Barbara Crampton: “This Is My Nicolas Cage Moment” – EXCLUSIVE Creepshow Interview

Barbara Crampton shares her fears of being a villain, and the fun of working with Joe Lynch for his Creepshow episode.

Today was a special day for me. I got to catch up with the one and only Barbara Crampton. Of course, we’re a bit biased when it comes to the Queen herself, but we’re not the only ones who love her. For over three decades, she’s been a horror icon and a beacon of positivity. She’s also the star of Joe Lynch’s latest Creepshow episode. I caught up with Barbara to talk to her about working with Joe, taking on a different type of character, and more. Without further ado, here’s the one and only Barbara Crampton.

Marcos Codas: Just finished rewatching the episode, by the way. And it was so much fun. It really like, it really made me feel like I was going back in time because I’m a kid of the eighties and nineties. So, I remember this kind of show when they were being made back then. Goosebumps was huge when I was growing up. So this kind of like pulpy, fun, cheeky, approach to horror is something that was definitely a gateway drug for me. How about you? How do you feel about it?

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Barbara Crampton: I think it’s super fun. I mean, this to me is quintessential Joe Lynch. He likes things to be very energetic and fun and wild. His last episode, The Right Snuff, was so different than anything I’d ever seen him do really, you know, it was like 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I thought it was really cool and dark and serious, and I went, “Holy crap, that’s Joe Lynch, too!” Amazing. So I think Creepshow really affords the directors to really play with the different tones that are available within the universe of the series. And that’s what I love about it and what I was just talking to our friend about here from, from the publicity department, because it is, you know, it’s not just George Romero, it’s all different directors and everybody’s going to bring their own flavor to it.

And I think that’s, what’s really exciting about this series. When Joe asked me to be in this episode, Pipe Screams, I was like, “Oh yeah, let me, let me read it”. He said it’s a cross between Evil Dead and Delicatessen. And I was like, Oh, I wonder what it is like, gosh, okay. It takes place in this apartment building. So that’s kind of like the Delicatessen feel and it’s, it’s really campy and kind of over the top, but really fun.

It also has a message. It has an emotional resonant core, which I think is really important today with the stories that we’re telling. And I think that’s what makes them also memorable, but to infuse it with the kind of energy that only Joe Lynch can do was really thrilling to work on. And when we were talking about my character, I said, you know, I’m thinking I’m Norma Desmond.

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Desmond-esque, indeed! – Screengrab from Pipe Screams, an episode of Creepshow on Shudder.

I’m thinking Cruella Deville. I’m also thinking Karen, the worst Karen that you could possibly imagine. At around the time that he sent me the script for it, we saw that horrible woman who was in Central Park, berating the birdwatcher and strangling her dog. I remember that we watched it every, the whole world watched it. And so I modeled, I’m sorry to say, I, you know, I, I don’t feel bad for her, but I mean, her life was ruined after that.

Um, and you know, my character’s life is ruined. I mean, basically in the episode, she, she gets what’s coming to her because she’s, Victoria is not a nice person. And as far as, you know, the classism that we have all across the world and in America, it speaks to the evil that is in some people’s minds about what a person’s worth is. I think Victoria embodies that. And so she, you know, she really needs to go down that drain.

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MC: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, it’s, it’s funny that you mentioned, because both things that you’ve touched on, uh, during your answer, you know, the Joe Lynch phenomenon and also the, the social message are things that I want to sort of dive into a little bit more, I want to talk about Selena, uh, who is, it’s part of the, it’s an amazing part of the episode. Um, and, and it’s somebody who you’ve been really championing, you know, uh, on a personal level and which I really admire.

BC: Oh yeah. She was amazing. We all worked together for three days, but guess what? We’ve been texting and Zooming and chatting and Eric and Selena and myself keep in touch all the time. And we’re sending little notes to one another and we’re talking about different stuff. And Selena is also on WandaVision.

So when I saw her on WandaVision, I was posting pictures of her on there. And I think it’s important to lift up your colleagues, you know, lift up other people that are in your community. Especially I try to do that our community for sure. And so I just had the best time working with them.

Eric is, you know, scary. He played the bouncer in Green Room. He was so scary in that and mean and tall. And he’s also in the Care Bears!

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MC: Okay. Oh, wow. Okay. That looks very different

BC: He’s the voice of a cuddly bear in a children’s show. He’s a true character actor. He can do anything. He’s so tall and I’m so petite. So working with him, it was just funny. It was just a funny juxtaposition. Both Selena and Eric are both so such giving, really present actors that you just really feel privileged to work with. I think we had a really nice cast for our episode. We all got along like like a house on fire. I mean, we just had the best time.

And with Joe Lynch, an amazing director, I mean, and I said it earlier, but he’s also a performer himself because in some of his own stuff and TV as well. He really worked with us on our characterizations. And we just had so much fun with him. He’s just so prepared. He’s just so on it. And it’s exciting to work with somebody like him that just really commits to the material, whatever the material is.

And I think you, again, I’ll sing his praises because I think you see it in the two different episodes. They have such different qualities to them, The Right Snuff and Pipe Screams, and he committed to both. And in a big way, I think he’s a huge talent. I feel privileged to have been directed by him.

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MC: Speaking of Joe, if we can continue on the Joe train. When I watched this episode, I was really reminded of, and this is perhaps going to be a little bit weird, Stuart Gordon. I think they have a lot of similarities, at least in this episode, because like you mentioned, Joe’s other episode is very different. I think there is a lot of crossover between Joe’s work, and Stuart Gordon’s. Did you feel that way on or off set?

