December 6, 2019 Interview – Kelli Maroney
One of the more easily recognized faces of 1980s Horror cinema, Kelli Maroney is an actress who simply loves her work. Cheerful, positive, and possessing a keen sense of humor, Maroney is remembered for her many roles which include cult classics such as 1984’s Night of the Comet as well as 1986’s Chopping Mall. In fact, she is so well-remembered and beloved, Maroney continues to find work, including appearances in countless film decade themed documentaries including 2019’s In Search of Darkness.
Enjoying every minute of it all, she recently took the time to talk about her career as an actress, feature films versus television, having her films featured on streaming services such as Midnight Pulp, and a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in film and television for well over three decades. Briefly tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career as an actress?
Kelli Maroney – I always wanted to do it. I think it was because watching black and white movies with my mom used to be my favorite thing. I just watched her face and she got so much pleasure out of it – that’s the important thing to do, is to be able to transport somebody like that and make somebody happy. It was also so glamorous, just the idea of stepping into someone else’s world and getting to be that person for a while was irresistible to me. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I think it was mostly watching movies with my mom; it was that bonding experience and seeing them making her happy. That was all I needed to see.
Cryptic Rock – And you have gone on to make a great career of it. You have worked in Comedy, Drama, and Horror. Is Horror something you saw yourself getting into or did it just come out that way?
Kelli Maroney – It kind of came out that way. It wasn’t like I was going to be a Horror movie star, but on the other hand, Betty Davis was one of my idols. She was a Horror hag as she got older; they used to call them Horror hags, which is terrible. (Laughs) She was always borderline: she was always a little quirky and dark. I was responding to quirky and dark. That lends itself to Horror, but it wasn’t a conscience decision at all. In my first movie I was a psychotic killer, then on the Soaps I played a troubled Lolita. Then I played a cheerleader who was not your cookie-cutter cheerleader. Then I started to become the final girl type character in Horror and I liked it. I developed this anti-hero type of thing and I liked living. (Laughs)
Nobody is more surprised about things that develop in my life – if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your career plan. With any artistic thing, writing or painting, it shows you stuff about yourself you would have never known otherwise. Whatever you are trying to say about life or humanity, you look at it, and realize you’ve said something about yourself. That was way too deep. Let me swim back up to the surface. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) It is a very compelling way to look at it. This year marks the 35th anniversary of 1984’s Night of the Comet. A very fun film, what was that role like for you acting opposite Catherine Mary Stewart?
Kelli Maroney – I love that part so much. When I read the script it was A) really fun, and B) I thought, “Oh my god, zombies? We’re going to have to wear paper bags over our heads when this comes out.” This is not what I had in mind, but the character was so great I was game. We were dead serious about what we were doing. That character touched my heart in a deep way that you wouldn’t have excepted it to but it did.
Cryptic Rock – The film has become a cult classic in a lot of ways. Many of your films have reached cult classic status, such as 1986’s Chopping Mall. Speaking of which, Chopping Mall, as well as 1986’s The Zero Boys, are two of your films that were shown on the streaming service Midnight Pulp as a part of the TOTALLY RAD HALLOWEEN SLASHTACULAR – MAX EDITION!!!. How did you become involved with Midnight Pulp?
Kelli Maroney – I got an email asking if I would promote it, I said sure. I looked at the lineup and it’s not the usual, cookie-cutter list of Horror movies we know and love, and we expect to see in a collection; it’s different. Basket Case (1982), Re-animator (1985), and my two movies in it are kind of off the beaten path. Some of the titles, honestly, even though this is my job, I have not seen. That is saying something to me.
When these films came out we used to have someone drive us to the video store and pray they had it. First of all, if they ever heard about them, second of all if they even had them, third of all if it was even in, because someone else was most likely renting them. It was much harder to see this stuff than it is now. I think most people saw my stuff when cable came in the ’80s. Now with streaming services like Midnight Pulp we have the opportunity to see so many things at our fingertips that it just wasn’t like that back then.
I have catching up to do. People will tell me, “I haven’t seen that,” but don’t be embarrassed! You know what, no one’s seen everything. I have some gaping holes in my education and that’s someone who does this all the time, it’s my life. I still have blind-spots that I still need to see stuff that I have not seen. No one should ever feel like they are behind, because we are all behind.
Cryptic Rock – Exactly, there is so much out there that perhaps we will never get a chance to see it all. With Midnight Pulp the TOTALLY RAD HALLOWEEN SLASHTACULAR – MAX EDITION!!! had a lot of unique titles. They have a lot of titles that really dedicated fans know. What is also really cool it is available for free. It offers a lot.
Kelli Maroney – I was really blown away, I didn’t know what it was. I said if you ever need a host, this is something I would be into because it’s different! This is for real Horror people. We need mainstream Horror that appeals to everybody, but this is for some of us real weirdos. (Laughs) I mean that as a compliment.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and the idea of you being a host is fantastic. Hopefully that will happen in the future.
