April 2, 2019 Interview – Tiffany Shepis
Growing up in the ’80s, a decade many consider the golden age of Horror, never did Tiffany Shepis imagine that one day she maybe a star in the genre. Getting her start at only 16 years of age in the 1996 cult classic Tromeo and Juliet, Shepis would be on an upward trajectory to indie Horror movie queen, starring in a massive list of features since.
Engraved in the scene, Shepis is not only a beloved actress in Horror, but still proud to call herself a fan. A veteran at this stage, the seasoned actress sat down for an honest recount of her career in movies, her desire for diversity, plans for the future, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in film professionally for over two decades now. Having a length list of film credits, what initially inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
Tiffany Shepis – It was crazy, I was a young kid in New York. I would go into school in Manhattan, where a lot of kids were Broadway kids, so they would read the actors paper and such. I saw an ad that Troma Entertainment was casting for a movie called Tromeo and Juliet (1996). I said, “Oh my god, that’s the company that did The Toxic Avenger!”
I was just a big, huge Horror nerd, I was a big Horror fan and a big ’80s quirky movie fan. I never thought, “Wow, I can go be an actor.” I did some modeling here and there, but it wasn’t until I went to that audition and Lloyd Kaufman gave me a part as Peter. I then said, “Oh my god, I can actually do this?”
There was really no inspiration before that to make movies. It wasn’t until I got my first part that I thought, “This can actually be something I can do.” Then I started taking classes and I learned how to do it, it turned out I had a natural knack for it, and that made me think, “This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.” Once you’ve been on a movie set, you think, holy shit, this is the coolest thing ever, I want to do this!
Cryptic Rock – That is great how it all came about for you. As mentioned, you do have quite a lengthy list of credits over the years. Of your work you have starred in many Horror films. Is Horror a genre you enjoy working?
Tiffany Shepis – 100%! There is really nothing like the love that comes together on a Horror set. Most people aren’t doing it because they’ve made millions of dollars off of it. Now, with Horror being super mainstream, people are making money. Before that, these were movies made by fans. Most of your time on set isn’t particularly glamorous; you’re covered in blood, you’re in locations that are run down, either too hot or too cold.
Places that look as scary as shit aren’t necessarily comforting, you have to love what you do. Because I love Horror movies so much, it’s really just the most fun being in them. That being said, I’ve made Comedies, Action films, Sci-Fi stuff. I’m an actor first, but if you ask my preference, it’s always going to lean towards Horror!
Cryptic Rock – It’s cool to hear you are such a big fan of the genre. You have also worked heavily within the Independent film scene. How would you compare work in Indie film opposed to a bigger budget production?
Tiffany Shepis – Hands down, you want to work on bigger budget things; anyone who tells you otherwise, is a complete liar. The more money you have, the more perks you have. The more cool gadgets you have, the cooler effects you can do. It just gives you more room to play, and I think, less things as an actor to worry about, knowing they have everything under control. Not saying you can’t make a great movie with no money, certainly you can, it’s just a a lot harder.
It’s kind of like life, can you have a good life without being rich? Absolutely! Can you have a better life if you have some money? Probably. You can afford yourself the time go to on a vacation, right? (Laughs) I liken that to movie making; you can definitely make a great film on budget, but it’s just a heck of a lot easier if you have money to fool around with.
That being said, most of my movies are in the micro-budget ranges, they are small mom and pop, cookie cutter films that are put together with just a whole lot of love. Some of my most fond projects have come out of that. Some of my favorite movies are the ones I have gotten paid the least on and had the least amount of money to play with; so I guess what the fuck do I know! (Laughs)
I just like making movies with people that are good at what they do, passionate about what they do, and are prepared at what they do. There is nothing worse then coming onto a movie, whether it be big budget or small budget, and people not having their shit together. Then you think, what the heck am I doing here? The key is, no matter what size budget you have, if you’re prepared, you can make something great.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, it is about what you can do with your resources and your imagination. Seeing that you have been quite busy over the years, how do parts usually come about for you and how do you decide which projects you want to be involved with? Sometimes with Indie films, someone can have big ideas, but do not have what it takes to get it off the ground.
Tiffany Shepis – For years, it really would be the person’s passion that came behind it. If someone came to with me and gave me their pitch of what the project is and this is why we want you in it; you can usually get me with “this was written for you.” (Laughs) Everyone wants to hear they are thought of in those processes. That has always been really cool and I’ve been really fortunately to work with a lot of people who had grown up genre fans like myself. They maybe grew up with me, maybe their first Horror film they saw was something I did, and that inspired them to make movies. Usually they think, “Wow, someone got that piece of shit made, I can do that too.” (Laughs)
If it’s something cool, something new, or something I haven’t done before, or again, since this is also my business, is the money right? It’ general has to fall into one of those categories – am I doing this for the money, am I doing this because it’s something different, or am I doing this because I think this person has something special. Sometimes it’s all of the above.
For instance, the movie I did called The Violent Kind (2010), I think it was a bit of everything. I was really excited to work with The Butcher Brothers, I have always wanted to play a demonic, crazy person, and I thought the passion was all there; it really did come all together. That movie played Sundance, did very well, and people love it! Sometimes you get lucky and get a slam dunk of all of the above. Sometimes you are in a passion project that maybe didn’t have the budget or distribution that get it pushed out to where it should have been. You think, if that director gets the money, one day we can remake that the way it should be.
As far as how I choice movies now? Now that I’m a little older, I’m trying not to do 50 movies a year. It is mostly because I got sick of being, “I’m the person who made 120 movies, and only 10 are great.” (Laughs) I am really trying to be a little more selective with the stuff I come across. Hopefully it shows and I do something that is a little different for the fans.
