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Q&A: Actress Chanel Ryan on “CIRCUS OF THE DEAD”

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Step right up and hurry on down! CIRCUS OF THE DEAD premieres tonight at Texas Frightmare Weekend, and FANGORIA snagged an interview with its scarlet star, Chanel Ryan. Read on for her tales of confronting murderous clowns in Odessa, Texas and the horror (and fun) of being terrorized by everywhere-at-once genre star Bill Oberst Jr.

Ryan is also becoming quiet a horror presence, with many new flicks and an on-line series in various stages of production and development. How does she do it? Let’s ask Ryan herself…

FANGORIA: How were you approached to be part of CIRCUS OF THE DEAD cast?

CHANEL RYAN: I was originally given an introduction to [director] Billy Pon by an actor friend, Andrew Sensenig, who mentioned that Billy was looking for a lead actress and thought I would be right for it. Andrew and I worked on BAD KIDS GO TO HELL together and kept in touch. Thank you, Andrew!

FANG: Were you always up for the Tiffany and “Penelo-pink” roles?

CIRCUSOFTHEDEADRYAN1RYAN: Yes. Billy sent me the script, and I read it and loved it. From there I auditioned, and was offered the part! Papa Corn [Oberst] and the clown posse do awful things to my character in CIRCUS OF THE DEAD. Initially, I think Billy was a bit nervous that I might not like the role because of that. Without giving too much away, I am part of “Penelo-pink.”

FANG: What were the elements of the script that attracted you to the role and film?

RYAN: I know it’s a horror film, but I liked that the characters have depth. Billy and Lee [Ankrum] wrote a fun screenplay that gives the audience the gore it wants but doesn’t take itself to seriously. It appealed to me that Tiffany is a complex character and loves her family, even if she is flawed. They gave me something to play with.

FANG: How was it working with, and being terrorized by, Oberst?

RYAN: I am so fortunate to have been cast opposite Bill Oberst Jr. He can lick my face anytime! He’s an amazing talent and brings such intensity to everything he does, which made my job really easy.

My big toe was a casualty of CIRCUS OF THE DEAD. Papa Corn wears oversized clown shoes, and in one scenes he’s chasing me through the house and I fall down in the kitchen—where my big toe was accidentally stomped on by those huge shoes a few times, take after take! Then, in a later scene, my poor throbbing toe was accidentally whacked again by another of the clown posse. It’s amazing how something so small can hurt so much. I never got an official doctor’s diagnosis, but it turned purple and black immediately, which makes me suspect it was broken. I’m not complaining—just a bit of CIRCUS OF THE DEAD trivia.

FANG: What was Billy Pon like as a director?

RYAN: Billy is amazing! And CIRCUS OF THE DEAD is really a testament to that. I told him I would dye my hair dark or red so I can play a different character in part two. He can kill me in his films anytime!

FANG: What were your impressions of the warehouse/soundstages? Did the density of the set design help enhance the terror you needed to project?

RYAN: Yes! When I first flew to Texas, I was brought over to the warehouse to have a mold of my head made, and I got the full tour of the warehouse/soundstages! It was a monstrous space, and a great location to shoot a horror film. The warehouse was home base: hair and makeup, wardrobe, effects, production meetings, etc. were all based out of there. The last night of filming, I wrapped really late and was dropped back at the stages to change, and I have to admit I was a little creeped out walking down the long halls by myself. I might have ran!

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FANG: How did you prepare for your scenes?

RYAN: For me, prepping involves just putting the time in and creating the character’s history. Really going over and over my script, so it is real to me. Then just letting it go and having fun when I get to set. The violent scenes with Bill Oberst Jr. were more instinctual. Any acting job is a collaboration between myself, the director and the other actors. I have an overactive imagination, so as a general rule, I don’t watch horror films or I would never sleep at night—but I did to prepare for this film!

FANG: Are you more of a fan of the genre now? Will you continue with it, or are you also looking to explore different parts?

RYAN: I have recently become a huge fan of the genre, both as an actress and a viewer. With all the attention that CIRCUS OF THE DEAD is getting, I have been invited out to a few horror events recently, and I have to say the fans are the greatest! It is so much fun making horror movies. I have a few of them coming out this year: the creature feature DEAD SEA, from director Brandon Slagle, is now out on DVD and VOD, and the ghost story ALICE D., from director Jessica Sonneborn, with horror legend Kane Hodder and the WWE’s Al Snow, will be out later this year. I play Kane’s evil sidekick, Isabel. You can also see me in the vampire series DRAKUL on-line.

I’m also gearing up to head to Louisiana to film the horror/sci-fi film THE HALO THEORY, where I play a survivor fighting off the infected. I’ll get to use my weapons training, which I’m very excited about! This summer, in the scorching Texas heat, I am reprising my role as Ms. Gleason in BAD KIDS GO TO HELL 2 with Judd Nelson and Ben Browder. I just signed on to the haunted-house film MARKED, which films in Georgia this August, as well as the zombie film THE UNDEAD, shooting in September. I intend to go back and forth between mainstream, comedy and horror; I’m currently filming the romantic comedy LOVE ADDICT, and have a couple of other projects in the works!

FANG: Is there a favorite way you’ve been killed in a film?

RYAN: Hmmm—since the films are soon to be released, I can’t tell you, or I’d have to send the clowns after you!!

Read more about CIRCUS OF THE DEAD in GOREZONE #31, now on sale here

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About the author
Heather Buckley
Heather has a dual career as a Creative Director and a horror film journalist (Fangoria, Dread Central). Raised on horror since the age of 13, she’s always been fascinated with horror and apocalyptic culture. Her first love was a Gorezone no. 9 bought at Frank's Stationary in Keyport, NJ. She has not looked back since.
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