Exclusive Interview: Ashley Spillers on Saturday Morning Mystery
Last year at the Los Angeles Film Festival I saw a film then called Saturday Morning Massacre and interviewed director Spencer Parsons and star Ashley Spillers. The film is now retitled Saturday Morning Mystery, which perhaps more accurately represents the comedic side of the film. It opens in theaters August 9, or you can find it on VOD now. Spillers stars as the leader of a Scooby-Doo esque gang of paranormal investigators, who come across some gory, violent spirits in their latest investigation.
CraveOnline: If this is a Scooby-Doo type gang, are you Velma?
Ashley Spillers: Yes, I am the Velma character.
Was that part of the idea that they correspond to the Scooby gang?
I mean, yeah. Our characters, we’re definitely a group of paranormal investigators, but we’re sort of embarrassed by the fact that we get compared to Scooby-Doo so we kind of play on that whole deal, like “We’re not Scooby-Doo!” But we clearly are.
Did you have a say in your wardrobe?
That was the costumer. Her name’s Mirin Soliz and she’s awesome. She wanted to find something I’d be comfortable in but I’m usually not comfortable in really short little schoolgirl skirts, so she made me do that. When I tried it on originally, it was long and to my knees and I liked that, and on our first day of shooting, she had cut all that off. They definitely put that together for this early ‘90s vibe. It’s like 1994 when the movie is set, so they definitely wanted that grungy ‘90s thing happening.
How about the long knee-high socks? Did you like those?
[Laughs] I ended up liking them. I don’t usually dress like that at all so it was kind of fun to get to do that. I liked it. I felt sexy, I’ll admit it.
Sure, Velma is actually a lot of guys’ favorite.
Yeah, that was fun for me.
If you’re an actress starting out, is it kind of a given you’re going to do a horror movie?
I guess it is. I never thought I would do a horror movie. That wasn’t something I was expecting to do but then when the opportunity came along, I thought yes because I think of some of my favorite actresses. Renee Zellweger started off in Texas Chainsaw 3 or 4 or something.
It was 4, with Matthew McConaughey too.
Yeah, so when I see things like that, I get a little bit excited because she’s done some great work and she’s a Texas gal too, and they’re just so much fun. You get to show off a lot. You get to be angry and sad and kick-ass and funny. You get to do a little bit of everything.
Were you relieved that your character wasn’t the sexual one, so she had a chance at surviving?
Yes, I was very relieved by that. There was a phone call early on and Jason Wehling, one of the producers, said, “Are you okay with maybe a possible nude scene?” I said, “Maybe, I think so, yeah.” But then because we didn’t have an actual script, we had a treatment really and a very small script. It was more of an outline but we would kind of work a lot of stuff out before we would shoot it but we were doing it all as we went. As my character was developing, it just didn’t make sense that she would rip all of her clothes off and have this crazy sex scene, so I was really happy about that.
No, she’s the final girl. The final girl doesn’t do that.
No, they never do so I guess that’s how maybe you know, I don’t know.
Was there a lot of improvisation?
There was a lot of improvisation. Like I said, we would all get together before we would shoot each scene. Spencer and whoever the other actors were in the scene, we’d always get together and he would tell us the points that he definitely wanted to hit. We would talk about the scene, maybe even a few lines that he wanted to make sure we got in there, and we would rehearse it a few times and walk through it. By the time we were actually shooting, we had a nice little scene worked out that was actually pretty scripted. Then they left a little more room to improv once we were actually shooting because we had a really good idea of what we were doing in the scene. So there was a lot of improv but it all worked out really nicely because none of it sounds mumbly to me. A lot of films that are not scripted, with a lot of improv, seem to be a lot of rambling. I don’t feel like that happened in this so I’m really happy about that.
How long have you been acting? You’ve had a lot of films in the last few years, but how long have you really been working at acting?
I started when I was younger and was acting in theater at this little playhouse in Houston. I did a lot of plays. I would do musicals like Grease, The Wizard of Oz and stuff like that. I stopped when I was in high school because I was scared of the theater kids I think. And then I stopped in college, and once I graduated, I just knew that’s really the only thing that I want to do that I’m passionate about, so in 2008 I just sort of went full speed ahead and put myself in a lot of classes and started auditioning for things and doing a lot of student films. I haven’t really stopped since then.
Do you still live in Texas?
I do, I live in Austin.
What’s your perspective on the Austin film community?
I really love it. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the folks there in Austin and I think it’s a group of really hard working people. All the filmmakers, directors, writers, actors, what have you, everybody puts on all these different hats when they’re making a movie and that’s one thing I think I really like about it. When I’m on a set, everybody’s just working together and working really hard. There’s not a lot of money in Austin, you know, and half of these films I’ve done I’ve done for free or I’ve been paid very little. You do it because you love it and everybody is there for that reason. I think you really get a feel for that in Austin, that people really want to make movies and they’ll do anything they can to make it happen with or without the money. I think because of that, you really see the passion and the love in a lot of the work. I think it’s a really special spot and I’m excited that Austin is being showcased really nicely. I’m just really proud of that because there’s a lot of talent.
Is Saturday Morning Mystery really indicative of the types of films they’re making in Austin?
No, I think this one definitely is different than most of the others. Most of the movies that I see and have worked on and friend’s films and what not, there’s quieter films and definitely they have that really independent feel of the dramas and the quirky comedies and things like that. A lot of the improv comedies and things, that’s a lot of what comes out of there but this was different. I don’t know that there’s a lot of crazy horror movies coming out of Austin, even Jonny Mars, Jason Wehling, Spencer Parsons, all these guys, that’s not really the typical work they do either. Spencer’s last movie was a romantic comedy in a way called I’ll Come Running, a love story. This is a completely different tone.
Have you been back to the house since you filmed there?
I haven’t gone in or anything. I drive by it a lot because it’s kind of in the middle of the city, so I drive by it all the time and look wistfully at it. I have a lot of good memories.
Did you have to adjust to shooting nights?
I did. I’d never really done that before and if I had, it had been like a day or two on a set whereas this was pretty much every day on set was a night on set. We would arrive around 4:30 or 5, I’d get into makeup, they’d start shooting as the sun started to go down and we’d leave again at 8, 9 AM in the morning and be back the next day at 4 or 5. I definitely had to get into that schedule but I liked it. I kind of dug it. It was cool.
How did that ruin your days?
I slept during the days. I just slept as much as I could. I was usually pretty exhausted because of the physical nature of everything. There was so much fighting and running and constantly having to keep your adrenaline up. Even when we weren’t shooting I was jogging in place and running laps just trying to be out of breath but with tons of energy so we could do the scene. So by the time 8, 9 AM rolled around, I’d get home and just pass out.
Would the monsters hang out on set in between takes and just be normal in all their makeup?
Sometimes, but Sean Ryan who’s one of the monsters, there were times when he would take a nap on set and they would find him sleeping holding his rubber axe and things. He’s kind of a crazy guy and sometimes what he would do is walk around the house while we were in the house but he would hide and hide in dark rooms and then he would start heavy breathing and things to get us scared. That would happen a lot too. There were moments when we’d be eating, he’d just be sitting in a crazy outfit smoking a cigarette, eating some food, chatting everybody up. It was funny.