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Tiffany Shepis!!!

One of THE busiest actresses working in our beloved genre has to be the foxy Tiffany Shepis! With over 50 credits to her name, a majority of them in horror, she's established herself as a fan favorite! THE HAZING, ABOMINABLE and TED BUNDY are just a few on her resume with BASEMENT JACK, BONNIE & CLYDE VS DRACULA, DARK REEL and LIVE EVIL all in queue. You can catch her next in After Dark's Horrorfest 2 as the lead in NIGHTMARE MAN. Read on for our FRIGHT exlcusive chat with Tiffany Shepis! - by Robg. 11/07

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? Do you remember as a kid the first films that scared and had an impact on you and opened you up to the world of horror?

Yeah! First thing’s first, CHILDREN OF THE CORN. My mom would not let us watch it in the house. Which is really weird, because she had no problem with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. (Laughs) No problem with THE TOXIC AVENGER. But for some reason, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, we were not allowed to watch. My brother was 5 years older then me, so anytime my mom would go out of town, we would just have bad B-movie night. It’d be everything from USA Up All Night to the early Troma stuff. We would even make movies as kids and then watch our own.

I know you started acting fairly early and most people know that you did work at Troma. My question for you is how difficult was it in the beginning to get into acting? Especially being a young actress in New York?

You know, I think I did a commercial and I’d mess around at school and people would say, “Oh, you should do movies!” We would make our own little neighborhood movies and try to kill everyone in the neighborhood. But it was kind of a far off shot (to be an actress), I never had any aspirations like “I’m going to move off to Hollywood and do films!” It was just things that we’d do around the block. Then I went to a school in Manhattan and it was one of those weird schools for actor kids, I guess? And the reason my parents put me there was because I wasn’t doing well in any school! One of these kids had an ad for Troma and they were casting for TROMEO & JULIET. I knew the name obviously, because my brother and I would watch their movies every weekend. So, I cut school and went to the audition. From that minute on, I was hooked. Before that moment, it was more like “Ah, we’ll make movies around the house!” But from being on that set, and the fact that I loved being on a set, and granted I was so young and it was my first movie and you always have that kind of excitement at that age, but it was when I realized that this was it, I can’t be anything else. Thankfully the horror genre is real loyal and allows me to continue doing it.
I know a lot of the same people we know got their start at Troma. Actually, it’s funny, pretty much ANY one from the East Coast gets their start at Troma! Rolfe (Kanefsky) I believe worked there for a while…

Yeah! He worked on TROMA’S WAR!

Yeah, and even Joe Lynch worked with Troma.

Yeah, Joe Lynch who’s my THIRSTY co-star. Also, Trent Haaga who I just starred in BONNIE AND CLYDE VS DRACULA with started at Troma.

We’ll get to all those! But I really want to talk to you about NIGHTMARE MAN, which is opening in theaters as part of this November’s (2007) AFTER DARK FEST 2. What can you tell us about NIGHTMARE MAN and what’s the character you play in it?

I play a character named Mia. I know it sounds kind of typical, but some friends are throwing a party at a cabin, and my best friend’s getting married to this douche-baggy guy that I don’t like. Some underlined tension between her and I, you’re not sure if there’s some lesbian thing going on there, but there’s some tension! I’m kind of the crazy friend that brings the young boyfriend with me. Basically this crazy chick comes knocking on our door screaming “Someone’s after me! Someone’s after me!” We get a call from her husband that tells us not to listen to a word she says because she’s nuts.
So, it’s one of those, what do you do in that situation things? Do you believe the husband? Or do you believe the chick that there’s someone after her. And of course, all hell breaks loose. That’s my character and the story in a nutshell. That project was our baby, you know? Rolfe wrote it with me in mind, and I’ve worked with Rolfe several times. When I read the script I thought “Fuck! We need to do this!” And then we made it and we were all jazzed about it, I told Rolfe “Please don’t give this away like we do with everything else!” (Laughs) But, it did nothing for a while. Everybody’s pretty much seen it.
It’s screened at festivals. I thought it easily could’ve been a Midnight college town release! But it just didn’t have the right promotion behind it. So, I kept pushing to Rolfe to not give this movie away. And then of course, we delayed it and we still hadn’t given it away, and I said, “Wait. Don’t take me seriously, man! Sell this movie!” (Laughs) “Put this out on shelves!” But thank God for Rolfe for waiting, because we got into the After Dark event, which is actually a really funny story! He usually doesn’t often go to Comic-Con, but he went and I was showing up which is why he stuck around. And he called me and said “Hey, I gave my movie to the After Dark Film Festival!” And I thought “Way to go! You just lost $60 bucks on a press kit. Nothing’s going to happen with that!” (Laughs) I felt like an awful friend because I wasn’t being supportive and I don’t even know why. I figured these companies get really, really big movies. BUT, After Dark picked it up and that’s pretty rad, because that’s the best we could’ve asked for! A theatrical release in 350 theaters? For this movie, that’s huge.
That’s awesome! And I remember it being the first film announced. I was really so happy for you guys!

