Interview – Stacey Nelkin

Life is full of a broad range of emotion, it is the anatomy of a human being. For accomplished actress Stacey Nelkin, those emotions define her much deeper than her career in film, as she currently assists others in real life relationship issues. Well-known for her leading role in 1982 cult classic Horror film Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Nelkin’s diversity has seen her in full-length feature Comedies as well as television series such as Generations, CHiPs, The A-Team, Eight Is Enough, 1st & Ten, and more.

Aware of the affection many have for her role in John Carpenter’s contribution to the Halloween series, she is never afraid to recall fond memories of working on set. Recently we caught up with Nelkin for a personal look at her career in acting, her experience working on Halloween III: Season of the Witch, her passion for helping others, and more. – You started your acting career back in the late 1970s on a variety of television series before breaking into feature films with the 1980 comedy, Serial. Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to start acting?

Stacey Nelkin – It is so interesting, because I uses to watch Dark Shadows (1966-1971) when I was nine and I was obsessed and madly in love with Quentin, who was the lead character. I used to fantasize about him saving me or putting myself in all of these scenarios. Then with Medical Center (1969-1976), Dr. Gannon… it was part of my dysfunctional background and not having a dad around that I would fantasize that I was in these shows with these men saving me, it is pretty weird (laughs). Then school plays, I started doing the readings all the time and I realized I had a good time! I was always a film buff and loved going to the movies. Because I was living in New York City, I was easily able to get an agent when I was fourteen and started from there. I studied, took a lot of classes, and did a lot of theater. It was just one of those things, you are born with it, and when you are young, you just have this feel for it. A lot of it was from watching TV and seeing these actors and wishing they could be my dad or whatever it was. That drives people who are in the creative arts, usually it is from something personal, some need, something missing.

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures – That is very interesting, so you took that and harnessed into acting. Many remember you from your lead role in the 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. This was in fact the third film in the series and perhaps the most controversial among fans. How did you land the role of Ellie?

Stacey Nelkin – Oh, that was fun! I was dating, at the time, a guy named Perry King. We met doing a miniseries called The Last Convertible (1979). We fell madly in love. The makeup artist on that movie, Ron Walters, was then hired a few years later to do Halloween III. Ron, Perry, and I, we were all very close, and we would hang out. Ron was telling me that they could not find the lead girl for this. They already had Tom Atkins set because he already had this relationship with John Carpenter. They were getting really close to shooting and they could not find the lead girl, and he kept saying, “Stacey, would you be interested?” I really was not. I was doing a lot of comedies at the time, and other things.

It was really getting close now, it was like two weeks away from when they were set to shoot and they could not find somebody. My agent called and said, “Just read the script.” I read the script and I fell in love with the character, Ellie Grimbridge. I went in, read, and it was one of those great things. I was literally walking in the door on my way home from the audition and the phone was ringing. They said, “Stacey, you got the part,” which never happens. It was so great because usually you are waiting, all anxious. So, I got the part, and about a week later, we were up filming in Northern California. It happened that way. It was really because of the makeup artist that it happened, through Ron, who did the makeup on the movie. It was phenomenal.

Universal Pictures – It is interesting that you were almost apprehensive about the film at first. It seemed as though everything worked out.

Stacey Nelkin – It is very funny because Halloween III, in all honesty, was never one that I would talk about because I was never a Horror fan myself. I loved doing comedies and I thought these other movies were more interesting. Over the years, Halloween III has become a cult classic. I have come to really love it and appreciate it. I love getting to meet these Horror fans, people like you, because they are very cool and interesting people.

It has really become this cult classic! This movie has just taken off and I love getting to talk to fans. I did see Halloween I (1978) and II (1981). I did not see Halloween IV (1988), V (1989), VI (1995), and all the rest. What happened was, when I was very young, I saw The Exorcist (1973) and it scared the you-know-what out of me! I remember not being able to sleep for several weeks and got really anxious, because I was a pretty anxious kid, so I never really went to see these, so I could make these kinds of movies. It really, just out of nowhere, became one of these classics. – Yes, it really has. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was in fact the final Halloween film in the series to have creator John Carpenter involved. He did not work on the films after that.

