After numerous television roles and earning a stack of accolades while on stage, including a Tony Award for her Broadway performance in Jelly’s Last Jam, Tonya Pinkins set her sights on making her own film… a horror movie. Timely and terrifying, Red Pill (available on Amazon here) is Tonya Pinkins feature filmmaking debut. A horror film with its finger on the pulse of the current political and social situations here in the United States, Red Pill tackles these strong issues with satire, horror, and metaphors.
We were thrilled to ask Tonya some questions and discusses her jump to directing, her passion for horror, and what she hopes audiences will see with Red Pill.
PopHorror: After excelling on Broadway as a multiple award-winning performer, as well as several appearances on popular television shows, you elected to dive into feature filmmaking. What was that transition like for yourself? Was it always a goal of yours to sit in the director’s chair?
Tonya Pinkins: For me, I am always seeing creative growth. Maybe I just get bored easily. But the opportunities I started getting as an actor stopped being challenging or even interesting. I used to joke and say I was being hired to be one of the props that eats. Yet, I love performing arts. I tried theater directing. Film was faster and easier to do guerilla-style than theater for me.
PopHorror: Your film, Red Pill, shines an unflinching, scathing light upon our current political climate, pitting far-right fanaticals and racists against a group of passionate individuals standing up for their cause of equality. Was horror always your genre of choice for telling this story?
Tonya Pinkins: Horror is my favorite genre. You can speak the unspeakable in horror. And with Red Pill, I was trying to say both of these groups are bad in different ways. Because of all the styles of horror, you have leeway to get away with so much more that is possible in other genres.
PopHorror: I read in a previous interview that, despite your immense love of writing, a trauma put a stop to this creative endeavor of yours at a young age. What has helped over the years to rekindle your relationship with writing and ultimately inspire you to create Red Pill?
Tonya Pinkins: After my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ford, destroyed the only copy of my first novel, I stopped writing for years. And when I did write, I judged it as not good enough. I think being in the last chapter of my life was the wake-up call to shit or get off the pot. If I don’t say/write what I want to say/write, it will never exist in the world. I had lived under a terminal diagnosis for six years, and when we finally “resolved” it, I just decided that I was willing to do something imperfectly or badly rather than allow my creative ideas to die with me.
PopHorror: What is the best lesson learned from your feature filmmaking debut with Red Pill?
Tonya Pinkins: I learned so many things that I wrote a huge book, Red Pill Unmasked, about it, available on Amazon here. Biggest lesson: finish it and please yourself! There is no right way, but if you do it fully your way, there will be people who get it and respond to it. That is so worth it. Not everybody will like what you make, but out of the 4 billion adults on the planet, you can find your audience.
PopHorror: If you could program a double feature at your local drive-in, what two movies would make your bill and why?
Tonya Pinkins: Double feature, eh? For US audiences, I’d go with Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Return of The Living Dead with Clu Gallagher. Both of those movies deliver humor and scares which is my favorite kind of horror movie. For an international audience, I’d go with the Korean film, Bedeviled, and Mother, because they break every rule of Hollywood story structure and deliver scares, irony, and wit.