Yeah, I know! I was at a convention when I heard it, and I announced it to everybody and then I thought, “Wait a minute, I probably shouldn’t announce this because it’s probably bullshit! It’s probably some lie to fuck with Rolfe!” (Laughs) I didn’t really believe it! You know, 350 movie theaters in the grand scheme of things is small potatoes for Hollywood people but for the little guy, the indie B-horror film, that’s huge! (Laughs)

From what I understand about NIGHTMARE MAN, it’s very different from things you’ve done in the past in the sense that Rolfe crosses different horror genres in it. Meaning, it’s got the “slasher” element to it, it’s got the cabin in the woods, the supernatural element. Does that factor into why it’s one of the films you hold close to you?

Yeah, I think it’s really different, and I hold it in personal high regard because I like my performance in it. If you’ve seen any of my movies, it’s not often I get really cool shit to work with. I may get a really cool death scene like in ABOMINABLE and I love that movie, but I really didn’t have much of a character. So as far a character piece and a chance for me to say, “Hey, look! You know, I don’t just have a great ass!” (Laughs) “I can actually deliver lines!” I was really jazzed about that and that’s why I hold NIGHTMARE MAN close to me. Rolfe is one of my best friends, so he knows how to write for me and he knows what I’m good at.

Since you guys have worked together so frequently, is it safe to say that you two have developed a short hand or easy way of working together on these projects?

Oh yeah. Absolutely. I mean, he knows how I work, I know how he works. I think in all the years of working together, we’ve only gotten into one fight and it was over something stupid in NIGHTMARE MAN. It’s working with your best friend. It doesn’t get any better then that. And that’s why I like the genre in general, because almost every time I get to work with someone, it’s another friend of mine. It’s a fairly small, tight-knit unit.
I tend to notice the horror community is very supportive of each other. Amongst both filmmakers and fans. It’s very rare that you see that in any other genre of film.

They are for the most part! There are a few that are kinda douchey. But for the most part, I’d say 90 percent of them are super supportive and I think that’s because we have to be! When you don’t have $40 million dollar ad campaigns out there pushing your movie, you have to go through word of mouth and you have to go through your friends and so just because I went and supported WRONG TURN 2 doesn’t mean that no one’s going to see my movie. You know what I’m saying? You have to support your buddies and hope that they support you back. I think that’s why everybody’s so close, because they all know how hard it is to make a film. They know how hard it is to get one out there. Plus, it’s fun! It’s fun to be around people that enjoy the same thing that you do. Who wants to drag along their shitty boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t like these movies? (Laughs)
You mentioned ABOMINABLE before. One of the funny stories that writer/director Ryan Schifrin told us was about your audition. You were one of the last people that they saw, and when they met you, it was almost an instantaneous thing that they knew they were going to cast you as Tracy, and you knew you had that part. What do you remember about that?
(Laughs) You know, I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember walking in and saying something to the effect of “You guys… know you’re going to cast me.” (Laughs) “So, let’s just cut out the middle man here!” It was just one of those things that was just like, it’s not often that I get auditions for a movie. And this was a group of people that I really didn’t know, I’m worked with (cinematographer) Neal Fredericks before and I knew that he referred me.
I walked in and I looked at them and they looked at me, and it was just kind of this weird connection. It was great, because the Schifrins have become such great friends of mine. I was super jazzed! At that point, I think I knew that Jeffrey Combs was involved and I thought, “I need to be in this movie! There’s no other way around it!”

