A diverse and multifaceted talent, Tara Price has been working regularly on stage and screen since the mid 90s, and has proven to be a reliable and flexible performer with a strong emphasis on vocal work and accents. Recently she’s turned to writing with the comedic horror short film ANOTHER GRACE AND JOHNNY ADVENTURE: ZOMBIE ISLAND. She took some time to speak with Daily Grindhouse about THE THIN MAN, zombies and the future of Grace and Johnny.
Sweetback (SB): First let’s discuss where the idea for ZOMBIE ISLAND came from. I’m guessing that the relationship between Nick and Nora Charles in THE THIN MAN films was a major influence, but what about a loving, booze-fueled couple facing more modern dangers appealed to you?
Tara Price (TP): Years ago I was in a sketch comedy show and my scene partner and I used to goof off using these old timey voices. We called each other Grace and Johnny. That’s when the idea was first planted in my head. I jotted down notes about these characters encountering zombies simply because the idea seemed so absurd. I then wrote it as a sketch for the stage but after pitching it to Peter Soby last year as a possible short film I rewrote it as a screenplay. It’s funny, I’ve always had a love for old black and white movies but I never saw THE THIN MAN series until recently. I love the chemistry between Nick and Nora and definitely wanted to create something along those lines with Grace and Johnny. As a kid I was obsessed with horror films so adding elements of that genre was something I had to run with. I certainly lucked out with the timing since zombies have seen a resurgence in pop culture as of late.
SB: Being able to hit that distinctive mid-Atlantic accent so prevalent in the films of the 30s and 40s must have presented some unique challenges. How did you prepare for the role, and was it difficult to imitate the voice without turning it into an obvious joke?
TP: Dialects have never been a problem for me. My whole life I’ve made a hobby out of mimicking other peoples tones and inflections. I find the variations fascinating. I had worked with my leading man, Matt Speak, before so I knew he’d be able to nail the accent as well. My main concern was us playing it as straight as possible. We wanted Grace and Johnny to come across as authentic character’s from a 1940s film as opposed to spoofing those types in an over-the-top caricature sort of way.
SB: Director Peter Soby Jr. has quite an extensive background in comedic short films. Where did your relationship develop, and what drew him to the material?
TP: Peter and I are long-time friends going back to the 90s. Last year we were talking over drinks about how ridiculous it is that we’ve never collaborated on a project in all the years we’ve known each other. He has a fantastic sense of humor and I knew he would be perfect to direct ZOMBIE ISLAND, so I sent him the script and he loved it. In fact, it was his idea to make the official title ANOTHER GRACE & JOHNNY ADVENTURE: ZOMBIE ISLAND which enhances the silliness of it all. We had a lot of fun working together.
SB: Aside from the THIN MAN films, I was also reminded of another popular parody of Nick and Nora and their interplay; The BEYOND BELIEF shorts from THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR live shows at the Coronet Theatre (featuring Paget Brewster and Paul F Tompkins). Were you already aware of those characters?
TP: No, but it sounds awesome. I’ll definitely have to check it out.
SB: Are Grace and Johnny likely to return in any future shorts? The short seems to prove that such an idea for a series of short films has endless potential.
TP: I’d love to do more! I’m in pre-production on another short right now that’s unrelated but I have every intention of revisiting Grace and Johnny in the future. There are already a dozen ridiculous scenarios to put them in swirling around in my head.
SB: Are there any acting or writing projects on the horizon that we should be looking out for?
TP: Next month I’ll be shooting another short I wrote currently titled THE ROUTINE. Not a comedy but rather a sci-fi piece with horror elements. Sort of Twilight Zone meets Ray Bradbury. It’s the story of a reclusive woman whose breakdown manifests itself into her daily routine leading to catastrophic results. I’ve teamed up with a super talented guy named Brian Groh who will be directing. Be on the lookout for it later this year.
SB: Anything else upcoming that you might want to promote?
TP: For those who live in Los Angeles and would like to watch ANOTHER GRACE & JOHNNY ADVENTURE: ZOMBIE ISLAND on the big screen, it will be playing at the LA Comedy Festival (http://lacomedyfest.com) on Sunday, May 19th at 3:30PM at the Let Live Theatre. Peter Soby, Matt Speak and I will be there in person so come say hi.
Also, I’m going to be performing in the world premiere of a live stage production of THE TIME MACHINE as part of the Hollywood Fringe festival. (http://hollywoodfringe.org) It’s a rock opera based on the H.G. Wells novel. Featuring all original music and opening at the Lillian Theatre on June 13th. You don’t want to miss it.
SB: Finally, you’ve had a variety of varied acting experiences. What advice might you have for young actors or actresses looking to break in or find their own acting niche?
TP: Honestly, I wouldn’t advise anyone to get into this business. It’s a tough racket and you have to have incredibly thick skin. That being said, if you love it more than anything else and are determined to pursue it at all costs then don’t sit around being idle. Do theatre, read books on acting, participate in student films, write your own stuff, channel your creativity. There are a ton of jerks out there who will gladly take your money or god knows what else in exchange for so-called opportunities or experience. Avoid them. Surround yourself with other hardworking talented people. There isn’t anything you can’t make happen on your own as long as your head and heart are in the right place. We’re artists after all, it’s what we do.
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