It is time for Thursday Terror here at Somewhatnerdy and I have a Terrifying Treat for you! I have an interview with a very talented as well as beautiful actress from such horror classics as American Mary and Happily Ever Evil. Ghouls and Goblins of all ages, I am proud to share with you my interview with Scream Queen Tristan Risk. Enjoy!
SWN: How did you get your start in the movie biz?
Risk: Totally by strange luck. American Mary was my first foray into a feature film and at first, it wasn’t as an actress; it was as a choreographer. I was never intentioned to be Beatress, the Soskas had instead had me in mind to choreograph some dance numbers in the film. But after we met, they asked if I had any interest in auditioning for Beatress. Having read the script, I was eager to throw my name in the hat. She was the character that really stayed with me, so I wanted to try my hand at the character and put my own spin on her.
Prior to American Mary, I had done some smaller things on screen but they mostly were confined to music videos or else independent short films, so it wasn’t cutting my teeth completely. However, it was a much different world and pace than what I had been previously used to, but the Soskas run such a tight set that the bar was set especially high for everyone else I’ve worked with who’s followed. That’s not a bad thing – filmmakers and all artists should always have personal pride in a well run production, but after you’ve been to First Class, it’s hard to sit in Coach. However, with the majority of the people I’ve worked with, even a flirtation with that type of production can be fun with the right folks, and thank goodness we found each other.
SWN: I also understand you are a model, at what age did you start?
Risk: I modeled as a kid a little bit. I started life modelling (clothed) for other students at my high school, Langley Fine Arts, when I was still a student and later (not clothed) for Vancouver-based visual artists such as Jose Trinidad, Jae Dougall, and Dene Croft after I graduated. I attempted to do more commercial work but I was always told the same thing: too short to be taken seriously.
Given my love of all things dark and my penchant for the Vampire Live Action Role Playing, my modelling interests shifted in my late teens to fetish modelling. I found that this was the medium I wanted to artistically express myself and my sexuality in. I also started a non-nude pay site and worked on and styled my own shoots. I began building a portfolio and began the pin up side of modelling, since I had begun to perform as a burlesque dancer then. I’ve always loved being in front of the camera and having a chance to dress up and play different characters was appealing.
The Internet has given us a platform for self publication that was not, in previous years, available. Now models who are considered too short, muscled, tall, curvy are able to express themselves, post their own content on their own terms, and thus find people and work through those channels. It’s a far cry from how it was when I started out, and it’s pleasing to see so many different people, both men women, defining their own beauty standards this way.
SWN: What was it like to be in such a kick ass horror film such as American Mary?
Risk: Words fail me. When we were making it, I enjoyed the content and the message of the film, but I didn’t think it would be as impactful as it has become. I’m honored and humbled that Jen and Sylvia both took a chance on me and trusted me with this precious creation. They didn’t have to, and honestly, I was just a burlesque dancer, not an actress of note that anyone would have recognized. For them to have that leap of faith in me to honestly communicate this character was HUGE. It’s not an opportunity that comes along every day, or even once in some folk’s careers. Trust, I am very grateful to be given this chance.
But more than that, seeing as how it’s grown, my own involvement with the body mod community as well, and the dialog that have sprung from it bodes well to me. Everything from people who identify as gender neutral to the way most people perceive those who choose to alter their appearance, to the underlying misogyny in society, I feel American Mary opened a lot of doors, and hopefully, people’s minds to discuss these topics that have been taboo. It’s pushing boundaries and not for the sake of attention seeking but in a authentic attempt to raise awareness on these matters.
Risk: I had never worn full facial prosthetics before. I was lucky and had the artists from MASTERSFX, Lori and Amelia, working in tandem on me both through application and removal. I know some people dislike it and find it uncomfortable. Eating was a challenge, but they had the patience of saints and would sigh, smile, and fix my face after my feeble attempts to feed myself.
