Curiouser and Curiouser: Do you want to move in as my neighbor? And we could have coffee, and sit around the firepit in the evening and watch the kids chase lightning bugs and stuff? I have great plans, with the house next door reserved for Craig, across the road for my sister, and two friends I want to put cabins in the woods at the back of our property. But the other side is totally open.
Jessica Leonard: YES!!! In fact, I didn’t realize it before now, but I think that’s what I’ve always wanted. Every summer night can be heavy with friends and family enjoying life and being together. And when the winter is at its worst, there will be people readily available to share quilts and complain about the bleakness and watch bad movies with. Have you ever heard that Joni Mitchell song Sisotowbell Lane? That’s how I imagine it.
C&C: Exactly! Just like in Sisotowbell Lane. All the good neighbors and sense of community without the noise and suffocation of urban life. You grew up in the country, yes? And our grandfathers were both tobacco farmers. Tell me about your grandparents.
JL: Yes. I lived on a tobacco farm, which was pretty magical. I had a lot of freedom and space to grow and adventure. My grandparents were very hard workers. I think it comes from growing up during the Great Depression. You just had to work hard. There was no other alternative.
My grandmother was sort of stern. She kept me and my uncle in line. She’s a worrier and sensible and very strong. My grandfather was a dreamer. He was the one who wanted to spend all their savings on traveling. He was very funny and personable – everyone liked him. He passed away when I was a sophomore in high school.
Here’s a story I want to tell about my grandfather. They settled for a good amount of time in California – in San Diego county -while their daughters were growing up. And then it was time to move back to Kentucky. They both had parents that were getting older and needed them and my grandfather had the idea to be a farmer. He wanted to build his own house (and he was good with this sort of thing, it wasn’t crazy for him to want to build a house) on a big chunk of land and farm it and live there forever. And one day the family was at the beach. My grandpa went out and drew his dream house in the sand. He drew out the entire house plan right there. And that’s what he later built. That’s the sort of person he was. He was the type of person to draw his house plan in the sand. And even though the house wasn’t what my grandmother had pictured, she had no choice but to say yes because of the look in his eyes as he showed her this plan for them. That’s who they were. He dreamed and she planned and together it made a good life.
C&C: Tell me about Frances Stein.
JL: It’s a movie! In my town, we have a local horror movie production company called Big Biting Pig and Frances Stein will be their 9th full length movie. It’s the story of a mad scientist, Frances Stein. I can’t give much away, but there is talk of reanimating human bodies and sucking the memories out of people’s heads – mad scientist stuff! And while I said they do horror movies, I’d call this one something more along the lines of a thriller.
My character is Jayne Ellis. She’s a brilliant young scientist who will do anything to get what she wants – and that thing usually involves some heavy flirting, sex, and manipulation. She is not a role model. Bad things happen to her. And I have to say, the bad things have been my favorite part of filming. There is a good chunk of time when I am tied up in a basement. I’m trapped in a chair – like, for real. Tied down, wrists zip tied, the whole shebang. And the set is built in this big garage – what used to be a bike shop – and there was no air conditioning and it was about a zillion degrees and I was physically miserable a lot of the time. But it was FUN! It is the closest I feel like I will ever get to being a Final Girl. Being terrified on film has been the best experience. I’m in there sweating like a whore in church and screaming through duct tape and it’s like a horror fan’s dream come true! I feel like Sally Hardesty crossed with Jess Bradford. I love the physical parts, the terror.
C&C: I know you’re planning for Halloween. What’s on the schedule so far? Is it your family’s Big Holiday of the year?
YAY HALLOWEEN! I do a big production for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well, but Halloween is the most fun. We decorate the inside of the house and the outside. Jonathan wants to do a full-fledged haunted house in there, but I keep telling him that’s not entirely realistic. Maybe one day.
Jonathan is very up in the air right now. He changes his mind on costumes every other day, so I have to wait until much closer to the date before doing anything for him. Last year he was a zombie. That was easy and I mostly just had to learn how to make convincing zombie makeup, I was pretty proud of it – that’s just toilet paper and a facial mask (and face paint, of course). The year before he was Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb, which was a lot of fun to make. And lots of people recognized him. He loved that.
Sean is the first partner I’ve had that will dress up with me, so that’s thrilling. Last year we did Ash and Mia from The Evil Dead and the remake -respectively. I was really proud of that idea. Everyone knew who he was, I think people didn’t get mine. This year we’ve settled on an Inglourious Basterds theme. He’s going to be Lt Aldo Raines and I’m going to be Shosanna. I get to buy a blonde wig and Sean has promised to shave his moustache accordingly. I haven’t gotten a wig in forever. I’m excited about that.
