An Interview With ‘Rock Paper Dead’ Star Jennifer Titus

 

I recently spoke with actress Jennifer Titus, star of the Tom Holland (Fright Night) directed serial killer- thriller Rock Paper Dead, written by Friday the 13th creator Victor Miller and Kerry Fleming. Fleming also produced along with Amy Williams.

The film centers on serial killer Peter “The Doll Maker” Harris (Luke Macfarlane), who returns to his ancestral family estate after being released from the state’s hospital for the criminally insane after twenty years as a cured man. Once inside the old house, anguished memories from a tortured childhood and visitations from past victims shake Peter’s resolve, but it isn’t until the lovely young Ashley enters his life that Peter makes a fateful decision that rekindles old desires that have always ended in murder.

Titus stars alongside Macfarlane The Hateful Eight actor Michael Madsen,  Tatum O’Neal (Rescue Me), Anna Margaret (Scream Queens), Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch, Passions), and Gabriel Stone (Death House), Ari Lehman (Friday the 13th), Kimberly Russell (Precious), Stephanie Shamie (The Redeemer), and Vic Stagliano (Burn Notice) in this unique, exciting thriller that will hold its world premiere at the Nightmares Film Festival this weekend.

 

 

Not only does Titus star in Rock  Paper Dead, she’s been in a long list of films and series that includes Zoombies, Cheerleader Massacre 2, Supergator, In the Army Now, and the 2010 comedy Something Like Business starring Kevin Hart. And besides being a complete badass trained to fight, she’s also a medical doctor, a general practitioner to be exact. Talk about having it all, brains, beauty, and skill.

 

Horror Fuel: “I have to ask, you are a doctor, what made you decide to pursue acting instead of practicing medicine?”

 

Titus: “I started acting before I took an interest in medicine. When I took an interest in medicine it was sort of, ‘Well, I’m not going to be doing all that much in acting because it is such a tough, competitive field. I really love medicine. I’ve always been interested in what goes on inside the body. I’ve never been afraid of blood, even when I was a small child I was fascinated by it. When I got into science I found I was really good at it.  I went to medical school after lots and lots of hard work and then I decided that I really missed acting. Instead of going full force into acting and leaving the medical field I left acting again to go back into residency so I could become board certified and then I would at least be licensed to practice if I ever chose to do so. When I finished I went right back into acting again. I travel a lot and in some of the places I go I’ve actually been called to help somebody in an emergency situation when no one else was around.”

Horror Fuel: “Wow, that’s impressive.”

Titus: “Yeah, I can give medical advice on set [laughter].”

 

 

Horror Fuel: “You actually played a doctor, well a Vet, in ‘Zoombies’. What was that experience like?”

Titus: “Yes, I did. I have to tell you, the little monkey that was my co-star was so unbelievably adorable. There were actually two of them. Their handlers were so kind and treated them so well. There was a part where I had to turn around and be horrified by this monkey that had turned into a zombie. But what we were looking at were looking at these cute little monkies [laughter] and we had to look horrified. [laughter] The first take we all turned around and went, ‘Ahhh, okay cut’. I had my eyes ripped out by this cute little furry creature.”

Horror Fuel: “Awww.”

 

 

Horror Fuel: “Tell us about Cheerleader Massacre 2, if you will.”

Titus: “It was the first film where I got to work with the legendary Roger Corman. It was an honor just to be in one of his films. To be a lead in this film was really exciting. The movie itself was something that people were assuming that I would be playing a cheerleader, but I wasn’t, I was a reporter who was on the case the entire time and cheerleaders kept getting knocked off left and right and I followed the case. I ended up being intertangled in this mess in this campground of disappearing cheerleaders [laughter]. It was funny, I’m comedically trained and I actually got to use my storyline throughout the film which is the comedic storyline. I had a camera guy and an assistant as part of my news team and the three of us had such a blast because we got to do all the horror-comedy.  That was just so fun. There was talk of part 3. I would have liked to have been the killer in the 3rd movie.”

Horror Fuel: I bet playing the killer would be fun [laughter].”

 

 

Horror Fuel: “Your most recent role was in ‘Rock Paper Dead’. Can you tell us about your character Ashley?”

