October 11, 2011

MTV’s dark comedy series Death Valley follows the cops of the newly formed Undead Task Force, who dedicate their lives to capturing the zombies, vampires and werewolves that mysteriously descended upon the streets of California’s San Fernando Valley a year ago. Documenting each case, as well as their horrific yet comedic exploits is a daring camera crew that are as much in danger as the cops bent on keeping the streets safe from the presence of the paranormal.

During a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Tania Raymonde (who played Alex Rousseau on Lost) talked about how much she enjoys playing the kick-ass Officer Carla Rinaldi, how fun all the hardcore gore of the show is, the difficulty in keeping a straight face while filming with such funny actors, and that she would definitely love to explore the character more, for a second season. She also talked about her role in the upcoming The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, that she was a fan of the original film, and how cool it was to get to work with some of the original cast members, who return for the first time in the history of the franchise. Check out what she had to say after the jump.

How did this show come about for you?

TANIA RAYMONDE: They called me in because they wanted to see me for this. At the time, it was a pilot presentation, and I had always jumped onto shows that had already began, or were already picked up, so I didn’t really know what that meant. But, I thought the script was really funny, so I went in to meet them. We shot a mini-pilot that was 10 minutes long, in one night. Then, it got picked up and we started shooting the show. It was great. I didn’t even know what this really was going to turn into, to be perfectly honest. We did it for not very much money, and it turned into something good. It was cool. It was a great surprise.

What was it about the story and your character that appealed to you?

RAYMONDE: I love that Carla is a female that kicks a lot of ass. I’ve always wanted to do action and action movies. I grew up on that. I just love her bravado and her personality. She’s a tough chick. Just to be able to do all that action and all those fight scenes, and shooting the guns, that turned me onto the show, right from the beginning. The cool thing about her is that this part could very easily be written for a man. She’s sexy and she’s feminine, but there’s nothing particularly female about her. She’s not a wimp, and that’s cool. I love when you can pass through the boundaries of your gender by just being a bad-ass. So, the opportunity to kick some ass, and also have a little fun and do some comedy was great for me. That attracted me to it, right from the beginning.

Did you have to do any weapons training to get comfortable?

RAYMONDE: We didn’t have much time, during the shooting of the show, to train or anything. We had a really great stunt coordinator, who was there every single day, helping us. If we had any questions about how to holster a gun, how to hold it, and how to hold a flashlight and a gun and walk through a hallway in a way that looks realistic, we could ask him. I got my gun certificate out in Orange County, before we started shooting, just to be familiar with the gun and holding it. My main concern with the show was really trying to make sure the gunshots look realistic, especially for Carla. I do the majority of the shooting on the show and I told myself, “Well, shit, if this stuff doesn’t look real, then no one is going to believe it.” You buy the show, if you believe that these people are actually cops. And, once I started getting more and more comfortable with it, I realized, “Oh, this is going to be cool. I’ve just gotta focus and relax.”

What do you think it is about Carla that makes her willing to go out and kill vampires, zombies and werewolves?

RAYMONDE: Yeah, you wonder what happened to Carla, as a young child, that would make her want to go out and just blast zombies’ heads off, on a daily basis. I don’t know. I think she’s a subtle character. She’s not as tongue-in-cheek and jokey as a lot of the other officers on the force, but she’s the perfect foil to John John (Texas Battle), and the two of them together are this impenetrable unit. Even though she spends a lot of her time rolling her eyes at him and complaining about all the stuff that he’s messing up, she truly cares about him. The two of them together are a pretty bad-ass team.

What’s it been like to work with Texas Battle?

RAYMONDE: A lot of actors talk about how much they love the people they work with, and that’s true, to a certain extent, but Texas and I had a very strong bond, right from the beginning. I think Texas made a mental decision to just be on my side, 110%. The two of us became very, very good friends, and it was just so much fun to work with him. It’s really great, to work with a friend. That’s a very good feeling, and it shows on screen. You can tell that we both really like each other and that we’re buddies. That was important because you had to believe that Carla and John John have been working together for a long time.

Was it ever difficult to get through scenes without cracking up, especially with the humor on this show?