Kelli Maroney – I always think it’s a nice touch. I have done a couple of things with Joe Briggs and it was so cool; there is such a personal touch. Usually there was a couple of people who you knew who enjoyed Horror, but most people would say, “I don’t want to watch a scary movie!” Now with the internet and conventions, we’re all drawn together and we have a community of people. It’s not just a genre, it’s a life style. They take such joy in it, it’s a deeper part of life than “I really like that movie.” They don’t have Rom-Com conventions. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – You are right, there is a different level of dedication to Horror. Perhaps Sci-Fi is equal to that.
Kelli Maroney – I just did a thing about the ’90s called The Video Store. It’s Sci-Fi, but I’m still in it. Everything is kind of a hybrid; Night of the Comet was sort of both, so was Chopping Mall.
Cryptic Rock – You were recently also a part of another Documentary called In Search of Darkness. What was it like being a part of that?
Kelli Maroney – I was so thrilled. We recently had a screening of it at Beyond Fest. It is four hours, but it flew by. The people who make these movies, John Carpenter, etc., you name it, they were in this movie. They were all so excited, in love with Horror, and they are so enthusiastic that it just flies by. It’s a beautiful thing to see: people’s faces are shining and eyes are sparkling, because they are being asked about something they care so much about. It’s made by fans for fans, it’s not for everybody; not everybody is going to sit there and watch a four hour documentary – you have to be a fan.
I am also in another one about the ’90s called Direct to Video: Straight to Video Horror of the 90s. It was about films they made direct to video in the ’90s when they weren’t trying to get a release, and a lot of subversive things they got to do because of that. I was in the CNN series they did for the movies for the ’80s. I’m very flattered, I got to do four documentaries this year. Somebody must think I know something … don’t tell them. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) That is great you have been a part of so much. Do you have any new projects coming up?
Kelli Maroney – I have movie that is going to be released sometime soon called Exorcism at 60,000 Feet which has a plethora of Horror icons – Adrienne Barbeau, Bill Moseley, Lance Henriksen, Bai Ling, Matthew Moy, and more. It is a plane full of Horror icons. Immediately when you see these people getting on a plane, you know something bad is going to happen, and yes it does! (Laughs) I recently had a premiere of a film that is not Horror related, it is more a darker version of a sitcom called Corky All Grown Up. There is also a really good film that did the festival circuit called Blowing Up Right Now where I have a supporting part in that. I am also going to be on the festival circuit with A Well Respected Man. Again, it is something to do with the world is ending – when the world is ending you think to call me. “Oh, the world is ending? Is Kelli Maroney available?” (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock –It sounds like you have a lot of fun things to look forward to. You mentioned things which are not Horror related, and you have done plenty of that. You have worked on a lot of TV. How would you compare working in television to features?
Kelli Maroney – When you are doing a low budget independent your time on television serves you well because you have you show up prepared and you have to move. I think whether they meant to or not they got kids from the ’80s who were already on Soap Operas because we were okay with a really fast schedule. I don’t know if they did that on purpose or it was a happy accident, but it worked. They knew we weren’t to hold them up; we were trained to delivery.
On Soaps, you don’t stop for any reason. The set will fall down around you, all matter of things can happen, and you just keep going because you don’t stop take. If you watch you can see some really funny things go wrong and the actor is just standing there not stopping. (Laughs) That is the kind of environment we were trained in and it was really useful.
It is hard to say if I liked one or the other. I really enjoy doing television because it goes at a steady clip. I was recently working with some little boys for this ’90s thing I did, and their parents said, “This is so much sitting around.” I said no, this is every movie that you are ever going to be on; that is what the schedule is, it’s never going to be any different than that. A lot of people don’t like that, but that’s just the way it’s shot. It’s two different things and yet it’s the same thing, you’re still going to create a character.
It’s more about what the setup is and how you are going to adjust the performance – whether you’re in a close-up or a two-shot. You’re going to do the same thing on television too though. It used to be a flatter medium, but now it’s not; they have sort of blended. It’s just more about the schedule. Also, today people are killing themselves to get on a Netflix or Hulu series with the advent of all these streaming series; it’s the golden age of television all over again. People you never thought you would ever see do a series are doing them.
Cryptic Rock – That is a very true statement.
Kelli Maroney – You have your Marvel movies which are billion dollar projects, and it’s very hard to get a smaller movie made. Then on the opposite end, people are running around with their cellphones making movies and getting them streamed. The business has changed so fast. The streaming series are the most like films people are used to making. Actors are like rats: we will just go wherever we can work. (Laughs) If you see a bunch of rats there, you know there is food; the same with actors. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Good analogy! Last question. What are some of your favorite Horror films?
Kelli Maroney – The Omen (1976), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Halloween (1978), The Exorcist (1973) of course! Also Candyman (1992). There are a millions others, but those are the ones that spring to mind. I consider things like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) a Horror movie. It all depends on what you consider a Horror movie; everybody’s definition is different.
I really like the possession things because I was raised in a Catholic family, so the whole thing with the church, nuns, priests, and the devil I really respond to. I have never gotten to do one of those, so I look forward to doing a possession movie. I usually watch things as an audience member; I don’t sit there and critique, I just sit there and enjoy it like a person. The first time I see something I just watch it for fun, to be scared, or laugh.