I don’t usually get nervous when preparing an interview, but I must admit, there were some butterflies when meeting Brooke Lewis. A veteran of over 40 projects, including her signature character, Ms. Vampy. She has been an influence to many an actress who seek work in film as well as those who’s goal is wearing the title of Scream Queen. Neither is easy to obtain but when she walks into the room with her small but surprisingly powerful stature, there is no question as to why she is a staple in the film community.
So what is on her plate today? Zombies, or more to the point, Hitchcockian Zombies. Today we are talking about Lazarus, the new film by Thomas Churchill. Lazarus is a Mystery Noir Thriller with a Zombie body and the soul of Hitchcock. Is that possible? I assure you that it is, but don’t listen to me. Listen to the Scream Queen, she is holding court…
What can you tell me about the character you play in Lazarus?
OK, here’s a bit of comic trivia, which is par for the course with Brooke Lewis roles. You are the first to get this; Thomas Churchill and I have known each other and wanted to work together for years. I was one of the first to know about Lazarus from its inception. We would meet for coffee and he would bounce ideas off me. He wrote me the role of Lucinda, but I have such severe allergies and a lot of her scenes were shooting at a dog kennel, so I could not play the role, because I couldn’t be near the animals. It was so upsetting, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and we sat down and he was like; “what are we gonna do?” We were in shock and I said; “I guess I’m gonna have to wait till the next one…” It was heart wrenching because I was madly in love with the script, and I get sent a lot of scripts. So he said; “There’s a couple of roles that I haven’t signed contracts on yet, why do you take a look at this, this, and this.
Now, originally, the part of Ms. Daniels was written for a 55 year old woman, and it’s one of those great character roles. I told him that I wanted to play Ms. Daniels. Well, at first he really had to digest that and he sleep on it and we talked the next day. He said; “I can’t not have you in the film, you’ve been with me from day one, OK, you’ll play Ms. Daniels, we’ll make her younger.
So what was the role switch like?
It’s a supporting role and she was such a challenging role for me as an actress. I had to really do my due diligence as an actress, working with my acting coach, Courtney Gains, and at first I was nervous, cause it was so different for me. She’s Mature, and she’s the CEO of this insurance company who is the insurance provider for the Deadly Sins cigarette company. I told Thomas to give me a couple of directing notes ahead of time so I know what to work on. He told me; “You ready? Think Judi Dench in Skyfall” I’m like “Are you fucking kidding me?”
I’ve played in my career, so many hooker roles, and I’ve been blessed to be able to create roles for myself like in “iMurders” as a detective and Kinky Killers as a Psychiatrist. But to really get to play a mature, powerful, female role where there’s different layers of emotion as she is delivering the information in the scene to George Lazarus and it just builds and builds and builds. Great!
And how did you feel about the Hitchcock element?
Thomas and I are both HUGE Hitchcock fans, and I’m Ms. Daniels…The Birds! So we have birds and Parakeets behind me in cages in the office, and they’re chirping throughout the scene and I’m trying to be in character and in the moment. It really works.
Because the film is so layered, what was it like to play in that world?
Well, again, I am such a Hitchcock fan, that was one of the biggest draws for me. The other draw for me, is that Thomas and I are both New York Italians, I’ve done a lot of mobster pictures, so I know that role very well, and there’s a little bit of that with Mammon Beelzebub and the daughter, being a reformed gangster, I love that. Here is the crazier part, all my fans know this, I’m Ms.Vampy, so I’m a vampire junky, I am not a zombie fan, and it’s just not my thing. I found myself saying; “I’m making a zombie movie?” and I think that was a lot of people’s reaction. But when I read it, the zombie thing is so secondary, the story is so good and so tight and so there, its smart and Hitchcockian, all compiled together it works wonderfully.
I would work on the whole Devil-Beelzebub stuff that turns me on more than zombie stuff does. For me the biggest attractions to the script were the Hitchcock mystery, the time period, and the Devil-Beelzebub stuff. The zombie stuff was last, but it works! All the readers should know that its not just another zombie film, a very smart story and a great twist, very indie film.
What was the energy like on set?
Magical. As an actress who has worked on studio pictures and studio television, you know, the last several films I’ve been involved in executive producing were all 1million to 2 million dollar films, so you know not to go in with crazy high expectations. For a low budget film, the crew was amazing, the energy was amazing, it was a really collaborative effort. I gotta say, and who the hell am I?, he treated me like a rockstar! Sometimes that gets skewed when you are working with friends, not the case at all. I had an incredible experience, off the board, from the crew, the set, the professionalism.
The shots I’ve seen look fantastic…
Wolfgang, who is such an incredible D.P. is just amazing. I had heard from a lot of friends how talented he was and you know people, you see people, but I had never worked with him before. That was such a gift to work with Thomas and Wolfgang together. The professionalism technically was above and beyond what anyone would imagine. That crew worked so damn hard, they worked such long hours, to make something magical. I felt it. I knew there was one take of Ms. Daniels, one of my close ups, that, you know as an actor when you are in the zone, I was in the fricken zone! I knew it, I felt it, and they got me there. That’s my director, my D.P., my fellow actors. I hope they use that take because it was so spot on. That’s a credit to them.
