04th May2018

Interview with Scream Queen Debra Lamb (Part Two)

by Philip Rogers

Recognised as one of the original scream queens and a career spanning over three decades, Debra Lamb continues to work in film both as an actress and writer. I was lucky enough to talk with Debra about working on her upcoming film projects There’s No Such Thing as Zombies and Expresso to Die For, the title of a scream queen title, her short stories and an idea for the delicious sounding vegan dish ‘Lamb Stew.’ Check out part one of this interview right here.

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A slightly longer question for you here. Although you have worked in the various genres over the years, your name has been synonymous with the term Scream Queen. There has been some debate recently as to whether the Scream Queen title is still relevant and if it is being overused. How do you feel about the title Scream Queen having been one of the originals along with Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and such?

That’s a good question. I have two answers to that. The Scream Queens from the 80’s and 90’s when they first coined the Scream Queen title, I think that was really where it began. Of course, there are the classic horror icons like Barbara Steele and other actresses from the Hammer films of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Those women in retrospect, they are the original Scream Queens, but I don’t think they were calling them Scream Queens back then. I think the term Scream Queen came about in the 80’s, like you said with woman such as Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Jewel Shepard, and many more. Obviously, I am leaving out a ton of them.

When I was working on the film Evil Spirits (1990) with Karen Black and Michael Berryman, I was being interviewed for Femme Fatales magazine. The interviewer asked me if it was my dream or goal to be known as a Scream Queen. At that time, I was working a lot of films in the horror genre, not realising what I was a part of. I didn’t realise what a huge audience these films had, and I had no idea that people were actually seeing these films that I was in. I said, “Well no” and I thought it was funny that he should ask me that, I mean why would anybody want to be known as a Scream Queen? At the time it was a relatively new term, and I was surprised when people started to refer to me as a Scream Queen. I thought well yeah, I’m doing these horror films, and I get why people are calling me a Scream Queen and I thought, oh this is cool. But I didn’t realise just how big of a deal it was until many years later. You have to remember this was before computers, before the internet, before anything. The computer age had just begun, but no one I knew had a computer in their home and they were very expensive at the time. There were cell phones, but I don’t think text had come into play yet and I remember beepers. Maybe I shouldn’t mention beepers because its ageing me, right?
But now this Scream Queen thing has taken on a whole world of its own. Now you have every actress who has ever been in any kind of low budget indie film, whether or not they have actually screamed in it or got blood on themselves, they all want to call themselves Scream Queens. I see actresses with two credits to their name and they are giving themselves credit as being a Scream Queen. I think it’s a bit ridiculous, so now you have all these actresses who are dying to jump on the Scream Queen train. There are actresses whose primary focus in their career is to be Scream Queen, that is their dream. So, it does not mean the same thing as it did in the 80’s and 90’s.

However, I would like to preface that. I have to hand it to these horror genre actresses, actors and people who make up the horror indie film world. Obviously, there are very big budget horror films too. I don’t know if those actresses are hoping to become known as Scream Queens. If they are in a big budget horror film or anything that can be thought of as horror, I don’t think they are sitting at home saying, I hope they call me a Scream Queen because then I’ll know I have made it. But for the lower budget indie world I think a lot of the female actors, would love to be known and referred to as Scream Queens. I give credit to these women who are plugging themselves as Scream Queens, however the phrase Scream Queen has been watered down tremendously and does not mean the same thing.
I have really come to embrace my Scream Queen title that has been so graciously given to me over the years. I love horror, but horror is not by any means the only genre I work in. I have been in a lot of comedies and dramatic films, but because of my Scream Queen status and because I am one of the so called ‘Original Scream Queens’, I get the opportunity to talk to wonderful people like yourself and be interviewed for all these great horror genre sites and magazines. It’s a very cool thing and I don’t want to disparage it at all. I am very grateful and very appreciative to all my fans, whether it be for the horror films or the other work I have done. But I recognize that the horror genre community and the people who love horror is massive! You cannot ignore the importance and validity of the horror genre. Now with Get Out (2017) and the Shape of Water (2017) getting serious recognition and winning Oscars at the last Academy Awards which may not have happened in the past. Horror is definitely coming into its own and getting the mainstream recognition it deserves.

Now with the other projects which you can talk about (Laughs), do you have any other projects you are working on at the moment?

There are probably 10 other secret films I can’t talk about. Let me talk about ALL the films I am working on that I can’t talk about, because wouldn’t that make a great interview (Laughs), I’m just kidding.

I’m a writer too. I know most of the emphasis is on my acting career, but I do a lot of writing. There is a writers group that I am a member of and every year they put out an anthology book. I have been published in the last two books and they are available on Amazon. I’m currently writing my story for the next book. The books my stories are featured in are *Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe: WPaD Science Fiction and **Creepies 2: Things That go Bump in the Closet. The next one is weird tales, so I am in the process of writing my story for that one. It is about a woman in a mental asylum.

