May 1, 2019 Interview – Lori Lethin
There is an intangible quality associated with ’80s Horror cinema…it was meant to be fun! Producing a slew of memorable films ranging from the more serious such as 1987’s Hellraiser to the more comical such as 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead, many would argue the ’80s was a golden age for Horror cinema. Through the decade, many up-and-coming actors/actresses got their start in the genre, while others were repeat stars on the scene such as Lori Lethin.
Known for a plethora of television roles through the years, Lethin would go on to become a favorite in the Horror world, starring in a list of films including 1981’s Bloody Birthday, 1984’s The Prey, and 1987’s Return to Horror High. Bowing out of acting over twenty years ago, many fans may wonder, where has Lethin been? Happily devoted to her family and other interests, she recently took the time to chat about her years active in Hollywood, the fun she had on set of low budget Horror flicks, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in entertainment starring in film and television over four decades. First, briefly tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career as an actress?
Lori Lethin – It was on a whim… I thought it might be fun to give acting a try (Laughs). I had never done any theater in high school. A friend suggested I take acting lessons to see if I even liked it. I was in acting class a couple of months and I got my first gig on Charlie’s Angels. It just took off from there.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, that is pretty funny, you just never know where life will lead you right? Speaking of Charlie’s Angels, early in your career you would have various roles in television. How would you compare working in television to feature films?
Lori Lethin – My second job I got was a low budget Horror film called The Prey. As I remember, it was made late 1979 or early 1980 and the film was made in 10-14 days. So, to answer you question… going from working on network television to a low budget feature was like night and day. I’m not even sure there was a dressing room.
I have to admit… I really did prefer doing low budget Horror. I had so much fun and you have to function as a team to get everything done given the time constraints. What’s better than running around at night in the middle of nowhere from scary monsters!
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Depends on who you ask, but it sounds like fun! Of your list of feature film credits, a good deal of your work has been in the Horror genre – from 1981’s Bloody Birthday to 1984’s The Prey and 1987’s Return to Horror High. Do you enjoy working in the Horror genre?
Lori Lethin – Horror was a blast…. Especially in the eighties. It was before big special effects came into play, so basically there was fake blood in all the death scenes… and lots of it! When they did have the money to do something a little more advanced, it never looked like it would look today. Eighties Horror was campy and fun… even the death scenes!
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and that is really what makes it so memorable and endearing. You have also worked in other genres beyond Horror, everything ranging from Drama, Thrillers, to Sci-Fi. As an actress, how important was that diversity to you?
Lori Lethin – You know, I’m the kind of person that is not picky. Every job I worked on I poured the same amount of energy into it. I guess I just got lucky that I got to play so many diverse roles.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, that is a great gift for an actor/actress to have that diversity. It is interesting that some of the films you starred in, including Bloody Birthday and Return to Horror High, have become fan-favorites, even 30 plus years later! Are you often surprised to see how long of a shelf life these films continue to have?
Lori Lethin – I’m not surprised… because I too am a fan of vintage Horror; I’m talking about Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre. My favorite is The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) with Peter Lorre! I also love The Haunting (1963) with Julie Harris.
Cryptic Rock – It’s great to hear you are also a fan of the genre. Let’s talk Return to Horror High. This was an interesting type of Horror film that was much different than what others were doing at the time. What was your experience like working on it?
Lori Lethin – I loved it. It was comedy horror and I never imagined the two would blend so well together. The way it was explained to me was, “it’s a movie within a movie that was never made.” Huh? “And by the way… your playing 3 different roles.” Cool! They said, “We’re just going to put really bad wigs on you and you can take it from there!”
I had a lot of leeway… and, of course, a really talented cast to work with. My favorite was Alex Rocco. I could not keep a straight face when we had our scenes together! He was a real gem!
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it was a great time, and the result was a very interesting film that people still watch today. You actually stepped away from acting back in 1999 to pursue other interests. What led to your decision to leave the industry, and what have you been doing in the years to follow?
Lori Lethin – My kids… I was raising 3 kids and did not want to be away from them. When they got a little older I went back to school and got my masters in Psychology. I worked at a non-profit as a counselor up until about 2 years ago. It was a very rewarding experience.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting to hear. It is also very commendable and understandable that you would want to put your family first, after all, your children are only young once. You will be at the Texas Frightmare Weekend May 3rd through the 5th as one of a select cast members from The Prey. This is actually your first convention ever! How excited are you to be attending?
Lori Lethin – I’m super excited… I’m happy to be able to connect with others like me that love Horror… Especially vintage Horror. I also haven’t seen the other cast members from The Prey, I can’t wait to see how they’re doing.
Cryptic Rock – It should be a very memorable weekend for you. Horror conventions have really blossomed into a great medium for fans and those in the industry to connect on a personal level over the past two decades. That said, had you been approached to attend any conventions in the past? Furthermore, will Texas Frightmare Weekend be one of more appearances to come in the future?
Lori Lethin – I have not been the easiest person to find. (Laughs) I didn’t know that much about them. Ewan Cant from Arrow Video approached me with the idea of a cast reunion, he is the one that put it all together. I loved the idea… so I said yes! I probably will learn more from the people that will be attending. As far as doing more conventions… who knows. More will be revealed.
Cryptic Rock – It would be great to see you make more appearances. Seeing as you have been retired from film for quite some time, have you ever been approached to star in any projects in recent years. If so, is acting something you would consider again?
Lori Lethin – I have not been approached. I have so many interests and I love my life. I guess if the right opportunity came along I would consider it…. You never know!
Cryptic Rock – It is exciting to hear you are keeping the door open. Last question. Besides the titles you mentioned, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Lori Lethin – Like I mentioned before, I’m a big fan of vintage Horror. I also love Comedy Horror. My all-time favorite is Young Frankenstein (1974). I watch that movie every year around Halloween, and simply put, the reason I love it so much is because it makes me laugh!