Stacey Nelkin – It shows, it really does (laughs). – There are fans on both sides of the fence, some who adore it, others not so much. When it came out, do you recall the initial reaction from audiences and do you think time has been kind to it in the grand scheme of Horror history?

Stacey Nelkin – I definitely think time has been very kind to the movie. It has found its audience more and more in a kind of snowball effect, and more people are getting into it. I do not remember at the time, because it really did not play for that long in the movie theaters, and it was a big disappointment, I believe, for the producer Moustapha Akkad. It was kind of a disappointment because it did not do so well at the time. The reason so many people got upset was because they wanted Mike Meyers, right? They wanted that same thing.

Tommy Lee Wallace, the director of Halloween III, who was very involved with John Carpenter, told us originally with Halloween III, the idea was that, every year, they were going to make a new, different Halloween film. It was going to be a really interesting kind of thing, so the fans would have had something new each year. Then somebody chickened out and they went back to the basics, back to I and II.

The reason I also think Halloween III stands out so much is because it is more of a Science Fiction film. It is a little bit like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and people like that kind of surreal twist to it. It is not just a Slasher movie. I love the movie. I have really come to love it and I see more and more out of it when I watch it.

Still from Halloween III: Season of the Witch – You are right. The initial concept behind Halloween was that there was supposed to be different tales, like you said. Do you feel like that was why people were so on the fence about it, because they did not understand that? People enjoy a centralized character in films, but many would think it would have been intriguing to see Halloween as a different story for each film.

Stacey Nelkin – Absolutely! I think what happened though, was that it really confused people. They called it Halloween III, they did not just call it Season of the Witch, and they did not publicize enough the fact that this was made by the same people but was going to be a whole departure. You had all of these people expecting something and then they got something different. Then nobody really talked about why it was different. Then they went back to the original, which confused people even more.

If something like this had come out today, with all of the communication online, it would have been different. People would have said, “Oh, okay,” and word would have gotten out. They did not throw the money into changing the idea in those days, because they were a lot more expensive. You could not just do it online. Nobody let anybody know that they were changing the idea, and they never let anybody know that this one was going to stand on its own, which is what it has done. I get people coming up to me all the time saying, with complete embarrassment, kind of like it’s a secret, “This one is my favorite one!” They feel like they have got to be loyal to I, II, IV, V, and whatever. It is really interesting!

Still from Halloween III: Season of the Witch – Right, and it is interesting to see what history has shown about the movie. On Halloween III: Season of the Witch you have worked alongside Horror icon Tom Atkins. What was it like working with Tom?

Stacey Nelkin – Tom was great. He was a complete gentleman. Of course, one of our first scenes together was the scene in bed, which is kind of how it goes for us actors. He could not have been more of a gentleman. Things like that are never very sexy and they are never very comfortable to do, either. They are a strange situation. He was just a total gentleman and a very generous actor. No diva attitude, nothing. He was great.

Still from Halloween III: Season of the Witch – That is great to hear. You have quite a diverse resume, with the aforementioned Horror interest, but you also have been in a variety of Comedies as well, as you stated earlier. How important is it to you as an actress to challenge yourself with different roles?

Stacey Nelkin – To have the option is great. To be able to do different things is what you want to do in life and in acting. You want to explore all of those different sides of yourself. Honestly, I like doing Comedies better than Drama because I feel like I had so much drama in my life growing up, and so many scary things happening. I like to laugh, because it would get me out of that dark sometimes. Now, I can really appreciate the dark stuff. In those days, when I was really working a lot, I preferred the lighter stuff because I did not want to get into all of that dark stuff. I think, as an actress, you are lucky if you get to do anything, honestly.

Orion Pictures
Miramax Films – Yes, and you are fortunate if you get to do things that you want to do. It does seem like you got to do a lot of things that you wanted to do. There is a lot to be said about a Comedy. Who does not love something that makes you feel better? Like you said, we all have our own issues in life. Life takes things too seriously, sometimes.

