Quantcast Patricia Tallman interview

Patricia Tallman of
NOTLD 1990/Babylon 5!
Many fans know Patricia Tallman from either her role as Lyta Alexander on 'Babylon 5' or as the reduxed Barbara in the 'Night Of The Living Dead' remake. Most people don't realize she's risked her neck in dozen's of productions from soaps to television to feature film's, such as 'The Long Kiss Goodnight', 'Creepshow 2', 'Army Of Darkness' and two 'Austin Powers' movies. Read on & get to know the lovely & sweet Pat Tallman, whom our own staffer Ian refer's to as "a total babe."- by Robg. 6/05

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What was the first movie to really scare you?

We went to the drive-ins as a family. My sister and I would be in our jammies in the back seats. I think my parents assumed we'd get bored and fall asleep, but we never did. I remember "The Hand" with Michael Cain. I had terrible nightmares about that one! There were a couple of Vincent Price movies that scared me pretty bad as well.

Do you remember your initial reactions to seeing the original 'Night Of The Living Dead'?

I hadn't seen 'Night Of The Living Dead' until I was in college. But by then it was already a classic. And at first, I didn't want to go because scary movies always freaked me out & had given me bad dreams! (laughs) So, of course I was pressured into going to a midnight show on campus & it WAS one of the scariest things I had ever seen. Terrifying. When I heard George was doing this remake in 1990, I thought 'Why?' because the original was so effective and scary. But it turned out it had to do with some copyright issues.

How’d you initially get involved in acting? From what I read on your bio, you started at a very early age with your father’s radio show?

I have always wanted to act. When I was little, I used to reenact TV commercials and musical numbers for my family and the neighborhood. I played Star Trek with my Barbies and acted out Dark Shadows with my cousin. So no wonder I ended up in horror and sci fi!

You came to New York City to pursue acting after college & started out by doing both theatre and television work. How’d this all lead to you becoming a stunt woman?

I always wanted to be Errol Flynn. I had taken fencing lessons in college, and loved stage combat. When I got to New York, I took period sword technique classes, as a hobby. I met some stunt people in those classes and it all went downhill from there!

Do you remember the first stunt gig you got and how you went about approaching it?

I'm pretty sure it was a soap opera. Although... hmm... I'm trying to recall...

Stunts in a soap opera?

Yea. A soap opera and then I met some other stunt people. And usually the way it is with stunts is you kind of apprentice with people that are already doing it. They teach you what you need to do, and if it looks like you show promise & can do the work & have the right attitude, then they'll give you more small jobs. So, I started with the soaps, which didn't have major stunts because of the budgets and how quickly they shot them. So, stunts would mostly involve falling & small fights & things you normally wouldn't want to do with the actors. That's the kind of thing we did and I was very good at fights. Because it's choreography like with dancing. I actually subbed Tina Louise from Gilligan's Island in a really terrible movie called 'The Pool' falling out a balcony. And I had the right height and color to double for her. It was really exciting. I remember I had to just topple over this balcony & I fell into boxes, because it wasn't that high of a fall. 20, 30 feet. I remember the stunt guys being very indulgent and sweet with me.

Has there ever been a stunt that you approached that you perhaps felt a bit nervous about doing? Or maybe even one that you’re really proud of?

I am always a bit nervous. That's how you stay safe. You treat each stunt with respect no matter how simple it is or how many times you have done something like it. I am proud of doing the work, all of it, and the fact that stunt people I respect called me to work with them.

Was any particular project more difficult to work on then the others, due to perhaps the amount of stunts or workload involved?

Of ever? My God, yes! There were a couple that left me thinking "Why am I doing this? This is crazy"  Probably the hardest was 'The Long Kiss Goodnight'. It was a brutal environment, because it was so cold. We shot that in Toronto. And I was doubled Gina Davis. The stunts in that were very involved and I think I was the 5th stunt double brought in because the other one's kept getting hurt. That was tough.
Tell us a bit about your working relationship with George Romero, which started on his film ‘Knightriders’? Is that also where you first met Tom Savini?

I auditioned for Chris and George in NYC for Knightriders. My boyfriend at the time knew George, so we both got an audition. I ended up with a much better part! I knew Tom also from this boyfriend. Tom taught a make-up class at C-MU, where I went to college. That's in Pittsburgh, where Tom and George lived. I got to know Tom better on Knightriders, and see what a fine actor he really is.

I read you were in Creepshow 2. I love Creepshow 2! Can you tell me a bit about some of the things you had to pull off on that film?

Ummm...let's think back a bit now...

The most colorful stuff for me was in Arizona where we did the Blob part of the film. We had a lot of water safety to do for the cast and the crew. The water was extremely murky, there was NO visibility. I did the part where the girls got eaten by the blob. Lots of nasty make-up. But I loved the area, the west. I love living in California now.

