In Part 2 of our coverage of Dread Central’s set visit to writer/director Steven R. Monroe’s psychological revenge thriller MoniKa last June at the Big Picture Soundstage in Burbank, California, we continue our chat with the film’s star, Cerina Vincent, regarding the titular role, her long-standing working relationship with Monroe, the latest in her Hot Chick book series, and more. In addition we’re pleased to present the debut of the film’s poster.
Co-executive produced by actress Vincent with Monroe and producers Anthony Fankhauser and Aaron Hofman, MoniKa co-stars Jason Wiles and C. Thomas Howell as well as Jeff Branson, Chad Lindberg and Andrew Howard (the three appeared in Monroe’s I Spit on Your Grave redux) and actors Lew Temple (The Devil’s Rejects), Shayla Beesley (Spreading Darkness), Raffaello Degruttola, Elisa Donovan and genre vet Tim Thomerson. (Click here for Part 1 of our coverage.)
Sitting down with the affable actress in her trailer to discuss MoniKa (which she had wrapped the day prior), Vincent (whose previous forays into horror include her standout role in Cabin Fever as well as The Return to House on Haunted Hill, among others) said of MoniKa’s principal photography, “We’re having a blast! When Steven first sent me the script five years ago, the whole movie was to be shot in the middle of the desert, but then as he was location scouting, he started thinking about moving it to Vegas and said, ‘Don’t get too excited!’ I did get excited, though, because I’m from Vegas and I always thought it would be fun to shoot in my hometown. He ended up taking the story and moving it to the seedy kind of crack-whore part of Vegas, which was great for production value. Growing up in Vegas, let me say that there’s no reason to ever go to that part of town, but it looked great on film.”
Vincent with Jason Wiles and Elisa Donovan
In addition to the Las Vegas location and the final days of photography that took place in Burbank, MoniKa filmed on location in a dry lake bed in Nevada, which came with its own particular set of challenges.
“It was over 100 degrees and windy and dusty, and you’d just be hit in the face with all of it,” Vincent laughed, “with absolutely no shade at all. It was super, super bright, and Jason (Wiles) and I were doing a scene with six pages of dialogue, and by the time the end came, we could hardly get the words out because there was so much dust in our mouths, and my hair was blowing everywhere. The desert can be intense. But now, I know this may sound cheesy, I might cry, but everyone on this production was so great and is such a great team, and I feel like we really have a family. It makes such a difference because I’ve done movies where I felt, ‘Really? This is how this production is going to go?’ But it is so beautiful when everyone is a professional and everyone is happy to be at work. It’s a blessing.”
For anyone who personally knows Vincent, three things more than likely will come to mind when her name is brought up: her intellectual depth and innate charm and, to our pop culture conscience, her striking brunette locks which have historically been part of her filmic je ne sais quoi.
“Oh my god,” said the actress, recounting what led to her drastic change of hair color for MoniKa. “So I have a lot of hair and said to Steven, ‘I could put some highlights in,’ and Steven said, ‘No, I want you to be really blonde,’ and I was like, ‘Cool!’ I thought that he’d forget about it, and then he kept bringing it up so I went in to the production office with these pictures of girls (with different hair colors) and he picked the one that was a super pale bleached blonde, and I said, ‘Do you understand the process that this is going to take?’ And he said, ‘Yeah. And that’s what I want.’”
Biting the proverbial bullet, Vincent took the photo to her hairstylist at Monroe’s request. The stylist refused, as did the next one she asked to make the color change. Vincent persevered, however, in delivering the look of her character which Monroe demanded.
“This is like really ‘comic book blonde,’” Vincent mused, “and that’s an element to this film. It’s not comic-booky, but it could be, and so I think it really works for the character. Some of the footage where it’s dark and slow motion and I’m in the desert at night and I’m wearing a long, black leather coat shooting a shotgun and my hair is lit and flowing, the blonde looks really cool! But walking through a Ralphs now? I’m getting a lot of strange looks.”
Vincent with Steven Monroe and Jeff Branson
The conversation turned then to the general public’s perception of blondes and to Vincent’s interaction with the masses given her then flaxen tresses.
“Yeah, people absolutely treat me differently now,” she replied. “They told me when I was leaving the salon that people would, and I didn’t give it much thought, but they do! When we were in Vegas shooting, I had the afternoon off one day, and so I went down to sit by the pool where we were staying, and the salon had told me not to get much sun on it because the color could get weird and brassy so I was trying to put it up in a hat and it was windy and the pages of my script were flying. There was this woman a few feet away who said mockingly to her husband, ‘Oh look at that girl. Oh, Oh! I’m an actress! Look at my blonde hair! Oh, Oh! My script! My script is flying away!’”