We did a movie recently called Texas Cotton (2018). It features a lot of Horror stars, but it’s not a Horror film, I thought that was really interesting. A lot fans came to the premiere in Texas and were really kind of tickled by the fact that it was something really different, and they got to see me something that they hadn’t seen before. That’s my goal right now, to just do different stuff that can surprise people and hopefully surprise myself.
Cryptic Rock – It is great to keep challenging yourself and changing things up. You mentioned you are not doing as many films as you had done the past, but there were quite a few films released in 2018 that you starred in. So what coming up for you in 2019?
Tiffany Shepis – We’ll have to see. I just did some voices for the new season of Robot Chicken, which is awesome because I’ve worked with them before. I never like to say this, because I think it sounds so douchy, but I’m working on a project that ‘I’m not really allow to talk about.’ I am working with some good friends, who are really awesome genre staples, like Felissa Rose and Kane Hodder. We are reuniting for something that I’m really not allow to talk about yet, but you’ll dig it when I can.
I’m just kind of waiting for other things to come out and come around, we’ll see what the year brings. There will be a lot of conventions, I’m going to Germany for the first time this year for a convention called Weekend of Hell. I’m just floating around and seeing what’s next!
Cryptic Rock – Sounds good. You attend a lot of conventions. What’s it like going to these conventions and spending time with fans?
Tiffany Shepis – I love it so much! You have to remember, I came from the Troma camp, and with Troma, you live and breath for the fans. There are a lot of things Lloyd Kaufman is good at, but the number one thing he is great at is being gracious with the people that helped that company stay alive; which is the fans, the people watching the movies!
I know damn well I would not be doing shit, if it wasn’t for the people who watch my stuff. I love going to conventions. I love meeting people there, I love hearing about the movies other people are watching. I don’t even care about the movies I’m making, I want to know what you’re watching on TV that I need to watch. I get tons of new show ideas at conventions. Most of our friends make Horror movies, so what’s the difference talking to friends at home, or friends at conventions. Let’s just hang out and talk Horror!
Cryptic Rock – The conventions are a blast. There is nothing like the Horror scene. It is really only the one genres that has such a dedicated fanbase that you can hold conventions.
Tiffany Shepis – You don’t have it in other genres, and there is no other genre that has that kind of comradarie. I’ve actually match-made people. You will see people walking around by themselves because none of their friends like Horror movies. Within 2 minutes, I can say, “Bro, did you see this other dude’s t-shirt?” Next thing you know, 2 people are talking and you see that guy walking around with a new group of 5 friends. It’s crazy, but Horror fans really embrace each other that way. If nothing else, because we are all just such weirdos ourselves for liking Horror movies.
Cryptic Rock – Exactly, it is very cool. Beyond Horror, what are some other genres you would like to work in?
Tiffany Shepis – I really like doing Dramas. There are so much drama in Horror movies themselves, but my movies tend to be the more campy of them. I love to cry on cue, give me stuff where I can cry, and maybe I can make you cry.
I’d also love to do Comedy. I started taking classes at The Groundlings. I’m no where near as good as some of these people, but I think it’s an avenue I’d love to tap into. Who knows, maybe this year will be my year, right?
Cryptic Rock – Why not. You have to keep pushing the envelope.
Tiffany Shepis – For sure. As I said, Horror and Comedy toe the line within each other. You have these moments of ridiculousness in Horror films to kind of lighten the mood. I think they have always somewhat gone hand-in-hand. Some of the funniest people I’ve known are people who have starred in Horror films. Hopefully I can tap into that.
Cryptic Rock – Go for it! Seeing you have done so many films, what would you say are some of the most important things you have learned from your career as an actress?
Tiffany Shepis – I think number one is, and this is good for regular people life advice, don’t take opportunities for granted. I started in the industry so young, sort of grew up in LA at a time when I was getting offered auditions for some really cool stuff. You would go, “I can just read through in the morning before I go,” because you want to this really cool party the night before; kind of crazy kid things you do. I really wish I could rewind all that and not take those opportunities for granted, really pour everything I had into them, and see where the career could have taken you.
I think that is an important life/career lesson, for anyone, but definitely people who act in Hollywood. It’s really easy to caught up in the limelight of fun parties, fancy events, and less craft work. I think that’s something I’ve learned and something I try to hone in on now; taking every opportunity, seizing every moment, and putting everything I have into them.
Also, being nice to people! You have to see the people who’ve come up; I’ve made so many people’s first movies. You never know what people are going to go on to to do, don’t be a jerk. Again, that is a normal life lesson too. The guy who worked with you at the bank as a teller, can end up being a CEO one day. You want to maintain a level of professionalism all around and I think it will transfer.
Cryptic Rock – Good advice. Last question, and it’s a big one, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Tiffany Shepis – That’s tough. My favorite one growing up, and still to this day, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Probably because when I saw it at the time I thought, how cool is Nancy! It was just a movie of strong female characters. I love really weird stuff too, like The Lair of the White Worm (1988) and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988).
For modern stuff, I really loved The Witch (2015), that really stuck with me, the same with Get Out (2017). Don’t Breathe (2016) I thought was a mind-fuck of a movie. There is a lot of cool new stuff coming out that is pushing boundaries in different ways that I didn’t think Horror was going to do. I am excited about all the new things people are putting out there. We’ve been into TV shows. We were really into The Haunting of Hill House, I have so much love for that show. It’s unbelievable and I can’t wait for the next season.