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Gay of the Dead: Joe Zaso, Part Two

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In Part One of this interview, we talked about scream king Joe Zaso’s early films, including one of his favorites (5 DEAD ON THE CRIMSON CANVAS) and one of his least (NIKOS, THE IMPALER). In this second of two parts, we talk about his various scream queen friends, cooking, and being naked as part of the job.

FANG: BRAINCELL is one of many projects you’ve worked on with Raine Brown. You could be the Marge and Gower Champion of low budget horror! How did you two meet, and what is it about Raine that keeps you two working together?

ZASO: We’ve been called the “Fred and Ginger of Underground Horror” – or as I call us the “Steve and Edie of Underground Horror.” We met on the set of ANGEL’S BLADE and quickly became friends. I definitely wanted her for the lead of BARRICADE and a series of roles/pairings just seemed to flow. We haven’t worked together in a while, but we always hit the horror convention circuit. We’ve played every combo from boyfriend/girlfriend to uncle/niece to expectant parents to brother/sister… Just a certain chemistry we seem to have. Funny, since she’s a petite and feisty, and I’m tall and non-confrontational.

FANG: Speaking of BRAINCELL, that was filmed in England, one of many European projects you’ve worked on. When I think of low budget production, I certainly don’t think of trips to other countries. How did you end up working overseas so often?

ZASO: I was able collaborate with filmmaker friends and colleagues overseas by sharing the budgets. I would take care of flights (specially low-priced, of course) and bringing some actors over to whichever country we’d be filming. The filmmakers would provide atmospheric locations, a hard-working crew, and places to stay. Like any indie movie, the budgets were low and the same principles apply regardless of where and who we’re filming with. I do find that the European locales and actors did add that extra touch of the exotic, even though we were essentially indie/low-low-low budget horror films. Sort of a working vacation for many of us.

FANG: You produced Bryan Norton’s short, “Jack Attack,” which is doing really well. I watched the behind the scenes, which is also really entertaining. I have to ask – how was it working with a child actor? That was my dream as a little kid – to appear in a horror film where I got killed.

ZASO: Tyler Rosser, the actor, was terrific. Very young and very professional. His family was very kind and supportive and accommodating as they were always nearby. Though his fate in the movie is clearly something out of a European or Canadian horror film. They love annihilating little ones, don’t they!

FANG: You know some of the most obscure, random, cool horror people. I’m thinking of actors like Geretta Geretta (DEMONS) and Desiree Gould (SLEEPAWAY CAMP). How do these people find their way into your life?

ZASO: Many times by accident. I meet people at the various horror conventions I attend or appear at. Sometimes, an actor is a friend of a friend who happens to attend a dinner party. It’s always interesting seeing who lands into my life. What’s fun about meeting many of these people is that they had always been a part of my movie geek lifestyle. People I grew up and watching and admiring. Who knew that, years later, I’d be hanging out with them casually talking about their cats or the proper way to season a salmon steak? Very surreal.

ZasobuttFANG: Jumping back to the Scream King thing for a moment – It’s no secret there are some very sexy photos of you out there. You seem very comfortable in your own skin (and not much else!) I remember when you were out here in L.A. for a shoot, you told me you were eating nothing but dark chocolate and water to stay in camera-ready shape. When so many male actors refuse to do full nudity, what was behind your decision to put it all out there?

ZASO: Honestly, I enjoy modeling. I’m not shy and I feel if actresses can do it, why not the guys? It seems to be an extension of my acting work/Horror Himbo persona.

FANG: For those that don’t really know what the day-to-day is for indie filmmakers and actors, can you describe a typical few days of what you’re doing to keep things moving forward? Day job, auditions, promotions, etc.

ZASO: Day jobs, constant self-promotion, constantly keeping bills paid, constant physical maintenance. You have to keep with it because as, they say, it doesn’t get any easier. And I think constantly doing some sort of project gives one credibility, as far as their seriousness.

FANG: Like any good Italian, you love to cook. Your CAFE HIMBO web series is a fun way to watch you do that, and catch up with some of the aforementioned cool horror folk. How did the show come together?

ZASO: A few years ago, during one of the freezing winters, much like the one we’re having now in NYC, I would stay indoors and do a lot of cooking. So much so, that I wanted to start a blog and I did so on Facebook. At that time, the great Jessica Harper came out with her CRABBY COOK COOKBOOK, and I was greatly inspired. A friend told me that my blog should include cooking videos and then I got the idea to bring in the actors/cult personalities I’ve gotten to know. This led to a mini web-series, which led to two (and soon three) cookbooks. It honestly was all done for fun, but it seems to be taking off.

FANG: Have you had any “Julia Child drops the turkey on the floor” moments you’ve had to cut out of the show?

ZASO: The funny thing with the show is that we filmed it at my old apartment which had a small kitchen (my current one is even smaller) and I was unable to actually prepare the food as we went along. I would disappear for a moment and the let guest get drunk on wine or do something silly – and then I’d return with the finished creation. No chance for Julia Child moments, but the show was just done for fun. If things take off, I might be elevated to Rachel Ray production values [laughs].

FANG: What are five things you should always have in your kitchen?

ZASO: A good bowl, a skillet pan, towels, olive oil and a good knife. These seem to be the things I always need.

FANG: You just had small parts in two big budget films, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and THE NORMAL HEART. After years of working in low budget, what was the best part about being on a big budget set?

ZASO: Better treatment, better pay and a better feeling about what I was working on.

FANG: Give me a film I should watch! Tell me about it, and I’ll log my opinion here (and whether or not I agree with you).

ZASO: HAUTE CUISINE (an underrated French movie about cooking) or BLUE JASMINE.

FANG: I saw BLUE JASMINE, and it was amazing. I’m such a Woody Allen fan, and when he nails it, he really nails it! But back to horror – your most recent credit as an actor is 6DANA66GODINA. You have to explain that title!

ZASO: I’m attached to it and I’m friendly with the filmmakers, but to be honest – I had no idea [laughs].

FANG: What’s coming up for Joe Zaso?

ZASO: Other than CAFÉ HIMBO’S JUST DESSERTS, I’m looking for a project! Come find me at www.joezaso.net.

For some hot, wet, “Gay of the Dead” Twitter action, click here (you know you want to).

For some Facebuggery, like the “Gay of the Dead” page here.

For over 30 interviews with queer horror folks, check out my book – OUT IN THE DARK: INTERVIEWS WITH GAY HORROR FILMMAKERS, ACTORS AND AUTHORS here.

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About the author
Sean Abley
Sean Abley is a playwright, screenwriter, columnist and editor of OUT IN THE DARK: INTERVIEWS WITH GAY HORROR FILMMAKERS, ACTORS AND AUTHORS. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, Unzipped, and Fangoria. His microbudget, gay, sci-fi thriller, Socket, which he describes as “medium good,” was released in 2007. His two dozen published plays, which include Horror High: The Musical and The End of the World (With Prom To Follow), have been produced hundreds of times around the world. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband, Matt, and their two cats.
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