You can also check out my YouTube channel, because I have got some fun stuff. One of my playlists is Facebook Live, because I will be at an event and do these Facebook Live videos. I am always busy doing interviews and also the fun stuff!

One last question. What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into acting themselves?

It depends. Let’s just say someone in their 30’s and 40’s, they have been doing other things and decide that they want to be an actor. They haven’t done any acting or maybe just been in a few school plays or acting in college, but they haven’t really pursued it professionally before and want to know where to start. The very first thing I tell anybody who asks me, get yourself into a good scene study class. Even those who want to take the comedic route, they still need a good scene study class for the basics. Especially a class that not only teaches acting, but also teaches the business side. For people who want to get into comedy, back in the day I was part of an improv comedy theatre group called the Wild Side theatre in North Hollywood, run by Sam Longoria, for about a year and a half. What a great experience. Not only were we rehearsing a few times a week, we also performed in front of a live audience every Friday and Saturday. That proved to be an invaluable experience, not just for comedy, but also for acting in general. Thinking quickly on your feet, being able to improv, is an important skill.
I was recently a student at The Beverly Hills Playhouse of San Francisco, it was fantastic, such a great school. I will always be so grateful to teachers Peter Allas and Robert Zimmerman and the techniques I learned from them. They have all different levels of actors. Some are brand new, some had acting experience, others were more advanced and further along like I was. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, that is the number one thing I tell people. Get yourself into class because you need that training.

On the other hand, I know some very talented actors who are phenomenal, like my friend Bill Oberst Jr. He is fantastic, and I don’t believe he has had any formal training, but he is incredible. I’m not saying if you don’t get into class you won’t have a career, obviously it’s very possible. Drew Barrymore, I believe has said that never had an acting class in her life, and I love her. I mean, who doesn’t love Drew Barrymore? But that is the advice I personally give. Also, if you are in a good acting class that teaches the business side of things, that is a huge part of it. You cannot make it as a working actor if you do not know the business end of it.

Cultivate your talent, cultivate your skills and get headshots taken. If you’re just starting out you don’t need to spend $500, you can get a decent headshot taken for a couple of hundred dollars photographer. The next thing to do whether you have zero credits or just a handful is to register with online casting sites. If you are in London, sign up with Spotlight, here in Los Angeles it’s LA Casting, in the San Francisco – Bay area it’s Casting Networks of SF and other casting sites. If you are just starting out, the things you will be cast for are mostly likely to be short films, student films, and micro-budget films.

Back in the early 90’s I worked on a few short films at USC and UCLA. One of the films I worked on at UCLA was Kissing Time (1993) which won the Jack Nicholson awards. Kissing Time silent black and white film and is one of my very favorite films that I have worked on. You can find it on my YouTube channel, it really is a beautiful work of art directed by Fred Cassidy. More recently I worked on a short film called Cycles of Lune (2016) which was a beautifully shot short film. Of course, as you build your resume you get more selective of the roles you play or the films you are in. But if you are just starting out you are most likely going to be working for free. Student films and things like that. But if you are proactive, submitting yourself constantly, you will slowly build up your resume.

At some point in your career you are going to want to get an agent and manager. Until recently I have been working without the aid of an agent or manager. One of my first acting jobs was a Roger Corman film called Stripped to kill (1987) directed by Katt Shea. After that I was cast in Warlords (1988) directed by Fred Olen Ray. His cameraman was Gary Graver, who was also a director and he started casting me in his films. That’s basically how I got my start, having worked with one director, who had a good experience with me and being referred to another director. That’s how my whole career started. Now I am very fortunate to have Matt Chassin of Matt’s Management; he is a fantastic manager. I have to mention my agent Sarah with Black Apple Talent. She is fantastic too.

Get your foundations down first and progress from there. Just like when I was a kid, having had seven years of ballet and four years of tap, that dancing background set the foundation for my work ethics. Having a strong background in dance and theatre has greatly benefitted me as an actor.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would just like to say thank you to all my fans out there and let them know just how much I appreciate all their love and support. I have a lot to be grateful for.
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You can find out more about Debra Lamb on her website and social media pages:

Website: http://thedebralamb.com
Facebook: https://facebook.com/thedebralamb/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thedebralamb
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedebralamb/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNq5d6Jy-g8ZacO0VvC6V0Q

* Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe: WPaD Science Fiction (Volume 1): https://www.amazon.com/dp/1979745889/
** Creepies 2: Things That go Bump in the Closet (Volume 2): https://www.amazon.com/dp/1519683561/
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