RAYMONDE: My character is serious and straight-laced, and I’ve always gotta be admonishing everyone for having a good time, but it’s so hard to keep a straight face on this show. I’m sure there’s tons of takes they can’t use ‘cause I’m always laughing. Our Captain, Bryan Callan, is so inappropriate, it’s beyond belief. There are so many combinations of dirty words and things that I never even knew existed, floating around in that man’s head. He’s depraved, but he’s awesome.

Was it challenging to get used to also interacting directly with the cameras that are following your characters around?

RAYMONDE: Yeah, it was funny. It was definitely a unique feeling. Even though it is documentary style, there are some parts of the show that are shot like a movie, so there are moments when it’s inappropriate to look at the camera. And, there are certain characters on the show that interact with the camera a little bit more, just out of their own vanity. But, that was cool. If the show continues, I’d imagine that we’d have a little bit more of that because it’s an interesting advantage to be able to also talk to the camera. There’s something cool about it.

What sets these zombies, vampires and werewolves apart from what people are used to?

RAYMONDE: Well, this show, even though it’s an over-the-top comedy, is much more grounded in reality. The whole premise of this show is that real zombies, werewolves and vampires have invaded the San Fernando Valley, and not some sci-fi version of the Valley or some fantasy version of the world. It’s real life. So, by injecting reality into these creatures, you demystify the whole thing. At the same time, it’s even scarier because, as an audience, you ask, “Could there be real zombies walking around?” It’s almost a real possibility ‘cause it feels so much like real life. By treating them casually, they take on a whole other level of terror. We are very casual and nonchalant about a lot of it, which is great. I think that’s where a lot of the funny parts come out. Everyone has seen everything before. There are shows and movies with zombies, vampires and werewolves, and people are over-saturated with them, to begin with. It’s cool to find a new, interesting way to portray them. Everyone is so familiar with the concept already that you’ve got to find a new way to approach it, otherwise who’s going to want to watch another zombie show. There are already great shows about zombies, like The Walking Dead. We have an advantage because it’s funny and it is semi-real.

Did you enjoy working at such a rapid pace, or was that difficult to adjust to?

RAYMONDE: It was definitely challenging. There was an episode, towards the end of the season, that was a very action-heavy episode, that was shot in three days, and we were in every scene, with tons of action and special effects, and that was challenging. You really have to be on your toes. I told myself, “I’ve gotta make-sure that the cop body language looks real because I know I’m not going to have that much time.” We shot the entire series in three months, which is very fast. It was a challenge, but I think it serves the show well ‘cause it’s a show that moves very quickly. It’s very loose and handheld. We roll as if it were a real documentary.

Did you have a favorite kill, that you found particularly fun?

RAYMONDE: I was really lucky. I know a lot of the other actors on the show were complaining that they didn’t get to shoot things enough. I definitely never had that complaint, in that area. There was an episode where John John and I decimate these zombies with a chainsaw and a power drill. That was cool. We did another episode where we crawled on top of a blood mobile and started shooting zombies from the top of the van. There were so many awesome things. It was always fun. There’s another thing, towards the end, where I take out a zombie with a chain. I can’t deny that it was very cool.

Is this a character that you’d love to explore for a second season?

RAYMONDE: Yeah, totally. I think people have a misconception about Carla. She is tough, and she seems very straight-laced, but she’s sexually adventurous. We find out that she’s a lesbian, and that’s a little bit of a surprise. But, she likes to have fun. I would like to see Carla have a little more fun, in the future. You see it a little bit, towards the end of the season. Hopefully, if it continues, you’ll see the lighter side of Carla Rinaldi.

What was the experience of making The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D like?

RAYMONDE: It’s just so cool to be part of such a cult phenomenon. The only one I’d ever seen was the original Texas Chainsaw, and I found it very deeply disturbing and troubling. I know that a lot of people are looking forward to the movie, and you’re taking on this very important, epic cult that people really cherish, and you have a responsibility to do it well. I think people are going to be surprised by how good this is. It’s very scary, but it’s not torture porn. It’s not gory for the sake of gore. It’s jsut disturbing. There are parts of the movie that are more like a thriller than a horror movie, but the horror parts are very, very creepy. And, for the 3D, we had all these new technologies and 3D cameras that we used, that had just come out, right before we started shooting the movie, so the 3D is going to look excellent. It’s going to be really, really cool.

Is it weird for you, as an actor, to not only have to see yourself on the big screen, but also see yourself in 3D?

