I recently got the chance to talk to Alisa Harris about her role in ‘Piranha 3DD’. Here, Alisa talks about what it was like working with David Hasselhoff and how she got into acting in the first place…
Hey Alisa. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Piranha 3DD’.
No problem. I appreciate your seeking me out and everything you’re doing to promote the industry.
What’s the general plotline surrounding this instalment?
Well, the beauty in the plotline is that it’s pretty simple. The piranha have left the lake and have infiltrated the waterlines winding up in a water park ready to terrorize the unsuspecting guests. It’s the grand opening of the water park populated with stripper lifeguards and all hell breaks loose!
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Not exactly sure how I’ll be listed in the final credits, but I play “Hysteric”. Basically my character is a HUGE fan of David Hasselhoff’s. I’ve come to the water park just to get a little closer to him. Basically I just “hassle The Hoff” in my scenes with him.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I am an actress in Wilmington, NC where ‘Piranha 3DD’ was filmed and my agent submitted me for the role.
Why do you think the ’Piranha’ franchise is so popular?
I personally am a huge fan of horror films — more so with psychological thrillers than gore fests — but I love this franchise because it doesn’t take itself seriously. Poking fun at the whole genre and capitalizing on the 3D wave are its strengths. Hoping it will be very popular!
We should mention that there is a 3D element to the movie – what are your thoughts on the use of 3D in modern-day movies? How is 3D used in ‘Piranha 3DD’?
To be honest, I’m not sure of any of the 3D particulars in this film. Will have to see when it comes out as a lot of the special effects flourishes would have happened in post-production. Can only guess that the effects will be similar in style of the first film. I, personally, thought ‘Hugo’ was a terrific example of how to best use 3D in live action. It really embellished the reality for the characters flourish and heightened the magic when the “film” realm showed up in the story. Otherwise, I think 3D is best left in the world of animation. The horror genre is still finding it’s niche with the 3D element, I think. It’s a fine line between creating the suspense and letting the effect do the work. Does that make sense?
The film stars Katrina Bowden, Danielle Panabaker, Christopher Lloyd, Ving Rhames, Chris Zylka, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Gary Busey and David Hasselhoff – with John Gulager onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
I have a couple. The only actor from the show I really worked with was David Hasselhoff. The first anecdote I have is from my audition for the film. I was called in for a non-speaking character, actually, and my audition consisted of an improv for director, casting director and producer. I was told to improvise trying to get the attention of a big star for an autograph. Having a little fun, I picked David Hasselhoff and said I wanted him to sign my Playbill copy of ‘Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical’. Everyone cracked up and asked if he was really in that show. I said, yes, and that some of my musical theatre friends would watch his performance and giggle – (no offense, David, but it is an over-the-top performance). I repeated the improv and left the audition. A couple of weeks later I heard from my agent (STW Talent) that I had gotten the part. Got my script and saw I had two scripted scenes with David Hasselhoff!!!
Second anecdote is from on set. First day of work and David and I had run our scene a couple of times. At my last turnaround, John Gulager, the director, took me aside and told me to smack David after delivering my last line—“but don’t tell David”, he said. I did and the look on David’s face was priceless. My day was over after that shot and it was two days later before I could apologize to David for striking him. I hope that shot makes final cut!
Let’s talk a bit about you Alisa. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I’ve been a stage actress since I was 6 years old – (38 years+now!). My mother was an actress, so I kinda grew up onstage. Wilmington, NC is a boon town for film and television production and as an offshoot of that, the town is filled with great talent and lots of really good theatre. I found a business niche here in entertainment promotions and was a talent agent for almost 10 years before “retiring” from that role in 2008. I’ve always acted, but never really pursued it as a career. It’s something I enjoy and hope to continue to do the rest of my life, especially when I can work with such fun and creative professsionals as I encountered on set with ‘Piranha 3DD’.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Love what you do, be patient, be prepared, and check your ego at the door. Unless you are writing, directing, producing, operating the camera and starring in your own production, you are going to be working on a team. And there is no better feeling than working on a project where everyone has the best interests of the final product at heart. I will also add and this is particularly for actors, but kind of applies to most film and television artisans, that you will learn far more actually working on projects and real sets than you ever will from school. Yes, take classes. Yes, attend workshops. Yes, be educated. But don’t over invest yourself in college degrees in acting, directing, etc. A degree in Acting or Directing doesn’t make you an actor or a director. As a film and television actor you should also invest in a decent video camera because
- You can use the camera to self-submit auditions
- Use it to rehearse – a lot — watch and study yourself on film.
Always look for classes that use a video camera and search for and take the best AUDITION TECHNIQUE classes that you can. You will never get the job, if you can’t nail the audition!
You’ve been in a number of different film and TV projects – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far? Any good stories?
Goodness, I have a few fun stories. One of the first films I did was a local mega low-budget horror film called ‘Cannibal Vampire Schoolgirls From Outer Space’. A couple of years after working on that film, I was called into jury duty and one of the plaintiffs on the case I was called for played my mother in the movie. Imagine the giggles from the court when they asked me what the name of the movie was.
Working with Lily Tomlin recently on a couple of episodes of HBO’s ‘Eastbound And Down’ was definitely a highlight. We happened to work a REALLY long day-into night-into morning shoot on Lily’s birthday. She was physically doing such amazing things and was completely gracious and so focused and funny.
And finally, got the best tan of life working on an episode of Showtime’s ‘Going To California’ entitled the “Naked and the Nude”
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three ‘personal’ things could you not live without?
A loaded Kindle with a solar charger (does that count as two things?), Bourbon and my son.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
- Dorothy Parker – her wit.
- Jacoby Ellsbury, Center Fielder for the Boston Red Sox – because he’s my cougar crush.
- George Carlin— because I’d love to hear him and Dorothy Parker exchange wittisms.
What is your favourite word?
My favourite curse word: “schmuckers” – it’s a made up amalgam of a lot of different curse words that you can actually say with kid’s around.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
2012 is fully loaded for me. January 27, 2012 my son, Ashton O’Dell Harris, was born so I’ve had my hands full with a newborn. Of course I’ll be checking out the opening of ‘Piranha 3DD’ on June 1, and July 2012 of this year I will be opening a new dinner theatre complex here in Wilmington, NC called TheatreNOW (www.theatrewilmington.com). In the middle of the building construction right now, but I’ve been auditioning quite a bit. North Carolina is super busy with film and television projects. ‘Iron Man 3: Caged Heat’, for example, just started production here in Wilmington. While I wouldn’t say “no” to any new parts, I’ve really got more than enough to keep me busy right now! J.
Thanks for the interview!