May 31, 2019 Interview – Alexis Kendra
Alexis Kendra knows a little something about making it in Hollywood! A talented actress, writer, and producer with well-over a decade’s experience, she initially began her acting career in the theater and then parlayed her success to television and film. Appearing in such high-profile series as Days of Our Lives and Criminal Minds, Kendra would go on to tackle her real love interest, film. With roles in an eclectic array of productions, from 2010’s Valentine’s Day and Hatchet II, to 2013’s Big Ass Spider!, she would ultimately produce, write, design, and star in 2015’s Goddess of Love.
Now she is back with The Cleaning Lady. A dark and twisted tale that displays her love for the Horror genre, the film sees Kendra yet again offering her skills as an actress, writer, production designer, and producer. Appreciating her love for her craft and her desire to tackle any role, we recently had a chance to sit down with this talented and passionate woman to pick her brain about her career, her charity work with orphans, and that haunting film, The Cleaning Lady.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting for over a decade now. What initially inspired you to pursue a career in entertainment?
Alexis Kendra – I was probably seven years old and my grandma took me to see the musical South Pacific at an outdoor theater in Chicago, and there was this moment where everything was silent—the stars were covering the sky. A blonde woman came out on the stage and started singing a song about washing men out of her hair. I thought, “What a dream to do this for a job.” Even at that age, I had those thoughts, and my desire never changed.
Cryptic Rock – That’s wonderful that at such a young age you had already found what inspired you. Obviously you graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, then went on to partake in the Shakespeare program at Oxford. What inspired you to segue your work in theater to television and film?
Alexis Kendra – I always wanted to be in movies, that was always the dream. The real training is in the theater, and I knew that, and I have to say I learned more in my short time at Oxford studying Shakespeare—which was not easy!—than all my years of university or any acting class in L.A. I ever took.
Cryptic Rock – Having that diverse background is no doubt what plays into the eclecticism of your acting career, though. You’ve done work in high-profile TV series such as Days of Our Lives and Criminal Minds, but your focus seems to be film. What is it that draws you to film over television?
Alexis Kendra – I’m such a deep admirer of the obscure, independent foreign films with the unknown female leads who just act the hell out of a role. TV is amazing—and where the money is, as everyone knows—but there’s a big draw for me to play in the arena where I can be as raw and ugly and emotional as possible. Film tends to be more forgiving of those things and there’s no better experience as an actress than getting to literally rip your skin off and play.
Cryptic Rock – It’s great that you are so passionate for that rawness, because that seems rare. Again, no matter the format, you’ve truly acted across a wide array of genres. Do you have a favorite genre to work in or a favorite ‘type’ of character to portray?
Alexis Kendra – I’m drawn to twisted tales with flawed characters, because I can really sink my teeth into the role and escape my own reality and truly become someone else. I’d like to play a drug-addicted felon, a vampire, a woman who morphs into a monster like the movie The Fly (1986). The crazier, and further away from me, the more I want to do it.
Cryptic Rock – That’s exciting and enviable for an actress to want to get ugly in front of the camera. However, you are not just a woman who is talented on-screen, but someone who works behind-the-scenes as well—as a writer and producer. What does your behind-the-scenes work bring to your arsenal as an actress?
Alexis Kendra – This makes me laugh, this question, and here’s why. I remember it was the night before day one of The Cleaning Lady shoot, and I was going over my lines and asking the director to go over them with me. He was like, “Who are you kidding: you wrote this film, you designed her apartment, you know these lines. You know her!” I remember putting down my script and being like, “Oh yeah. What the hell am I doing?”
That’s the advantage when you write your own material. You get to write lines you want to say, and play characters you want to play. Which, I was supposed to play Shelly the burn victim/housekeeper/villain, and I wrote the film with that in mind. I absolutely did not think I would play Alice, who is a very straight-laced, proper lady. Talk about a challenging role! I say that because, in real life, I’m a lot more like Alice than Shelly, and given I lean towards playing darker characters, Alice was absolutely harder for me to wrap my head around.
Cryptic Rock – That is quite a change in role, yes. That said, your portrayal of Alice is fantastic! Will we see you directing in the future?