RAYMONDE: Oh, yeah, totally! There’s a scene where I’m in my bikini, and I’m just like, “Really?! I’m going to have my big 3D ass in a bikini?” I’m not looking forward to that. I think it’s a very cool way to watch movies, though. People ask me, “Is 3D a good medium for horror movies?” I think it’s the perfect thing for horror movies because it really puts you into it. We shot this movie almost as if we were shooting it on film. The interesting part about this new 3D technology is that you can literally dictate how much of an intensity of 3D you want, depending on the scene. There are moments when you can explore the frame and it looks very much like film, and then the horror parts of the story are going to be very extreme 3D, with things popping out at you and really pulling you into the horror, so that you’re really scared. The 3D is very useful for a horror film, especially for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We got to see playback on set, on a 60″ 3D monitor, every time we shot something, and there were some shots that are just out of this world. It’s trippy. I think people are really going to like it.

Who is the character that you’re playing and how does she fit into the story?

RAYMONDE: The story is about this girl Heather (Alexandra Daddario), who finds out that she has inherited this house that she never knew she had. She thought she was adopted, but her grandmother just died and she gets a letter saying that she just inherited this house in Texas. I play her best friend, Nikki. Nikki was going to go to New Orleans with Heather for Halloween, but they decide to go collect her inheritance in Texas, and horror ensues. She’s a very fun, sarcastic party girl, who’s a little promiscuous and likes to have a good time. She’s the one who pushes everyone to make the wrong decisions, unfortunately. The cool part about it is that, even though she’s the sexual character of the movie, she doesn’t die in the beginning and she’s not an idiot, which is good. Apparently, these characters are usually eye candy who you want to die, right from the beginning ‘cause they’re so annoying. So, there are parts of this movie that are very different, and there aren’t many horror cliches. I think they really paid attention to making this Texas Chainsaw unique. I think people will like it.

Having seen the original film, what was your reaction when you found out that some of the original cast would be making appearances in the film, for the first time?

RAYMONDE: That was really, really cool. That just adds to the coolness factor of this movie. I got to meet Marilyn Burns, who played Sally, and she’s so beautiful and looks almost exactly the way she looked before. She was very sweet, too, and so happy to be a part of the movie. What’s cool is that these original actors are playing completely different characters. They’re cameos, but they’re different people within the new Texas Chainsaw story. That was a really innovative way of using them again. I think people will be surprised.

Do you know what you’ll be doing next?

RAYMONDE: I’m supposed to shoot this movie Manson Girls, that has been in pre-production for awhile. That’s another light-hearted comedy. No. I’m playing Leslie Van Houten. I’ve been working on preparing for that, for awhile. That’s going to be a pretty intense movie. It’s got a great cast, and we’re just waiting to find out when we’re going to do it. It will probably be within the next month or so, so I’m really looking forward to that. And, I just went back to Hawaii to shoot an episode of Hawaii Five-O, with a bunch of my old crew members from Lost. That was a lot of fun. I grew up on Lost. I was 17 when I started, and I did it for four or five years, on and off. It was a crazy feeling to be back there. Daniel Dae Kim is on the show, and Terry O’Quinn was there, and the guy that played Jack’s father (John Terry) was there. It was weird. And, with all of the crew members, I felt like I was shooting another episode of Lost. It was really bizarre. It was great, though. There’s something special about Hawaii. And, we’ll see what happens with Death Valley. I can’t wait to hear. Hopefully, it continues.

Tania RaymondeWhat’s it like to know that you’ll always be a part of television history with Lost?

RAYMONDE: It’s a great feeling. I feel very lucky. It was an extraordinary experience, and I know it’s going to stay with me, for the rest of my life.

Is there a type of role that you’d just love to do, but haven’t gotten the chance to do yet?

RAYMONDE: I would really like to do a straight action movie, that’s hardcore, heavy action, like The Expendables or Fast Five. I really like those kinds of movies. I like other things too, but that would be a really fun experience for me. At the same time, I’ve been writing scripts for a long time, and I wrote short stories when I was young, and I’m very interested in making my own movies. The cool thing about working and meeting a lot of people through your acting is that you never know who you might work with, in the future. It’s really great to be able to say that, potentially sometime soon, I’ll be able to make my own movies. It’s definitely a cool business to be in. I feel very lucky!

Death Valley 09 Tania Raymonde