Hellter Interviews Christine Elise McCarthy (Child’s Play 2, 90210, Body Snatchers)!!
Today’s guest is the lovely talented Christine Elise McCarthy. Christine had an iconic role on 90210 as Emily Valentine. Emily was the bad girl that everybody loved and related to. She was on ER as Harper Tracy, even was in a episode of Charmed. She appeared in China Beach and In the Heat of the Night. She was great as Abel in The Body Snatchers and got famous from killing Chucky in Child’s Play 2. She has a novel called Bathing and the Single Girl. She hosts a vegan cooking channel on Youtube called – Delightful Delicious Delovely & Video Vegan (www.VideoVegan.com). She also maintains a food porn blog called WWW.DelightfulDeliciousDelovely.com
People welcome Christine Elise McCarthy!!
HELLTER: How did you get cast for Emily Valentine on 90210? I loved Emily Valentine. My favorite character the show ever had.
CHRISTINE: Thanks! Head of casting at FOX, Bob Harbin, called me in for a meeting. He asked what I thought of TV. I went on a 20-minute rant about TV being soulless and, that if I were told my career would be only in TV, I would retire and go into plastics. Bob said, “Oh. Okay. I guess I will keep you in mind for other things.”
I asked, “Well – what were you thinking?”
“They are adding a new character to 90210 and I thought you’d be good.”
“90210!!? I’ll fucking do 90210!”
Very generously, Bob Harbin allowed me, despite my entitled rant, to be in the mix for the role of Emily Valentine. The character was described as drop dead gorgeous with cascading red curls (ala Julia Roberts), a singer, guitarist and motorcycle rider. I was none of those things. And I had to sing “Mercedes Benz” in the audition. I wore the outfit I wore on the show when we sang “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” I stumbled all over “Mercedes Benz” because I was petrified. Somehow, I got called back. I wore jeans and a 1950s vintage white beaded sweater. That audition was in Aaron Spelling’s office – which was like a football field with foot-deep, white shag carpet. I did the scenes again and butchered “Mercedes Benz” again. A few hours later, I got the job. It was just for one episode and, if it went well, there might be 10 more.
HELLTER: You did a good job, because they made your character be in alot of episodes Emily rocked. What did you like best about playing Emily Valentine and are there any similarities between yourself and Emily?
CHRISTINE: Initially – I was very excited to play Emily because I saw her much as I saw myself in high school – as a girl with a personal style different from the mainstream and one that some others mysteriously found threatening. I, too, was misunderstood & suffered many incorrect assumptions about what “kind” of girl I was. I appreciated the “you can’t judge a book by its cover” theme of that introductory episode. Later, as the shows progressed & it was revealed that Emily was nuts – I must confess to disappointment. I felt they had betrayed her by – ultimately – saying “you CAN judge a book by its cover.” It was pretty early in my career & a very big job for me. I really had invested myself in Emily & I had a hard time with the things they made her do & say. Still – in retrospect – that sense of betrayal might have informed my performance in ways I hadn’t intended. I played her – even in the nuttiest scenes – as someone I felt really bad for – not a cold & wicked villain. I think that might have saved her in the eyes of those fans of the show that related to her…and there were many. Even today, kids that felt disenfranchised either because they were gay, or punk or new in town or poorer than their peers – whatever the reason – they still come up to me & tell me Emily was their favorite character. I find that really gratifying. And I hope it is due in part to how I played her & the sympathy I felt for her that allows her fans to forgive her for being such a kook. It is a great legacy to have been the TV voice for all the kids that felt like outsiders – for whatever reasons they felt that way. And the fact that she got the most popular boy (Brandon) – though briefly – is a very romantic victory for lots of girls who are treated as if they are not enough – or less than – or uncool. Very Cinderella.
HELLTER: Emily did touch alot of lives. That’s why I was drawn to her so much. How did the 90210 fans act towards Emily Valentine, did you ever receive any kind of hate mail from die hard fans of Brandon Walsh?
CHRISTINE: Not really. I got some hate mail from young girls. I got letters that had pictures of me that had been defaced and that kinda thing. I have my all-time favorite hate letter framed in my house. It is attached here.
My favorite experience of fame was when I got a knock on my door and opened it to see Tim Curry standing there. “There are photographers on the hill across the canyon photographing your house. I confronted them, but they claimed to be shooting the sunrise – but they are facing north.” Tim fucking Curry was at my door and talking to me!
So I closed the drapes on that side of the house and had security chase them from the front of my house. Several weeks later, I was on the set of In the Heat of the Night and everyone kept being really weird and asking if I was okay and telling me to let them know if I felt unsafe. I finally asked someone WTF was going on. Apparently, A Current Affair – or Hard Copy or one of those shows – had been behind those cameras and they ran a completely fake story about “poor, sweet Christine” being attacked by hate-filled fans. They said I had to lock myself inside to protect myself and they showed footage of me closing the drapes and talking to security in front of my house but it was the tabloids that were stalking me – not fans. The piece is hilarious!
HELLTER: That story is too funny. Why do you think so many people related to Emily Valentine and the actual show of 90210?
CHRISTINE: I think I covered the Emily thing. As to the show – it was a teen show with a really pretty cast & there was somebody in the show for most people to identify with. Then – add that the show was a tad edgier than teen shows had been before – in that it covered topics like date rape & bulimia & other heavy issues that are real things in the lives of kids. The topics were handled with honesty and delicacy and sincerity. People, even kids, know when they are being talked down to or if smoke is being blown up their asses and I think they appreciated that 90210 did not do that. And – really – Jason & Luke. I do not think their appeal can be overstated.
HELLTER: 90210 was a show that can be enjoyed for generations to come. Touched so many subjects. Do play music? Because Emily Valentine did a good job at singing and playing guitar on 90210.
CHRISTINE: No – I do not. And I only sang that Mercedes Benz song. Recently, I lost a 5 episode arc on a TV show (Nick Nolte’s “Graves”) because I cannot sing. I REALLY cannot sing.
HELLTER: You fooled me. I enjoyed your singing on 90210. Shannon Doherty was known as a bad girl on and off set. Did you ever have any altercation with her off set besides both of your characters clashing on 90210?
CHRISTINE: None whatsoever. She basically ignored me. Which – in all honesty – is how most cast regulars treat most guest stars on most shows. There was nothing noteworthy about it. What WAS noteworthy was how nice Jason & Luke were to me. They went above & beyond to make me feel comfortable.
HELLTER: That’s cool they made you feel comfortable on set. How did you get offered a writing gig with 90210 and what are some of your best memories on set?
CHRISTINE: I got the job writing because I pitched a story to the writers where the gang goes on a three-hour booze cruise and a storm erupts. Donna falls and bumps her head and has a sort of Wizard of Oz dream while unconscious, but the dream is the Mosquitoes episode of Gilligan’s Island. The cast of 90210 dropped pretty nicely into those classic Gilligan characters.
Sadly, 90210 could not get the rights to do that episode, but they offered other episodes to me instead. But, I would never have been asked to write if I had not reached out. Most people do not even have the access to reach out, but many who do fail to make the most of it. It was really fun writing for the show because I knew it so well. Because it was a serialized show, storylines had long since been planned out so, as a guest writer, they basically give you a pretty detailed outline and you fill in the details, like dialogue. And what I learned is that there are opportunities that come with access to people but you have to grab them.
As to set memories – basically, just the excitement of being a part of a show that was a phenomenon. It was pretty thrilling, and it increased my profile enormously. I started being featured in teen and gossip mags. I got recognized in the streets for the first time – really to the point that going to the mall and other enclosed places where lots of people congregate got hard. People stare – rudely – and shout things out. It got kinda crazy for me for a while there because my hair was so easily identifiable. But it was gratifying to feel like I had achieved some level of success.
HELLTER: That is so cool. That you wrote after starring in 90210. Describe what your book Bathing and the Single Girl is about?
CHRISTINE: Well, it’s based on a short film that I did, a ten-minute short film that people can watch at www.bathingbook.com. The film works as a trailer for the book. I absolutely, intentionally blurred the lead character in the book’s biographical details with my own, so that it would feel more like it was really me. But it isn’t, it’s fiction, and it’s an awkward comedy. It’s the funniest book ever written, I hope. It’s sort of a, like, awkward, dirty book. Girl kisses a zillion toads who do not become her prince. Like if Larry David wrote a book about dating from a girl’s perspective. Cranky, awkward, embarrassing.
HELLTER: How was it like working on set for Body Snatchers and did you have fun with your character?
CHRISTINE: It was amazing/surreal to be in Selma, Alabama for 3 months. Such a historic place & still very much stuck in time. Or – at least – it was still pretty racist/segregated etc when I was there. Abel Ferrarra was an exciting man to work for – because he is very energetic & really trusts actors. And I was a huge fan of The Bad Lieutenant. Still – because Abel just kinda throws you in & lets you ad lib & do whatever you want in scene – as long as the story still gets told – I think I was handed a tad more freedom than I was ready for. There are a few scenes where I can barely watch myself. I think my acting is awful. (Laughs) Best part? The bar in Selma named, “Dr. Disco’s Chicken Shack.”
HELLTER: I’m glad to hear you had a good experience filming that classic horror film. What were your experiences like working on Child’s Play 2?
CHRISTINE: It was my first big job & I was insanely excited. I would hang around on set on my days off & after I was wrapped. I just loved every second of it. The hard part was that Alex was a minor and child labor laws applied to him so they had to shoot him first in every scene to get him out in time. Chucky took 7 or 9 puppeteers to work & they all were union guys so – Chucky was expensive to have on set – so they would shoot him after Alex & send those guys home. The result was – if you don’t see those guys actually in frame with me – it means they probably were not there. I did a lot of acting looking at colored pieces of tape in the spots where Alex or Chucky were supposed to be. It was challenging and, of course, I felt ridiculous doing it but I still loved every second.
HELLTER: What was your relationship like on set with Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, and Don Mancini?
CHRISTINE: Alex was a baby so – I treated him like a little brother. I got back in touch with him a few years ago at a convention & he told me he remembers me as the person that was nicest to him during the shoot – which is sweet. He grew up to be a great guy! Brad – I only met him once. We met so he could rehearse the scenes with me but then he went & recorded them in a studio. He never came to set. But I was ridiculously star struck when I met him. I met him again – and Fiona – last year at a convention. He was very sweet & I adore Fiona!
Don was a friend to me back then & remains so. He was at my house for dinner just last week with CP2 director, John Lafia & CP2 hair dresser – Scott Williams.
HELLTER: I’m so jealous. I would love to meet and talk to Brad. How do you prepare yourself for a role knowing that you have to act like a doll is trying to attack you and kill you?
CHRISTINE: As an actor, much of what you are dealing with is not real – including the emotions you portray and the relationships you engage in. Sometimes you are asked to shoot a summer scene in frigid weather or vice versa. A TON of what you are asked to do or deal with is fake. Love scenes are the absolute hardest because there is seldom the intimacy required in real life and there is always a huge crew watching and technical aspects (lighting and framing etc) to consider. I once played a lesbian and, as a result, was constantly asked if I really was one. The question was really frustrating. Whether or not I am a lesbian doesn’t affect that performance. I am not a firefighter or a cop or a hooker or a medical student – but I played those things. I wasn’t even a teenager when I was playing one. It is called ACTING. But, on the other hand, I have often played characters who are going through things I really have experienced. Performances require bringing reality to it all – whether it is real for you or not. That said – Chucky wasn’t even on set half the time I did Child’s Play 2. So – as I said – I was acting with tape. Literally. Staring at little x’s made of tape. There is no way to prepare for that.
HELLTER: Wow that’s amazing. Prooves that you are a great actress. What was your best memory from Child’s Play 2?
CHRISTINE: Just getting the job. It was a huge deal for me. It was incredibly exciting.
HELLTER: My favorite line in Child’s Play 2 is you telling the cop. You’ve seen dolls that pee, well this one bleeds. What’s your favorite line and favorite kill from Child’s Play 2?
CHRISTINE: (Laughs) “How’s it hanging, Phil?” So – maybe Phil’s death.
HELLTER: Classic (laughs). Have you ever owned a Chucky doll?
HELLTER: I Do, (laughs). If Don Mancini would ask you to do another Chucky film, would you do it?
CHRISTINE: FUCK YEAH!! Check out ending credits of Cult of Chucky.
HELLTER: I saw that. I loved it!! What do you think of Chucky’s bride Tiffany?
CHRISTINE: I love Jennifer Tilly – in real life. I know her socially & I worked with Meg Tilly in Body Snatchers. But – I must confess – I have not seen any of the Chucky movies except CP, CP2 & Curse – which I loved. And the trailer for Cult look AMAZING!
HELLTER: Jennifer Tilly is so amazing. I love her to. Who would win in a fight between Chucky and Annabelle?
CHRISTINE: Chucky!! Duh!!
HELLTER: Yeah I agree. How was it like working with Aaron Spelling and Shannon Doherty again for an episode on Charmed?
CHRISTINE: Shannon was not on the show when I did Charmed.
HELLTER: What is your food porn blog about and what are some of your favorite foods?
CHRISTINE: It started as a vegetarian/pescatarian recipe blog & is evolving into a vegan blog. I create most of the recipes & do all the cooking, photography & writing for it. The blog turned 5 this year and is www.
HELLTER: Anything else you want to discuss or promote?
CHRISTINE: Not at the moment. Check me out at horror conventions.
HELLTER: Thank you for being a guest on Gruemonkey.
CHRISTINE: Your Welcome.
Follow her on Twitter – www.twitter.com/
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Follow her acting career – www.christineelisemccarthy.
Check out her photography – maybe buy a print! – http://www.redbubble.com/