A Conversation with Lauren Ashley Carter
Lauren Ashley Carter has been incredibly busy for the last two years, top-lining three standout genre films released since 2015.
Whether playing an alcoholic sister trying to rescue her military brother from a captured extraterrestrial in “Pod,” a diminutive femme fatale slowly unraveling in “Darling” or a kick-ass telekinetic in “The Mind’s Eye,” the actress and producer delivers an unforgettable performance every time she steps in front of the camera.
BVB: Blood Violence and Babes was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Carter by phone recently about her recent releases.
BVB: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me for my column, my website actually, BVB: Blood Violence and Babes. I just wanted to start off by telling you I had the opportunity to watch “The Mind’s Eye” over the weekend, and it was fantastic. I thought you were great as Rachel Meadows and I was thrilled that you even got one of the big money shots when you were able to make one of Dr. Slovak’s henchman’s heads explode.
BVB: It was just a really cool film. I thought the special effects were incredible and I really liked that Joe Begos, that he did as much as possible with practical effects and used very little CGI, that I could tell. So it was – awesome job, it was a great film.
LAC: Yeah, Joe is really good about that. That’s very important to him to use practical effects.
BVB: I love when directors stick to the old school stuff because it makes a huge difference. You can just really tell when you’re watching.
LAC: Absolutely. It’s much more realistic.
BVB: Oh yeah, and it’s – for fans, it’s just – I mean, I’ve been a horror fan since I was a little kid. My parents probably would not have gotten great reviews as parents because they let me watch crazy stuff as a kid…
BVB: And it always stuck with me how realistic it looked and now with so much CGI, it just – you can tell the difference. What drew you to “The Mind’s Eye”?
LAC: Well, I knew Joe and Josh Ethier from “Almost Human,” so I had “Jug Face” out in festivals at the same time “Almost Human” was in festivals so I was able to see “Almost Human.” They may have seen “Jug Face,” but we never crossed paths. I think I maybe went to two or something. So we knew each other just from each other’s work. And I got a phone call from Joe and he said he was interested in me for the role of Rachel Meadows, so would I read the script? He sent it to me and I thought it was a very bad-ass character. She’s not the typical female victim. She kicks some ass and has some powers of her own. And I’m a huge fan of Cronenberg and “Scanners,” and I thought it was definitely a nice tip of the hat to “Scanners,” so, yeah, I was just really excited to be a powerful telekinetic lady (Laughs).
BVB: And that was what was so cool. I remember “Scanners” back when it first came out and it was just awesome. I had the poster on my wall, I think, when I was a kid. But the thing Cronenberg wasn’t able to do back then was kind of have this telekinetic versus telekinetic battle, which pretty much makes up the third act of The Mind’s Eye, which is just awesome. And you were right, you got to be a very strong female character as opposed to just a final girl or the damsel in distress.
BVB: And that had to be – I mean, those types of roles, I don’t think, are very common so I’m sure that must have resonated with you, just having to have that opportunity to really do something different.
LAC: Yeah, if I had it my way and I had a million dollars, I would have had some Israeli commando training me like Linda Hamilton, but I did my best and did some sprints and squats and that was about all I could afford (laughs) but yeah, it was so much fun. The guys, they’re very respectful. They work really, really hard. It was long days for everybody. I don’t know actually how Graham didn’t get pneumonia. I honestly don’t. It was negative 15 every day and they were shooting all hours of the night into the morning outside, straight 12 hours.
BVB: What was it like working with Joe as a director?
LAC: Well, Joe operates as well, which is very rare, you really don’t see that, so it was so cool to have somebody in the trenches with you like that because a lot of times directors are behind the monitor watching everything go down and Joe is there with you the entire time. You know, if you’re running up a hill in the snow, he’s running up a hill in the snow. If you’re in the ice with your bare knees. He just does everything. He’s a really hard worker and it’s inspiring and it also makes you feel connected to him in a way that you don’t necessarily feel with other directors. It’s a very different relationship, I think, to have someone operating and directing at the same time. He’s going through a lot of duress.
BVB: Oh absolutely.
LAC: He’s very articulate and he’s very calm. He’s got a very calming sense about him. He’s never frenetic or frantic or if he is, he doesn’t let his actors see that. And that’s very important to me. I think that the best directors are the ones that can stay calm in stressful situations.
BVB: Oh that’s awesome. I know we don’t have much time. I want to talk to you about “Darling” because I went out and actually had my local – we have a video store here in Tampa, Florida, which is awesome – and I had them order me a copy of “Darling” because I didn’t get it to review and I am absolutely in love with that film. It is so unique and so amazing, and you just own it the entire movie, which was just fantastic. And I was just wondering, did you have the sense while filming that that it was going to be something special?
