When I first met actress and producer Brooke Lewis in 2009, she struck me as someone who has an unmatched passion and enthusiasm for the horror genre. It was her passion for both acting and producing that made it easy for her to be embraced very quickly by the genre community, which has even dubbed her with the beloved title of “Scream Queen.”
Recently, in honor of Dread Central’s Indie Horror Month celebration, we caught up with Lewis to get a look into the life of a “Scream Queen” who has made quite a name for herself both in front of the camera and behind the scenes in just a few short years.
There is no doubt about it; Lewis was born to entertain. As the actress explained, “I feel like I was one of those lucky ones that always knew from an early age that I wanted to be creative, especially acting. That was the one thing I always loved doing the most. I moved to New York to follow my heart and began working in an Off-Broadway show called “Tony & Tina’s Wedding”, which is this crazy comedy show.”
“I loved it, but it was exhausting. I did seven shows a week for three years straight, and then I hit a point where I realized it was time to move on. I started pursuing sitcom work in Los Angeles, but since I was still living in New York, I spent a lot of time flying back and forth. That’s when I decided it was time to head to the West Coast and try my luck out there because flying coast to coast all the time was just too hard,” Lewis added.
Even though Lewis was still landing acting jobs when she moved to Los Angeles, she had bigger dreams for her career in the entertainment industry. In 2002 Lewis formed Philly Chick Pictures (she’s a Philly native) and hit the ground running producing the short film Code Blue. It was a few years later when Lewis started pursuing making a name for herself in the horror world.
“In the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to end up doing horror, but I just didn’t know the right people to talk to,” explained Lewis. “Then I was at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 and was there for all the Saw madness, which got my gears turning. I saw how you could make a psychological horror film with a very small budget so I told my producing partner back in New York I wanted to make a movie like Saw. Obviously nothing that brilliant but something in the same filmmaking style.”
“That’s how Kinky Killers originated. We wanted to make a bloody and brutal movie set in one location so we could keep the budget manageable. And even with our budget, we still got some amazing cast members like Charles Durning and Michael Pare. We were even lucky enough to get picked up for distribution by Universal, which was a fantastic achievement for me as a producer. I’m still proud of that movie- it wasn’t the best movie ever, but we had a really great cast and did a lot with the resources we had. Because of Kinky Killers, my career from there took on a life of its own,” Lewis added.
After Kinky Killers, Lewis’ next producing project in horror was the 2008 thriller iMurders that paired the actress up onscreen with the legendary Tony Todd. The film was a dream project for Lewis. “iMurders was definitely another huge stepping stone in my career because I was able to act alongside so many actors I admired like William Forsythe, Billy Dee Williams, and I even got to work with Candyman himself, who truly terrified me as a child. It was beyond awesome.”
After iMurders Lewis wanted to change things up a bit and landed a role in the sc-fi action flick Slime City Massacre, which premiered last year during the first annual PollyGrind Film Festival in Las Vegas. “Slime City Massacre is actually one of my favorite projects to have been a part of because it was unlike anything I had ever been involved with before. They had a lot of budget constraints because it’s such an ambitious movie, but I wanted to do it so badly that I took a huge pay cut and brought my own wardrobe even.”
“Doing Slime City actually led to me winning the Golden Cob Award for Best Scream Queen in 2010, which still leaves me speechless whenever I think about it. When you work on the independent film level, you generally don’t get any sort of accolades at all so it’s always a great feeling to get noticed for your work when it does happen,” Lewis added.
Right around the time she was dealing with a massacre in Slime City, Lewis decided to try something different and gave internet entertainment a chance with her web series Ms. Vampy, which featured her as the titular character that was a comedic spin on modern vampires with a hint of Elvira, a hint of Marisa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny, and a whole lot of personality. The actress said she was completely blown away by the response she received from Ms. Vampy and talked about how doing the web series has now taken her career down an incredible new path.
“We had such a huge response when even the first episode of Ms. Vampy hit so I had a feeling that we were on to something special,” explained Lewis. “Suddenly I was starting to get asked to make appearances as Ms. Vampy, and at different events I had teens coming up to me and telling me their reactions to the series and what it meant to them. I knew deep in my heart that I didn’t want to just end up a web series host so I took all of these things happening around me as a sign that Ms. Vampy was destined to become something bigger.”
Bigger indeed- Lewis now has plans to bring her character Ms. Vampy to the big screen in a feature-length film called Vamp it Out. “Vamp it Out is my sole focus for the near future and is the only project I am even producing right now. It’s like Elvira meets The Nanny meets The House Bunny. It’s definitely a very family-oriented Halloween comedy that focuses on giving positive messages about inner beauty and that you should always follow your dreams.”
“If I’ve got one shot to truly show people what I can do in this business and help others while I’m doing it, then I hope Vamp it Out is the movie that makes all that happen. It’s not a movie for the hardcore horror audience but fans that like movies like Teen Wolf or even the Elvira movie, then you’ll hopefully enjoy Vamp it Out,” Lewis added.
Juggling both an acting career alongside a producing career has proven to Lewis to be very demanding, which is why she’s not producing any other outside projects while she’s hard at work breathing life into Vamp it Out. She discussed how difficult it has been for her over the last several years working hard at establishing herself in both the acting and producing fields.
“It’s so hard to balance both sides of the business and creates a lot of conflict for me on the inside and out so I immediately decided when we knew we wanted to make Vamp it Out to make it the only project I’m going to work on for now,” explained Lewis. “I’ve had to make a lot of choices and sacrifices over the years just to make Philly Chick successful. I gave up roles on other projects, didn’t take vacations, and pretty much put any possible penny towards keeping Philly Chick running. I even once took a 5 am sales job just to make money to help pay for a project so I have definitely paid my dues and then some over the years.”
“I envy a lot of my peers who act a lot more than I do, but I think you have to really be selective. And I will say that every single movie I’ve worked on, I found some merit to their scripts, and regardless of what anyone thinks, I know the heart that went into making all those movies,” Lewis.
It’s safe to say that all that Lewis has accomplished within the horror genre in just a short amount of time has definitely made an impact with not only the actress’s peers but fans alike. Not only does Lewis have a Golden Cob award to be proud of, she’s also lovingly known within the horror community as one of the newest “Scream Queens” working today.
“Honestly, it’s still surreal to be given such an awesome title like ‘Scream Queen.’ I mean, just think of all the strong and amazing women who were ‘Scream Queens’ before me. They were all such powerful role models that it’s really humbling for me to just be considered in the same realm as them. It just proves something I’ve known for a long time- just how great horror fans are and how supportive they can be. I find my fans very inspiring and I owe so much to them all,” Lewis said.
Look for more from Brooke soon!