Success came to Shavar Ross at an early age. Even before his tenth birthday he had landed the recurring role of Dudley Ramsey, the best friend of star Gary Coleman, in the popular sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, a character he would regularly play over the next six years. During this tie he also worked worked on a variety of other TV shows, including voicing the character of Buckwheat on The Little Rascals. In 1984 he was cast in his first feature film role as Reggie in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, the fifth instalment of the lucrative-yet-controversial franchise from Paramount Pictures.
Following in the footsteps of Corey Feldman, who had portrayed twelve-year-old Tommy Jarvis in the previous film, Ross was only the second child actor to take a lead role in a Friday the 13th movie, starring alongside ‘final girl’ Melanie Kinnaman and John Shepherd, who had taken over the role of Tommy from Feldman.
Shavar Ross, known to Jason fanatics as Reggie the Reckless, looks back on his experience twenty-five years later.
It’s been over two decades since the release of Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. How has your opinion of the movie changed in this time and how did you feel about the script as you were making the film?
I respect the film a lot more than I did back then. I’m amazed at how many teenagers are into the series, even though a lot of the earlier films in the franchise are way before their time. As far as the script, I thought it was kinda funny. Never took the movie seriously at all.
You were one of only a few child actors to star in a Friday the 13th movie. What kind of restrictions were you given with regards to what you were allowed to do on set and do you feel your co-stars treated you equally?
Everyone was treated equally I suppose but I was sorta sheltered because I remember going to school a lot and hanging with my set teacher most of the time when I wasn’t filming. I don’t remember seeing any nudity until the film came out.
What are your thoughts on the horror genre and were you a fan of the franchise prior to being cast as Reggie?
To this day, I have never seen a Friday the 13th film other than Part 5, the one I was in. I take that back, I think I went to see Part 6 out of curiosity cozI was originally asked to be in it.
Danny Steinmann’s screenplay, co-written with Martin Kitrosser and David Cohen, was notable for featuring graphic violence and nudity, although much of this would be censored by the MPAA. Do you recall how different the original draft of the script was to the cut that was released?
I wasn’t aware that Danny wrote the script?? I’m sure there were some revisions during the shoot but I don’t recall.
It has also been stated that Danny Steinmann was unpleasant and somewhat sleazy. What were your thoughts on him and was there ever an incident in which he was out of line?
I thought he was a pretty hip director then. He was always cool, kind of a tough guy back then—nothing out of line with me. Today he’s a lot more laid back. I was so excited to re-unite with him. We’ve hooked up for like four or five things pertaining to the movie recently.
There has been speculation over the years that the set of A New Beginning featured a lot of drug use. Were you aware of this and what kind of problems did this cause?
I’m sure there was a lot of that goin’ on on probably every Friday the 13th sequel ever made. Just kiddin’. I don’t recall me smelling any weed or anything on the set.
Were you disappointed that it is revealed at the end of the film that the killer was not really Jason Voorhees? How do you feel about the criticism that many fans have against the movie due to the plot twist?
I was sorta disappointed but I accepted the fact that the were tryin’ to do somethin’ a bit different. There is, however, a select few of fans who think part five was the best in the series.
What was your favourite scene to shoot and did you receive any injuries during the shoot?
My favourite scene was all the fake rain and running scenes. I actually fell – for real – in the movie chasing Pam.
Many actors tried to distance themselves from the franchise but over recent years they have come to embrace their fan base. How did you come to terms with your involvement and are you proud of what you achieved?
I’ve been asked to attend Friday the 13th events for many years but always passed, but changed my mind recently because I wanted to reunite with the cast. So far it’s been a blast.
Reggie was initially to have returned for Part VI, but you allegedly declined when you were told that you would be killed off almost immediately. What do you recall about the death of your character and do you regret not being involved in the sequel?
My head getting chopped off in the opening. That’s what I remember my dad alerting me to. Nope, no regrets. Not too many ‘black folks’ live through the end of the movie so I’m very proud of my decision!
Did you remain in touch with anyone from the movie and how did it feel to reunite with them once again for the documentary His Name Was Jason?
I’m still enjoying the process. Still an amazing and fun experience, even after all these years.