I recently got the chance to talk to Michele Cummins about her role in ‘Grave Encounters’. Here, Michele talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and how she got involved in the project in the first place…
Hey Michele. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Grave Encounters’.
It’s my pleasure!
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
A group of Ghost Hunters lock themselves in a haunted mental institution that they wouldn’t be able to get out of until the caretaker opens up the next day. It’s a reality ghost hunter show in a movie.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…I’ve heard it’s a ghost!
Oh yes, I am a ghost out for revenge! I was very fortunate to work in this movie with the amazing Vicious Brothers. I was a young girl who had committed suicide and now I’m confined to my claw tub, never the freedom to leave.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I enjoy looking back and seeing where and how I got certain parts and giving credit where it’s do. This part came from meeting the stunt co-ordinator, John Sampson, on a TV show I acted in, ‘Human Target’. He called me up for the job because he knew I am an actress but also do stunts; stunt car driving, I’m also a equine rider and I have a great ability to hold my breath for a really long time under water.
The Vicious Brothers vision for the bathroom scenes were specific, they needed someone who literally lives under water. This was going to take a few minutes in length and they needed it in one smooth shot. It’s not easy after holding your breath a long time to then use your upper torso muscles to lift only your upper body out, then exert breath by screaming then grab a man and take him back under – (holding him on top of you) – while holding whatever breath you now don’t have until you hear cut…or in this case, a bang on the side of the tub! That’s why they hired me!
How would you say this film is different and unique?
The biggest difference is that it was filmed pretty much like you see it on-screen. We filmed it in an alleged haunted mental institution – (Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, British Columbia). We filmed all the interior shots all at night and we really didn’t leave the building for 14+ hours all night long every night for the whole time of filming! It was dark, cold and drafty. Also, what other ghost hunting movie have you seen that ends like this one? Unique I’d say! – (you have to watch it to know how unique).
The film stars Sean Rogerson, Juan Riedinger, Ashleigh Gryzko, Mackenzie Gray, Merwin Modesir, Arthur Corber and your good self – with The Vicious Brothers onboard as directors – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
It was special. The memories, moments and human connections. I remember in the green room, most of us, cast and crew hanging out and everyone wanted to try and see how long they could hold their breath for. So they all gave it a go…blue faces all around! You see people that you’ve seen before but maybe haven’t had the pleasure to work with yet, as was the case with Mackanzie Gray and myself. The Vicious Brothers are professionals and they are an amazing team. The crew were one with the actors. It was deadly!
Let’s talk a bit about you Michele. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
It all comes down to influence right?! The things/people/places that have inspired us to do the things we choose to do in our lives…my story starts with my family. My father and Grandfather worked for MGM Studios so the Hollywood influence was there from the beginning. Growing up with the Hartunian’s – (not to be confused with the Kardashian‘s!)….a half Armenian, 7 girl and 1 boy family in southern California. We would have dance competitions all the time, mostly to the sound track of ‘Grease’. We were all attention lovers…and still are. We had a video camera growing up – (which wasn’t the norm for regular households back then). However, I loved observing the most! I loved watching everyone, sitting in the back, just watching. When I was about 8 is when I started really performing. I remember my first performance all on my own was being Dorothy in ‘Wizard Of Oz’ in front of my whole class. It was amazing, I came out of my shell! Everyone was shocked and wondered where ‘Michele’ went. I transform when I’m acting and it‘s something most people don‘t get to experience because they stay in their routine and never get to ’be someone else’. Ever since Dorothy, I couldn’t get enough. I then started writing, directing, casting & acting in my own little 10-13 year old plays with family & neighbourhood friends. Every holiday was another reason to create a new play. I loved it and still do! But it was only later, at the age of 24, that I found out my Grandfather worked for over 50 years at MGM studios as Head Of Transportation, driving the likes of Marilyn Monroe around as well as my Dad working with Elvis Presley and the Monkees! And on top of that, my cousin Richard Hartunian starring in a couple hot rod movies in the 50’s and his wife, my cousin, Virginia Aldridge acting in the original Star Trek episode, ‘Wolf In The Fold’ – being killed by Scotty!
You’ve had a number of roles in different TV and film projects – who have been your favourite actors/actresses to work with so far and why?
As a safety stunt gal on set I took care of Luke Perry which was pretty great. Oh, and Ricky Schroder who inspired me as a child actor with his role in ‘Silver Spoons’! But the most amazing experience so far has to be when I worked with the legendary Robert Redford last year.
What is currently on your I-Pod?
My husband, Richard Cummins, is a musician and I love his originals but he’s currently entered a Beatles project and so he’s redone a lot of Beatles and Paul McCartney songs so I’m listening to those and loving them but specifically his latest original ‘Paul, He Use To Sing With Me’. I also have a few different albums by Jewel, Norah Jones, a couple of Shakira’s & Daughtry‘s, Adele’s album ’21’, John Elefante’s album ‘Corridors’, Julian Lennon’s album ‘Photograph Smile’. I like John Michael Talbot, Enya, Pete Yorn/Scarlett Johansson, the first She & Him album, Sixpence None The Richer, Toby Mac, Tom Wopat’s album ‘The Still Of The Night’, Carole King’s ‘Where You Lead’, the ‘Gilmore Girls’ theme song and Jenn Grant’s ‘Dreamer’, ‘Heartland’s theme song. I like the sounds of Kings Of Leon and the inspirational music/lyrics by the late Keith Green. Then there’s Bread, Grapes Of Wrath, Hedley’s ‘Perfect’, The Civil Wars, Doc Walker’s ‘Coming Home’, Farmers Daughters….I love an array of music (if you couldn’t tell) – it’s all about the mood I’m in!
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
My grandfather, since he died when I was only 10 and he has so much to tell me that I don’t know about him, his life and his career. Jesus – (enough said in the name for all the knowledge he holds) and Meryl Streep. She is one of my favourite actresses that can embody anything and everything. She’s owns her performances.
If you were stranded on a desert island – which three ‘personal’ things could you not live without?
Well, with 3G I would say my I-Phone4 since it has almost everything I need on it ie; my books, pictures, videos (camera), games, Netflix, communication, music…he he…the solar power pad for it and then I would say my best friend.
What is your favourite word?
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Well, half of 2012 is already over but I just finished filming ‘Maple Heart’ where I play a police woman. I’ve recorded a few music projects with http://www.paulislive.com. Then there’s lots of auditions….auditions after auditions. That’s my ‘real’ job! I have a lot of hope in my life, audition after audition! LOL
Thanks for the interview!