C&C: Do you believe in ghosts?
JL: Yeah, I do. And I could go on for hours. Firstly because I’ve got it in my head now that it’s scientific. Because energy can’t just disappear, it has to go somewhere. So when you die what happens to the energy of you? I don’t know, but something. So I believe honestly in these ghosts that are like impressions. Like, if you see a ghost of a woman walking from one room to the next over and over like on a loop. That’s not a conscious being, but it’s an impression left by a person’s energy, doing what that person always did. That’s what I most honestly believe.
But then there is the time I saw a ghost. It was at a friend’s slumber party. We were playing hide and seek in the dark – about five of use – and I won’t bore you with the layout of the house and all that, but the gist is this big green glowing light came from one room and moved at varying speeds from one girl to the next. It was about beach ball sized. And the pattern it moved in was very random. Sharp angles and curved lines. No one believed us, of course, but every one of us saw the same thing.
Ghost stories are the horror movies that actually scare me. I don’t know why, but they do. They scare the crap out of me. I love it. And I love the cheesy ghost hunting shows and all of that. Because it’s just more fun. I don’t know what goes on after you die. But whatever it is, I hope it’s fun. So yeah, ghosts.
C&C: When you were little, did you want to be anything when you grew up?
JL: Yeah, the first thing I remember really wanting to be was a dog walker. I’ve always loved dogs and it seemed like the best possible idea. My mom squashed that dream pretty quickly, explaining I wouldn’t make any money. But when I got older – probably around 8th grade – I thought about it some more and did a little math and realized it isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In about 5th grade I decided I was going to be a writer and in 6th grade I wrote my first “book” in the vein of the RL Stein Fear Street books I was reading at the time. I don’t still have it but I remember the basic idea was about a girl with a split personality. And of course the other personality had Carrie-like powers of the mind. And the main character was named Hope. And I titled it Hopes Gone. Which is the best title I’ve ever come up with.
C&C: What was your favorite toy as a child?
JL: Probably my Princess of Power toys – aka She-Ra. I was a different character from She-Ra for 3 straight years on Halloween. For my birthday one year my mom bought me She-Ra’s horse, Swift Wind. And that very night I left it out in the family room and our dog ate it. Just ate it completely. And of course those kinds of things re expensive, so there was no replacing it. It was my biggest regret in life for a long time. I relived that in my head quite a bit.
C&C: I remember Swift Wind, I was a drooling fan of She-Ra and the toys, too. Especially the horses and their awesome shininess and removable saddle/wing accessories. How long has it been since you’ve seen the She-Ra cartoon? What was your favorite cartoon?
JL: I can’t remember the last time I watched She-Ra. Although maybe that isn’t true. Maybe a year ago I saw that they had a lot of the episodes on Youtube and I watched one then. I should do that again. I remember watching Smurfs and Scooby Doo and Fraggle Rock. Those were all good. I didn’t like the old Looney Tunes stuff. I always thought that was boring. Just different ways to kill a toon.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
JL: A scrap bit of paper that says: thick crust, red onion, green peppers, garlic.
C&C: What was the first book you read that made a huge blazing imprint on you?
Okay, when I was in the first grade there was this book called The Golden Name Day by Jennie D. Lindquist. It was in our school library and all my friends had checked it out and read it. It was a chapter book. And reading it was almost a status thing, I think because it was so long and we were so young. I was a really bad reader then. My mom read me books and I loved stories, but I personally couldn’t read very well. Words didn’t work for me then. So I was very apprehensive about this, because according to all the other girls, they read this big book themselves. Now, I wonder if that’s true. But it doesn’t matter because at the time I believed it. And I was very susceptible to peer pressure I guess, so I checked the book out. And I didn’t read it all myself. I read some of it and my mom would read me some of it at night before bed. But I got through it and I thought it was wonderful. It was just fantastic.
About seven or eight years ago I thought about that book and decided it’d be nice to have. So I searched the internet and found out the book is no longer in print and getting a copy meant spending a minimum of about fifty dollars. It was a collectible. But when I get an idea to have something or do something I can get a little obsessive. So I kept looking and finally I found an old library copy online for maybe fifteen dollars and I bought it immediately. I read it over again and it was still pretty magical. If you can find it, I recommend it.