Barbara Crampton: Yeah, I do, you know? I’ve often said, and I’m going to attribute this quote to Mick Garris because two years ago I was talking to Garris about Stuart. And he said: “Re-Animator and From Beyond are like operas, they’re a little bit bigger than life”. And I thought about it and I thought, you know, that’s the right way to characterize that. They’re kind of like very operatic and big and bold and very full. And Stuart always worked that way on the projects that I was involved with him, even Castle Freak.

We used to say about Stuart: “more is not enough”. He’d say: “more screaming, more crying, a little louder, please, put some energy into it”. So it was like more, he always wanted more. Of course that was a perfect cue for Jeffrey Combs in Re-Animator. It really made that film as iconic as it is. I do feel like Joe works in a similar fashion, in that he really wants the fullness from his performers.

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And he really talks to you a lot about your performance. He’s not just like: “action. All right. That’s it”. He’s like right in your face with you talking to about every take. As a performer, I find that really exciting. So yeah, I do see similarities in the fullness and the bigness, especially in our episode. But I do think, you know, Joe is also someone who is able to work with great subtlety as well. He did give me a lot of adjustments, to try and nuance Victoria, as much as possible, even though I don’t think she’s a nuanced character. I think she’s evil, bad, wicked, the worst Karen on the planet. And she deserves to die.

MC: It’s funny you should mention that, because as much as we, of course, praise Joe’s range as a performer and as a director, for me seeing you in this, in this role, I was taken aback. I’m used to seeing Barbara Crampton as somebody we root, for somebody we love seeing on screen. How was it for you to play something so different?

Barbara Crampton: I’m so glad you asked me that Marcos, because I’ll be honest with you. It was fearful for me because I do know that people know me as the good person, the person that has a moral compass, the person you can root for. I just came out with Jakob’s Wife and in it, I’m very sympathetic and I’m very real.

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Initially I read it and I went: “Oh, they see me as being able to play this. Oh my gosh. I don’t know if anybody’s ever seen me like this before. This will be a little bit of a stretch for me”. And I hope that my fans will be okay with me playing a part that’s so mean and wicked and awful.

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Joe Lynch channeling his inner Hitchcock. Screengrab from Pipe Screams, an episode of Creepshow on Shudder.

And so those thoughts did cross my mind, but this was a real opportunity for me, that, that they gave me and I, I wanted to do a justice and I wanted to do the best job I could for everybody involved, because I love everybody. I love Shudder, I love AMC, Greg Nicotero worked on From Beyond 35 years ago, so I couldn’t let anybody down, you know? And I wanted to make sure that it was going to be received well. So I hope it will because I have like a really out there, you know, really mean, very bad character. I mean, you can’t slice and dice this character. There’s no two ways about it. She’s evil.

MC: And I think that’s, that’s going to go a long way towards reconciling, like for your fans, reconciling you with a character, because it’s not very gray. Like it’s, it’s very obvious that you’re supposed to hate Victoria. So I think the fact that it’s very, it’s like you said, it’s very operatic. It’s very direct. I think it’s gonna help us as fans to realize, okay, it’s a character. Because I think a lot of us see a lot of your characters as you in a way, and we have that emotional attachment to your characters. But we definitely see this as a performance, I think.

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Barbara Crampton: Well, I think it’s my Nicolas Cage moment!

MC: Yes, yes! I was actually going to go for a John Turturro, but yes, Nicolas Cage for sure. The bees moment. Yeah.

Barbara Crampton: Yeah. Why is it only the guys that get to have their Nicolas Cage moment? What about the girl?

MC: 100%. It could, yeah, it could. And it was, and it was glorious. I loved it. Absolutely adored it. I have one more question and it’s actually about Jakob’s Wife. Because I know that it took you a long time to get it made. It takes a long time to get some of these projects off the ground and made. So you’ve now made Jakob’s Wife. How do you see the evolution of Barbara behind and in front of a camera moving forward? What do you feel like you still want to achieve professionally?

Barbara Crampton: Thanks for asking that question, Marcos. I really didn’t know that I was gonna enjoy producing as much as I do, even though it took five years to get this off the ground. And even though there were times when I wanted to give up, I thought it’s never going to happen. I picked myself up again and throw myself back in. I just kept pushing and kept pushing and kept pushing at the times when I felt the energy for it. And I was able to break through, you know, a couple of times and make strides so that after a number of years, I really had a project and it was really developed enough and worthy enough, I think, to take out to the marketplace.

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So I want to say that, I think that if you believe in something strongly enough, even though it might take you a long time, just don’t consider the time, just keep working on it in amongst working on other things. Because I was doing that as well, acting, developing other projects. And then finally there was a window where the universe opened up and it went okay, something’s going to happen now. So that’s the first thing I want to say.

And I also want to highlight the fact that I love producing and I love bringing stories that are important to creatives and new voices to life. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. I really want to help people. I really want to help people tell important stories that have an emotional resonance. And that’s what means the most to me, more than anything is entertaining people. But I also want to develop content that has something to say, and I’m going to continue doing that. I’m not done producing, I’m working on some other projects. Some of them I might be in, some of them perhaps I’m not going to be in and I don’t care, because to me it’s all about the story. If it’s a good story, I want to help tell it.

MC: Absolutely. That’s, that’s amazing. And, having followed your career and having spoken to you before and behind the scenes as well, I know that some things are cliché, but some things are cliché for a reason. I know that you’ve been working really hard and to promote other voices. And I just can’t wait to see what else it’s coming down the dream pipeline for Barbara Crampton.

Barbara Crampton: Okay, great. And I’ll see you on Twitter.

MC: You will definitely see me on Twitter. Thank you so much, Barbara.