15th Feb2018

‘Death House’ Interview: Debbie Rochon

by Philip Rogers

With the highly-anticipated horror Death House being released in cinemas on February 23rd 2018, I got a chance to speak with actress Debbie Rochon about how she first got into acting, her character Leatherlace and the importance of the film as a serving memory to Gunnar Hansen.


How did you first get into acting?

Although I was way-deep background in elementary school musicals (I couldn’t sing) it wasn’t until I was a pre-teen landing a role of a featured extra in the punk rock cult classic Ladies and Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains (1982) did I really find my calling. I was homeless at the time, but it gave me great purpose. I landed a couple seriously crappy day jobs even though I was underage, they really didn’t check those things in 1979/80. Saved for a couple years and moved from the grimy underbelly in Vancouver to the openly sleazy but junky cool streets of New York City all in the name of studying acting at the best studios I could afford.

What can we expect from Death House?

I have not seen the movie! I think with Gunnar ideas and insight into what makes great horror, the stellar cast that was ensembled and Harrison Smith’s vision – we have a beautiful shot at having created something really fun and memorable.

How did you become involved in the film?

Harrison contacted me about playing Leatherlace, the female character Gunnar wrote and based his own Leatherface character on, and seeing Gunnar and I go back as friends to the mid-90s I took the part with great honour. I have to give a huge thank you also to Doug Sakmann as well seeing he facilitated a lot of the coordination for me being in Philly for the shoot. The entire time I was there I just wanted to make Gunnar proud. It wasn’t about being in a movie, or being with horror icons in a movie – or anything like that. Had zero to do with ego or career. It was my brief but sincere love-letter to the friendship I enjoyed with Gunnar.

Can you tell me a little bit about your character Leatherlace?

Leatherlace is a psycho, chainsaw loving nightmare. She has been impounded in this serial killer prison ward to be studied and experimented on. Her history of brutal slayings with a chainsaw, and the sheer joy it brought her to do it, made her a perfect ‘patient’ for this house of medical horrors.

What preparation did you have to do for the role?

My preparation was both physical and mental. I knew there was not a lot of lines, but a lot of sounds that had to be authentically grunted and bellowed. I also worked on my chainsaw wielding. I specifically didn’t want to mimic Leatherface in anyway, but wanted to have the comfort of throwing one around seeing this has been my weapon of choice for years as the character.

Is it true that your mask was based on Roman Polanski’s face?

If it’s not based on Roman Polanski’s face it damn well should be! It’s a dead ringer, no pun intended. The SFX guys who created the human-skin face mask and the human-skin apron I wear in the film did a really fantastic job – unreal. Bravo guys!

Death House has assembled the biggest cast of horror icons in one film.

What was it like being a part of the story in such a landmark film?

It was nothing short of an honour. As I have said I was first and foremost there for my friend Gunnar. But the entire cast in parts both big and small are really some of the best actors we have working today. A true honour. Ironically only the female leads – Dee Wallace and Barbara Crampton I had never been in a film with previously. They are both phenomenal actresses. I would say I have been in a movie with most every other actor in the film – even if we weren’t in the same scenes – which is common in movie making. I very much look forward to seeing the film and enjoying everyone’s performance.

What do you think makes Death House stand out from other horror movies being released at the moment?

I think first and foremost the most important element with this film is that it was a living (and passing on) dream of Gunnar Hansen’s to get made. I can only think it would have been even more magical if he had been on set enjoying the filming of it, but even still the fact that it was made at all is what lifts it up for me. I think the concept is terrific and the top talent brought together will place it in a category all its own.

What was the hardest part of the film to shoot?

The hardest part was getting used to the chainsaw. I was working with a different one when I was rehearsing at home and the size, weight and body shape of chainsaws make it a very different experience to wield around. You have to get used to each one for its own attributes. So, with very little time to get used to the one on set I had to balance having fun with it and even more important being in the crazed mindset that would make it believable that I would be swinging it around!

What was your favourite scene to film in Death House?

The hardest and the most enjoyable elements were the same. Once you get the chainsaw and your emotions following in the same gear there is nothing like it. PURE JOY!

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

A few other great films coming out soon: Fantasma a very stylistic throwback to the giallo style films, Doom Box based on really frightening true events will be out soon, My Uncle John is a Zombie – a very funny comedy-horror will hit and Brinke Stevens Terror Toons – Personal Demons will be released in 2018 too.

If someone is looking to get into acting, what advice would you give them?

I would give them lots of advice but the very first thing would be to study and be less concerned with doing hundreds of selfies a day. Pics are great don’t get me wrong. But if you want longevity and to be respected as an actress, a true actor/artist – study.

Death House trailer:

Debbie Rochon Showreel:


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