Exclusive: Karen Grassle Talks Going from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE to Gruesome LASSO
Lasso arrives on Blu-ray & DVD via Dread Central Presents in less than a week (November 13th). It’s a film that’s likely to do for rodeos what Rob Zombie’s 31 did for traveling circuses! Directed by Evan Cecil from a script penned by Roberto Marinas, Lasso boosts a brilliant retro aesthetic and some seriously cringe-inducing violence. There’s also a hefty serving of pitch-black comedy.
An Active Senior Tour group outing turns deadly when the crazed, bloodthirsty cowboys from a local rodeo attraction start abducting and killing people.
The cast of Lasso is truly multigenerational, and one of the senior cast members may look familiar to horror fans of a certain age. Lillian is played by Karen Grassle, an actress best known for playing Caroline Ingalls on the TV series Little House on the Prairie between 1974 and 1982.
Dread Central was lucky enough to sit down with Grassle last week to discuss her career journey from Little House to the blood-soaked rodeo grounds of Lasso. Check out our conversation below and pre-order your copy of Lasso, HERE.
Karen Grassle: I live in the San Francisco Bay area now. I do theater here and sometimes I travel to other places to do it. There’s not a lot of TV and film work up here so I’ve been working on a memoir, which I have now finished. It’s being read by someone in New York right now. I’m looking for a publisher.
DC: Excellent! Good luck with that as well. So, let’s talk a little bit about Lasso. One of the most unique aspects of the film is that it’s an inter-generational horror movie…
KG: [Laughs] That’s a nice way of putting it!
DC: You like that? Well, you don’t see many senior citizens squaring of against deranged serial killers, am I right?
KG: [Still laughing] You’re right!
DC: I was wondering what attracted you to the film and what the experience was like for you?
KG: Well, Josh, you probably talk to lots of actors, and what we like is, we like to work. So, the first thing that attracted me to [Lasso] was that it was a part. We like to work and work gets work, so it’s hard to turn things down. But when I first read the script, I was horrified by the degree of violence. I mean, it is so extreme and I actually called my agent and said, “Is this typical now?” I hadn’t been to a horror movie in a very long time. She said, “I’m not sure, let me ask my husband. He loves them.” So, she asked her husband and he said, “Yeah, that’s not unusually extreme.” So, I was like, “I don’t… If I can barely read the script how can I do the movie?” I thought it over and fretted about it; I worried about the exploitation of violence. Finally, my son tells me, “Oh just do it, Mom. You’ll have fun! You’ll run screaming in the night!” So, I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” It’s a total change for me.
DC: How was it making a horror movie as opposed to a western or a drama?
KG: First of all, I really liked my character. I don’t know if you got a kick out of Lillian?
DC: I sure did; she’s a hoot! Sneaking drinks and giving the younger guys “Come hither” glances.
KG: I think she’s the best character in the whole film. She has her own ideas about who she is and her importance in the world. And it was really fun for me to take that on. And the costumer was willing to work with me on the character so I could really push it, you know? She’s one of those ladies who prides herself on how she looks regardless of her age and thinks she’s better than everyone else in the seniors’ group. And this was really fun for me after playing so many good girls. And I also like the fact that she turned out to be really tough.
DC: She sure was! Are you interested in doing more horror movies now?
KG: [Laughs] If they offer one to me!
DC: What did you find most challenging and most rewarding about working on Lasso?
KG: I think what was most challenge was working outside, all night, on the rodeo grounds. We were working in the dark, in the dirt, and it was challenging psychically. It was cold and we were trudging back and forth from trailer to the dirty rodeo arena. Also, there was questionable catering, I thought. Everybody had to be tough. Everybody had to have a good spirit. And [director] Evan [Cecil] was absolutely dynamite at creating a wonderful atmosphere for everyone. His positive attitude and the crew that he’s been working with were so lovely that it really took the sting out of it.
For example, when we’re shooting that scene where the guy is coming under the bleachers to kill me: We were running out of darkness and there was a lot of pressure to get the shots. I was skootching around in the dark, you know, and breathing heavily because I can’t escape. And he finally gets there and because we were running out of darkness we didn’t really rehearse it properly. So, he accidentally socks me right in the face!
DC: Oh my God!
KG: Yeah, so I got a big bruise right on my cheekbone and I thought, “Boy, now I know I’ve really done a horror movie!”
DC: Do you have any other crazy, behind-the-scenes stories from the shoot you can share with us?
KG: The very first day, the first big scene was where the one-armed cowboy has to ride the trick pony—and the pony is supposed to do something marvelous. And, of course, they’d been told by the owner that this horse could do that. But when it came to actually doing it, the horse balked. So here we were, all us senior citizens; we were all in makeup and totally dressed up. They said, “Okay go out to the set,” but there was nowhere to sit. We were leaning against a truck and the trick pony can’t do the trick. It went on and on and finally, I said to one of the prop guys, “Can you get us some chairs here? We’re not young!”
DC: I guess that’s why they say never work with animals in movies.
KG: I’ve been through that before, doing a scene with a big animal that just won’t behave. Anyway, they finally got the shot, but it took all day. So, we were one day behind after the first day of shooting!
DC: All on account of the horse!
DC: So how do you think your Little House on the Prairie fans are going to be shocked to see you in such a violent, twisted movie?
KG: I wonder about that. It’s very hard for me to predict. I just don’t know; it’s hard to know who likes horror movies. When I first started telling people I was doing this I was very surprised by some people who said, “Oh great! How exciting, I can’t wait to come!” Because a lot of my women friends were… “I don’t know Karen, I might miss this.” So, I don’t know how they will react. I hope they’re not too mad at me.
DC: It’ll be interesting to see how many of your Little House fans like horror, just like I’m sure there’s a subset of horror fans who also like Little House.
KG: A lot of people who were really in love with Little House have grown up; they still like it, but they aren’t children anymore.
DC: What are you working on next?
KG: I wish I knew! I’m between jobs. [Laughs]