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Q&A: Clare Kramer Takes on “BIG ASS SPIDER!”

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Any good comedic character needs a good straight man, and in Mike Mendez’s BIG ASS SPIDER!, it’s a straight woman, Clare Kramer as Lt. Karly Brant, who provides a foil as well as a romantic interest for the big-bug-battling exterminator played by Greg Grunberg. Fango chatted with the actress about her second collaboration with Mendez following 2006’s THE GRAVEDANCERS.

In BIG ASS SPIDER! (out on DVD and Blu-ray today from Epic Pictures), Karly and Major Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise) are part of the military team trying to stop the ever-expanding arachnid from destroying Los Angeles. But it’s Grunberg’s Alex and Lombardo Boyar’s security guard Jose who wind up becoming the true heroes of this outrageously funny creature feature (see review here), with Alex winning Karly’s heart in the process. Having first made an impression in the cheerleading flick BRING IT ON, Kramer came to genre fans’ attention as the evil Glory on TV’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and her horrific credits since have also included Jeremy Kasten’s vampire opus THE THIRST and his upcoming THE DEAD ONES, and Brian A. Metcalf’s recently wrapped THE LOST TREE. We spoke to the actress at last fall’s New York Comic-Con, with Mendez by her side.

FANGORIA: You’ve done a number of horror films and TV shows, but nothing quite like this before. Was Karly the kind of role you were looking for, or did it just sort of fall into your lap?

CLARE KRAMER: It definitely fell into my lap, but I was extremely excited about it from the beginning. I was a little bit leery about the title, because it was called MEGA SPIDER at first, but then I had a conversation with Mike and he spoke about his vision and how he wanted to see the final product executed and Greg, so then I was eager to sign on for it. And the character is something I haven’t really played before.

FANG: It’s the first time you’ve ever played a military character, right?

KRAMER: Yes, definitely, and that was nice. I came off of a project before BIG ASS SPIDER where I played a victim, a total victim, so it was nice getting back into the strong side of myself.

MIKE MENDEZ: Your bad-ass roots.

KRAMER: Yeah, my bad-ass roots!

MENDEZ: Is it unfair to reveal that you were pregnant during the movie?

KRAMER: Oh no, that’s fine.

MENDEZ: I don’t think we knew until afterward!

KRAMER: No, I found out while we were filming, and I didn’t want to scare anyone.

MENDEZ: Claire is a machine; she gets up at 6 a.m. and runs like five miles, gives birth and goes back to work.

KRAMER: Yeah, I was pregnant with my third, and my first is actually in the movie. She’s the little girl who almost gets killed by the spider.

MENDEZ: And your fourth was conceived at the wrap party! [Everyone laughs]

FANG: You’re the leading straight character dealing with the movie’s crazy heroes; how was your experience with Grunberg and Boyar as they were improvising in character, and were you also able to improv on a more serious level than they were?

KRAMER: Well, first of all, I have so much respect for Greg and Lombardo. It was such a pleasure; it’s always great to work with nice people who are super-talented, and they have this great chemistry and were awesome from the beginning. Karly is definitely straight-laced; that’s her job in the film, to provide that point of view, though she loosens up a little bit towards the end. There were certain times while Greg and I were filming where we would improv, but honestly, it didn’t serve the script or the storyline for my character to take on that kind of persona. I’m hoping in the sequel that she gets the chance to play around a little more.

MENDEZ: That was the basic idea, that you guys are all straight and this bumbling duo enters your world.

KRAMER: That’s what makes it endearing, you know? If everybody is bumbling, it’s not very endearing, and if everyone is straight, then it’s kind of dumb. So it was the perfect mix.

FANG: Did Grunberg do as much improv in his scenes with you as he did with Boyar, or did he stick closer to the script?

KRAMER: I don’t think he did as much, but…

MENDEZ: I don’t think he read the script [laughs].

KRAMER: We did do some improv. There were little homages to BUFFY and Glory and BRING IT ON throughout. Some made it in and some didn’t, but there was definitely that freedom to play with the dialogue.

BIGASSSPIDERKRAMERFANG: And how about Ray Wise?

KRAMER: He was amazing. I love him. He did not improvise, to my knowledge.

MENDEZ: No, not really.

KRAMER: And I don’t think it was called for, for his character.

MENDEZ: There was a little, but nothing that steered the scene in a different direction; it was more like improvising “Stay on target!”-type stuff. But the great thing about Ray is that you will buy whatever bullshit comes out of his mouth; somehow he will make it believable. That’s the magic thing about him.

KRAMER: It was perfect casting for him, and he was a joy to work with. It made getting into character very easy, having him, having the uniform, having the role that I did.

FANG: Was it an adventure running around to all your different locations on such a low budget?

KRAMER: Definitely; it always is. It was definitely an adventure, but it was a fun one, and a challenge I was up to.

FANG: Did it help that you had experience working with CG creatures and FX in the past?

KRAMER: Yeah, definitely, from when I shot GRAVEDANCERS with Mike. We did a little bit of that stuff, but it’s funny when I think back to the BUFFY days, when practical was still the prominent way to do those things. There’d be CGI if there was a ball of energy or something like that, and it has definitely been a transition over the last decade. And it’s one that I welcome. It’s great for filmmaking, and I think practical still has a place, but we’re able to give the audience so much more with CGI.

FANG: Are you a fan of this kind of creature feature yourself?

KRAMER: Absolutely. There’s something about the suspension of disbelief in the genre that’s really appealing. That’s what I want as a moviegoer, when I go to the theater. I don’t want to watch a movie about a broken love story or death or whatever; I want escapism. So I’m definitely a fan.

See our BIG ASS SPIDER! interviews with Mendez and Grunberg and Boyar.

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor, the position he holds to this day while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews.
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