LAC: Say that again?
BVB: Could you tell when you were filming that with Mickey Keating that it was going to be something special, that it was going to be so different and so original?
LAC: Yeah, we went into it knowing that it was going to be our movie. It was going to be done the way we wanted it to be and we were on the same page about what it was supposed to be. So I knew that it was going to be very special for “us” (laughs). Whether or not other people thought it was special or would think it was special, no, I had no idea. We both had the intention of making something for ourselves. You know, it was shot in 12 days. We did everything very quickly. And also from different coasts because he was in California and I was in New York.
BVB: Oh wow.
LAC: So we were doing everything through text and email and photographs. I would take pictures of the house and send it to him. I’d take pictures of wardrobe and send it to him. So when he came here, we were ready to go. We just had to search for a few more locations and get the house set up, but yeah, it was kind of by the seat of our pants, but everything was very intentional throughout that, so yeah! I knew I was going to be very happy with it and it was kind of insane halfway through it because ‘Mickey, this is too much. This goes way too far,’ and he says, ‘No, no, no, it’s perfect. It’s spot on.’
BVB: Oh that’s great.
LAC: So, yeah! I am just very overwhelmed and thrilled that people love it as much as I do.
BVB: It’s fantastic. I saw in the Special Features – I don’t do that with a lot of movies, but this one, I just wanted as much information as I could get about it – I saw where Mickey was talking about, I guess, had you helped him secure the house that ya’ll used?
BVB: Were you like a dog walker for the owner?
LAC: Yeah, so that’s the executive producer credit – is because of that. There was hardly any, this movie was made with jelly bean dollars. So, I walk dogs as a sideline gig. I’ve never waited a table in my entire life because people that are hungry are the meanest people in the entire world and I know that I’m my worst self when I’m hungry. So I could never be a waitress. So I walk dogs and I tend to become very close and friendly with the people that I work with. So one of the couples, I now have a production company with, Warwick Street Productions, and yeah, so [inaudible] was a client of mine when she was in an apartment on the Upper West Side. She sold her apartment because of her pitbull. There was always problems. So she ended up moving to Harlem and bought this house. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and we were playing phone tag and finally she said, ‘Please come over and see the house.’ So I came up to visit her and say hi, and she said, ‘So what are you up to?’ and she’s always a big fan of me and trying to push me more and more all the time and I said, ‘Yeah, my friend and I are trying to make another movie. We just got done with “Pod,” and we’re looking for an apartment, but no one will let us film in their apartment because they know horror films wreck apartments, and she said, ‘Oh, just film it here.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me.’ She said, ‘No, we’re renovating anyway, so I don’t care.’ And I said, ‘Really, can I call him right now?’ And she said yeah. So Mickey had already written the script for an apartment, or began writing it, and I said, ‘Mickey, would you be down to do a rewrite because we have an eight-room house in Harlem all to ourselves.’ And he was just like, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ He said get me as many photographs as you can and I did and then he rewrote it to be very specific to the house. And yep, that’s how that happened.
BVB: Oh that’s awesome. I want to ask one other thing. I’m going to ask a total geek question, so I apologize. I love how “Darling” left so much open to interpretation and you could really kind of make a lot of your own assumptions as a viewer. But I wanted to see what you thought about this. Was she – do you think Darling was already – I mean, I know she already had issues prior to taking that job – but was Sean Young’s character, was her role kind of to help speed Darling’s psychosis by mentioning the house’s history and kind of getting that ball rolling? As it seems to suggest, as the credits start, when the next house nanny applies for the job?
LAC: I think that it’s the perfect storm. The Madam, the woman Sean Young plays, who owns the house, is definitely a sinister character. Absolutely. I also think that had it been the woman who came there previously may or may not have had mental problems. But I always played it with the belief that Darling already had a mental illness before she arrived here and it definitely was the straw on the camel’s back, basically. Had she not, maybe it would have taken longer for her to spiral, but yeah, I would say this is the tipping point.
BVB: It was just awesome. Kudos to you. Thank you so much. I know we’re out of time, but thank you so much for agreeing to talk with me and I wish you the best with your career. I cannot wait to see what you do next.
LAC: Thank you so much. It was really nice talking to you too.
“The Mind’s Eye” is available to rent or buy now from RLJ Entertainment on most streaming Video-on-Demand platforms.