get enough of the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books and Ghostbusters. My love of horror stems from that, so I’m usually most in love with the moody ones, more than being a true gore whore. But blood & guts are great as well!
UKHS – You previously worked with Adam Ahlbrandt, the director of ‘The Cemetery’ on his 2012 film ‘Cross Bearer’. Do you feel more confident as an actress when you work with someone you have worked with before due to knowing each other’s strengths?
NJ – It’s a common misconception that Cross Bearer came first; actually The Cemetery was shot five months before Cross Bearer. The reason CB exists is because so many of us had a great working relationship on The Cemetery, and we wanted to make something during the slow holiday season. I was in fact a last minute replacement actress for the character Andrea in The Cemetery. The original girl had a family emergency and had to bail, they contacted me three days before principal photography. I was flown out to PA two days later to a cast & crew of primarily strangers.
But Adam allowed me to sort of make the character my own and do my own wardrobe, while giving us actors time to work together and make it work, instead of trying to jam the original vision into an different set of elements. When he asked me to come back east to play the role of Heather in Cross Bearer (originally called Strip Club Slaughter) we had intended to make a light-hearted slasher over a few weeks in the winter. And yes, that was because when you develop a rapport with someone it does often help the filming process. Many months of my team toiling and four years later we were finally screening the two features. And since I took on the role of producer of CB I eventually was also producing The Cemetery.
UKHS – You are probably sick of questions about your stunning body artwork but I would like to ask you about your tattoos. How many tattoos do you have, do you regret any, and which one is your favourite?
NJ – Hey if you don’t want questions you probably shouldn’t get tattoos! I currently have 13. I haven’t been worked on in quite some time, since I put pretty much every dollar I make back into my career, but I probably will get a few more. When I started getting them over a decade ago it was actually quite daring and rebellious, I was truly one of the only tattooed models in the world. Now it’s commonplace for a 20-year-old to be covered neck to knees, so the meaning has changed (as things tend to do over time). But I still enjoy it for the same reasons .They’re a bit of a roadmap of one’s life & trials. So I take my time. Regrets in general are a waste of energy. No regrets!
UKHS – What would you consider to be the three main ingredients that you need to make a classic horror flick?
NJ – That’s a tough question! It just really depends on the style, the director, the intent. I would say that with any filmmaking, three things that are vital, that are sometimes neglected, are lighting, sound design, and editing. Without those three things playing starring roles in production it’s near impossible to come out with a quality, captivating, finished piece of work.
UKHS – You have worked as a stuntwoman on a number of big Hollywood movies including ‘Noah’ and ‘Men in Black 3’. Do you find it much more rewarding than acting and can you please tell us about the most dangerous stunt you have performed in a movie?
NJ – Every part of what I do in film is rewarding, even the most grunty, brutal work, because I love making movies. If you don’t love it more than just about anything you shouldn’t do it. It’s grueling and it absolutely rules every element of your life. Stunt work is certainly rewarding for the endless physical and mental challenges..acting provides a chance to test your psychological abilities and sometime its limits..producing, writing, and directing are the closest thing I can equate to giving birth, which is what I try to explain to people when they don’t understand why I’m weeping with tiredness or pulling my hair out over a project! I’ve done a little of everything so far (fighting, martial arts, parkour, car hits, stunt driving, water gags, high falls, circus arts, rigging, jerk vests, firearms, and I just finally got my motorcycle license) except for anything with pyro. I just haven’t had that opportunity present itself yet. But I’m still relatively green compared to a lot of my colleagues, and there are still so many things I want to do.
NJ – I know what I want in life and what my goals are. Where that will put me in five years? I can fantasize about what that looks like but I’ve gleaned from my experience so far is that the pathway towards those things is a crazy, disjointed, fantastic shitshow, one that is best not to predict too much. Best to stick to your guns but roll with the punches, as it were. What I can tell you for sure is that I am working hard on getting my first feature made..which is very vague I know, but I intend to have more concrete news soon publicly; I’ve already completed a few shorts, of which I am in the final stages of editing and am going to put online shortly after I finish; I’m mid-production as an actor and stunt person on a feature called Ghost Source Zero, a cyberpunk/sci-fi story written and produced by Larry Hama, the creator of the original GI Joe comic books; and most recently I am very happy to announce I will be joining the cast of Joe Stauffer’s A Missing Piece, the follow-up to his phenomenal 2014 horror feature Pieces Of Talent. Anything else is just in conceptual stages; as we all learn early on in this business you can’t consider a project green-lit until the first ‘action’ is called, and nothing is complete until that first thrilling, wonderful night it lights up a screen to a room of guys and gals.
UKHS – Thank you for your time and keep up the great work, Natalie!