First and foremost, let me say you kicked so much ass as Barbara in the 'Night Of The Living Dead' remake. Now, how’d you get involved in ‘Night Of The Living Dead’? Did you audition for Barbara initially or were you always a choice of Tom’s for the role?

I had to audition. They were only seeing people in NYC, and I had moved to LA, so I sent in a video tape. My friend, Marty Schiff shot my audition, he really directed it. He was in Knightriders and works with Tom now on the series he is doing. Tom has said he always wanted me for the role. I choose to believe him!

Your version of Barbara was obviously far different from the version portrayed by Judith O’Dea in the original. How exactly did you approach your Barbara?

I just constructed a character based on the script. The writer puts the black on the page, I fill in the white. I never wanted her to be the same as the original. What would be the point in that? The original was so perfect as it was!

Were you surprised to see such a different version of Barbara in the remake's script as opposed to the one from the original? Didn't George actually write the script to both the original and remake?

Well, I was really pleased that he updated it. He wrote for the time period when he did the first one in 1968. I wasn't interested in playing that girl. And when I read the new one, I thought "Ok! Much Better!". (laughs)

There’s a slew of phenomenal actor’s in the remake from Tony Todd to Bill Mosley, Tom Towles, & William Butler. What do you consider some of your favorite moments in the film? Both from your performance and maybe some from the other actors?

It's interesting you should say that because I think I take all the performances for granted. Everyone was great. It's the relationships I remember, our off screen bond. They were all just remarkable folks. I should watch the film again and just look at the acting. I don't think I have ever done that. The movie is so scary, I don't enjoy it on that level! And I hate watching myself.
Do you remember much about all those great performances or the behind-the-scenes stuff on NOTLD?

It's really hard to have enough distance from a movie you're working on. I know that if there were a bad performance, then it was stick out like a sore thumb. And there was none of that in 'Night'. Everyone was just so solid. I knew that when we were doing it. Here we are in this very surreal situation, where most people would not take it seriously, but everyone did take it very seriously. And was very creative with it. And also everyone had a really great sense of humor of things during our downtime. There are times you work on something where you'll notice an actor does not want to ever socialize or have too much fun with it. Who are always trying to be so serious. But we had a really good mix of both. When we were working, everyone was on top of it, well prepared and well rehearsed. And when we had to wait for a long set-up, then we'd get goofy because it was the middle of the night.

Tony was the most serious guy & he'd often just kick back while we were waiting for a set up. And often, we just couldn't let him get away with that! The guy who lived in the house we shot in, I believe really did have a hobby in taxidermy. The whole place was filled with real stuffed animals! Animals that were once alive and now stuffed. We used all of them in the movie. All the one's on the wall were already there & they were really creepy. So, anyway, I would find a stuffed alligator or something and stick it on Tony while he was trying to sleep. But he was really a good sport about it. You go a little nuts when you're shooting all night, every night, 6 days a week. You just need some sort of comic relief.

Everyone was really great about that.  The only sad thing is that I don't see everyone. Tony and I are the only one's that really cross paths at the conventions. I just saw Billy Butler for the first time in 15 years. Katie was asking about him too. Savini, I still see and talk to. And George and Chris...

Speaking of, are you excited for 'Land Of The Dead'? Isn't it time George came back to the genre?

Oh, I'm sure the fans are absolutely thrilled. He created it, and he's the one who SHOULD be doing it. And I'm sure it'll be awesome because it's George! Of course!  Some people asked if I was sad to not be in it, but I say "As what?! As grandma of the living dead?" You can only be a zombie hunter for so long. I do think it's going to be a great movie. George should really be doing more of everything. I think he's a phenomenal filmmaker.

Agreed. I love all his movies.

I know. I hope he gets the career he deserves with this film.

There’s some great social commentary, both in the original & remake versions of ‘Night Of The Living Dead’. I love your line “They’re us. We’re them and they’re us.” Followed by your sarcastic smirk and the  “Having fun?” comment. What’s your opinion of what these films are trying to say? Do you think this is perhaps the reason that Romero’s original has become such a classic?

It's something that I believe we can do in the film and television industry; make people think while entertaining them. Sometimes if you show a subject, or and idea out of context it gets into the brain easier. Like if you watching a show that takes place on a space ship, and you see a storyline about prejudice against an alien race, how wrong it is, some people may be able to get the point. They don't want to hear about how prejudiced they are in real life, but maybe we can get them to see it if we put it in a less threatening setting like sci-fi.

I get all tense when asked 'what do you think George is trying to say?". I guess it's because I don't want to tell anyone what to think. It's each persons job to decide for yourself, think for yourself. It doesn't matter what I think. My experience of the film is completely different from what anyone else's could possibly be. You who didn't act in it have a much purer vision of it.

