At Sinister Creature Con, Pophorror had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely and talented Tristan Risk. Tristan took the time to answer some questions about her role in American Mary, her burlesque show, and her new upcoming projects… plus a few words from Burns the Dragon.
PopHorror: I would love to hear more about your burlesque show.
Tristan Risk: And I would love to tell you everything about it! Now that it’s June, this marks my seventeenth year being a burlesque dancer, which is amazing because I’m still twenty-one, right? Anyways, I’m part of the West Coast Sass Master’s Sweet Soul Burlesque. They’re a burlesque collective based in Vancouver. You know, there’s lots of crossover with different members. Melody Mangoon, for an instance, is also in Screaming Chicken and we have Crystal Precious who is a curvy, plus-sized rapper from Winnipeg as well as a strip teaser, and then you have myself transitioning from being burlesque to circus side show. I have another troop which is a circus side show called the Caravan of Freaks and we just recently completed a west coast tour of the USA with the Squidling Brothers circus sideshow from Philadelphia. It’s pretty awesome.
PopHorror: Do you have certain characters that you portray in burlesque? Did you portray a character on tour?
Tristan Risk: On tour, I got really lazy and I didn’t want to do my hair every night so I would wear these little horns and head wrap and just braid my hair and put a flower in it and called it done. This was partly because, if I wound up doing fire, I wasn’t gonna set my hair on fire. And I also was like, “I just want to be a cute, little forest animal cause now we have a dragon and got a whatever.” I was that “whatever.” But normally when I perform, I’m telling a story without words and nudity or some kind of nudity. Sometimes fire. Sometimes I will embody a character with a cosplay performance of Sailor Pluto, so I try to really kind of like sell that to the audience. Or if I’m doing a recognizable character.
When I’m doing my own stuff, it’s usually pretty sassy, usually fairly inappropriate. I do a number with an animatronic vagina dentata made by MASTERSFX and it sings along with the end of the track and it usually ruins somebody’s night. If it doesn’t, then I haven’t done my job properly. In other acts, I do incorporate flaming tassels on my pasties or contact fire or dancing with a giant snake. I always try to do something that has a little bit of me in it but then also a little something extra strange… you know, far more strange than normal for me.
PopHorror: How did you you get started with American Mary?
Tristan Risk: I was actually brought on board to be the dance coordinator originally. The girl that you see Sylvia make out with in the film who she bites before she goes upstairs to have her meeting with Mary was actually the role I was suppose to play, but instead was played by Spooksy Deloon, another burlesque dancer from Vancouver. I went in to meet with them about the parts and they were like,”We have not found a Beatress yet.” Of course, I read the script and I was like, “That’s cool.” “It’s too bad you don’t act.” “Oh, I act.” “Its too bad you don’t do voices.” “Oh, I can do voices.” They were like, “We know you can dance. Do you want to audition for Beatress?” And I was like, “Yes. Yes I do.”
PopHorror: So they put you through the ringer then.
Tristan Risk: They made me do two auditions because everything has to be fair, but I went in there and I was like, “You know I’m going to mud wrestle anybody else who is up for this role.” It’s like Highlander – there can be only one and I’m willing to bring out a broadsword to get that, so… You know, a metaphorical broadsword, not an actual one. So I ended up getting the role and that is how I got involved with American Mary. Initially, I was never suppose to be a performer in it beyond just dance coordinator but then I wound up coaching Katie onstage when she was doing her dance sequence. She did very, very well doing that to for someone who claims she has never done stripper moves before. Well, maybe if this acting thing doesn’t pan out for ya, you’ve got a future as a pole jockey.
Burns the Dragon: Isn’t usually the other way around – start as the pole jockey trying to become the actress.
Tristan Risk: Well, that is what happened to me. I’m a failed stripper but fairly successful actress.
PopHorror: So did American Mary segue your career into acting?
Tristan Risk: Yeah. I wasn’t doing any professional acting outside of theater and super amateur theater, weekend warrior-type stuff, which was fun but it wasn’t, like, my hustle. Now it’s opened a lot of doors, doing American Mary, that I’m getting all these opportunities that I never would have gotten before. It’s all because of that film. If it hadn’t happened, I’d still be baking pot cookies in East Van. I still do that anyway, but now it’s not my main source of income.
PopHorror: I know you just had a movie come out Frankenstein Created Bikers. What was your experience with that?
Tristan Risk: It was a fabulous time! Jill Sixx was AD on it and I worked with her before on other films that she had directed me in. Lawrence Harvey, who I’ve done many films with, is wonderful man and we’re like the Boris and Natasha of the genre. “Oh, I am gonna be in this one. Can my friend come?” Then Ellie Church, who I had also worked with before, was part of it, so I felt it was a big group of my friends in this genre world getting together to make a film.
The film was so much fun! It was, like, Atlanta and it was hot and my boots were filling up with sweat and the dudes are wearing denim and leather and I am like, “I bet they got some ball soup going on. Now I don’t feel so bad about me.” Everyone was just in good spirits and it really reminded me a lot of the Mary set where it’s like, really we love it and we’re having a lot of fun and working extra hard because we want to make it awesome. So, that is why I lost my heart a little to Frankenstein Created Bikers and I love my character, Val. She’s such a bitch.
PopHorror: Tell me about your new kid’s movie.
Tristan Risk: Yeah, I’ve done Aliens Ate My Homework, which is an adaptation of a book written by Bruce Coville. The book is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and I play a character called Madame Pong who is a diplomatic officer of the starship Furfull. I wear a lot of prosthetics, as do all the other aliens. It’s all practical effects and we were shooting on set, so it had giant, oversized objects, but it’s also married with some visual effects. You have the base of the practical effects with a little shimmer of the CGI over the top which is just going to make it absolutely perfect. MASTERSFX did all the practical effects for it and they are, once again, incredibly iconic designs. I can’t wait for it to get released because I really want people to see what my face looks like in that. You thought I looked weird as Beatress, well, check this out.
PopHorror: Do you like working in prosthetics?
Tristan Risk: I love it. When I was doing theater and dance, I was doing a lot of mask work, which is using your whole body to tell the story, not just your face. A lot of actors have to be trained in facial subtlety. Doing anything with my actual face, I find, is the hardest thing to do because like I am like, “Oh, God. I have to use my actual face now.” Where as when I am in prosthetics, I can be more of a character. I can be more of a creature and honestly, as a female actor, as you age, you are going to probably encounter people who are used to you being sexy, then when you’re not fuckable anymore, all of a sudden, it’s like your roles get dialed back a bit. I feel if I can transition into something like Doug Jones, where I am just doing suit and mask work, it doesn’t fucking matter what my face looks like when I am forty, fifty, sixty, eighty. I’m still doing good work, so it doesn’t matter. It’s kinda like the Dorian Gray – I’m frozen in time and my characters will never, like, upset your perception of me as a person, but you still can enjoy the characters, knowing I know there’s an old lady in there. Cool.
We would like to thank Tristan Risk for taking the time for the interview. We look forward to every single project that Tristan has in the future.