From shorts to television series, to acting in acclaimed horror films, Suzanne Voss has done it all. She possesses a multi-faceted approach to acting that is rarely seen, housing different tiers to accomplish what is needed for a specific character. I was lucky enough to sit down with Miss Voss to discuss her roles in various features and any upcoming projects she may be involved in.
Hello Suzanne, thank you so much for sitting down with us today! You have such a realistic and captivating demeanor that you produce through your performances. Could you tell us how you got started within the industry?
Suzanne Voss: It’s my pleasure. And thanks for the compliment! I started out, like many of us, acting in school plays with my first role being a brown bear — yes, we all have to start somewhere. I continued acting in high school, college and beyond — all on stage and all in small town Alabama. Generally, I’m a shy, reserved person who’d been groomed to be a nice girl. So, naturally, I was drawn to the stage (much to my parents’ consternation) where I could release the vixen, bitch, murderer and manipulator. After college, I moved across country to San Francisco and found Jean Shelton with whom I studied for many years. And in 1986, I had my first film job doing background work on Howard the Duck (a fun eye-opener). My first speaking role was in Grand Avenue, directed by Daniel Sackheim. Because that was my first big production job, I was scared stiff, but I survived and, much to my surprise, did okay. I continued to work, doing some indie films, commercials, voiceover and an episode of Nash Bridges. And, in 2004, I took a chance and moved to Los Angeles to see if I could be a working actor in a larger and more competitive arena. I wouldn’t say that I’m successful, but I have been fortunate to have done many short films, a few features and a little television since I arrived. And I’ve learned that I’m never happier than when I’m working on set with good people.
I really love the film The Lords of Salem – what was that experience like for you, and how was it playing the role of a witch on such a great Rob Zombie set?
Suzanne Voss: The Lords of Salem was AWESOME to work on! That adventure began with auditioning for Monika Mikkelsen (wonderful person and casting director) with 4 pages of Shakespearian-like dialogue — something to actually sink my teeth into! And as one of Margaret Morgan’s (Meg Foster’s) coven, I got to welcome Baby Satan to this world, dance naked around a bonfire and get burned at the stake — how great is that! From my first read of the screenplay, I looked forward to being burned at the stake; but at the last minute, they decided to shoot the scene with the camera looking at us through a fire bar rather than coating us with fire-proof gel and setting us on fire. Even so, I gave it my all: fighting, screaming, refusing to succumb, until I was physically and emotionally spent—and then I died. It was the best! Rob complimented my work with, “That was fuckin’ scary.” He was very easy to work with. Besides the dialogue, Rob gave us a general idea of what he wanted and left the creation of the scenes to us. Occasionally, he’d step in with a specific direction; otherwise, hands off. His crew was great as well. Jennifer Spence, production designer: created the magical “witches village” where we performed rituals, danced around the bonfire and called forth evil spirits—normal witch activities. Leah Butler, costume designer: created costumes unique to each of us. And Wayne Toth, special effects makeup artist: turned us into “crispy critters.”
Dementia: Part II was definitely one of my favorite festival films from last year, and your performance was really outstanding. What was the process like with getting involved in that feature?
Suzanne Voss: So happy you liked it! Apparently, J.D. Lifshitz and Raphael Margules of BoulderLight Pictures accepted Cinepocalypse’s challenge to complete a feature film from script to screen in 30 days; and if they succeeded, the film would be screened at Cinepocalypse 2017. J.D. and Raphael brought Matt Mercer (All the Creatures Were Stirring, Contracted) and Mike Testin (V.F.W., Browse) on board. Matt reached out to me, telling me the situation and asked if I’d be interested — while only giving me a general idea of the storyline (because it hadn’t yet been written). Having worked with Mike on several projects and Matt on Contracted Phase II, I knew I liked and trusted them both; and accepted the role . . . without really knowing what I was getting myself into!
I know all actors have different approaches to their method or certain roles. Was there any kind of prep work involved with getting into the mindset of your character in Dementia: Part II?
Suzanne Voss: Well, the script arrived the night before my first shoot day, so I really didn’t have much prep time — certainly none to research the disease! And as I read the script, I looked at “Suzanne’s” humanity and her situation, and her reality — my reality — began to take shape. This was personal. I was a lonely widow, missed my husband and recently reconciled with my daughter; I wanted love and happiness. And this young man appeared! How fortuitous! . . . And then I had this hunger which became my driving force and sole focus. There’s a lot of downtime for an actor on set and I would use it to prep for the next scene. Matt was great to work with and made my job easier. And loved working with Najarra Townsend and Graham Skipper. Both Matt and Mike were open to our input and a fair amount of improv happened. Everyone was committed 100% and game for anything. I know I’m prejudiced, but I loved co-creating Dementia Part II and the film continues to delight me. I had so much fun, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
Are there any upcoming projects that you’re a part of that you’d like (and are allowed) to discuss with us?
Suzanne Voss: Yes! I’m excited about participating in a reading of Michael Klug’s latest screenplay, Mom Died. And, later this month I get to dish with Ernie Trinidad for his documentary on Howard the Duck. There are a couple other projects in the works, but, I can only say one is a comedic short and the other a dramatic feature. And then I do have this crazy little idea for a short film, but no idea how it can be realized on screen! It’s going to be fun to try!