Heather Tyler plays Teig, the resident badass of the trio of sisters hiding out at there forgotten family home in Jim Towns House of Bad. Teig has a lot of baggage and anger that sets her apart from the other sisters. She is definitely the one to fear…or is she? Step into the master bedroom of the House of Bad…
How did you come to be involved in the film?
Writer/Producers Scott Frazelle and Dorota Skrzypek came to see my performance in a one-woman show @ Rogue Machine Theatre here in Hollywood. It was about Sylvia Plath – very comedic with complete 180 degree turns to misery – this is the writer of The Bell Jar, after all, who eventually committed suicide by sticking her head in the oven (which was the opening & closing image in the play, by the way.) When Jim Towns was looking for a replacement for one of the other actors, as I understand it, he was also seeking the right combination of women to play the sisters. Scott mentioned that I could handle a lot of text (and Teig had a lot) so Jim brought me in for the role. I found it funny because Scott kept saying that they were looking for their lead, and that she was tough and nasty and hardened – but when I read the script, I thought the lead was Sadie’s character, Sirah. So initially, I was very confused. As it turns out, Sadie actually read for both roles, and she later mentioned being intimidated by Teig’s character – as was I. That was the reason I wanted to audition, it scared me…I had played dark roles, but never in such an ugly, hardened way.
You play the one straight up criminal of the sisters. How did you prepare yourself?
I asked Jim a lot of questions, prepared a back-story for Teig’s past to understand what had happened to her as a young child, in prison, once she was out – you know, things the writer has to leave off the page. I’m a very physical person and a physical actor, so in prep work, I frequently used physicality different from my own to find Teig’s shell – closed off to the world…her stance always in a suspicious, offensive position. That opened up a pathway to her inner workings.
Was it difficult to create a distance between you and the other actresses?
You know, I think that the physicality worked, because I heard comments later from the crew (and probably Cheryl and Sadie) that at first, I seemed cold and tough and – well, scary! It’s absolutely not my normal personality, but I had to live in it with our quick shooting schedule – plus, wearing wife beaters and overalls and carhartts all day helped…One day, I had a morning break and showed up at the house in one of my normal summer sundresses wearing a big hat & sandals (I’m from the south) – and the crew didn’t know who I was J I think the crew might have felt more distanced at first than the other actresses – we all got along together off-camera. There wasn’t a need to create distance – again because of the quick shooting schedule, we just did our work and played the scene, the writing was there for playing the alienation…
You have some of the most intense scenes. Were they physically draining or emotionally draining?
All of the fighting and physical scenes outside were great. I’m a fitness trainer and had really bulked up (for me) for the role, so I was in great condition and very confident with fight choreography. So those physically intense scenes were great fun for me. Plus I love working with weapons. The emotionally intense scenes could have been completely draining – except for one great thing that happened on Day One. I walked in, and the first thing – the VERY first thing I shot – was my character’s climactic scene. I won’t give a spoiler now, but I will say that it was one in which I was nude. So I walk onto set, drop trou, and shoot the most emotionally vulnerable and dialogue-heavy moment Teig has in the entire film…10AM, Day One. Hello, everybody!
What was most difficult for you to shoot?
Oddly enough, notthat last moment I just described! One of the last days – nights, really – was a final confrontation with each sister in the cellar, in two different scenes. We were really running short on time, and one of the scenes had been rewritten the night before – now these were long 12-14 hour shooting days, and I’m a fast learner, but there wasn’t a lot of time to let something new sink in and erase/re-record dialogue already locked in your brain, you know? Plus, earlier that day, I had been witness to the younger version of Teig shooting her cellar scene, and it was truly hair-raising to hear her panic and screams…I felt like, ok – Julia just brought it! So, I’ve got to at least match! After doing my best to echo her strains, we proceeded on to the two scenes with the sisters. And they were just really tough to do – after eight non-stop days, little rest, a lot of (good) stress, tired voice and body, I was almost done. It was a challenge to focus and get those scenes finished. But that, we did.
Where you a horror fan before this?
My relationship with horror films is an odd one. I was the child with such an active imagination that I could not let stories go after seeing them – especially the scary ones. I would literally see Jason or Freddy or that scary carnie-guy from ‘The Fun House’ (?) walk past our screen door in the middle of the day. And then, I’d apparently have a not-so-normal reaction. So, my mother banned me from watching horror films at slumber parties (of course I still did.) But as an adult, it would take me until my late twenties to begin to appreciate the genre, the history, the social commentary. Remember “Haute Tension?” – one of my favorites. My very first indie film was a short called “The Institution.” It was set in an abandoned insane asylum – a real place – and shot on location in Saugatuck, Michigan. I had an accident the day before the audition in which I fell flat on my face on my marble floor. I had a concussion and broke my nose. I showed up at the audition wearing a butterfly bandage, still seeing stars. I booked the role, and that experience changed my career trajectory to include film in my sights, rather than focusing solely on stage.
With a hard nonstop schedule, you tend to lose it once in a while. Did any fun things happen on set?
I had a lot of fun with Clint Jung, who plays Tommy. Clint is a fantastic actor – he’s been in the industry for twenty-five years (though you’d never guess it by looking at him.) Clint and I have a stunt together involving his body and my gun JNow, we have our firearm specialist, Doc, walking us through the process and Clint interrupts asking to inspect the gun. He says, ‘It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I was around when Brandon (Lee) went down.’ I was like, whoa – this just got real. The stunt went off swimmingly, but I have to say – after those words, the sound of pulling the trigger echoed deeper each time.
Other Horrific Musings: