Bullz-Eye.com's Gerardo Orlando sat down with four of the stars from "Jeepers Creepers 2," Nicki Aycox, Garikayi Mutambiraw, Eric Nenninger and Lena Cardwell. The young cast discussed their experiences on the set of their first feature film, their interactions with the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and life as young actors in LA.
Bullz-Eye: Okay, Nicki, let's start with the Playboy picture.
Nicki Aycox: It always happens (laughter).
Bullz-Eye: Give me the background on the Playboy picture.
Nicki Aycox: The background is I did the film and they called me up and asked me to shoot babe of the month, which is basically women in the film. The premise is to do a shoot that is nude but covering yourself.
Bullz-Eye: Yeah, more implied nude.
Nicki Aycox: Yeah, in the beginning and they do a little story about you.
Bullz-Eye: Excellent. So you guys all have some good TV experience. How was it different working on a feature?
Garikayi Mutambiraw: For me, really when I do TV, I'm usually like a guest star. So they already have their rhythm and they know each other pretty well so you have to come into that and adapt yourself to that. As for the film, we all pretty much started together at the same time so we had to develop our own relationship and our own family and grow as a group together.
Bullz-Eye: How long was filming?
Eric Nenninger: Eight weeks.
Bullz-Eye: Was it all in L.A.?
Eric Nenninger: An hour north of LA on location.
Lena Cardwell: Long Beach and then a ranch home.
Eric Nenninger: And a sound stage in Long Beach.
Bullz-Eye: So the set loaded with young people, filming in L.A., you guys probably had a good time.
Eric Nenninger: It was cool. We had a good time. We all got along, you know. We all kind of developed our relationships at the beginning of it, which was fun. Yeah, everyone being kind of like the same age…. There were a couple of girls but a lot of guys so the guys kind of like hung out together and stuff. And everyone is happy because they're working on a movie, you know, so it's not bad. No one is upset or anything. So that's always cool.
Nicki Aycox: There was just not a lot of competition between the actors. We went straight into it. I think it was because for all of us it was sort of the first big, big…studio film that we did so everyone was just really happy to have that job and they went in and just mixed and worked together. Which I think comes across [in the movie].
Bullz-Eye: There's not really one star in the movie, everyone has….
Eric Nenninger: Right, there's no one star except for the Creeper. But yeah, we all had our moments and because of that everyone I guess felt secure, which just kind of happened naturally. But we had a good time doing it, we definitely did.
Bullz-Eye: Had you guys all seen the first film ("Jeepers Creepers") when you got the script?
Bullz-Eye: So were you fans?
Nicki Aycox: I went out and watched it when I got the script.
Eric Nenninger: I did three auditions and it was before my third that I watched the first one just to get the style, because it's the same guy, Victor Salva, doing the second one. So I saw it like that.
Bullz-Eye: He seems really into his craft. This is not your sort of typical slasher film, that is sort of slapped together.
Nicki Aycox: No, he loves horror films and he has a very soft spot for [old films] like "Swamp Thing"….
Eric Nenninger: He's got how many DVDs in his cab, horror movies you've never heard of. He must have like a thousand DVDs. It's ridiculous.
Nicki Aycox: He loves the idea of a creature and something and to create that, the way it looks and how it evolves and what it needs to do to live and coming up with that idea. He's good at it.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: As far as his style, I think he is good at pacing the movie. It's not everything here and blah and shock you. You have time to anticipate what's going to happen and that plays with your emotions. And then when it happens it's even stronger….
Eric Nenninger: Because the part almost overwhelms you.
Lena Cardwell: He is very good [at] setting you up to get that scream or that fright. He sets you up nicely.
Bullz-Eye: I have seen a ton of these slasher films too and grew up on Friday the 13th and this one, it seems a little bit different, like the genre is evolving a little bit. A little less gore and it seems like he tried to get a little more interplay between the actors, a little bit of real tension. So you guys were more than just props.
Nicki Aycox: Did you say less gore?
Bullz-Eye: I think it's a little less gore.
Nicki Aycox: Really?
Bullz-Eye: Yeah, what do you guys think?
Eric Nenninger: No, I agree with you. Just toward the end there's the head in the one big scene.
Bullz-Eye: There's some gore with the monster but it's less about you guys getting chopped up into a hundred pieces.
All: Oh yeah, yeah.
Bullz-Eye: I mean, the old formula that everyone made fun of, it's just throw a bunch of actors in, you guys don't do much and then you get killed in all kinds of wacky ways. Here, they tried to keep some of that to the imagination.
Nicki Aycox: That's why I think he's so good at this because he doesn't do that. He understands that the audience needs to have some sort of emotion from the character before they can get scared for them or have fear for them or care what happens.
Eric Nenninger: Care if they die.
Nicki Aycox: Something typical is people don't really care, they're just kind of like, "okay, which one is going to get slashed?" It's just about a guessing game.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: And doing it the way he did it is that not only is there conflict with the Creeper, there is conflict among ourselves and that creates even more drama, so I've got to watch my back from him and the Creeper.
Eric Nenninger: It's a group of kids in a situation. But instead of just saying, "throw the actors out and then getting whacked," or something like that, it's like real people. Even the dad, Ray Wise, just kind of pulled character, like he pulled along. So yeah, I guess he took care of developing each person and then you watch each person a supernatural situation and just see how they behave. So it's kind of cool like that.
Bullz-Eye: So you get to do a little more acting than in a typical horror flick.
Lena Cardwell: Much more thinking.
Bullz-Eye: The confrontation scene with you two (Garikayi and Eric) was pretty good.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: Yeah, it's not just me verses monster. It's me verses another human being in a real situation.
Lena Cardwell: It's really just the characters and their personalities.
Bullz-Eye: So I was looking through some of the credits on the film and I saw Francis Ford Coppola.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: Executive producer.
Bullz-Eye: That's a heavyweight name there. Did you guys get to meet him?
Bullz-Eye: How was that?
Garikayi Mutambiraw: He showed up on the set and everyone was on their best behavior.
Eric Nenninger: Yeah, all of a sudden we were clicking along.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: We shot eight scenes that day.
Nicki Aycox: Oh, we were all on our best behavior and I remember Mark, the first AD, saying, "You guys get it to one" and we were there in a second. And all of a sudden he said, "Dag gummit, this whole time I've been asking you to do it and you give me crap about it and now all of a sudden he walks on set and you guys are like…."
Garikayi Mutambiraw: Godfather's here so you know…. He was very friendly. He came, I think, two or three times. He showed up, sat there and watched everything. He produces films with Victor Salva.
Nicki Aycox: He did the first ["Jeepers Creepers"] as well.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: But he was executive producer so he had say on the casting and that kind of final stuff. I think it's kind of….
Nicki Aycox: That's a nice feeling to know that he watched the audition tape and said yes.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: I know, it's cool that he watched our audition tape and sees the editing.
Bullz-Eye: I would imagine for all of you guys that does a little bit more for the career. It's not like you just got thrown into some slasher film. The first one was pretty well received and here you've got some real heavyweights behind it.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: Yeah, which is great.
Bullz-Eye: Was it intimidating to have a guy like that on the set, a guy like Coppola or were you guys pretty much just relaxed?
Eric Nenninger: You don't want to disappoint [him]. You want to raise your level and you want to make sure that he knows he made the right choice.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: I remember we were shooting and he was all over, for some reason, that day it was all over my shoulder, on to DK, while he was there. We did a turn around and it was all that day was going to be, so it was my back the entire time. I was actually kind of like, "whew," you know, but I still had to hit my lines.
Nicki Aycox: He came to the set one time when I was on and I didn't even know he was there until I turned and saw him. Victor had come up to me and said, " Okay, so you're going to do this thing and we're going to chase you and you're going to puke. Yeah, you're going to do all these reactions. The Creeper is going to come flying at you, you're going to see your friend's truck tip over and you're going to be upset about that. He gave me all these emotions to do without anything in front of me and it had changed it up, it wasn't in the script. I said, "Victor is there any chance he's going to be behind the monitor when I do this because I'm going to freak out?" He said, "Well, there could be." He came behind the monitor and everything worked out fine and it came out fine. And he was so nice.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: He was a really nice guy.
Nicki Aycox: And supportive, very good with actors. He was a very supportive person. He just made it comfortable, so you didn't worry so much.
Bullz-Eye: Are he and Victor pretty tight then?
Garikayi Mutambiraw: Yeah, they seem like they are friends, like they've known each other. I know that they've done [a movie] before and I guess I just don't know which one it was. The day he came when we were there, he just sat next to Victor right there behind the monitor and just kind of watched for a while and….
Lena Cardwell: Joked with him a little bit.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: Yeah, joked a little bit and it wasn't ever like he was coming in saying, "Change that and change that." I think he kind of lends his name and his production values to a film to get it off the ground.
Eric Nenninger: But it was great. He was a really cool guy.
Bullz-Eye: Do you guys have any cool projects coming up?
Lena Cardwell: Well, right now I'm not really doing any acting. I'm volunteering at a homeless shelter and I just got an award from the mayor's office for that. So that's what I'm doing
Bullz-Eye: Very nice. Any other cool projects coming up?
Eric Nenninger: I don't have anything going right now. Auditioning always to shoot stuff but nothing that's going to come out.
Nicki Aycox: I'm auditioning and I think I'm going to be going back and doing some episodes of "ED," because I have been working on "ED" for the last year. Do some more of that and audition for the process.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: I've got an "ER" episode coming out this fall that we shot in Hawaii and a new pilot called "Skin" coming out on FOX.
Bullz-Eye: Are you guys all trying to focus more now on the feature film stuff or just whatever comes your way in terms of good roles?
Lena Cardwell: Yeah, that and sitcoms. I'm starting to look for comedy. I'm not that funny but I think about it.
Eric Nenninger: I think I'm hilarious.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: I crack myself up all the time.
Nicki Aycox: I think I enjoy films more. I think I would like to sort of try and get more in the direction of doing independent features, even though it's very lonely, I would want to do that instead of television. I just have done a lot of television and I have just kind of gotten tired of it, obviously.
Bullz-Eye: Yeah, it seems like you've done quite a bit. Which projects were the most fun? You've been on some really cool TV shows. The "Ally McBeal" one sounds like it would be fun.
Nicki Aycox: "Ally McBeal" was fun because Peter MacNicol is just funny.
Bullz-Eye: Which one is Peter MacNicol?
Nicki Aycox: The red head. He is just hilarious and he directed it and it was really fun to work with him as my director because he had a lot of really great things to say. But I think "ED" really has been my most favorite.
Nicki Aycox: Yeah, it has been the most fun. It is a great cast and it's really quick comedy. It's nice to play off of all those actors because they are all really good.
Bullz-Eye: Talk about life a little bit -- young actors, actresses in LA. It sounds like the glamour lifestyle.
Eric Nenninger: Glamour, yeah, when you make it. But until then it's like….
Lena Cardwell: Yeah, we're still struggling.
Eric Nenninger: Where's my rent money?
Garikayi Mutambiraw: It's awesome when you're working. It's the greatest job in the world and you can't believe that you're going to work. And I think all of us have worked regular jobs so we know what it's like to wake up and have to go in and wait tables. And then also, like the next day you go in to shoot a movie. When you're doing it, it's awesome. It's great. You're paying your bills with acting, which is a joke that they'll pay you to do it. But then when [you're not working], it's hard because you do so much…. We were saying this in another interview -- you do so much work for auditions and then nothing comes of it at all. I mean, you could go three, four times or something like that and then not get it and you spent a week or week and a half doing it, where that was what you were doing and then you get nothing from it.
Lena Cardwell: A couple hundred dollars worth of acting lessons.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: Paying for classes and stuff or five auditions, five callbacks and no part. You know, so it's hard. It's a weird industry and it's not easy to constantly audition and stuff, but when you work it's great.
Eric Nenninger: As much as you love the auditions, you hate it when you don't get them.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: You mess up an audition and you're like, "fuck this audition!"
Eric Nenninger: Your success rate is like…your percentage is like 8, 3 percent. Every time you go in you think you're going to get it.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: If you get one from 30 then you're great. You're working.
Nicki Aycox: I love the ones where you're like, "oh, that was great, I love that part, I love it," then they call you up and they say, "oh, we gave it to somebody else." Oh, I hated that interview.
Eric Nenninger: (laughing) Stupid show. Dumb show. It's "ER," what a great show.
Nicki Aycox: It's so dumb, it's not even going to work. Buffy's never going to make it. (laugh)
Bullz-Eye: Is the whole acting lesson a big part of it for everybody? Do you learn a lot out of that or is it just the cliché thing that everyone does?
Lena Cardwell: Actually, I just started. I never used to take acting lessons but I started basically for comedy. It's really opening my eyes to a lot of different possibilities that I didn't see before and I was very arrogant thinking, oh I don't need an acting coach, whatever. I'm brilliant. But I'm not, so it's a learning experience every single time and it's really great. Yeah, I definitely recommend that.
Garikayi Mutambiraw: I went to school. I went to college and took classes in my high school, and then went to a conservatory. I think you completely think you should train and stuff like that. You picture actors breathing and then all this other stuff, which you actually do. But there [are] just technical things, like just learning how to take stuff from a page, put it through you and deliver to an audience, that you just need. And you also learn when you're doing it bad and when you're doing it good, like with yourself. You could be like, that sucked, and you'll know for real that it sucked. And then sometimes you'll be like, that was good, and you can remember it. So, I went to school for it and I'm just glad I did.
Eric Nenninger: I also went to school for it but, I think depending on the person, it may not always be compatible with you and for me, my best experience was actually on-the-job training. I'm really not proud of my first stuff, just the first things I did, but I realize that as I kept going and doing stuff I got better. But, yeah, I'm happy I did train and everything, but you know, to me it was more development of the self than of my acting skills.
Nicki Aycox: That's how it was for me. I really loved my classes and enjoyed them and I did the same as Eric -- went through college and all of that and then five years in Hollywood and studying and I've just recently got to where I have taken a break because I felt like I needed to instead of having someone sort of explain everything to me. I needed to take some time and really look at myself, by myself. To see what is working and see what I feel is working instead of what someone else thinks is not working, and make my own choices. Because I just feel as soon as you really, really trust yourself, that is when you can really nail something, a character, very strongly. And to trust yourself you need to sort of take some chances. Kind of just go out there and do it. [If] you fall on your face, you fall on your face. What are you going to do?
Garikayi Mutambiraw: It's never really acting unless either a camera is actually rolling or there is an audience sitting down. It's not acting if it's rehearsal or if it's in class -- you're really protected. It's easy unless you're actually doing it. There has to be an audience, there has to be raw heat or a camera that is actually shooting. There is something about it. But yeah, on the job you're right, you probably learn more doing it.
And don't forget to read through our "Jeepers Creepers 2" review!