With Tom Savini involved, obviously the creature effects were going to be top-notch. (Which they were!) Any zombie’s or effects really stand out to you as impressive or memorable while working on the picture?

They were all so gross. I didn't want to hang out and see how it was being created. I wanted to experience it as an actor. So I didn't hear all the stories about the people who wore the make-up. The person who was the zombie I shot in the head was a real towns person who wanted to be in the film. He was just so scary to me. And he really got into it...following me around and whispering about how he was going to get me. Oh yeah...it was fun being me.

Greg Funk who is a make-up artist and won an Emmy for his work on Babylon 5, was the graveyard zombie that I fight with and stab with the flower arrangement. I forgot about his make-up because we were working so hard on the action. He was so wonderful to work with because he understood completely all aspects of what was needed in the scene. I loved working with him. Maybe because of that, his make-up affected me the least.

I really feel that the 1990 version of Night Of The Living Dead stands the test of time, and in fact was maybe a bit ahead of the time, considering all the current crop of remakes. What were your reactions to first seeing it on the big screen and how do you feel about it when you see it now?

I was very proud of our work. I felt like the acting was as honest and real as we could be. The reaction from the audience was so satisfying. And people still talk to me about it. Yeah, I feel really good about it. Joe Straczynski said he wrote the part of Lyta for me based on seeing me in Night.

I feel a common mistake made in horror movies is that the filmmakers don't take the subject seriously enough. The actors don't try to be real. So you don't end up caring about anyone and just wait for the next gross thing to happen. You don't go home with any message.

Didn't you recently get to work with Katie Finneran again, who played Judy Rose in the 'Night Of The Living Dead' remake?

Yea! That was so great. Because I got a call from this stunt coordinator, Doug Coleman I've known him since he was first getting started, and now he's a huge stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director. He just did work on 'The Aviator'. And he was working on the new 'Bewitched' and called me out of the blue. You know, I got this actress I think you'd be good to double. And I thought "Doug, you haven't seen me in forever. I'm not the same size!" But he still told me to just come down to the set to catch up. So, I went down to Culver studios where they were shooting 'Bewitched' and he took a look at me and said "You'll be fine". So, I show up for a costume fitting a few days later & he told me the actor you're doubling is Katie Finneran and I said "You're kidding! I haven't seen her in 10 years."

So, when she showed up we were both in make-up at the same time and it was just so much fun. Awesome to see her again. So, in the movie she plays Will Ferrell's ex-wife. And the Nicole Kidman character, who's playing Samantha gets angry with Katie's character and causes all these mishaps. I stunt for some of those mis-haps. And it was fun, we had a great time. I hope everyone goes to see it, because I think it should be a pretty cute gag. And I know they were very, very happy.

I'm a big Will Ferrell fan, so I'm going to check it out for him. And now you, of course!

Oh, I LOVE Will Ferrell. He was just so sweet, really easy going. And very, very funny. At one point, I'm laying on the floor at the end of the stunt. With this huge light on top of me. I had been squashed like a bug. And it looked very dramatic. It was not a difficult stunt, but it was very technically involved from my end of it. So, he comes running over in character & all his friends come over and lift this light off of me like I'm the wicked witch of the west, and... the look on his face... was SO funny. Because he really was concerned, because it looked very dramatic and it looked very real. So, I look at his expression & started to laugh, which came off as inappropriate. But he was just so cute. It didn't ruin the take or anything, but it was just very, very funny. He was great with Katie too. Even from a fan perspective, I love that. When an actor you really love turns out to really be a nice guy.

You got to throw down with Ash in ‘Army Of Darkness as the possessed witch. What was it like to attempt to kick Bruce Campbell’s ass?

Well I sure don't think I came out on top!

Bruce is a hunk, he's totally fab, and he's funny which makes him irresistible. I wish I wasn't in so much pain at the time so I could have really enjoyed it. I was in make-up for over 17 hours, had horrible contact lenses in ( so I couldn't see) ,couldn't eat or pee, and was working 2 stunt jobs at the same time. I really wanted him to shoot me for real and get it over with.

So, while working on 'Army Of Darkness', you were also simultaneously doing other gigs?

I did that a lot back then. There was a time when I was just working so hard and I couldn't turn anything down. So, often I did what they call double-dipping. That just means that you're doing as many jobs as you possibly can all at the same time. I don't recall what I was doing at the same time. All I know is I was not sleeping!  And it was tough! But that was a bread & butter job. And it was all union, so it went toward my pension & health plan.

Army Of Darkness definitely seemed like a fairly big production. Were there a lot of difficult stunts to perform on that particular show?

It was intense! The puppets were so cool. Stuntmen were flying all over the place. I was the only stunt woman in the army.

