In recent years, Pennsylvania native Chanel Ryan has become something of a veteran in the horror and fantasy genres through her roles in such independent productions as Hobgoblins 2 and Dorothy and the Witches of Oz.
Prior to this, Ryan first entered the industry through modelling, before landing minor roles in the cult comedy BASEketball for Airplane director David Zucker and the acclaimed TV movie George Wallace for legendary filmmaker John Frankenheimer.
In just a few short years, Ryan has already worked with the likes of James Caan, Alice Cooper, Sean Astin and Bill Murray, while also gracing a host of television commercials, sitcoms and magazines. On stage, Ryan took the lead role of Janet Weiss in an adaptation of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, a production that first emerged in London during the mid-1970s, before making a successful transition to the big screen a few years later with Susan Sarandon in the role.
Among her upcoming projects are Small Apartments for controversial director Jonas Åkerlund (best known for his Smack My Bitch Up video for the Prodigy), and the horror spoof Paranormal Whacktivity, in which she portrays the Bride of Dracula. Ryan is also a supporter of several animal charities, including the Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Society of the United States.
Chanel Ryan discusses gender, prosthetics and controversy in the horror genre.
Do you feel that you are able to look at the horror genre from both a male and female’s perspective and how would you say the two differ? Is this a genre that exploits women and is there too much focus on sex and nudity?
It’s funny you should ask that question. I am producing my first feature film this fall and recently discovered that, as a producer, you have to look at the film from both the male and female’s perspective. People going to see a film in this genre want three things: to be scared, have fun and see hot girls! That being said, as a woman I want to be involved with projects with strong female characters and storylines. I definitely think there is a place for sex and nudity, as long as it is plot-driven and drives the story along.
Do you enjoy working with prosthetics and fake blood?
Working with prosthetics makes the day longer and requires a lot of patience, but the end result is worth it. I have only had one experience wearing prosthetics, in Hobgoblins 2. I have actually never been killed on screen…yet!
Are there any horror movies that you feel go too far? Do you feel that there are some areas filmmakers should not go?
That’s a hard question. As a society, I think we are becoming desensitised and morals and values are going down the drain. Cursing is allowed on prime time TV shows. It is a requirement for cable shows to have a certain amount of nudity and sex scenes. What used to get an R rating now qualifies for a PG rating. Violent videos and photos are regularly posted on YouTube, Facebook, etc. At the same time, due to this I think filmmakers feel the need to push the boundaries further and further. I prefer psychological thrillers and leaving something to the imagination. Sexual violence scares me. We don’t need to give the crazies any new ideas. But I would love to be in a film like The Human Centipede!
Do you feel you have been typecast in any way over the years and are there any specific kind of roles you would like to portray?
Sure, I’ve been typecast. I’ve been lucky enough to have a successful career as a model. Because of this, when you Google me it’s a swimsuit extravaganza. I am aware of this and am in acting class whenever I am in town and constantly working on my craft. I feel like my mission is to bring something more to the ‘pretty girl’ roles. I would love the opportunity to play more roles with some grit and range to them. I am excited to shoot Crimson Saints this fall. I play a manipulative, religious Southern belle.
Many actors start out in low budget horror movies before they land their big break; do you find that producers often dismiss an actor’s horror work as it is sometimes looked upon as a genre unworthy of respect?
I am fortunate to get back and forth between low budget indie films and big budget projects. It is amazing training working on indie films. You are basically getting paid for doing what you love and to practice your craft. It is really difficult to do good work, or even decent work, on a low budget horror film where you have zero personal space, no trailers, no turn-around time, no assistants. It is impossible to find a quiet area and usually you only get one or two takes.
Have your considered writing and directing your own film and what kind of film could you imagine your directorial debut being?
I am producing and starring in a feature film this fall called Crimson Saints. Keith Smith is the writer/director, but I have been helping to rework the script. The whole process, stepping on the other side of the camera, has been a huge learning experience. It’s a thriller/horror/crime/action film. I think for my first endeavour as a producer it is a good genre to start off with, since it is such a popular one. Horror/thrillers are always in demand.
Do you have many regrets about your career; are there any roles that you refused that you wish you had taken, or any which you regret appearing in?
Yes and no. I regret the years I spent modelling. But at the same time my profile as a model has opened a lot of doors for me as an actress, and I have been fortunate to work all over the world. Nothing like seeing the world while getting paid for it! Of course, there are things I refused that I wish I hadn’t. I’ve turned down lead roles in a few different films and high profile TV shows due to nudity and in hindsight I regret it. And yes, there are a couple of films which I wish I wasn’t attached to. I am more careful now about the decisions I make. The projects you do are just as important as the ones you don’t.