Application took two hours, and removal one, so it was quite a production to get in and out of on set, but I feel the results were well worth it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
SWN: What was it like working with the Soska Sisters?
Risk: It’s like making a movie with your best friends – which is exactly what it is for me. I have total and absolute trust in them that they can ask me to do anything, and I will, because I know they will shoot it beautifully. It helps that our brains are all similarly wired so oftentimes we don’t need a ton of verbal communication to get the best results. I imagine this is what shooting is like for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp or Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell: it’s time together well spent with some interesting cinema to show for it at the end of the process.
They also run a tight ship… don’t think that it’s all farting around. The pair of them work in tandem (kind of like velociraptors, really) so that on their sets they are maximizing their efficiency. Not sure how long THAT took to shoot, but I’m fairly certain they’ve never had a shoot longer than fifteen days. They are all business and they work their crews hard, but then again they appreciate and cherish them too, because it is a team effort at the end of the day and they are well aware of that. Anyone who has a chance to work with them should consider themselves privileged.
Risk: Well, if your readers are at all aficionados of striptease or sideshow, they may have seen me perform live. I’ve been a burlesque dancer for over twelve years now, and I also do magic, sideshow and fetish performances. Usually in all of these things I wind up in minimal clothing onstage. I toured for six years across North America and Europe as part of a duo called The Voodoo Dollz that performed alongside a band called Big John Bates. I managed to wrack up both a lot of road miles and trouble. I’ve also been a member for Sweet Soul Burlesque, one of the West Coast’s longest running professional burlesque troupes which co founded the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival. I’ve also performed with Bloody Betty’s Deadly Sins (including our grotesque live game show Win, Lose, Or Die) and with Sex At The Circus. I’ve been pretty spoiled to work with the folks I have, as Vancouver is to burlesque what Seattle was to grunge music: a mecca of awesome talent!
SWN: When you are not working, what hobbies do you have to help you relax?
Risk: I’ve just gotten in acro-yoga, but I read, spend time hiking/at the beach/surfing and mermaiding. Yes, mermaiding is a thing, and it is an awesome one. In Vancouver when the weather is lovely it’s fun to get out and do things as it’s so gorgeous and when it’s rainy (when often it is, being a coastal rainforest and all) I like to cocoon with friends and work on art and costumes, read each other’s tarot, or cook. We find many ways to pass the time with glorious hobbies in this little corner of the world.
SWN: What other projects can we expect from you in the future?
Risk: I’ll be performing live this July at the Bass Coast Music Festival with Sweet Soul Burlesque Sunday night on the main stage, and hosting the Friday night uniform party for the Sin City Fetish Weekend (dressed as Kitty Pryde). Cinema-wise I’m looking forward to shooting Elias Ganster’s upcoming Ayla and Dark Continents, the Lovecraft anthology, come November. In between those I’ll be terrorizing Toronto for Fangoria’s Horror-Rama Weekend, so consider yourselves warned…
SWN: Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on, if so what is it?
Risk: Oh there’s been lots! I was part of a summer ‘strip-scle’, which is like a musical, except instead of bursting into song, the performers bust out some striptease. That was a fun theatre production, I loved shooting T Is For Torture Porn because a) The Soskas directed it and it was a munch of the same folks who also worked on Mary as well and because b) tentacles.
I’ve enjoyed when I’ve had the chance to be part of the Accordion Noir Festival in Vancouver and the various horror films festivals like Dead On Film, The Rio Grind and Whistler Heavy Hitting Horrorfest. Collaborating with electronic west coast musicians at festivals with my burlesque troupe, Sweet Soul Burlesque, and other talented performers like Luciterra and Subscura who all have strong female artists leading the way in the festival scene.
I’ve really enjoyed all these collaborative efforts in all the different mediums. The more I work with people, the more it forces me out of my shell, to always hone my communication skills, and gives me more discipline. Being on the hook to yourself is one thing, but knowing you are part of a team effort really makes you pull up your socks and focus to bring your best to the table.
