Quantcast Judy O' Dea interview - NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

Judith O'Dea of Night
of the Living Dead!!!
If you're truly a horror fan, then the original George Romero classic 'Night Of The Living Dead' should be among one of your all time favorites! And if that's the case, then you should know that the wonderful Judith O'Dea played Barbara. We caught up with her to reflect on her' Night Of The Living Dead' memories, talk about her convention experiences and to learn a bit about her company O'Dea communications. She'll next be seen in Dante Tomaselli's follow-up to 'Satan's Playground', 'The Ocean'. Read on, folks! - by Mike C., Robg., Ian. 3/05
Before Night Of The Living Dead were you a fan of horror films?

Not exactly. When I was around seven years old, I saw HOUSE OF WAX ... the 3-D version starring Vincent Price. It scared the bageebees out of me! Science fiction... flying saucers, things like that, were more to my liking. I also LOVED the old MGM musicals and love stories like THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR and A PORTRAIT OF JENNIE.

You grew up in Pittsburgh, but were in Hollywood at the time "Night of the Living Dead" was being cast. Who was it that thought you were right for the part of Barbara? 

Yes, Pittsburgh was my home from 6th grade until I left for Hollywood in my early twenties. I think it was Karl Hardman who thought I might be right for Barbara. He was the one who called and asked if I'd like to come back to audition.

The role of Barbara is looked at differently by many people. Some people think Barbara represented a change in the role of women in horror, seeing her as the roots of the strong, determined characters of modern horror, while others have her criticized the character. Where do you see Barbara's place in the evolution of women in horror?

Wow, that's quite a question. I'm not quite sure how to answer it except that I believe Barbara exemplifies honesty. How she got through her horror ordeal is probably the way many REAL people would. She wasn't a superwoman, but she wasn't a wimp either. She was just trying to survive the best way her unique soul could. And yes, that included a period of catatonia... a mental protection, if you will... a time for her mind to pull it together while her body waited. Then, when all looked to be lost, when the zombies were breaking into the house, she snapped back into reality. It was time to fight back. And she did, until her death. If Barbara is remembered for her honest behavior in the "evolution of women in horror" then I'll be thrilled.

What was the toughest time for you on Night Of The Living Dead?

I really can't remember any time being really tough. Maybe the sitting around during set ups between scenes could be considered tiring. But, in all honesty, that was fun, too, for it was a constant learning period for all of us.

What was your impression of Romero, as a director?

I thought George was extremely creative. He was relentless and could go on forever. He was/is very dedicated to producing a quality product.

Did you ever think that “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” would become such a memorable & quoted line from the movie? How many times have people come up to you and said that?

I never ever guessed the line would become so quoted. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've heard it. Let's just leave it at LOTS AND LOTS!

Did you know in the recent zombie flick 'Shaun Of The Dead', they homage that line, as Shaun’s mother’s name is Barbara and they say “We’re coming to get you, Barbara?

Yes, in fact, it was my son who told me that. I went right out and rented the movie. It was really well done.

Duane Jones’ character of Ben was unlike any cinematic hero seen in a horror film before 'Night Of The Living Dead'. What do you remember about working with Duane?

Duane was pure class. Quiet, thorough, dedicated, and extremely intelligent.  Working with him was effortless.

What was it like for you to first see 'Night Of The Living Dead' on the big screen?


What was the first indication that you'd taken part in a cinema classic?

Oh, I don't believe that awareness came for a long time... some years really. It wasn't until friends and acquaintances continually sent screening notices and reviews from around the world that I began to feel we'd made something more enduring than originally thought.

When was the last time you’ve seen the film?

I saw NOLD at a screening this past September in West Los Angeles... at the Nuart Theatre.It was one of those midnight showings like the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

What would you consider to be one of your favorites scenes or moments from 'Night Of The Living Dead'?

One of my favorite scenes is when Barbara runs her fingers over a music box and starts it running. You can just catch a look at her eyes as the little doors open and close.

After 'Night Of The Living Dead', we couldn't find anymore credits for you, but we understand you continued to work in films. What other films or television shows have we seen you in?

I worked for Warner Bros. upon my return to Hollywood. I did I picture called THE PIRATE with Anne Archer, Eli Wallach, and Franco Nero.  But most of my work after NOLD was on the stage doing a wonderful variety of musicals, comedies, and drama.

There was a much different Barbara in the 1990 Tom Savini remake, but again, some critics were harsh on that characterization. What's your opinion of it, and can strong women ever get a break in horror?!

I can understand why Tom made Barbara's character more commanding. Women were asserting their strength and equality in so many ways and venues in the 90s. It seems quite acceptable that Barbara should be so much more a leader and vanquisher in this version. I don't compare the two versions. Each stands on its own merit in its own time. And as far as strong women ever getting a break in horror... I certainly would think so. We just have to get ourselves beyond the "scream queen" mentality.

You've attended fan conventions, such as Horrorfind's in AZ. Have any fun convention memories you'd like to share?

The best convention memories for me are of the many and varied truly wonderful conversations I've had with NOLD fans. It's really been mind boggling! I am continually amazed to meet so many fantastic people who still support and enjoy NOLD so much.

Did you have a chance to meet up with any of your fellow NOLD cast mates at any conventions?

Yes, I have met up with my cast mates at various times. And when we do, we rock! What a great bunch of people they are... Karl, Marilyn, George, Kyra, Bill, Jack, and Russ. Just the greatest! I only wish we had Duane and Keith still with us.

Have you collected much Living Dead memorabilia over the years? What are some favorite pieces?

I think I have given more AWAY than I have collected. Some favorites though are the few original stills I've managed to hold on to that were shot during production and an original movie poster that was given to me by a very generous fan.

So, we hear your going to be working with Dante Tomaselli on 'The Ocean'. How’d that come about and what can you tell us about that project?

Dante contacted me through the Internet asking if I'd like to participate. Being as how I am a firm believer in supporting independent film, I said yes. I also love the ocean, am a passionate scuba diver, and have great interest in the paranormal. It sounds as if his film might offer it all. I can hardly wait.

You were also linked to a project called ‘A Moth To The Flame’, which would also feature Reggie Bannister and our buddy Felissa Rose. Are you still involved with that film? What can you tell us about that particular project?

Yes, I was asked to do a role in that film, but various changes in producers and schedules made it impossible. I surely wish them all well though and look forward to seeing the film sometime this or next year.

Tell us about your company O'Dea Communications?

O'Dea Communications offers a variety of oral presentation coaching and training workshops, seminars, and multi-session courses for both the professional and non-professional speaker. My Company vision is verbal, vocal, and visual communication excellence throughout global Corporate America. And my mission is to provide the finest oral communications training, consultations, and private coaching tailored to my customers’ specific needs. If you'd like to check out my website, visit www.odeacommunications.com.

Tell us what you think made 'Night Of The Living Dead' special. Why do you think it connected with people so strongly?

NOLD was more a horror docu-drama. It appeared real, even with its zombie storyline. And the fact that not one of the lead characters survived was a first at that time. I think the movie was also very special in that it paired a black man of strength and intellect with a white woman. It was their survival we cared most about. The racial element was never an issue.

Amen! And thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us!

Special thanks to Judith for her time!!!

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