As a fan of the genre, I don’t remember if you directly had scenes with some of these people in ABOMINABLE, but did you get a chance to talk and meet with Jeffrey Combs or Lance Henriksen or Dee Wallace?

Um, I actually never met Jeffrey, ever! Even after all the conventions I’ve gone to, I’ve never met him or worked with him or anything. I’d gotten to work with Lance Henriksen in another movie called DARK REEL and he’s a pretty fun, rad dude. Dee Wallace I’ve met a few times in passing, at conventions and actually I think at the Schifrin’s house. (Laughs) In that movie, it was really weird because there were all these great people in it, but none of them really had scenes together.
Another film that I really like you in is THE HAZING, which is another film you did with Rolfe. What stands out for you about that movie now in retrospect? Besides that amazing silver outfit!

Well, the silver outfit, of course. (Laughs) But, fucking Brad Dourif, man! That guy is just cool! My biggest memory from it is that he actually came to my house. Came to my shitty apartment in the valley and went over his English accent with me, so that I could nail it down like the way he speaks.
I’m thinking, “This is a low budget movie! What are you doing?” (Laughs) But he was just very cool, he came over and helped and he made me all these tapes for reference. He’s just this rad guy, and working with him was awesome. THE HAZING was a super close project for me, because that’s how I met Rolfe. Years and years earlier when I had a distribution company, he came to us with the script for THE HAZING to produce it and I loved the script. I thought “Man, I want to produce this movie, I want to play Marsha. We need to make this film!” But our company was really new and really young and we were able to come up with $100,000 dollars, but we knew that movie couldn’t be made for that. Rolfe and I just stayed in touch and finally he was able to get it off the ground. And still, even after being friends with Rolfe after all these years, I still had to work my ass off to get that part!

I heard you had to audition several times for the producers!
Yeah! I came in and they’re like “She’s not innocent enough.” I come in to do innocent and then they’re like, “Well, she’s not tough enough.” Are you kidding me? I went in for it 7 times. I came to find out years later that I wasn’t even the first choice for it. I was the first choice to Rolfe, but the producer wanted this other chick and she turned it down. Yay for her! It all worked out though. It was a really cool project that I really wanted for a very long time, and I was super happy with the way it came out. I still get tons of emails all the time from that movie, mostly about the silver space suit. (Laughs)
Right after that one, you did CORPSES, which I heard was a bit of a difficult experience for you guys?

Oh boy. (Laughs) There were so many fucking problems on that movie, man. I just wrapped ABOMINABLE, which I was pregnant on. When I was on CORPSES, I was pregnant. Everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong on it. Like the producer stole a bunch of money, there was a bunch of nonsense. Whatever. I still think it was kind of fun, if you go into it looking for just a cheesy, corny zombie movie. If you go into it seriously, you’re going to be slightly disappointed with it. We actually heard from Jake West and he was like (in British accent), “You know, I watched THE HAZING and I was so excited… and then I watched CORPSES.” (Laughs) Yeah, man. It was a little bit of a downer that we had to go through that experience, but that’s the world of movie-making. Sometimes you get these million dollar budgets and sometimes? Not so much.
You did the TED BUNDY movie, from that company that did a series of serial killer based movies like DAHMER, GEIN, GACY. TED BUNDY was the only one I thought was fairly decent.

Well, it had Mathew Bright directing it! And despite Matthew Bright’s craziness, he’s a genius! (Laughs) If you’ve ever seen FREEWAY, that movie’s awesome! It was really sick and really fucked up, and I was super jazzed to be a part of that movie. But it was weird because after it came out, I got a lot of hate mail from people saying we glorified Ted Bundy and that he’s some type of fucking hero in our movie and it shouldn’t be comical. It’s true. The man killed lots of girls in terrible ways and none of that’s funny. But the fact of the matter is, when you think of the time that that happened, shit… it was funny because someone goes, “Hey! Why don’t you hop into my car and I’ll drive you down the street to my place!” and the girl goes “OK!” That’s fucking weird that that shit used to happen! I’m sure it still happens today, but not like then when people were just so trusting.

