INTERVIEW: Star Steffany Huckaby

Death Tunnel: Star Steffany Huckaby
By: Elaine Lamkin

Steffany Huckaby is among a new group of actors exploring the horror genre. Friends with fellow horror newcomers like Natalie Avatal and Rocky Marquette (both in “Shallow Ground”), Steffany recently completed “Death Tunnel”, a “Session 9”-like horror film that is starting to generate some buzz. Southern born and bred, it was the chance meeting, due to both having Kentucky license plates in LA, with writer-producer Shane Taylor which led to her being cast in the film. And apparently it was quite an experience she had at Waverly Hills Sanitarium. One she hopes she will never have to repeat…

BD: Hi Steffany! Thanks for taking time to talk to Bloody-Disgusting about your new horror film, “Death Tunnel”. First though, would you mind giving us some background information on you – The Steffany Huckaby Story? Where are you from? Where did you get your education? Have you always wanted to be an actress?

SH: Why thanks Bloody Disgusting. I’m so happy that I’m talking with you. Actually, I’m from Kentucky and Alabama, as well. I studied music and I’ve been doing theater since I was five. And yes, I have always wanted to be an actress.

BD: From the information on the IMDb, you are a relatively new face to filmgoers, your first film being “Career Suicide” in 2004 where you play The New Girl. How did you get into film in the first place? Did you go the typical waiting tables route or have something more interesting to do while waiting for “the” role?

SH: No, I have never waited tables, but I have played Cinderella and Belle from Beauty and the Beast for little kids’ birthday parties. I got into film because I love it, and every role I’ve gotten, I auditioned for.

BD: In 2004, you also had two roles in “horror” movies – “Scarecrows Gone Wild” and “Starkweather”. Now the Starkweather story is based on a true story -–what was your role in the film and did you do any research about the real Charles Starkweather/Caril Ann Fugate case?

SH: I played Carole King, the girl whose death resulted in their arrest. I’m a big fan of the Terrence Malick film, “Badlands,” which starred Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, so I knew a little about the serial killings before getting the role. Once I got the role, I came across actual photos of the real Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann. Also Bruce Springsteen’s album “Nebraska” is in part about Starkweather.

BD: You appeared with Rocky Marquette in 2005’s “Guy in Row Five”. That was just after Rocky appeared in the horrifying indie movie “Shallow Ground” where he spends the entire film naked and covered in blood. Did the two of you discuss “Shallow Ground” or what it was like acting in a horror movie?

SH: I remember talking with Rocky about agents and managers and books on the set of “Guy In Row Five,” but not about horror films; however, I know Natalie Avatal, who starred in “Shallow Ground” too, and we spoke about what fun it is shooting a horror film. When you’re on set, it’s intense, but you don’t carry it with you offset, not like on a drama.

BD: 2005 has been a busy year for you as you also appeared in “The Pleasure Drivers” with a very eclectic cast including Lauren Holly, Angus Macfadyen, Lacey Chabert, Billy Zane and Meatloaf. What do you remember from that film experience with such a cast?

SH: Loads of fun in the desert! An eclectic array of people, indeed! All, while I was playing the leader of a religious cult with leukemia who gets kidnapped, shot and run over, but manages to survive. The movie’s a black comedy, so that description of my character is really funny to me. Everybody just had fun.

BD: How did you come to be involved in “Death Tunnel”?

SH: I met Shane Taylor, the producer, one day because we both had Kentucky license plates on our cars in Los Angeles – so that led to an audition.

BD: What about the script attracted you to the role of Heather?

SH: “Heather” showed strength yet was losing her mind at the same time. I thought that would make for a challenge as an actor.

BD: BD: And had you ever even heard about Waverly Hills Sanitarium at that time?

SH: I grew up near Louisville, so Waverly Hills was what a haunted house meant to me as a child. I had never seen it; we just didn’t go that way very often. But I remember one time, we did drive by it, and I hid my face from it as my older brother taunted me with the stories there, trying to scare me more. If only I knew then.

BD: I live in Louisville and have been to Waverly Hills a few times, on tours at Halloween. What was you reaction when you first saw this enormous, decaying, supposedly haunted building and realized you would be spending a LOT of time in it?

SH: I was eager at first. I saw the place as a challenge; I couldn’t wait to conquer it. But then the building started to wear on me. A group of us went on a nighttime adventure to explore and challenge the hospital. We had flashlights and an infrared camera, but it was a real bad experience, and that’s when everything changed for me in regards to the hospital.