Titus: “Ashley is a girl with the vengeance. She was about fourteen when her sister was murdered. Her sister, who she idolized, was killed by Peter Harris and he was the one who made dolls of all his victims. He was very sadistic and very charming which is how he easily lured girls in. When he was caught it was right after he had killed my sister.  He was put into a mentally insane hospital for ten years and when he was released I was aware that he was going to be released. It was my life’s duty to seek vengeance for my sister and to take him down. It is something that Ashley has mentally and physically trained for. She is a martial arts expert. She’s ready to take this guy down and is going to do it in a very sneaky way. You’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens.”

First of all, it was an honor to be part of something with the creator of ‘Friday the 13th’ which was the very first horror film I ever saw as a kid.”

Horror Fuel: “It was mine too.”

Titus: “How funny. For years my best friend and I would walk around going ‘Chchch ahahah’ and try to freak each other out and squeal. You get it.

When I was reading the script I was so excited. I knew it wasn’t going to be anything like ‘Friday the 13th’, but I was still excited. I was reading the script and it was dark outside. It was raining. There were howling winds and I was by myself. I’m not kidding, the window panes were banging a little bit and I’m thinking, ‘Why am I reading this right now?’ [laughter]. It really was a dark and stormy night. I just kept flipping the pages and thinking, ‘This character is me. I have got to play this girl. I am Ashley Grant.” This is a dream role for me. It involved a lot of physicalities and a lot of self-defense and stage combat that I have training in. As an athlete, I was excited to get to do a lot of those scenes myself, even though it was only four weeks after I had reconstructive surgery on my shoulder [laughter].”

Horror Fuel: “Wow, ouch, that’s dedication.”

Titus: “Yeah. When I got together with the stunt coordinator. We had to work around it. I’m right-hand dominant, so I had to learn everything left-handed. That was interesting [laughter]. So, Ashley is left-handed in the movie. I literally took my arm out of the sling and I had just had my stitches removed and the makeup artist touched up my suture marks and scars and I went into filming right away. Everything was very carefully done when we staged fight scenes. Some of the more rigorous stuff that you see in the end, those were done at the end of the shoot so that I had the most healing time possible by that time.”

Horror Fuel: “That sounds intense.”

 

 

 

Horror Fuel: “What was the creepiest aspect of the film in your opinion?”

Titus: “The creepiest aspect was the despicable acts of Uncle Charles. The whole sickness that is implanted into this kid’s mind. Then he grows up and he becomes this killer himself. I think that we all hear, ‘Oh, these people are going to be reformed’, but we all know that they are not when they are released from a mental hospital. In the movies, they are never reformed.”

Horror Fuel: “There are certain things you just can’t fix.”

Titus: ” No. And the basement scenes, where he would take his victims, it is still really creepy.”

Horror Fuel: “The scene with Uncle Charles and Peter is stomach churning.”

Titus: “Oh yeah. But Rock Paper dead was absolutely fun every single day and you can’t say that about every film you work on. The morale was positive every day. Everybody was just a good person and it made coming to work so enjoyable and fun and I did become friends with a lot of the people on set, cast, and crew. The idea that there is going to be a sequel to this and ideally a third of the franchise, yeah we’ll just have to see how it goes. I’m excited about the idea of filming a sequel to this.”

Horror Fuel: “Personally, I think it deserves a sequel. I would love to see the story continue. I heard that the sequel will be even darker, which is hard to imagine considering certain subjects in ‘Rock Paper Dead.”

Titus: “You’ve seen it so it is hard not to reveal who will be in the sequel because that would give away the end of this movie. Apparently, there are supposed to be a lot of flashbacks in the next film. I really enjoyed working with Luke Macfarlane. He is a real professional. He and I worked so many hours together and we really had real chemistry. I was so into my character and he was so into his character and we knew the relationship between the characters so well. We knew that there was this attraction, yet hatred, and this game of cat and mouse going on. It was really fun to play all of those things together.”

Horror Fuel: “Luke plays crazy really well.”

Titus: “Yes, he does. Not to reveal too much, but the range he had to play in this was really fun to see and to see all of those transitions. My character had to work through those transactions as well.”

Horror Fuel: “I was very impressed. I also liked that Ashely (you) was a strong character.”

Titus: “Thank you. Usually, the female is the victim. She’s the one running away at the end. This is a little unique. Ashley is taking on the guy. [laughter].”

