Mother, wife, actress, producer, icon, and so much more. Felissa Rose is truly a shining star in both the horror community as well as to the people she loves the most. Speaking with her is a reminder that strength and dignity are very present qualities that the most iconic women of horror undoubtedly possess.
Though she surrounds herself in scares and gore, Felissa is an incredible beam of light and positivity as she expresses the joys of her craft as both a professional and an individual. Known eternally for her role as Angela in Sleepaway Camp to producing over 30 film projects, Felissa is not only a familiar face, but an important voice in the genre.
“I think horror has a lot of love and respect and gratitude towards women and towards older women. […] It really speaks to how horror just embraces everyone.”
Jessica Rose For Nightmare On Film Street: How are you doing through all of this shelter-in-place?
Felissa Rose: I’m staying positive and looking at all the good stuff going on: bonding, family, and less pollution in the air. I’m just taking the time out and just looking at the bright side of life.
NOFS: Absolutely. Speaking of family, with so many credits on your resumé, how do you maintain that home and work life balance? I always see you with your children and husband on social media. I’m a lifelong CKY fan, by the way.
FR: He’s amazing. Deron has his record deal. He’ll be writing and on tour. I’m really proud of him. As far as the juggling, it’s definitely a great balance in my life. We work really hard to maintain being home enough where we spend a lot of time together. Then I run off and I get my fix of excitement with the creativity of all the films and all the love at the conventions. That’s wonderful energy. I’m always inspired by everyone and I’m a fan myself, so it’s exciting to go and meet all the directors and actors that I love. It’s always making sure that we have a good balance and kind of setting it up ahead of time. Deron is really great about working with my schedule and his schedule and someone’s always here for the three kids.
NOFS: That’s important and really inspiring. Anyone who works in this industry and also has a family, I mean, that’s tremendous.
FR: Thank you so much. I certainly love it. I don’t think I’d really be able to do it any other way. I enjoy a great challenge and certainly with a busy schedule, it’s always trying to make sure everything gets done. I love being a mom, it’s the greatest. That’s really the greatest gift, but I couldn’t live without being able to make these movies. It’s part of my makeup and my dreams and my heart and my passion, so it’s all like a good blend. I feel grateful that I can do it.
NOFS: While you enjoy a challenge, are there any that you’ve faced as a professional or as a woman in this industry? How do you combat them?
FR: I can only obviously speak from my perspective […] I have not come across any kind of discrimination or feeling less than. As I produce, I probably do work with more men than women, but I am happy to be in the mix because I look for scripts that are female-centric. Camp Twilight and Killer Rose, a lot of the films that I’m producing right now, have women in the forefront. Being a producer on that end, they look to me and say, “Ok, what projects do you think will really speak to the audience that are timely, that are socially relevant?” All of those good things. I’ve been fortunate where I can put myself in there and work with great people, both men and women, who want to see these films get made. Caroline Williams and I play these assassins, these kickass, crazy women. I’m in my 50s, she’s in her 60s, and we’re running around with guns. That’s the upside and I’ve only seen the positive, so I love it.
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NOFS: That’s really refreshing. That’s what you want to hear. And recognizing women in horror is not solely about all of the challenges we face, but also all of the great things that we are doing. That’s important to also highlight just as much.
FR: I think horror has a lot of love and respect and gratitude towards women and towards older women. You see in a lot of these films, women who aren’t in their 20’s. Dee Wallace or Adrianne Barbeau, Barbara Crampton, Lin Shaye. We’re seeing these beautiful women who do marvelous work at this time. It really speaks to how horror just embraces everyone. I think that’s why we love horror. It’s a community of camaraderie.
NOFS: What’s the best part of everything you get to do?
FR: The best part of it I would say is that I get to work with people I absolutely love and adore all the time. Oftentimes I have my hand in the casting, so I work with a lot of the same people over and over again. A lot of the same great directors from Harrison Smith to Adam Green, Tommy Faircloth, Rickey Bird, Thomas Churchill, and just some great directors. I’m like on a rotation with them. We’ve done several projects over and over. I think being able to just love what you do, it’s all about gratitude everyday for me. I love the work that I’m involved in because it feels, honestly as cheesy and sappy as it sounds, that’s what makes my heart soar everyday. I think to be a good parent, you have to live in a world, for yourself, that is stimulating and inspiring so that you can give that to others.
I’m staying positive and looking at all the good stuff going on: bonding, family, and less pollution in the air.”
NOFS: I agree. Putting that positivity out there in the universe and receiving it back, it’s a karmic way of keeping the wheel turning.
FR: It’s about keeping yourself on a happy momentum. I try to meditate every day and live on this vibration that’s really positive and joyful because there are challenges. There are days, especially right now the way the world is, where we do face moments where it might look bleak or unsatisfying, but you can certainly find the love and the joy in friends and in so many other areas that can help elevate you and make you feel good. I just try to take it one moment at a time.
NOFS: With Angela, do you ever feel like there’s a stigma that comes with that role? I can’t even imagine how many times people have asked you to do the face or how many people ask the same thing that I’m asking right now. Does it ever get old?