So, you were (pardon the expression) the 'she-bitch' in 'Army Of Darkness'. Did you also come back as the S-Mart ghoul for the reshoots on the alternate ending after the film wrapped?

No, I was just the she-bitch. And I was in the army. KNB built all the costumes around my body for the skeletons, so I had my place assured!

You were the only female in the army?

Only stunt female in the army. They had a lot of skinny people cast for the skeletons for anyone with a skeleton like body. So, if it was a woman they didn't care. But in the stunt army I was the only female.

You instigate one of the most memorable lines in the first Austin Powers film. You’re the waitress that gets punched before Austin says “That’s a man, baby?”. What can you tell us about working on the Austin Powers films? Are sets on comedies really as tense as people claim?

I thought everyone seemed to be having a really good time. Mike Meyers was very sweet, and in character he was adorable as Austin. It was all good. The stunt coordinator, Bud Davis is a good friend of mine. We had fun. I loved my outfit!

I got to see more of Mike's acting style on the second one. I was in the fight scene on the Jerry Springer set. Mike first did the scene as written. Once they had that in the can, he'd get creative. I was fascinated. He was so funny and Seth Green could keep up with anything Dr. Evil threw at him. Awesome.

I had told my son (who was 6 at the time) that I was going to go to work with Dr. Evil and his son Scott. Julian said, in awe,"Scott Evil?!!!!" Like he was a rock star!

You also have a huge fan base from playing Lyta Alexander on ‘Babylon 5’. Series creator Joe Straczynski apparently had the entire series mapped out when he pitched it to the networks. What were your initial reactions to stepping into the sci-fi world?

I loved the pilot script. I never thought I'd get the part. I was blown away. I didn't know anything about the series. I only had "The Gathering" script. And I knew it was very special. I love sci fi. I read it constantly. I'm a total geek, squid, nerd.

Joe Straczynski is my FAVORITE writer working in comics today. What can you tell me about him from working on Babylon 5?

Joe was always easily accessible and generous with his time. Unless his door was closed and he was writing, his door was usually always open and it meant, "Come on in. If you have a question or want to talk". He was amazing that way. Our producers were right there on the set with us, so it wasn't like they were in another building or another lot. They were always right there for us. Joe was always tight-lipped about what was coming next. We were kind of on a need-to-know basis. Because he didn't want to spill any secrets before we shot. Which makes total sense.
With his writing in general, I tend to notice he has everything planned out wwaayyy in advance.

Oh yea! He's amazing that way. And so, there were times when you'd be acting, you say to Joe, "What exactly do I mean by this? I don't know what this means!" (laughs)

And did he ever just say "You'll see."?

Nah. He felt if he could trust you, then he'd illuminate you. But if it was something he really didn't want to let go of, well he would give you as much as he could and then we'd have to figure it out. I don't recall ever having too much of a problem with that. He would always give us enough as actors to make sense out of it.

You've done a lot of convention appearances in the past few years. What's the convention experience like from your perspective?

It's actually very draining. Doing the conventions is hard work. But most conventions, they try to treat you really well, but it's almost very necessary because you have to put out so much energy. And you don't always get energy back. So, sometimes it feels like a level of energy is sucked out of you, because everyone wants a piece of you. That's why they're there! And I understand that & I know that going in. There was a point I had to stop doing conventions, because I didn't feel I was being as assessable and friendly as I wanted to be. The down side is people do make fun of the conventions. Some people can't separate reality from tv and sometimes that makes it very hard too.
Were there any people you've either bumped into or always wanted to meet at the conventions?

I've always wanted to meet James Marster (from Buffy) & we have the same convention manager, but we always seem to miss each other. I haven't really had a chance to meet him. I mean, it always fun to meet other actors, and most are very sweet. We're there for the same reasons, so it's like we're in the same little club. Last Chiller, I got to meet Glenn Shadix, who had done BeetleJuice and Carnivale. It was great to meet him because he's such an accomplished actor. And we talked a lot about Carnivale because I have some friends that work on that show. I love to meet other actors. Mostly they're really great, but there's a few that think they're too big for their britches, and that's hysterical! Who DO you think you're fooling? (laughs). And you hear these stories about these actors being really rude to the fans, and you think, "oh get over yourself". But most of them are totally cool.

You do a lot of work for an organization called Penny Lane. Tell us a bit about them and how you got involved with them?

I've been working with the kids from Penny Lane for about 12 years now. It's a home for kids who don't make it in regular foster care, they have been so abused, they just don't function normally. I run a program for them called "Be A Santa". And fans helped me build them a computer lab. It become a community project, with our community being fans from all over the world. You can check it out on my website

Visit Patricia Tallman at: TheGalacticGateway.com

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