Perhaps most recognized by horror fiends from her appearance in Adam Green’s Hatchet II (2010), Alexis Kendra began pursuing a career in the arts through collegiate theater while studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood. Upon graduating from this acclaimed academy, Alexis went on to join the midsummer Shakespeare program at Oxford, accredited by UCLA in association with Yale School of Drama. Working on productions of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew, she polished her craft before transitioning into television with appearances in Criminal Minds and Days of Our Lives. This working actress has since dabbled in writing and producing feature films, including her most recent addition to the indie festival scene, The Cleaning Lady (read our review here).
We recently caught up with Alexis to discuss her love for horror, her experience on set of Hatchet II and her latest feature, which garnished two awards during its festival run.
PopHorror: Hi, Alexis! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Alexis Kendra: Of course!
PopHorror: I’m aware that you have quite the extensive background in film studies and theater. Is it safe to say that you’ve always seen yourself pursuing a career in film?
Alexis Kendra: Yes! Absolutely. I believe I was 10 years-old or younger when my grandmother took me to an outdoor theater in Chicago, and we were watching the musical, South Pacific. There was a blonde woman who came out on stage singing, and as it was an outdoor theater, the stars were out, which made the experience very memorable. I remember looking at that blonde lady and thinking, “I want to do that!” From that moment on, I realized this was what I wanted to do. It was something that changed the course of my life, and my grandmother had no idea. (both laugh) She was just taking me to see this musical.
PopHorror: That’s great to hear that you came to that realization at such a young age! Have you always been a fan of horror?
Alexis Kendra: I was actually not raised watching horror. I didn’t get into the genre until my early 20s when I moved to L.A. What I love most about horror, why I make horror, why I write horror and why I watch horror is because I believe that it is the biggest escape from reality… and I love to escape reality! Some people may want to get drunk. Others may want to travel a lot. There’s all kinds of escapes. There’s thousands to choose from! But what I love is a quality horror film in which I can escape what I know on all levels. That’s what I’m drawn to, and that’s what makes me forget about every day responsibilities. Anything I don’t want to think about for an hour and a half? I don’t think about it when I watch horror, while I do think about it when I’m watching a drama or something else. So, for me, horror is the biggest escape from reality.
PopHorror: I wholeheartedly agree! You’ve gained recognition in the horror community with your appearance in Hatchet II as one of Victor Crowley’s victims. How did you become involved with this cult horror hit?
Alexis Kendra: I auditioned for it. I was in my early 20s and didn’t really know what I was getting into. (laughs) I was totally desperate for a role because I had no money. But I did the film because I respect Adam Green as a director. That is the perfect example of a movie that inspired me to write my own films. I wanted to play roles like Alice and Shelly from The Cleaning Lady and Venus in another film I wrote and produced called Goddess of Love. I’m very much a fan of Brit Marling and Lena Dunham. Those women have written inspiring roles that they just kicked ass in. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. So, when I was doing Hatchet II, I was just a young girl and didn’t really know better. I’m happy to have been a part of it and happy that it’s over.
PopHorror: What was it like working with Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder and Tony Todd under the direction of Adam Green?
Alexis Kendra: Oh, they’re so cool. I remember everyone being really nice. There was no attitude for how famous all of those actors are and all of the films they have done. Especially Candyman. I believe Tony studied Shakespeare a long time ago, so we had that in common, and that was really cool.
PopHorror: What would you say is your favorite memory from the set of Hatchet II?
Alexis Kendra: You know my character’s infamous death scene, right? All of those lines I say during that scene leading up to my character’s death were made up by me. Adam did not write those lines. I wrote those lines. They were so funny on set that we were all laughing so hard, we were crying and couldn’t breathe. So, that was a pleasure. I have never made an entire set laugh like that, and I don’t even know where those lines came from. When I say something along the lines of, “Oh, you like it better than baby Jesus?” (both laughs) That was my line that just came out in the moment, and none of us could stop laughing. So, that was probably the most fun I had on that set.
PopHorror: That was a hilarious moment in the film! More recently, you co-wrote, produced and starred in the film, The Cleaning Lady, which first premiered as a short film by the same name. In the short, you play the film’s antagonist named Shelly. However, you switched roles to play the film’s protagonist in the feature length version. Why the change?
Alexis Kendra: The truth is that we couldn’t find a lead. The truth is that I was going to play Shelly. I was excited to play the villain burn victim. Those are the roles that I’m drawn to, and I was the producer on this project, so I could give myself this role, right? But the beginning of the shoot was closing in, and we couldn’t find a girl to play Alice. I remember my co-producer and the film’s director, Jon Knautz, looking over at me in a meeting. He gave me this look. I’ve known him for so long and worked with him for so many years that I knew this look. I’m like, “Oh, great. I’m playing Alice.” I asked him if he’s sure, and he was, so I said, “Okay! Lets do it.” I knew that Rachel Alig, who ended up playing Shelly, would just nail the role. I knew her from another film that I put her in, and I knew she would be perfect! We let her read for the part just to be sure. She came in and nailed the audition. We gave her the role almost immediately!
