Interview: Felissa Rose of “Sleepaway Camp”

words by Jackson Ellis | photo courtesy of Felissa Rose
| Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Felissa RoseAfter her memorable, haunting performance as Angela in the 1983 slasher classic Sleepaway Camp, actress Felissa Rose nearly vanished from Hollywood. However, while only appearing in two film roles between the ages of 13 and 30, Rose kept busy attending school and honing her craft, performing onstage for years across New York City.

Now, a decade into her return to Los Angeles and the silver screen, Rose has practically picked up where she left off. Earning her status as a “scream queen,” she appears in a slew of horror films every year — even reprising her role as Angela in 2008, her first appearance in a Sleepaway Camp film since the original (the role was picked up by Bruce Springsteen’s younger sister, Pamela, in the two 1980s sequels).

Felissa took some time to chat with us shortly before Halloween. Enjoy!

Following your appearance as Angela in Sleepaway Camp, you had only two film roles during the next 17 years while you focused on school and stage acting in New York City. Did you actively pursue the stage over the screen, or was it something you simply fell into due to living in New York?

I always loved theater, so I figured it was a fun way to get into acting and get some amazing training under my belt. New York City has incredible theaters — I worked in many and enjoyed my time there.

What do you enjoy most about stage acting over film? Conversely, what do you prefer about film over the stage?

Acting on stage gets an immediate response, in the moment, and you never know what could happen. The audience provides so much great energy and reaction that you feed off of it, and it truly affects your performance. Every night is different, and the growth happens very quickly. [It is a] great learning experience.

Film is like a big sleepover! The relationships between cast and crew are thrilling and working so deliberately on every scene is quite exciting. You sort of create your best moments take after take and never know what the final product might be. It’s very exhilarating, and also provides great learning. I love working with the camera, both in front of and behind it. I’ve had amazing experiences!

What do you consider to be your most memorable moments working as a stage actress in New York?

I did Othello and had the best time. I’d never done Shakespeare, so that was nerve-wracking!  I loved working on his words and verse and had a wonderful cast experience.

Many actors who make their names in horror tend to resent being typecast; however, since moving to California and pursuing film roles over the past decade, you seem to have embraced your status as a horror icon — even reprising your role as Angela in 2008’s Return to Sleepaway Camp. If you could work with any renowned horror directors or actors (or anyone involved in horror films), who would you choose? Maybe Pamela Springsteen?

Haha, I’d love to work with Pamela Springsteen! I’d love to work with Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Solet, and Adam Green. As far as actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Elvira, Linda Blair, Tony Todd, and Sid Haig — and recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with Danielle Harris, Dee Wallace, Beverly Randolph, and Kim Poirier.

Felissa Rose in Sleepaway Camp

Felissa Rose in “Sleepaway Camp” (1983)

Though I hate to ask such an obvious question, what are some of your all-time favorite horror films that you consider to be essential viewing for fans of the genre?

I love The Shining, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Exorcist.

One other obvious question that you’re probably sick of, but I have to ask because I’ve wondered for years: The end of Sleepaway Camp — without spoiling anything for readers who’ve not yet seen the movie — was that you in a “body suit,” of sorts? An actor in a Felissa Rose mask? Or some other form of movie magic?

It was a mask of my face.

I see that you and your husband are raising three kids — are they aware yet that Mom appeared in a classic ‘80s slasher flick…or are you going to maybe wait a few more years before introducing them to it?

They know all about Sleepaway Camp and they’ve seen some moments of it on screen, but I’ll wait until they’re a little older! I don’t want them to freak when they see my little surprise.

What projects are you currently working on that we can look forward to?

Dead TV, written and directed by Harrison Smith, will be out in early 2014, I just finished an amazing zombie flick (also by Smith) called Elephant’s Graveyard with Billy Zane, Mischa Barton, and Dee Wallace, and I produced and acted in a new Eric Roberts film called No Solicitors, written and directed by John Callas. It’s been a fun ride and I hope to continue making these fun films for all to see!