Today we share a conversation we had with horror vet Brooke Lewis Bellas. Quite the busy person, Bellas talks about her love for horror and what started it all for her. We also go into her passionate work as an activist and the ways she gives back to her community. Finally, we ask how much power an actual Scream Queen has and how she uses it.
And now, our conversation…
Photographer: Birdie Thompson
Hair and Makeup: Allison Noelle
HorrorBuzz: When did you first fall in love with horror?
Brooke Lewis Bellas: HorrorBuzz, I am about to date myself here! I grew up watching what I call the “old school horror greats,” like the “original” Friday The 13th and Halloween marathons on TV. My parents were divorced when I was two, and they were both pretty cool and liberal. My Dad was one of the first in town to buy a VCR (Yes, young readers… I watched the VHS!), so when I stayed with him, I would invite my girlfriends over to have horror “binge” parties. There was a video store down the street from his house, so we would spend hours there, perusing horror films and renting everything from Prom Night to An American Werewolf in London. I loved it… I loved being scared! When I was very young, I must have secretly watched the original Dracula, because I had fantasies of Dracula. That must be where my Vampire obsession began! On a more serious and personal note, I am very intuitive and sensitive to energy and my surroundings, since childhood, so I think I was always very drawn toward a sixth sense or a different energy in the universe, which made me fall in love with horror as well.
HB: What is it about the genre that you love the most?
BLB: I love the variety, as both an actress and a viewer. I love that there are so many sub-genres inside of the Horror genre for me to play in! I have always embraced my inner detective and loved solving mysteries. No wonder I have been a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, and Brian De Palma! I have also been drawn to the darkness, unknown, mystery, and escapism that horror offers. Most importantly, I love how the horror genre embraces women of all body types, curves, ages, ethnicities, offers strong roles for women, and has the most loyal and supportive fans in the world!
HB: Do you have a favorite horror movie?
BLB: It’s impossible to choose one! Referencing my favorites again, I love the mystery, thrillers directed by De Palma from Blow Out to Dressed to Kill, and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest to The Birds. I am biased because I was blessed to spend an afternoon speaking on a Women In Horror panel with Icon Tippi Hedren! As we have shared, I am a huge 70s/80s horror fan, so I really respect the originals: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Prom Night. I have to share; I am a big fan of the French horror films like Inside and Martyrs. They’re brilliant, I mean, cinematically, gut-wrenching…the emotion that French horror films bring up for me is intense!
HB: What does it mean to be a Scream Queen and what does that empower you to do?
BLB: I love when interviews ask me my feelings about being a “Scream Queen” and I think people are often surprised by my positivity toward the title. It has been an unusual trajectory for me, as I started my professional career performing in regional Actors’ Equity Association union musical theater. Then, I graduated to Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding Off-Broadway in New York City for three years under an AEA contract, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would one day become known as a “Scream Queen”. When I acted in, and was one of the Executive Producers on, SHOWTIME’s Kinky Killers, it opened an incredible door for me. I suddenly had the title “Scream Queen” bestowed upon me. I embraced every moment of it! In fact, to me, “A Scream Queen is a sexy, powerful actress in horror films or television.” I felt this incredible honor to have had that title bestowed upon me years ago, and I have embraced it ever since. I began to empower myself as an actress in Hollywood by building a career on this “Scream Queen” title and producing films in the horror and thriller genres with powerful, strong, “imperfect” roles for me to “sink my fangs” into as an actress! It has been empowering to create and act in roles, such as the “killer”, “detective”, “psychiatrist” etc., that mainstream film and TV may not have ever cast me in! That is empowering!
HB: Your activism and charity work is impressive. What is it that compels you to get in there and get to work?
BLB: Thank you! Activism and charity work is such an important component of my life and career. I fancy myself a Philanthropist, alongside Actress and Producer. I was born with a philanthropist’s heart and have always been a supporter of giving back in whatever way we can. I was spearheading events in college to run around Philadelphia and feed the homeless with my sorority sisters. Now, I am so grateful to have whatever little “celebrity” status or recognition I have that can help make a difference. I feel blessed and responsible to give back through my artistic endeavors and through my work. I have performed on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre and the Palace Theatre to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as an AIDS Activist. I am a celebrity ambassador for the Breaking the Chains Foundation that cultivates healing through art for those who have experienced eating disorders, self-esteem issues, and body image issues. I am active in charity work with the Los Angeles Mission on Skid Row and helping to feed the homeless. I have been active in several Breast Cancer charities and events, as I have lost people whom I loved to breast cancer over the years. I authored and have donated my book Ms. Vampy’s Teen Tawk: There’s A Lotta Power In Ya Choices, to support teen girls. And, in giving back to the world, I find that it brings so much fulfillment and gratitude to my own heart.
HB: How can others do the same?
BLB: I have said this before and cannot stress it enough. You do NOT have to be famous or a “celebrity” to give back, be an activist, have a voice, or fight for a cause you believe in! I have been a philanthropist and committed to charity work long before I was a working actress. The most important advice I would offer the readers is to find a cause you are passionate about…one that inspires you to donate your time and energy. Do your research and sign up! There are so many causes and foundations that will be grateful for your help.
HB: What is your advice to anyone getting into the film industry in front of the camera?
BLB: I feel like I have decades of valuable advice for your readers who dream of becoming an actor in the film industry. I want the readers to really “get” this… my most valuable advice comes from my many mistakes! Let’s start with the obvious, as I am a firm believer in studying and training, no matter what area of the entertainment business you are in! I feel we have a responsibility to our craft, profession, and our audience to be the best we can be! My next advice is that there are no guarantees in life or career. We can plan, study, prepare, create, and there are still no guarantees! I am such a workaholic, planner, and control freak over my own life and career and, so far, nothing has worked out exactly as I had imagined or planned, so I would advise you to follow the old slogan, “Trust the Process” coined by my hometown Philadelphia 76ers! Do not take yourself too seriously, nor criticize yourself too often, and have fun with auditions and your career endeavors. Do not get caught up in the “mind chatter” of believing that you have to look a certain way, be a certain weight or body type, have a certain skin color, and please do not get caught in the traps of social media or allowing it to define you, your value, or talents in any way! I am still diligently working on these things in my adult life and career. Lastly, I must share with your readers that when I became a Producer years ago, I learned such beneficial lessons for actors, including the fact that you can be the most talented actor in the room, you can give an Oscar-winning audition performance and you still may not book the role! I have sat on the Producer side many times now and have watched the most brilliant actors lose a role due to hair color, height, or an actress reminded the Director or his ex-wife! Valuable life lessons and advice!