Alexis Kendra — (Laughs) I never say never.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Fair enough. As you just mentioned, you co-wrote the script for the upcoming The Cleaning Lady, which is a truly dark and disturbing tale. What inspired the story?
Alexis Kendra – So when the director and I get together, we just write the most messed up stuff. We just do, I don’t know. It’s what we love as co-writers, and we both had experiences of certain kinds of people from our past that inspired this film, so we ran with it.
Cryptic Rock – It’s an intriguing story, one with phenomenal character development—which is a true strength of the film. Normally the book comes before the film, but, as a talented writer, would you ever consider turning this story into a novel?
Alexis Kendra – I’m open to sharing my stories in whatever medium – I wouldn’t say no!
Cryptic Rock – That would be an interesting plot twist to have The Cleaning Lady, the book. Back to the film, your character Alice is very much the reverse of the stereotype: a super sweet, caring, and thoughtful woman who is both beautiful and well-to-do. Was it nice to be able to personify a character who flips the stereotype?
Alexis Kendra – What I like about Alice is that she, on the surface, seems like what you said: super sweet, caring, well-to-do, but as the tale develops we learn she is in a 12-step program for love addiction to try to stop seeing a married man. I think this flaw possibly makes her more likable and/or relatable, because the last thing I want to see in a film is a woman who has it all and is “perfect” – then I don’t mind so much if bad things happen to her. Who relates to perfection? Alice is in pain: she’s sad and she’s fighting for her life—no pun intended. It starts out bad for her and gets so much worse.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, being flawed makes you real, and being real is what makes an audience want to cheer for you, for sure. Interestingly, as you mentioned earlier, in the short film version of The Cleaning Lady, you played Shelly. What made you make the dramatic swap for the feature-length production?
Alexis Kendra – It came down to casting. We just couldn’t find a woman to play Alice, at all. The director looked at me and without him saying anything, I said, “Are you sure?” He was like, “Absolutely.”
Cryptic Rock – Perhaps that was fate intervening on your behalf, because the role-swap turned out brilliantly. Obviously, Shelly’s character is now portrayed by Rachel Alig, and you have a wonderfully natural chemistry with her on-screen. Did you have a hand in selecting her for the role?
Alexis Kendra – Thanks for saying that, she was a pleasure to act with. I thought of her, because she was in my first film, Goddess of Love (2015), that I produced. She had a tiny role and was underused; I always knew I would use her in another project. When you find a quality actress, you never let ‘em go. Quality acting is too hard to come by.
Cryptic Rock – This was perfect casting on your part, as Rachel is perfectly haunting in the role of Shelly. As for the film, besides being entertained, what do you hope audiences take away from the experience?
Alexis Kendra – I hope people leave appreciating their lives for what they are despite whatever shortcomings, or failures, or disappointments are present. Because, as we see with Alice, it can always be worse.
Cryptic Rock – That’s an excellent take-away from the film. Curiously, the ending is left fairly wide open. Should fans expect a sequel?
Alexis Kendra – We’re not working on one now, but I’m open to that, for sure.
Cryptic Rock – That would be very intriguing to see where you might take the story next. Now, outside of film, you have some philanthropic interests. Can you tell us more about that and what inspired you to get involved in charity work?
Alexis Kendra – Honestly, I was in my early twenties and wasn’t working much and took a trip to India—and a decade later I have a few orphanages. That idea started on a paper napkin and is still going strong. I saw too much poverty in India the first time I went to come back to L.A. and go back to Pilates and act like what I saw isn’t there. I had to help! It’s a massive responsibility: I was quite naive when I started them, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Cryptic Rock – That’s such a credit to you, as a person, to take the time to get involved and to stay involved for all these years. Okay, last question and something more light-hearted. At Cryptic Rock, we cover music as well as films, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. Clearly you are a fan of Horror, but are you also a fan of Science Fiction? If so, what are some of your favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Alexis Kendra – Favorite question ever! Here we go and not in order: Last Tango in Paris (1972), Irreversible (2002), the original Martyrs (2008), the original The Vanishing (1993), the original Audition (1999), Dumplings (2004), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Alien (1976), The Shining (1980), Inside (2007), High Tension (2003), and The Invitation (2003).