“Look, I’m Italian, and something kicked in and I thought, ‘I can say something, or I can let that go.’ But I said, ‘Excuse me, I heard that.’ And she stood up and said, ‘Well, I meant for you to.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know where to go with this next!’ If I’d been Monika, I would have shot her! I had two other girls try to pick fights with me as a bleached blonde, too. That has never happened in my entire life as brunette. Guys are weird, too.”
Given the darkness of Monroe’s previous I Spit on Your Grave and the similar contextual revenge concept of MoniKa, we queried the actress as to the disturbing depths she may or may not have had to mine in bringing her character to the life.
“I think that Steven is such a ‘whole’ person,” she offered of her director, whom she previously worked with on the 2005 film It Waits and the drama Complacent. “He’s a talented writer and director, and also a talented director with actors, but he’s also just a fabulous human being. Steven also knows the camera like no director I’ve ever worked with. So there is a trust there with him and I have great respect for him and I always feel so comfortable working with Steven. But I guess when you look at MoniKa as a whole, yes, there are some dark things going on. My character’s sister ends up getting killed over drug money, and she goes through some crazy scenes, but I don’t think I really had anything that dark to do. I had some wild sex scenes and I kill a lot of people, but in the end my character is really a guardian angel in an interesting sort of way. And there’s a bit of a love story going on, too – it’s not too dark at all.”
As for how Vincent became involved as a co-executive producer on MoniKa, she stated, “Well, Steven gave me the script about seven years ago and we tried to make the film then. For one reason or another it never happened, but he sent it to me again at the beginning of 2011 and asked me if I was still interested. Obviously, I’m interested in anything Steven does because I think he’s incredible and also because it was a fabulous role for me. I was stoked to play a blonde stoic tomboy who’s good with a gun.”
“So, some of the financiers were taking a while to commit, and I asked for a shot at trying to find funding for the film,” continued Vincent, who in addition to acting is also a screenwriter in her own right. “I sold my own script a few years back and it was almost made into a film so I already had a taste of what that ‘producer’ role was like. So I passed the MoniKa script on to some investors who are fans of mine and who love Steven’s work, and I was able to secure the first money in – which is usually the hardest. So, yes, that made me a co-executive producer, but honestly, I wasn’t really wearing any producer caps on the film. I really was just focusing on my target practice, bleaching my hair and being a believable badass!”
Photo credit: Jason Todd Ipson
Known most to Dread readers for her work in the genre, Vincent’s filmography is wide-reaching and includes turns in the television series “Two and a Half Men”, “CSI” and “Bones” as well as roles in the feature comedies Everybody Wants to Be Italian, Not Another Teen Movie and the upcoming Tag, in which she stars alongside Scout Taylor-Compton (Rob Zombie’s Halloween), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass) and Kane Hodder. Her work outside of the realm of acting has been prolific as well, from her charitable endeavors with The Busted Foundation (which aids Los Angeles women battling breast cancer) to her co-authored trilogy of well-received books with Jodi Lipper, titled How to Eat Like a Hot Chick (2007), How to Love Like a Hot Chick (2009) and Live it Like a Hot Chick (2010) via HarperCollins Publishing.
Of that series, “We are writing another book,” said Vincent. “They are empowering books for women and redefine the term ‘hot chick’, and they are silly, sexy and funny, but with sound ‘girlfriend to girlfriend’ advice. My co-author Jodi Lipper and I are working on our fourth book now. It’s a bit of a departure from the ‘Hot Chick’ series where we call out a lot of tabloid bullshit and negative stuff in the media that makes women hate themselves. We really go there. We talk about how radio ads for breast implants and liposuction are so bad for young girls. The fake reality TV stars that our youth are looking up to, filled with Botox and cat-fighting with other women on TV, it’s just all so out of control. Body dysmorphia and insecurities happen anyway, but we have whole networks that make a ton of money only airing shows with negative messages. We’re trying to encourage our readers to turn off the crappy TV and open their minds and hearts to things that nurture themselves instead.”
For more on Cerina, visit the official Cerina Vincent website.
The film is a violent, edgy ride focusing on the forlorn Reagan Tyler, a man who is troubled by visions and premonitions that ultimately lead him to Las Vegas. It’s there that Reagan meets the beautiful and mysterious Monika, a young woman who turns out to have been killed the night before he even met her. Reagan is then forced to put the puzzle together of what happened, how she is still present, and help Monika with her revenge on the killers of her younger sister.
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