BD: Were you given any time to read up on Waverly Hills before filming began? I have heard about The Hanged Nurse on the 5th floor but was not aware of the other ghosts that are in the film.

SH: The filmmakers had done a lot of their own research and handed it off to the cast and crew. For my personal research, I relied heavily on the Internet and one of my friends had a great aunt who passed away in the hospital and I got to talk to her family about that.

BD: Did you personally have any “weird” experiences in the building?

SH: Yes. I now believe in ghosts.

BD: Have you seen the film “Session 9” which is similar to “Death Tunnel” only the sheer size of The Danvers State Mental Institution, where the movie was filmed, is about 10 times the size of Waverly? But they were both designed in that “bat-wing” design. If you haven’t seen “Session 9”, that is a must-see!

SH: Yes, I’ve seen “Session 9,” but I think Waverly Hills is more dilapidated and I think there is more of a history of things happening there, and you feel that when you go there.

BD: Once filming started, what was it like being inside Waverly Hills? You obviously had electricity from generators as the building has no electricity but it is still a “dark” place. And how much of the building were you actually able to use? I asked Shane Taylor about the scene where Richie is climbing the fire escape on the side of the building, trying to get to you girls – THAT is a very dangerous area as a former owner tried to dig under the foundation there to get the building to collapse.

SH: It was cold and dark even on hot, sunny days. The walls were peeling. The set dressing was totally authentic. There was one wing completely chained off due to abnormal activity.

BD: Did the entire cast and crew really stay the entire shoot ON the Waverly site? That’s a rumor I’ve been hearing ever since the local press started reporting on the film (I believe you started filming in the summer of 2004?).

SH: I was on set so much for shooting, but I did have a hotel room.

BD: What was your favorite scare in the film – the ghosts were all pretty horrific.

SH: There’s a scene where I find the Devon character in the stairwell. It’s toward the end of the film so things are getting intense. It was also toward the end of shooting, so there was also some personal emotion put into the shooting of it.

BD: Did you get to explore much of the real “Death Tunnel”? It used to be blocked about halfway down the hill but the filmmakers may have cleaned that up.

SH: I did explore the real Death Tunnel, we shot the final scene there; and I never want to see it again.

BD: How did you and the other four actresses who played the “initiates” get along?

SH: I’m sure some people would expect and even hope for some stories of a constant catfight, but that just didn’t happen. The five of us got along great. We hung out a lot, while at work and back at the hotel, and we still keep in touch from time to time. It’s like we’re the Desperate Housewives.

BD: And those “hoods” that were put on you – they reminded me somewhat of the weird device one of the characters in “Saw” had to wear. How comfortable were those to wear, along with nothing else but your lingerie? It had to be chilly in Waverly.

SH: We only had the hoods on for a couple of scenes. That was good because they were a bit funky. The tough part was getting them on. Annie Burgstede and I had to have them plopped on our heads on camera. As far as my lingerie goes, I was the lucky one who got a nice, heavy fabric that reached to my knees. It was warmer than anyone else’s, which was good for me because, like I had mentioned, Waverly has this constant chill inside of it, not to mention all of the cold spots.

BD: What kind of reception have you had from fans about “Death Tunnel” so far (even though it hasn’t officially been released)?

SH: People seem really excited to see the movie. It has a huge buzz about it back in Louisville and it’s being talked about here in Los Angeles.

BD: Do you have some new projects you’re working on or soon will be? What can you tell us about them?

SH: I just attended the premiere for “Guy In Row Five” and I am looking forward to the releases for “Pleasure Drivers” and “Disconnect.”

BD: Are you a fan of horror movies and if so, what are some of your favorites?

SH: Yes I am a fan of horror movies. My favorite is “Night of the Living Dead,” and I loved “28 Days Later.”

BD: Do you read any horror fiction? What are some of your favorite titles?

SH: Yes, Stephen King. Classic “It,” “Pet Semetary,” and “Christine,” to name a few. But – “American Psycho” is the most frightening book I have ever read.

BD: Is there anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked about you or “Death Tunnel”?

SH: Working on “Death Tunnel” was a life changing experience, and I’m glad for it, but I would probably never go through it again.

BD: What is one thing about Steffany Huckaby that no one knows but you think they should?

SH: I hate beets. They remind me of bloody messes.

January 2006

by: Elaine Lamkin