FR: You know what I always say to that, because people have asked me at conventions about that, I always say that I will cry the day people don’t ask me to do the Angela face. Having made Sleepaway Camp when I was still young at 13, who knew then that it was going to give me the life that it has? It’s given me the most incredible journey, both personally and professionally. I work in the genre that I adore and love because of Sleepaway Camp. I have a family because of it. Deron was a huge Sleepaway Camp fan and told his friends and family when he was younger, “Oh, I’m gonna marry that girl.” That sort also came into play because of Sleepaway Camp. Everything is linked back to Sleepaway Camp, whether it’s personal or professional. I’m very grateful for it.
NOFS: How crazy that it all aligned like that? That’s cool […] They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but in a way you should, and then marry them.
FR: We met on the set of Return to Sleepaway Camp in 2003 and he flew out on a red eye because the director said, “I want that band CKY here” and I was like, “Oh, I I know the singer. He’s a huge Sleepaway Camp fan. The next thing I knew, I was on the phone with their manager and they were at the camp that next morning. Deron was like, “I want to marry you and I want you to move into my house in California.” I was living in New York at the time and he’s like, “Let’s have a family.” Being the off-the-cuff, fly-without-a-net kind of person, I was like, “Okay, sounds great to me. Let’s do it!” Now we have these amazing kids who are just the brightest, most amazing joy in my life.
NOFS: They’re beautiful. Are they horror fans?
FR: They are huge horror fans. Sometimes I’ll fall asleep, they make fun of me because I’m the early one, I always crash, and Deron is the one out getting candy and the four of them sit up and watch movies. The other night he showed them High Tension. That’s rough. It’s an amazing film, but certainly not for young eyes. But they’re really well rounded. They love horror and the conventions. I’ve put them in some of my films. It’s just ordinary for them. For me, I look at it like, wow! I think it’s kind of a cool thing that they’re in horror movies. My girl got killed by Danny Trejo in a project I did. Caroline Williams and Bill Mosley played the parents and I’m like, “You’re going to thank me one day.”
NOFS: Even if they aren’t aware now, they will be later […] just like how we appreciate everything you both do in the entertainment business, especially with Sleepaway Camp and everything that you’ve done in between to producing. What made you want to go into producing?
FR: It’s funny because it had a lot to do with Deron. When we were first having kids, he was on tour a lot. I wanted to be home with the kids and hadn’t thought about it and then I did a movie with Harrison Smith called Camp Dread. I just felt like it was a very natural transition. It’s not unlike being a mom. You’re always taking care of everyone and putting everything together. I like the hustle and the grind, I love when a billion things are on my plate. Nothing satisfies me more than having a thousand things at a time and that’s what being a producer is.
You’re taking care of every little detail and you have to be really meticulous with it. I just naturally went towards getting involved with other people’s projects and they’d say, “Hey, can you produce this? Can you produce that?” It’s just led to many and I’m loving it. I’m really loving it almost as much as I love acting. People ask me all the time, which do you love more? I think acting just because it was my first love and my baby. There’s just something so exciting when you’re creating a character and you’re in front of a camera. But I definitely love producing and seeing a project made from beginning to finish.
“Always feed your dream and always put yourself out there no matter what […] Nothing is difficult in life. If that’s what you want and that’s in your heart, you will make it happen.”
NOFS: I believe it. That seems satisfying and rewarding. What roles do you look for? What stories and characters grab your attention?
FR: I really love a role, when I’m reading scripts, that I haven’t done before. I always have this idea that every character has to have their own little world, their own biography and backstory. When I read a script that jumps off the page and it’s something I hadn’t done, I’m completely attracted to that. Everything from Rootwood to Garlic And Gunpowder, where I was a 300-pound mob boss, to Sheriff Jerry in Return To Sleepaway Camp to the publicist in Victor Crowley, everything is different.
I try to look at my women as all different people with different stories to tell and different motivations and relationships. It’s always about who I’m working with. I’ve been working with several directors over and over where we’re doing multiple movies. That’s exciting to me because you want to trust the people you’re working with and you want to feel safe when you’re in that playground. So I have been fortunate to work with some great writers and directors over multiple movies at a time.
NOFS: Not being typecast, being able to play all these different characters, and to have such an eclectic resumé is so impressive. To be in the shoes of so many different people is incredible. What advice would you give to somebody who would want to do something like you do whether it’s acting or producing?
ADS ARE SCARY
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FR: First of all, never let anyone discourage you. Always feed your dream and always put yourself out there no matter what. Talk to people, get yourself in classes or networking groups or online, looking for like-minded friends, whether it’s on Facebook groups or Instagram groups. There’s always people, especially independent companies looking for actors or interns. Just get on a set. I’ve made so many friends through the conventions and have had several who’ve moved to California and now we work together.
One friend in particular, whose name is Austin Brocks, he wanted to be in the entertainment industry more on the crew side. I said, “Get your ass out here!” and he came out and now his resume is huge. He’s one of my best friends. He loves it. Once you’re on a set, you meet so many people, man. They’re like, “Hey, we’re going to make a movie next week” or “We’re gonna do this!” and it just snowballs. You find your people. You find your community. Everyone finds their group. It really does upset me when people discourage young people like it’s “too hard”. Nothing is difficult in life. If that’s what you want and that’s in your heart, you will make it happen.