SWN: Where can our readers see more examples of your work?
Risk: If there is anyone who is curious about my usually-naked body of work aside from acting, I’d suggest the’ve a few avenues to pursue. One of these seems simple, but my website, at www.littlemissrisk.ca. I post photos and stuff there, but mostly it’s for my writing. I also write regularly for Huffington Post and for Daily Grindhouse. I’d like to think that I’m something of a dab hand at it, and that the odd number for folks get a kick out of the content.
I mentioned my website has photos, and of that I have many. I started in modelling, doing retro pin up work and fetish photos and as a result of being very comfortable expressing myself visually this way, as you can imagine, some of my work is not Facebook friendly. I’m fairly okay with thus having my own platform to share this work with others serves me well. On the rare occasion, it gets published in various magazines. When I do conventions, it’s nice to bring a large selection of prints to show off, since it feels like a little pop up gallery of my past work.
But what I’d say that I’m best known for as a performer is burlesque. I’ve been a burlesque performer for thirteen years now, and I still love it. I often joke that I’m married to the stage, and that from time to time I like to cheat on her and have a short, passionate affair with the screen till I go back to the comfort of my first love. Being naked or mostly naked onstage in front of people really tends to give you a strange confidence. Especially adding a comedic aspect to it, which I’m well aware, is some people’s worst nightmare. But I’m so at ease in the nude that I’ve never viewed it as debasing or exploitative. The connection you have to your audience is a temporary thing. I like to hope my performances are impactful enough that I can eye-fuck the audience and infect their subconscious so that later they find themselves unable to stop thinking about what they saw…
SWN: If you were not acting, what would you be doing for a career?
Risk: I’d still be doing burlesque and writing, though I may be more focused on circus performances and honing different skills for live shows. Ill likely never give up doing live stuff altogether, but it’s been dialed back the last few years from performing every week from 3-7 times a week 85% of the year.
SWN: Do you have any advice for newcomers to the acting world?
Risk: Work hard. Be kind to people. Love what you do. Be excited to be doing it. Bring joy to other people and it’ll come through your work on screen. Learn to do all the jobs. Don’t get lost in the promotion of yourself as a product at the sacrifice of the quality of said product. Love your art.
SWN: What is it about Horror that draws you to that world?
Risk: I’ve always been weird, and apologetic about it. I was frequently teased and taunted growing up for being weird, and later found out that other kids thought my family were satanic cat killers and that they were scared of me. Crushes were unrequited, other girls froze me out, and i was called a freak almost every day. When I read scary stories, I could always see befriending the ghost, the monster or the creature because I knew how lonely it got when other people were scared of you. I was maybe thirteen when I read Clive Barker’s ‘Cabal’, and it resounded with me and made so much sense: I WAS a monster, and it wasn’t that there was anything wrong with me, it was just how other non-monsters perceived me.
There is a term in biology that when a spontaneous mutation occurs, it’s referred to as a ‘hopeful monster’. Isn’t that a great term? I love it. It describes the magic splicing of nature on her own, when the species now has new favorable traits at her disposal. I like to think of other artists and unconventional thinkers as hopeful monsters of this species, and that was when I learned that monsters do, in fact, have a place in the world.
It’s with that in mind that I find myself more naturally drawn to the darker side of all of our imaginations and finding the things that scare us and what provokes them. I love learning about the psychology of what it is that scares people and how things get into their heads, the primal versus the learned, and so on. the genre is over giving me an ongoing education.
SWN: If you could work with anyone, who would it be and why?
Risk: How much time have you got?
No, really there’s so many people I’d adore to work with in front of the camera and behind it, and alumni of folks I’ve worked before in the past… but some people I’ve not yet had the pleasure with yet… Barbara Crampton, Clive Barker, Masumi Max, Liam Reagan, James Gunn, Alice Cooper, Lowell Dean, Pam Grier, and Robert Rodriguez…. just a few names.