Stacey Nelkin – Exactly, I think that is why most of us got into acting, directing, or writing. When we are in our dark side, we need to get it out. We need to exorcise it. – Absolutely. In recent times, you are still actively acting, but you have turned a lot of your energy to helping others with relationships. As you had mentioned, you have had some issues when you were younger and such, so one can see why you are helping people. Do you find it therapeutic, helping others with their issues?

Stacey Nelkin – Definitely! There is nothing more therapeutic than helping somebody else. I am sure you have experienced that yourself. Just giving to somebody else or talking to a friend makes you feel better. That is something you learn when training. Right now, I am trying to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. I am getting certified in that. That is something that we learn, is that one of the therapeutic aspects in life is helping other people.

By helping others, we are actually helping ourselves. Thank you for bringing all that up, because it is something, later in life, I found out that I love to do, and maybe have a little knack for. I also got certified as a Drama Therapist, so that ties in all my years of acting with all of my years of therapy (laughs). It involves using role play and those kinds of things to help people work on their issues. – That is actually quite interesting. Going by what you said about your background and having issues, it is something that make sense. A lot of times, people who end up in the types of fields that help people, people like psychiatrists or drug counselors, they have had these issues in the past. They have been confronted with them with a family member who was an alcoholic or some such, so people completely understand that. Out of curiosity, in your experience working in this field now, what are one of the things that you notice most about people, what their hang-ups are?

Stacey Nelkin – Oh, wow, what a great question! I think most of us have problems with being human. Part of the human condition is perfectionism – that we want to be better and we do not feel worthy. A lot of it is insecurity. Something happened to us, maybe, when we were younger, and we believe it is our fault. This can happen in a kid whose parents get a divorce. – Exactly, many blame themselves for matters.

Stacey Nelkin – Right! They blame themselves, and this starts this seed of insecurity and wanting to be better and feeling like they did something wrong. It is so sad when we see things like this, because we are all imperfect. We are all odd. The more we can accept ourselves, the better off we are. We could all help each other, and then we would really be in a good place, right? – As you said, children will have these issues and blame it on themselves. This actually goes on into later on in life, because this can affect their relationships because they are insecure with themselves. They may blame themselves for certain things, or they have a complex about them.

Stacey Nelkin – Not to mention, the statistics are something like 50% – and that’s huge, people who are from families of divorce get divorced themselves. That is what they saw growing up.It perpetuates the cycle. We want to work on this as a society. –That is very interesting that you have chosen to study this in your career.  It is a great thing to do.

Stacey Nelkin – Well, I like to do both. I still act, but more of this happens, certainly, as I get older. The business is not kind to aging actresses. – That is a societal issue. In society, we look at anyone over the age of thirty-five as useless when it comes to an image.

Stacey Nelkin – It’s crazy! It is very sad, but that’s where the money is. Sex and youth sells. – It is honest. It is seen all the time, and it is pretty sad. Youth does sells. Hopefully, things will change in American culture at some point. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror films. I know you said you are not really into Horror, but if you do have some favorite Horror movies, what are they?

Stacey Nelkin – Oh, wow. Well, I love/hate The Exorcist (1973)It is really pretty scary. I used to watch Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996). Yeah, I loved those, those were really good.  I grew up with, as I said, watching Dark Shadows, which was a series on TV. When I was younger, in New York, we had Chiller, a movie channel on Channel 9. They would have a hand coming up from the ground. My best girlfriend and I, we would have sleepovers and we would watch these scary movies with Vincent Price or whomever. It was this thrill, this exciting but scary thing. I like a lot of the old ones, but The Exorcist will forever be burned in my memory because those images are still with me. I can still remember the head revolving around, her vomiting, and just how scary that was.

Warner Bros.
HBO – It certainly is the type of film that sticks with the viewer. How about the music? The music alone, the atmosphere…There are so many things about it.

Stacey Nelkin – Absolutely! Her breathing that smoke. I get these fans that come up, like this one guy who came up to me and said, “God, I saw this when I was ten and it scared the hell out of me!” They love it! These images stay with people. That is pretty cool! There is something we must all love about these Horror films, because we like to be scared. It is testing ourselves on somebody. It is excitement and it is fear, all mixed. Sort of like a roller coaster.

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