Danielle Harris Talks Creepshow, Halloween, And Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead – Exclusive Interview
It’s Halloween season, which is probably pretty evident since there’s a glut of horror movies and TV series dominating the market. “Candyman” got a remake, there’s “Walking Dead” content on your television, and, of course, there’s a new “Halloween” movie, “Halloween Kills,” out in theaters and streaming on Peacock. One other classic horror franchise is also back: “Creepshow.” The film series that recently transitioned to a TV series on the streaming service Shudder is also in the midst of airing new episodes.
One of the most recent “Creepshow” episodes, “The Thing’s in Oakwood’s Past,” is animated, but if you’re a big horror fan, you still might recognize the voice of the lead character, Marnie Wrightson. The character is voiced by Danielle Harris, whose career kicked off when she played Michael Myer’s niece Jamie Lloyd in “Halloween 4” and “Halloween 5.” Looper had the chance to sit down with Harris to talk about her experience being directed by horror maestro Greg Nicotero for “Creepshow,” but we also couldn’t help ourselves and asked a little bit about her “Halloween” past. It turns out Harris has some very specific memories concerning an infamous refilming during “Halloween 5” that led to an entire character being replaced.
Naturally, we also asked Harris about one of her other classic movies, “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” and how she feels about it now.
On setting the tone for an animated Creepshow
What was going on with recording an animated “Creepshow” so far as pandemic restrictions are concerned?
I was in a voiceover booth by myself and vaccinated and tested before we went in there, as well as the crew, the engineers, and stuff. So it was only, I think there were three of us total. So the great thing about COVID and doing voiceover work is you can be by yourself, you’re not really near anybody else.
Was director Greg Nicotero involved in the recording process?
Oh yeah, of course. So Greg directed the episode via Zoom and I got to see his big face on the big monitor right in front of me. And he got to see me so the camera was in the room and he was watching me as I was watching him, essentially. And there were little bits of animation done before we’d recorded, which isn’t usually the case. Usually that part comes out after. So I was able to see little bits of what my character would be seeing through the animation, which was incredibly helpful.
I’ve known Greg three quarters of my life. We met on “Halloween 5” and he became sort of a father figure to me and he taught me how to drive, got me my first guitar, and he’s like family. So all these years we’ve never gotten a chance to work together and this came up and he just messaged me and was like, “What’s up? What are you doing?” and “Would you want to do Creepshow?” I said, “Hell yeah I want to do Creepshow.” So I didn’t care what it was. I didn’t know it was going to be animated. I had no idea. I was like, whatever you give me, I will happily do. I mean, I would do anything, I’d do craft service on the show. So I was just happy to be a part of it. But I was the very first actor to come in and do any of the recording, so I kind of got the chance to set the tone a little bit for what was going to happen in the story, which was nice. I was so excited to get back into a voiceover booth, because it had been many years since I was able to do a character and I find that there’s a bit more freedom for me comedically to just go for it when I’m not aware of a camera in the room. But I was super bummed that the first time I’m doing a creature feature, I’m not in the room with the creatures. So I was like, oh man, I’ve never experienced that in real life. I’m hoping one day that I’ll get to do something with creatures and like, especially Greg’s creatures. Pretty amazing.
What made playing Marty on Creepshow fun
Did he help you sort of understand what they were, what he was going for? What was the process of you working with Greg other than the fact that he was over a Zoom?
Yeah. There were little bits of animation done prior. So I was able to see, he showed me sort of roughs of this is what it’s going to look like. This is how much time it’s going to take you your character from entering to getting to the stage, just kind of timing stuff and to know how crazy the monsters are going to be when they’re coming into the car and how big I really need to be and to get a grasp of all of that stuff. So it was super helpful and you know, they’re particular, so there definitely was definite direction and guidance as to where to go with the character, which I appreciate
Where did your character Marnie start in your mind and where did she wind up after a couple of takes?
Well, she’s the final girl, right? I mean, even with monsters, she’s still the final girl, which is great, starts off kind of awkward and finds this man that she kind of has a little thing for which makes her more awkward, but she’s so obsessed with uncovering the truth of the story because she lives and dies for the history of the town essentially, and saving everybody really and ends up fighting her way through and out. And then thank God she lives, I was like, oh man, I was surprised it was fun watching and it was fun reading it because I really did not know what was going to happen.
Similarities between Halloween Kills and Halloween 4
So Halloween’s coming up.
And the latest “Halloween” movie, “Halloween Kills,” is out. I have to say, I was also watching those first “Halloween” movies you were in, 4 and 5, and all I could think was “Halloween Kills” takes some very serious lifts from “Halloween 4.” “Halloween Kills” has a scene where a bunch of guys in a bar get real mad. They hear Michael Myers is back and they go out and form a mob — that exact thing happens in “Halloween 4.” Does that surprise you?
I’m not surprised. It worked for “Halloween 4” and those characters were great. I have not seen the new one, I don’t know what “Halloween” this is — 13, 14. I’m not a hundred percent sure where we are right now. I’m holding out for a remake of “Halloween 4,” I’ll tell you. I mean maybe by then if you know, this third movie just ends and then there’s another one after that maybe they’ll revisit the Jamie character, but I haven’t seen it. So I’m looking forward to seeing it actually, and then really letting everybody know what I think, good or bad. I’m hearing kind of mixed stuff. Everybody’s been enjoying going to see it, whether they like it or not. They’ve all said they’ve enjoyed the ride. So I’m happy that they’re continuing to make them because I think it’s a great franchise. Obviously I was a little bummed when the 2018 movie came out only because she [Laurie Strode] had a daughter and that was before I had seen the movie and then watching the movie, I was like, oh I wouldn’t have been right for this. This is not the kind of daughter I would’ve been if Jamie were to come back, so it’d have to be sort of the right thing. And the storylines, the timelines are all over the place. So we’ll see.