Horror Fuel: “That’s a very good thing. If I see one more woman trip over something that isn’t there I’m going to lose my mind.”

Titus: “Yes! Exactly. Growing up as a horror fan and playing a female character that is strong, mentally and physically, I felt like, ‘What a relief’.” One of the films that stick in my mind is ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 4’ where one woman takes on the female characters killed powers. It was so cool at the ending.”

Horror Fuel: “I love that Ashley is tough.”

Titus: “Thank you!”

 

Horror Fuel: “What was it like to work with Michael Madsen?”

Titus: “I’m a big Tarantino fan so when I got Michael Madsen it was amazing. He is larger than life and he’s a real character in real life. He is so tall and so boisterous and he’s got so much experience, I can’t remember how many films he’s done, but it’s something over 75-100 films. It’s crazy how much experience he has. Working with him was a joy. He was the first person I shot with on the first day of filming. That was interesting [laughter].”

Horror Fuel: “I really liked the relationship between your characters in the film, that push and pull.”

Titus: Yeah, yeah. He’s a character. I loved working with him.”

Horror Fuel: I don’t think I could have been on set with John Dugan. He really gave me the creeps as “Uncle Charles”.

Titus: “He really does. It’s funny because when you are filming it you don’t really know what it is going to look like until the editing is done. When you see it, in the end, it is much more scary. The house we were shooting in at night, was pretty creepy, for real. A lot of times when someone would get a phone call and have to go off into some room they were like, ‘This room creeps me out. I don’t want to go by myself.”

Horror Fuel: “I’m sure it added to the ambiance of the movie because when viewers are watching they get that same sense of creepy.”

Titus: “It does. It wasn’t just a set, it was this big historic house. Out here in Southern California, they are few and far between. It’s not like in the south or the east coast where there are really old homes. Here anything from the early 1900’s is considered historic. This house was built in the early 1900’s and is the same house that they filmed ‘6 Feet Under’ in. I was watching something the other day and they were showing a kitchen and I was looking at it, looking at it and was like, ‘Hey, that’s the kitchen we filmed in. [laughter]”

Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome.”

 

Horror Fuel: “Will you be attending any of the screenings of Rock Paper Dead?”

Titus: “I will be at Nightmares Film Festival this week for the world premiere. Unfortunately, Tom Holland, the director, will not be able to attend, but I think Kerry will be there and I believe Victor Miller will be there and a couple of the cast will be there as well.”

Kerry and Victor are such awesome people. People often think of Victor Miller as the creator of ‘Friday the 13th’ and nothing else, but he’s also an Emmy Award-winning writer for daytime television.”

Horror Fuel: “When I first learned about Rock Paper Dead, back before it was a script, I interviewed Both Kerry and Victor. One of the photos of Victor in the interview was him standing with his Emmys all lined up. It blew my mind.”

Titus: “He’s great.”

 

Horror Fuel: “Have you already found your next project?”

Titus: “I have. I’m shooting a film that starts shooting on October 30th called ‘The Row’. It’s an action thriller about a cop whose daughter is in a sorority where girls start going missing. I play the house mother of the sorority and I have a vague idea of what is going on. You don’t really know if my character is involved or the character has an idea. It’s a really good story. It is directed by Matty Beckerman. The male lead and I have a past history that will be explained in the film. The lead has not been announced yet, so I can’t say who it is, but it is an A-list actor.”

Horror Fuel: “It sounds very interesting. I look forward to seeing it. ”

 

 

Horror Fuel: “If you could give a message to young actresses, what would you say?”

Titus: “Pursue the character that fits you the most. Don’t try and be something you’re not. I learned that the hard way. A lot of actors and actresses try to pursue a character that they want to be, but is not them, never get cast for that character because it is not them. If they go for something that is closer to who they really are they are far more likely to get cast.”

 

If you are in the Columbus, Ohio area on October 21, 2017, be sure to stop by the Nightmares Film Festival for the world premiere of Rock Paper Dead. Writers Victor Miller and Kerry Fleming will be in attendance along with cast members John Dugan, Aan Margaret, Ryan Sadowsky, Titus and perhaps a special guest. You can get your tickets HERE.

Follow Jennifer Titus on Twitter and Instagram for more on Rock Paper Dead and her other projects. This is one actress you are going to want to keep your eye on.

 

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