If I remember correctly, I didn’t think BUNDY glorified anything. It just told the whole story from start to finish. I liked at the end we see him sobbing like a baby in the electric chair. It ends exactly the way it happened in real life and shows him for what he was, right until the end. You know what I mean?

All I know is we got tons of letters from people afterwards. I thought, “Hey, what’re you bitchin’ at me for? I’m the one that kicked his ass! You should be rooting me on!” It was a weird movie. It had a small theatrical run in art-house theaters and it did ok. It was what it was and it’s unfortunate that Matthew’s not doing more stuff these days.
Well, I saw the trailer for this the other day and I think the title says it all… BONNIE AND CYLDE VS DRACULA. And you’re Bonnie!

Dude! I am! And I am so excited about that movie! We shot it last July in Kansas City, Missouri. And it’s… fucking Bonnie and Cylde Vs Dracula! That’s really it! The first half of the movie is basically a Bonnie and Cylde on the run movie. They’re on the road, pulling off heists, and it’s awesome! Because these kids in Kansas City really pulled together and made everything look 1930’s. We had real cars. And then the whole thing switches. I have to go because one of my guys gets shot up and I have to go to this spooky mansion to get a doctor, the only doctor in town and it turns out he’s housing Dracula there! What gets better then that?! (Laughs) You know?

I’m sold! I’m there!

The funny thing about it is when we were shooting it, we all thought, “Man, I really want to see both of these films.” I don’t know how it’s going to play all together but both parts of the movie were just awesome, because they were two separate different things. I got that and found out Trent Haaga, my old Troma cohort who hosted all the East Coast Troma segments while I hosted the West Coast segments was in it too. So we never actually had any scenes together in anything before. We were in a few movies but never had any scenes together. Sure, we had met but on brief occasions. But he ended up playing Cylde and when I got there, he was in full garb and he had the hat on and his gun. He looked so bad-ass. I thought, “All right, this movie’s going to be good.” (Laughs) I saw the trailer the other day and I was blown away.

A few months back when Icons spoke to Rolfe, he mentioned that you guys had shot a few segments for a show called TIFFANY SHEPIS’S ONCE UPON A HORROR. Any story, updates or progress on that?

There’s really not. Ever since this 8 FILMS TO DIE FOR thing, a lot of stuff has been put on hold just to see where this takes us. Hopefully a lot of people will go see it (NIGHTMARE MAN) and get more interested in both of our work, and then ask what’s next? We can go to them and say, “Look! We already have 40 minutes shot of this USA Up All Night meets Elvira type of show.” That’s the kind of character I play in it.
I totally miss those kind of Up All Night shows!

Absolutely! And I’ve been saying for years, someone needs to do this! I said finally, we have some people together, let’s just make this. We’ll make some wraparounds, see what happens. And if we can pull some money together for the interior features, then we’ll do it. At the moment, it just got put on hold but the stuff looks awesome! So, I don’t know. Maybe somebody out there will want to invest and we can finish it?!

You’ve worked on so many movies varying in budget and quality over the years. Are there any wacky experiences that just completely stand out where you thought, “Only in show business would this happen!”?
(Laughs) Shit! Not that I can remember off hand, but every movie’s different, man. Every movie you have a whole different group of kids. And especially since my budgets do vary SO much. (Laughs) It’s ridiculous from the $5000 budget movies where I think, “Oh my God, did you guys really just pay me 2 grand and the movie’s being shot for 5?” to the $5 million dollar ones, so you get a whole slew of different people. It’s just the people that you meet. It’s always pretty interesting, because the people shooting them are usually fans. That’s sometimes kind of strange because I’m a free agent. So, people tend to email me directly or occasionally go through my manager and I end up in the middle of nowhere, Idaho getting off a plane thinking “Jesus Christ, is this person going to be a wacky, weirdo serial killer that’s like ‘Sure the movie shoots this way!’” There’s always spooky thoughts going into some of these things, but nothing (knock on wood) weird has happened to me! (Laughs)

Speaking of fans, you’ve done plenty of convention appearances and you’re often sitting across from various genre people that you’ve worked with in the past, while at the same time meeting and talking with fans. So, what’s the whole convention experience like from your perspective?