The story behind Doctor Death in Halloween 5
There was something you tweeted not too long ago. The first five “Halloween” movies had gotten re-released and they’d made a lot of hay about the fact that they uncovered footage from “Halloween 5” of the Dr. Death character and you tweeted something to the extent of “I remember the day that guy got fired.” What’s the story behind that?
You know, I remember weird s*** happening after he was fired, to cameras and the set, and it was almost like he had put a spell on the set. Awful things started going on that everybody was convinced had something to do with this original guy, because I think he was really a witch doctor. That was the story. Maybe he really did something, because bad things started happening. I remember cameras getting washed away and things falling apart and just unexplained things that would only make sense if he did something. He was creepy and it just felt eerie, you didn’t feel sorry. Haven’t seen the new footage, but remember there not being much empathy, but there’s more empathy obviously when Michael kills some poor old man who’s just trying to help him. So it, it sits better — there was still a wholesomeness back then in “Halloween 5.” I think that was taking it to another level and the film was already artsy having a French director and it being so different from “Halloween 4” so quickly thereafter, I think that it was just too much, they wanted to go back and simplify it.
The best character from Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead
You’ve said in the past that your favorite movie you’ve ever been in is “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.” That’s a great movie, but why is it your favorite?
It’s just so good.
Why do you love that movie so much? And as an adult, who is your favorite character in that film?
Well, of course Sue Ellen is, I mean, I wanted to be her when I was 13. I think everyone did. And I want to be her now, she’s the coolest. It’s a typical ’90s feel-good nostalgic movie. It just feels good. I remember it being a summer sleeper and me being very confused when I was 13 going, what does that mean? Does it mean it’s boring? Like, I didn’t understand what that was obviously as an adult now, I get it and it’s the only movie that when it comes on TV, I curl up and I watch it and I watch the whole thing. I just love it. And it was also the only time that I’ve really played a kid, if that makes any sense. Steven Harrick set such a great vibe on set and I was with a bunch of kids and I wasn’t acting like an adult. I didn’t have adult responsibilities as an actor. I could just be me. We would like, play Nintendo on break and go swimming in the pool during lunch, and it just really felt like they did a great job at keeping us children because that was authentic to what it needed to be. And that doesn’t happen very often.
Update on all-women slasher film Sequel
Is there any update on the horror movie you were set to direct, “Sequel”?
Actually, I just was just talking with Joe Dante this morning about someone I was interested in for one of the leads — I can’t say who, but we’re putting our cast list together again. COVID really messed everything up. So being able to now finally get back into the groove hopefully — it’s, it just costs a lot more money to make films now, with being COVID compliant. So just wanting to do it right, and doing it well and really picking and choosing this actress … I won’t tell you who it is, but I wrote to her about a year ago and because I’d heard a podcast where she was talking about how I was the reason why she wanted to become an actress. She loved horror movies and I was like, oh my God, are you kidding me? So I just wrote back, “Thank you, I think you’re awesome and I love all your stuff.” And then she just wrote me back yesterday saying “I can’t believe I didn’t see this fricking message until now.” Then I said “I’d love to work with you one day.” And she said “Oh my God, it would be a dream.” So of course I called Joe Dante and said “Hey guys, I think I may be able to like secure this. When are we going to push forward?” So we’re working out the cast, it’s hard. I have a lot of friends, who do you go with, I’ve got seven females to cast. What do you do? So it’s going to be filled with all kinds of fun stuff. I just am hoping we get to make it soon.
Potentially working with Jamie Lee Curtis and Halloween future
Of the actors that you’ve met at horror conventions but haven’t worked with yet, who would you like to work on a project with?
Oh God, there’s so many. I’ve worked with so many that I love so much, though. Brad Dourif is one of my favorite human beings on the planet, so obviously I would love to do something more with just he and I, that’d be a dream. Bruce Campbell would be fricking awesome to do something with. There’s just so many iconic people. I mean, I’ve worked with Robert Englund and I’ve worked with … I’ve worked with all of them in some sort of capacity, but it would be really cool to have us sort of all together for something. I mean, Jamie Lee Curtis. That’s kind of the no-brainer, right? I just get worried because I have high expectations and you know, I don’t know if she’ll be like, “Who are you? What are you doing? What’s going on here?” But it’d be awesome if we could come together at some point, at least to meet each other.
See, we’ve all just been pretending you’re in the next “Halloween” movie.
You know, it was real interesting because I saw an article the other day that, that of course my awesome fans were like, oh, the producer really wants to have Jamie back. And I was like, eh, I don’t think so, guys. I think you’re reading into something. And then I saw this article where they were talking about how it obviously didn’t fit the timeline of the story, but they would love to find a way to bring Jamie back. And I was like, no, no, he’s not saying he wants to bring me back. It was like, it, the idea would’ve been great. It doesn’t work. So let’s move on, people, in a nice way. So that’s sort of what I took. I don’t know if you saw the article, but that’s what I took from it.
The “Creepshow” episode “The Thing’s in Oakwood’s Past” is streaming on Shudder now.