Are there any funny stories that you can share?
Brooke bursts into laughter. Oh god, I am never gonna live this one down so I might as well share it with you and you are the first to hear. They have been breaking my balls and sending me fricken pictures from set. So speaking of being in the zone, and I am like so in the zone at this point, l had a lot of dialogue, monologue after monologue after monologue, and I’m in the groove. So we do this one take where it was fricken incredible. I was so excited. So the next day they were all on set and I get a call on speaker from Thomas and Wolfgang and they’re like, “You know your favorite take in the world?”, I’m like, “Yeah. It was fucking awesome!” They’re like “yeah, well we just watched the dailies and Natalie (Victoria) and Ray (Campuana) were with us and they’re like “OH MY GOD! She has a water bottle to the left on the desk in the scene!” We had these baby water bottles, I had it on the floor, and no one could see it. At one point, we took a quick break; I took it out and put it there. One of the P.A.’s asked if I need more water, so they brought me water. I don’t know what happened, how it happened cause they were so tidy. So Thomas is like “Brooke. The fricken water bottle is right there on the desk in the scene.” Now you’re talking about a period piece movie of 1950. You can’t have an arrowhead water bottle. This the cherished take that was a work winning performance. You could do 20 performances in a scene that suck, and then you get that one. This was the take that Thomas literally jumped over the desk and said “I have to hug you right now, you are fucking amazing!” and Wolf was like “Oh my god. You should have seen the intensity in your eyes.” And then when they call me the next day, I thought they were punking me. I’m like “You’re so full of shit. Don’t fuck with me, you can’t do that to actors, because you know how sensitive I am. It is not funny. They’re like, “We swear to god, a water bottle is on the desk, in the shot.” Well I was gonna start crying, I’m still heartbroken over it. Then Wolf called me back; “We didn’t mean to upset you, but we just saw it. All of us forgot. No one saw it in the shot.” I’m like; can’t you fix that in post? Can’t we put a sign on it in post?” So they calmed me down and said that they will figure out a way. If that’s the best take then we will figure out a way to fix it in post.
So after that day, and they knew how devastated I was, those MoFo’s had a laugh. You know the Gnomes? People take them and travel, Like pictures of the Gnomes in Italy, in the mountains like Big Bear, right? Everyday these guys, including Natalie, would send me pictures from set. First Ray, with his 50’s suit and hat holding a bottle of water and a thumbs up. “Got Water?” Then the next day, Natalie sends one. Then Thomas sends one as Beelzebub, making this crazy face with a cigar in one hand and a water bottle in the other. It became the set joke and I’m such a professional, such a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my work, that I want everything to be perfect. I have the worst luck.
What is it that you hope fans take away from this zombie film?
The film noir, mystery, and Hitchcockian elements cause that’s what inspires me as an actress. My preferences as an actress, and I love horror as a spectator, I love mystery, I love thriller. If you said to me; “OK, you’re gonna act in 10 Hitchcock films over the next 5 years”, I’d be over the moon. I love that. I love that Thomas is bringing that back in his own style. It’s just Amazing.
You’ve produced a lot of projects over the years and you stay busy in front of and behind the camera. What can your fans look forward to from you in the near future?
A lot of good stuff. As an actress, I got really into the Sci-Fi world and stared in Neil Johnson’s Starship sequels, called Starship: Rising and Starship: The Coming Darkness. We shot both back to back in November/December, just amazing indie sci-fi films. Great scripts, a great role for me, I’m super, super proud of it. I play a fighter pilot, like flying a starship, which is a challenging role for me. It will be out DVD/VOD in August and September. Mark Clebanoff my director from Break, contacted me last year and said; “I wrote you a role in my next film” it’s a drama thriller with almost a twinge of Sci-Fi, funny enough, I’ve gotten this new Sci-Fi persona as well, which is amazing. I love Sci-Fi, and if I can do horror and Sci-Fi together, FANTASTIC! So he brought me out to Michigan for two weeks last October to do The Mourning. Oh My God, I’m telling you, this one’s like an Independent Spirit Award Winner. It is just a heart wrenching, beautiful drama about life and love, with a thriller aspect to it. So I got a couple of really great films coming out and I’m super,super excited about those, plus I’m doing all my other stuff. As far as producing, I only have two passion projects that I’m producing in the next few years. One is Vamp It Out, which is Ms. Vampy’s “High School Musical”, movie of the week, Nickelodeon-esque type of thing for teenage girls which is about positive messages for teenage girls, something I’m really committed to. Then the other passion project is a vampire rock opera, which is like my baby and that, Staci Layne Wilson is very involved in right now, she’s co-producing with me. We are really amped to try and get that one out there. That is so many things. It’s like a vampire rock opera love story.
I’m also attached to a couple of really amazing films this year. One is a drama/animae film called Black Hat and a couple of other things that I can’t shout out yet but it’s looking good!
You can follow Lazarus The Movie at:
You can follow Brooke Lewis at:
Other Horrific Musings: