INTERVIEW: Alysa King
– By Bryan Stumpf
Attending the 14th Annual Shriekfest Film Festival & Screenplay Competition on behalf of The Slaughtered Bird, my second interview in the Press Room of the Opening Night Party was with the lovely and talented actress Alysa King. The Canadian-born actress began acting in feature films just four years ago, but has already amassed an impressive portfolio.
She was attending this year’s Shriekfest in support of Berkshire County, written by Chris Gamble and directed by Audrey Cummings. Alysa stars in the film as Kylie, a bullied and self-loathing teen who reluctantly agrees to babysit at an isolated country mansion on Halloween night. When there’s a knock at the front door, she opens it to find a trick-or-treater wearing a pig mask. But it turns out this trick-or-treater isn’t looking for Halloween candy.
While Alysa’s first appearance in a feature films was 2010’s romantic comedy The Millennials, she has been acting since the age of one. Growing up in Milton, Ontario, she was avid watcher of Disney films, and her mother and grandmother would make her the costumes of her favorite Disney characters and encourage her to re-enact her favorite scenes. From grade one to high school graduation, Alysa remained committed to her craft, regularly performing in theatre and commercials.
When Alysa mentioned she attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, I immediately rattled off a list of the more popular Kingston pubs. My hometown of Cape Vincent, New York was right across the St. Lawrence River from Kingston, and growing up in that very small town, the city of Kingston was a mythical mecca of great music (The Tragically Hip), great culture, and one of the best film festivals in North America, the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. And of course, great pubs. Alysa and I reminisced about downing Guinnesses at Toucans and swilling Steam Whistles – a Toronto-based brew – at The Pilot House. Though I was never an enrollee of Queen’s University, on the weekends, I partied like one.
Alysa, on the other hand, kept her studies her main focus and graduated from Queen’s in 2009 with an honors degree in Dramatic Arts and English Literature, and she went on to complete a graduate degree in Education in 2010. She soon immersed herself in acting with several projects based in Ontario, but also international projects including a web-series shot in Prague. While in London, visiting friends, she attended several theatre productions, and accumulated a wish list of actors she hopes to one day work with: Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
When I asked Alysa to name actors who inspire her and roles she’s drawn to, she named Charlize Theron as someone she has always respected. “Charlize is the embodiment of a strong female. She’s a perfect combination of beauty, grittiness, and grace. When I’m offered roles, I’m drawn to the kinds of characters Charlize often plays, women who have a vulnerability, but deeper down have incredible strength.” She added with a smile, “As an actress, I can really bring it as a strong female.”
And those qualities made her perfect for Kylie in Berkshire County. Throughout the horror thriller, Alysa’s character Kylie must endure a grueling night with her survival tested at many turns. Plus, with Berkshire County being filmed during the colder months in Nobleton, Ontario, just north of Toronto, Alysa proved to have the same perseverance as her character.
I asked Berkshire County director Cummings about working with Alysa: “Alysa’s a fantastic actress. I knew right away when she came in to audition that she was going to be the one. She has incredible strength on screen, but can also tap into a very vulnerable side which I felt made her relatable and likeable on screen. One of the best parts of working with her was her tireless work ethic. She was always up for anything including being outside in her t-shirt to shoot when the rest of us had huge coats and parkas on to keep warm. We would just wrap her in a bunch of blankets between takes – but she was such a trooper. From the beginning of shooting right up until the end, she was extremely hardworking and always pleasant and positive. I definitely look forward to working with her again.”
At Shriekfest, Berkshire County went on to win the Grand Jury prize for Best Horror Feature Film, making Cummings the first female director to win Best Horror Feature. As Berkshire County gets more international attention, expect Alysa King to continue building an impressive portfolio of feature films with strong female characters. She has certainly come a long way from playing Snow White in homemade costumes in Milton, Ontario. I hope to see her at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, and let’s hope she’ll be celebrating Berkshire County’s success at that festival. Upon that occasion, I hope she’ll let me buy the first round of Steam Whistles.
NOTE: Audrey Cummings appeared on Shriekfest Radio on October 23: www.blogtalkradio.com/liveparanormal/2013/06/14/shriekfest-radio-on-liveparanormalcom-will-