PopHorror: Unfortunately, I have never seen the short film version. But you and Rachel give fantastic performances in your respective roles in the feature!
Alexis Kendra: Thank you!
PopHorror: What inspired the story for The Cleaning Lady?
Alexis Kendra: There really were two events that occurred and inspired the story. First, when Jon and I get together, we write horror. We like to write twisted, psychological horror that is usually based around obsession. For whatever reason, that’s pretty much what we have been drawn to. But I had this friend when I was little. Her name was Shelly. We were probably around 9 or 10 years-old. Very little. I put makeup on her, and she joined my group of friends. She was not in the “cool” crowd, but I brought her into the “cool” crowd. Nobody liked that I was doing this, but I didn’t care. I wanted to help her. I liked her. I saw the good in her. I was giving her stuff and painting her nails. I was trying to make her like us. I don’t know, I was so little. But I really liked her.
But where that went wrong was when she started showing up at my front door without any invitation. It was almost like a little bit of a crossed boundary. And now, she was always there. I was so little, but I just remember feeling uncomfortable. I told Jon that story, and he had one of his own. He gave a ride home to a man who he worked with at the time. When he asked Jon to stop the vehicle because he was home, they were by a forest. The man then gets out and walks into said forest. So, when you see the scene in The Cleaning Lady where Alice drops Shelly off by the forest because she says she’s home, that’s real. That actually happened. So, we combined together that story and my childhood story to create an arching plot for when this girl becomes quite obsessive.
PopHorror: Very interesting! What was your favorite part about filming this production?
Alexis Kendra: My favorite part was doing the production design. I was the production designer on the project as well. I had a whole team of people who worked under me, which made it possible for me to wear so many hats, but I picked everything and designed everything of what you saw on the screen. One of my biggest passions is design. I loved creating the tone! I believe that production design and lighting create tone. So, when I’m watching the film, I like the eeriness, the slow burn and what it looks and feels like. I believe that I helped create this element, and that was the most fun that I had.
PopHorror: The production design is typically something that doesn’t get enough credit, and I think you did a great job with it! What would you say was the biggest challenge?
Alexis Kendra: That would be wearing all the hats. Doing all of those positions. I didn’t do all of the positions because we couldn’t hire someone. I had to have the ultimate control. I could never hire a production designer. I would hire an actress over production design. But because of the budget and because we were so close to the shoot, I just decided to fill all of those positions. I did have a lot of help, but I don’t think I slept very much. I remember at one point getting so sick… probably because I was taking on so much! You know the flu where your eyes hurt when you move and your whole body is trembling? That was me, and I couldn’t perform! But I had to do one of the biggest scenes in the film. So, I had to be rushed to an urgent care clinic where I was shot up with a bunch of steroids. In about six hours, I was good! (both laughs) It was insane! I don’t understand exactly how steroids work, but after several hours, I was running around the whole forest! It was a miracle.
PopHorror: Taking on so much responsibility can take its toll, for sure. I’m glad you made it through, though! Do you see yourself taking on so many responsibilities on a single film in the future?
Alexis Kendra: No, I don’t think so. I probably will not act in the next film. I’ll probably take a step back from that and do the production design, producing and writing. Or I’ll act in it and give up one of the other responsibilities. I think I filled one too many roles. When you’re a writer, you’re done when the script is finished, so I can always write. But for the filming process, I think instead of taking on four positions, I think I could do three. I would probably pick between production design and acting. If there’s a specific person I can put in a character role, I would go that route and gladly do the production design.
PopHorror: That’s certainly understandable. It sounds like a lot of work! Do you see yourself ever directing?
Alexis Kendra: Absolutely. I don’t know how that’s going to work with Jon. We might have to rock, paper, scissors for it! (both laugh) So, we’ll see.
Pre-order The Cleaning Lady here!
PopHorror: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to discuss?
Alexis Kendra: We have something in the works. We’re doing some shopping around. We’re looking for financing, going back to the investors we currently have, and we’re trying to get our next script off the ground. So, that’s where we are today.
PopHorror: I look forward to seeing more of your work! Thank you for your time, Alexis.
Alexis Kendra: Thank you for your time as well!
With ongoing success showcasing talent on both sides of the camera, we’re sure to see more from Alexis in the future, and you can bet that it will be covered right here on PopHorror! The Cleaning Lady is available June 4th on VOD, Digital HD and DVD.