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Q&A: Kristina Klebe Talks Her Dark Role in “DEMENTIA”

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Actress Kristina Klebe from HALLOWEEN and PROXY co-stars with THE SACRAMENT’s Gene Jones in the psychochiller that opens in select theaters and on VOD today from IFC. FANGORIA got some exclusive words from her about the film, and also a bit on her latest scream venture, DON’T KILL IT.

DEMENTIA, directed by Mike Testin from a screenplay by Meredith Berg, focuses on George (Jones), a military veteran still plagued by the aftereffects of his time in Vietnam. When he suffers a stroke, his family hires Klebe’s Michelle to be his live-in nurse—but she has anything but healthy intentions for her new patient. For Klebe (who, coincidentally, also played a nurse in a Tom DiCillo comedy called DELIRIOUS), it’s one of a string of recent genre turns that also includes TALES OF HALLOWEEN, ALLELUIA! THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL, SLAY BELLES and two for director Mike Mendez: the upcoming THE LAST HEIST and the Dolph Lundgren-starring DON’T KILL IT, which just started rolling (see story here).

FANGORIA: How did you become involved with DEMENTIA?

KRIS The producers, Raphael Margules and J.D. Lifshitz, sent me the script, and I thought it was great material; overall, it’s an actor-driven piece, and I was extremely attracted to that. Michelle is a dream role; I mean, it’s pretty much a lower-budget version of Kathy Bates in MISERY. At the time, Gene Jones and AJ Bowen were already attached, so I knew it would be an incredible opportunity to play opposite two actors whose work I admire, especially Gene, since the interaction between George and Michelle is so crucial to the film. Unfortunately, AJ couldn’t do the movie in the end, but Peter Cilella and Hassie Harrison rounded out the cast perfectly.

FANG: What did you want to bring to the role of Michelle?

KLEBE: Believability—a sense of never knowing what she would do next. And an element of vulnerability. I wanted the audience to feel some sympathy for her, even when she’s committing such awful acts. I suppose I approached Michelle as I would any character—with honesty. I thought of her as a champagne bottle that had been shaken, and all the bubbles were just waiting to explode when that cork was released.

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FANG: How was it acting opposite Jones?

KLEBE: Just perfect. I love Gene. We played well together, and we supported each other a lot through this shoot. I often felt bad having to do the things to him that I did. I think the hardest moment was when I had to pour the whiskey on him; I was holding back for the first take, and then the second I just went for it, and—well, I’m happy there wasn’t another take after that. That said, Gene has a total bring-it-on attitude, and he’s a tough guy—he can hold his own!

FANG: Were any scenes especially fun or challenging to shoot?

KLEBE: My favorite scene, for some reason, is the one where I’m just sitting on the chair talking to myself. I also liked the scene where Hassie comes into the house and I’m pointing the shotgun at her, saying I didn’t want to hurt her. I truly enjoyed smashing the shit out of the kitchen—oh, and the watermelon that was supposed to be someone’s head [laughs]. Smashing things when it’s make-believe and just for fun is strangely cathartic!

In terms of challenging, I’d say the torture scene with Gene. It was just kind of awkward, and hard to not think it was over the top.

FANG: Do you especially enjoy playing aggressive/sinister roles like Michelle and PROXY’s Anika?

KLEBE: I’m torn. As a fairly positive and quite happy human being, it’s hard for me to take on the emotional burden of these lost souls sometimes. I also don’t love to perpetuate violence and violent actions. From an outside perspective, I wish these characters would have gone to therapy or found God and forgiveness in their hearts. That said, as an actor, I love playing these parts! They are challenging and rewarding. They scare me—I’m intimidated by them—and that’s exciting.

When I come from an acting perspective, I approach these characters with love. To me, they are people—in this case, women who have endured much and have become hardened through extreme pain. Rather than search to heal themselves, they release their pain and anguish into the world. What’s so challenging is making them likable, multidimensional and real. I also like to try and find the humor even in the darkness of their souls. A lot of people tell me they laughed during some of Anika’s scenes in PROXY, and that’s great. That adds levity. Laughter in difficult times is important.

FANG: Anything you can tell us about DON’T KILL IT?

KLEBE: I’m beyond excited. This character is not aggressive and/or sinister. She’s broken in her own way and has gone through a lot, but she’s the heroine. She’s the one trying to save people this time!

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.
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