Interview: CHILD’S PLAY’s Carlease Burke on Killer Dolls, Snakes, and On-Set Pranks
Any information we can get about the new Child’s Play movie, we jump at it. Therefore, we rushed at the opportunity to speak with the lovely Carlease Burke, who reveals how seeing the lifeless doll turned into the creepy character following her around on set. Also, she talks about becoming an addition to the production after it had already begun, and how that left her tempted to join the intense pranking culture that existed.
Read below to find out more before the film is released June 21st, 2019.
Synopsis: After moving to a new city, young Andy Barclay receives a special present from his mother — a seemingly innocent Buddi doll that becomes his best friend. When the doll suddenly takes on a life of its own, Andy unites with other neighborhood children to stop the sinister toy from wreaking bloody havoc.
Dread Central: What was it like when you first laid eyes on the Chucky Doll?
Carlease Burke: The first time I laid eyes on the Chucky Doll, I wanted to take a picture of it. He was inactive. I think I actually did get a picture of him when he was laying on a bed. He just looked very much like a doll laying on bed.
Obviously, we were told not to take pictures, and I couldn’t post anything on social media. But I think I happened to have my camera, and I did get a picture of him. Then, as I was going throughout my day, he would just appear places. I would see him lying on the table or on the chair. But he did get a chance to scare me because there was a scene where he was active and I didn’t know it. I couldn’t hear him, and I turned around and there he was. I jumped and screamed, and his face moved. It looked like a real human being’s face moving. I said, “Y’all, this is creepy.”
I wouldn’t turn my back on him after that. That’s all I can say about that.
DC: How was it working with director Lars Klevberg?
CB: Oh my God, he’s a crazy man, and I mean that in the nicest way. He’s fun and intense at the same time. I respect him because he knows exactly what he wants. He knows what he is doing obviously, but he knows exactly what he wants to have happen. And he’ll work with you until he gets it. It’s a lot of fun, but you also know that he’s very serious. And you know not to play around. He’s very focused.
DC: With your character Doreen, what can you tell us about her?
CB: Doreen, well she lives in the building. Andy is the little boy that gets the doll. He’s given the Chucky doll by his mother. He and his mother, who is played by Audrey Plaza, live in the same building that I do. I’m the neighbor that the kids all come to in the film, maybe like five or six of them. Some are friends and some are not so friendly with each other. But they have their own storyline. They love Doreen and they come to Doreen’s apartment.
She’s very much hands-on. She’s not a nosy neighbor, but she knows what’s going on in the neighborhood and what’s going on with the kids. They don’t really know that she is watching out for them, but they like her. Like I said, they’ll come to her. Then when the stuff goes down, we’re all involved.
She’s fun. She’s lively. She has a sense of humor. I think people will like Doreen.
DC: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more about Doreen. How do you prepare for a role?
CB: First, I read the script and understand the character. Then, I bring her to life. I get an idea of what the character is supposed to be about from the audition. Sometimes it’s very easy to figure out who the character is and how to bring myself to the character. Other times you have to do a little bit of research if you’re not familiar with a situation or the plot. In that case, I’ll do some more research. For example, when I played a homeless schizophrenic mother in Touch, I had to do some research because I wanted to make the character real and believable. I realized that I didn’t know what schizophrenia was at all. It’s not multiple personalities. I did research on a schizophrenic homeless person.
So I start with the character. I start with the work. I start with what makes sense and then I just build from there. Then, I have to memorize my lines. Sometimes I even modeled my character after someone that I know that has those characteristics or that behavior. Then I create a backstory for every character, whether anybody else knows it or not, I have a history in my mind about this character.
DC: At one point, you studied law at a CUNY school. What attracted you to acting?
CB: I always wanted to be an actor. I just feel like I was born wanting to be an actor. But my parents just weren’t having it. They didn’t want me to go in that field. My mother wanted me to be a teacher. I majored in pre-law only because she didn’t want me to major in the arts. I wanted to major in drama and make music and dance and act. Even before college, I wanted to go to a music and art high school. She wouldn’t let me audition for it. So, I would sneak a creative class in every semester of college.
But it was always like I wanted to do it. It’s just what I love to do. It’s what I do very well. When I’m acting in a film, there’s nothing else that I’m concerned about. It just brings me joy. I just love the whole creative process. I love acting the most. But even if it is writing, which I do a little bit of—or even if I’m working on a song for a show, like a one-off, if someone wants me to sing at a charity event or something like that—I just enjoy the whole creative, collaborative process. I love bringing characters to life that are like me or not like me. Then to be able to make a living off of it makes it even more fun.
DC: So, you’re living the dream?
CB: I am actually. Yup. What was once a dream is now a reality for me.
DC: Going back to on set, I know that you mentioned you would see the Chucky Doll appear in different places. Was there anything else creepy that happened on set?
CB: Not for me. But I remember Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Detective Mike, was on the soundstage by himself and heard noises. I don’t know if he was just playing, if that was really happening, or if he had his phone out trying to do an Instagram story. I don’t know.
But for me, I can’t think of anything right now. I was so focused on getting the job done.
DC: Was there anything that creeped you out as a child?
CB: Well, I used to have dreams about snakes. I don’t know why. But I’ve never been fond of snakes. I don’t like snakes. They make me very nervous.
But I did a play when I first moved to California from New York. I can’t remember the name, but it involved a group of snake handlers. Somewhere in the Bible it says if you can drink poison or handle snakes that are poisonous, then you won’t die because you are a Christian. The play was about these snake handlers in this church, and I played the piano in this piece. I chose to handle a real snake to get over my fear. They had rubber snakes in the play, but they wanted us to handle them as if they were real. So, they had us handle real snakes for a while. I remember I held a small snake. I didn’t like it, but I did it. What we won’t do for our craft right? But I’m not going to ever say that I would do that again. And it has not changed my opinion of snakes at all.
I also don’t like people trying to scare you, jump out from behind doors, or scary stuff like that. Don’t try to scare me or hide in the closet or do anything like that. You might get hurt. You might actually get punched in the eye. I don’t know. But I don’t like that.
I will say that there was a lot of pranking happening on set. One of the things, when I came on board, was that they had already been working a little bit before I got there. They loved to play pranks, but the thing is that you saw plenty of pranks with kids. And it would never end. They just got bigger and better.
I remember it was tempting to want to get on set and find a way to bond and connect. When you walk on a set and everybody already knows each other, it’s like walking into somebody’s house that you don’t know. Everybody else seems to have this history, you know? They have stuff going on, so you kind of have to mesh with them, mesh into the project, and mesh into the scene. You have to make scenes feel real, like you all already know each other. So, it was so tempting to get involved with the pranking. But then I said, “Don’t do it. You will be sorry.” I ended up staying out of it.
I don’t want to mention any names, but by the end of the shoot, one person was like, “I wish I had never started this.” They were so annoyed because kids are so relentless. They love that. They will just keep going forever.
I was so glad that I found another way to mesh because it can all be distracting. I know that it can be hard to get focused when I’m on set and when I’m working. I don’t like to be scared. I don’t like to be disturbed. I don’t like to be interrupted. I was like, “No, let me do my job. You guys stay over there.”
But they loved me. We had a great relationship. It wasn’t like, “Carlease is mean,” or anything. But they knew not to do that with me. I didn’t have to say anything about it. They just knew.
DC: Thank you so much for speaking with me about your role, Carlease. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. I’m way too excited about it.
CB: Me, too. Thank you so much.