Man, I love doing conventions! Probably just because I love people and that type of atmosphere. It just gets me crazy. I love ‘em. It’s tiring too! I’m predominantly an “on” person 90 percent of the time! But to be “on” 100 percent of the time for 3 days straight is really rough! You’re almost always getting the same exact questions. It’s a little exhausting, but it’s cool. Plus, I’m sitting in the room with people I watched growing up. My brother’s such a huge fan and I think the only reason why he was excited that I started doing horror movies was so that he could get into conventions for free and these celebrities know him now! Conventions are cool.
That’s where you might run into some crazy people. I don’t get too many of them, but once in a great while you’ll get some odd people. One year, my mom kicked some guy in the face. We found him crawling under my table to try to take a picture up my skirt! Such an idiot, if you ask me to stand up, you can pretty much see the world in these outfits I wear. Why do you have to crawl under a table for? (Laughs)

That’s kinda… creepy! Didn’t you recently shoot a scream-queen-esque movie?

Two of them, actually! DARK REEL I did with Lance Henriksen, Edward Furlong and Tony Todd. It’s awesome.

I see that Rick Baker is listed among the cast!

Rick Baker! I get to kill him!

How the hell’d that happen?

Dude, it’s awesome! I play a scream queen, but in movie world B-movie scream queens are really rich and fancy. (Laughs) And we work for this big studio that Lance Henriksen owns. I’m the gem of the studio, my names Cassie Blue. My character is obsessed with the 50’s, so I’m always in 50’s get-up and I drive this bad-ass 50’s car. The story is that Ed Furlong’s character is this weirdo fan. He goes to all the conventions, he has all the memorabilia all over his house. And there’s an ad for a contest to win a walk-on role on one of these movies. And of course he wins, and once he gets on the set, everyone starts dying and it becomes a who-dun-it. Rick Baker is in the movie within the movie on the pirate ship! He plays a pirate that I’m fighting and I get to stab him with a sword, which was awesome! The best part was I actually did stab him a couple of times on accident because, well… I don’t know how to sword fight! If you have a few million dollars to make a movie, and you only get 2 hours to rehearse. I kept thinking “Oh my God, I almost killed Rick Baker!” (Laughs)

Hey, not too many people get to say that!

Totally! That was pretty cool. And I’m really excited about this movie, I’ve seen part of it and the look of it is really gorgeous. It’s just really, really cool.

You’re consistently busy. You’ve got so many projects coming out, and you’re consistently working. As an actress, is there any particular advice you can offer to other people that are trying to make their way in the business?

My usual answer is “Don’t do it! Just go do something else!” (Laughs) But in all honesty, if someone really wanted to know what to do? I have no idea! I’m lucky I get jobs! I think the key is to keep yourself out there. You’ve got to go to conventions, you’ve got to meet people and hang out and see what people are doing, and keep up on it. I’m not very good at that part, actually. (Laughs) But yeah, keep yourself out there and up to date. Read sites like Icons Of Fright.com!
Very nice way of slipping in that plug! Well done, Shepis!

Thank you, thank you. (Laughs) I got it in there. But yeah, read articles, find out what people are up to. Email them, call them, get in touch and send out your shit! Don’t be scared! Especially for this low-budget stuff. Most of those productions are thrilled when an actress volunteers themselves!
NIGHTMARE MAN will be playing in theaters in November as part of AFTER DARK FEST 2, followed by a DVD release early next year. Is there anything about it you specifically want to tell Icons readers? Why should they see this movie when there are 7 other films to die for competing with it? What’s this have that those other flicks don’t?

Ummm… Tiffany Shepis! With hot bra and panties and a crossbow AND a shotgun! Naked demon rape… Do I need to say more?

You know what? I don’t think any of those other films have those things going for it.

Exactly! I definitely know they don’t have Tiffany Shepis, and I really doubt that any of them have naked demon rape. Nothing against the other 7! I want them all to do well. I just want mine to do a tiny bit better. (Laughs)

VISIT: www.Tiffany-Shepis.com
and: www.NightmareManMovie.com

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