Like many young American actresses eager for their break in the movie industry, Rachael Robbins landed her first break through Lloyd Kaufman’s legendary independent studio Troma, making her screen debut in the company’s 1999 cult favourite Terror Firmer. Considered by many to be the studio’s greatest offering, the movie included appearances from genre veteran Debbie Rochon and adult star Ron Jeremy. Robbins followed this with Little Shop of Erotica, which marked one. of the final roles for another porn icon, Marilyn Chambers, who would sadly pass away in 2009 at the age of fifty-six.
While Robbins gained a following through her involvement with Playboy, in recent years her acting career has gained momentum with roles in Brutal Massacre: A Comedy, In Search of Lovecraft and Bad Biology, the latter marking the long-awaited comeback of Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter. Robbins is also known for her comedy work, having appeared onstage at the NY Underground Comedy Festival and the Times Square Comedy Club.
Rachael Robbins discusses acting, modelling and finding the perfect role.
What do you consider yourself to be first and foremost; an actress, a model or a comedienne?
I am one hundred per cent an actress. I’ve been it for over a decade. I make money at it and I carry some clout – just a little, but that’s better then nothing. As a comedian, I’m a newborn. And as far as modelling goes, it’s always been more of a hobby. Something I love to do, that I’ve had some success with. I’m in two Taschen Pin-Up books, Tom Mancuso’s pin-up book he did of just me that’s sold hundred of copies, I have over twenty pictures in Mike James pin-up book and I was just chosen as one of the twelve images in Taschen’s Big Butt calendar. And especially my work with Playboy). But I was never a legit model that has an agency and goes on go-sees. I’m a pin-up girl.
What do you recall of your first screen credit, Little Shop of Erotica, and how do you feel about your earlier efforts?
The film was bad. I was bad. But booking that job put my life on a very different tract. I was about to go down a dark road, but booking this shitty little film gave me hope in myself and, hence, my film career path was started.
Ever since you first began acting you have appeared in numerous low budget horror productions. Is this a genre you have always been interested in or is it merely the easiest type of film for a struggling actor?
It was an easy genre to get started in because these film are not talent-driven. You don’t have to be a Meisner-trained actor to be in a horror film. They just don’t call for talent. And since I was an untrained actor, I had little faith in myself to try to go out for dramatic roles. My goal was to become a scream queen! My Playboy experience made me desirable to filmmakers in this world. So it was a perfect place to get my feet wet.
What are your memories of working for Playboy?
I have only GREAT memories about working with Playboy. They are a top notch company that makes you feel every bit the bunny when you work for them. Their production value is the best, the people that work for them are awesome and, c’mon, there’s nothing better for a girl than to get chosen to sport the bunny ears on her photos. When I was first getting into the industry, yes, filmmakers just saw me as the naked girl. But as people got more familiar with me and my work, they wanted to protect me from just being seen as T&A. And now, thanks to Playboy, my nudity rate is so high that if a filmmaker wants to get me naked and can pay, that probably means it’s a production worth disrobing for.
Following your work on Screaming Dead, the director, Brett Piper, refused to return your calls. Did you ever find out what the issue was and has this since been resolved?
Nope! Never got resolved and as far as I can tell; it was no great loss for me. He isn’t exactly making mainstream, big budget films that I’m missing out on! The issues were definitely personality flaws on his part. I was just an actress making logical decisions for my career. It wasn’t like I was on the payroll at Shock-o-Rama. But you know what? Cream rises to the top.
How would you describe your experience working with cult filmmaker Frank Henenlotter on his comeback Bad Biology?
Frank Hennenlotter is an icon in his genre. I took the minor role to get the opportunity to work with him and it was totally worth it. He was a great director and I also met another person on that set that I would go on to do numerous great projects with and that’s R.A. The Ruggedman. His latest video features me and can be seen on YouTube. It’s called A Star is Born.
The label ‘scream queen’ is often thrown at any actress who has appeared in a handful of horror movies. What are your thoughts on how women are represented in the genre?
I think there’s always going to be a filmmaker that wants to represent women in a certain way. From electric cord stranglers to strong kickass heroines. It’s up to the actress to only go after or accept roles that depict her in the way she wants to be seen. I don’t mind being referred to as a scream queen, but I really don’t think I’ve done enough horror films to qualify!
Some of your features have had eye-catching titles, particularly Vampire Lesbian Kickboxers and Bikini Bloodbath Car Wash. Do you think this is what often attracts you to these projects?
In the past, I have been attracted to a role because of the title. But now it’s about quality and meeting my requirements for a job.
Back in 2008, you were lined up alongside horror icon Brad Dourif to appear in C.L. Gregory’s highly-anticipated Kentucky Fried Horror Show, yet the movie seemed trapped in development hell. What do you recall of your involvement?
I was glad to be attached to that project! I had high hopes for it. I spoke to the filmmakers at great lengths and was looking forward to shooting. Oh well!
How did you feel about the controversy that surrounded the project, despite nothing have even been filmed? One of the more notorious incidents was KFC threatening to sue the producers over the same.
I think any publicity is good publicity. Especially for a low budget project that couldn’t afford to pay for that kind of national coverage. Priceless.
One of your more overlooked films was In Search of Lovecraft; do you feel that was one of your stronger performances?
It was an interesting character for me. I did get to do an entire scene in Greek, while I was performing an ancient incantation. I actually had an occult expert flown in to coach me on my authenticity. I also kind of died in the film (wee, I got ‘sucked into the abyss’), which is not my characters’ usual fate in films. And I performed a cool stunt. So I guess, personally, it was a great project for me. I wish it got more acknowledgement because the filmmaker, David Hohl, is a super cool human being!
In recent years you have also appeared in several stage productions. Is this something you feel comfortable with and how would you compare it to working on movies?
I really enjoy the instant gratification of live performances. It’s so satisfying to know right away if you did well or not. With film, you never know what’s going to happen with your performance. Will the filmmakers mess up the lighting, sound or editing? Will the film end up shelved because of lack of funding to finish the project? These are things you don’t have to worry about with theatre. With theatre you go home every night knowing what ups. For some reason, New Yorkers seem to take live performance more seriously. My ex would fall asleep at my movie screenings, but come to see me perform in a show over and over again. Go figure.
Looking back over your career to-date, what moments would you say you are most proud of and what do you feel would be your perfect film role?
I’m most proud of the web series that I co-starred in, Horrible People. I worked with an amazing cast and the series won The Directors Guild Award for best web series. As far as films go, EVERYTHING I worked on with Kenneth Del Vecchio are my proudest moments. He’s a filmmaker that believes in my talent and range and can see me as more than a blonde bombshell. These films include An Affirmative Act (that opens in theatres across the country in April), The Great Fight and O.B.A.M. Nude.
He also just produced a series of scenes that will correspond with the novel he just released, The Great Heist; a revolutionary idea that will allow the potential buyer to not just see IN the book on Amazon, but also watch scenes from the book. My cabaret show De-Licious and the Off-Broadway show Pieces…(of Ass) were both big proud moments in my life. AND the perfect film role for me would be something that I could include my Equestrian talents with that would be a trilogy at least!! I need some guaranteed steady big-ass pay cheques!