In Devereux Milburn‘s first feature film, HONEYDEW, a young couple are forced to seek shelter in the home of an aging farmer (Barbara Kingsley) and her peculiar son, when they suddenly begin having strange cravings and hallucinations taking them down a rabbit hole of the bizarre.
For the release of the film, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to speak with Barbara Kingsley about her character, Karen. During our chat, we discussed everything from starring in her first feature film, getting into the headspace of Karen, horror movies, and more!
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Barbara. What attracted you to the role of Karen and how was it working with Director Deveraux Milburn?
Barbara Kingsley: First and foremost, when somebody says they have an important role in a film for a woman who is in her sixties you go yeah, let me see that! Then the fact that it’s a farmer and her son, and that it’s a woman that is masterminding, you know, and keeping this “family” and the farm solvent. As a woman, that kind of strong character just really appealed to me. I had not seen the script before – there was no full script for me to look at when I auditioned, but there was something about the melody of the language that Devereux wrote, even in the audition scenes, that I went, man, you’re really intriguing me here, I like the way you write your music, your textual music. And then meeting him, I could totally put myself in his hands and I knew I’d be absolutely fine. There was such chemistry and he’s such an amazing talent. I had seen a few of his shorts and stuff before we met and I liked his take as a filmmaker, although HONEYDEW seems an odd representation of that (laughs). He’s just an amazing human being who gathered a crew and a team that put it together in such a short period of time. It was all about the work, in an oddly nurturing and supportive way. I felt safe every step of the way. Plus, I’d never starred in a feature film before!
Oh wow! Congratulations! What a hell of a movie to star in!
Barbara Kingsley: Thank you! I’ve starred in a lot of plays, that was the bulk of my career, and I’ve shifted in the last seven years. My husband and I are both stage actors and he played my husband, Eulis (Stephen D’Ambrose), in HONEYDEW.
I had no idea he was your husband! How was it working with him on HONEYDEW?
Barbara Kingsley: We’ve been married for 41 years. Two actors married to each other who were both really about the work. It was never about the ego. It’s always been about the work and raising two kids, that’s who we are. So it was really nice at the end of a long day of shooting to come home and be with him as opposed to being alone.
Karen is an interesting egg, to say the least. When preparing for the role, how did you get into her headspace, especially as a mom?
Barbara Kingsley: Exactly! She’s a tough-love mom and she’ll do anything for her family. I think her moral compass is so tightly wound that looking at it as an audience member we go, “Well, it’s warped beyond repair.” Karen has a very, very strong moral compass. She’s deeply committed to the Bible and her own religious bent. She’s a survivalist who’s a hardscrabble person/farmer who knows that the land is often unforgiving. And I think she translated that into the raising of all of the children who came her way, by accident or by invitation (laughs). Devereux gave me this wonderful little clip of his own grandmother who had this amazing whimsy to her. That was really helpful because if you take all of that and add a strange whimsy to her, it takes a lot of the brutality away. What she does is brutal, maybe, but she’s not a brutal person. It’s just that her line of demarcation is razor-thin.
Was there ever a moment during filming where you were doing a scene and you were like, “Nope, this is too much!”?
Barbara Kingsley: Nope! Once you go in, you cannot judge your own character. There is a reason that Karen does everything she does. We didn’t get to experience them as much because it’s not about that journey so some things were edited out. There is a very, very short sequence of Karen sitting on a bed holding a nightgown, that Riley is wearing later on, and weeping. We never see her face, but you hear her sobbing and it’s such a tiny human moment that tells us how grief leads to behaviors that…you know. I know that’s digging deep from my own character’s point of view. Without wanting to give anything away, if you think about Delilah and a mother’s love… I was allowed to kind of build my own physicality into things because of the sacrifice she made early on for her own daughter. So that’s how you go in, you really can’t judge her.
My last question for you is are you a horror fan or is there a horror movie that you really enjoy?
Barbara Kingsley: I’m not a fan of watching gratuitous horror experiences play out on the screen in front of me. I can’t watch…I can’t even watch Al Capone movies (laughs). That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have a great time doing them because I love creating. I love creating a character that’s that close to the edge. I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers. One of my favorite horror movies is The Shining because I just knew it wasn’t going to end well and I kept saying, “Leave, oh my god, please leave!” It’s like walking down the dark hallway, you know you shouldn’t do it but you do it! So those are the “horror movies” I’m drawn to.
HONEYDEW is now available on Video On Demand, Digital HD, and DVD. For more on the film, check out our review here.
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