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  • Writer's pictureoliverjlwebb

An Interview with Adrienne Barbeau

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

Adrienne Barbeau is an actor and author. Making her Broadway debut in the chorus of Fiddler on the Roof in the early 70s, Barbeau was later cast as Broadway’s original Rizzo in the musical Grease. Barbeau subsequently appeared in acclaimed horror and Sci-Fi films including The Fog, The Thing, Swamp Thing and Escape from New York, as well as the hit sitcom Maude. Adrienne has also worked as a voice-over artist for video games such as God of War III, Halo 4. She was also the voice of Catwoman in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. I spoke with Adrienne about landing her first role, her collaborations with John Carpenter, working in the horror genre and her upcoming projects.

Did you always want to pursue a career as an actor?

I never even realized acting could be a career until I was in my first (and only) year of college. I loved acting and I started doing community theater and school productions, but I didn't think it was something you did to earn a living. Get a degree and teach acting in a high school drama department maybe, but earn a living as an actress? Who did that?

How did you land your first role?

Well, the first role I remember auditioning for was Tuptim in a production of The King and I at the San Jose Light Opera. The first time I got paid - $7.00 a day - was when I did a musical revue for our armed forces in Southeast Asia. We played bases in South Korea, on the DMZ, in Japan and Taiwan and the Philippines, and in Hawaii and an atoll in the South Pacific that was an atomic testing center. I was 18. But my first professional job was a series of roles in a summer stock theater in Michigan; that's how I got my Equity card. And my first Broadway role - Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof - came after a gruelling five-hour audition for Hal Prince and his casting director Shirley Rich.

Are there any particular actors who have influenced your work?

You know, I didn't grow up going to the movies or watching television so I'd have to say no. I loved Sophia Loren and Jean-Paul Belmondo and how I wish I could have had their talent but I don't think it rubbed off. Maybe Bea Arthur - without even knowing it, I'm sure I learned so much about doing comedy from her.

You first collaborated with John Carpenter on The Fog. Could you tell me more about the process working with him?

Working with John was like slicing through room temperature butter - easy. He kept a happy set, peopled with cast and crew he wanted to be working with and he knew he could trust. He knew what he wanted and he knew how to convey that to everyone. I trusted him completely. Working on The Fog we had one difference of opinion: in a scene where Stevie was anxious about something that had just happened, he asked me to sit down to get the scene started. I said I thought she was too upset to sit. He told me to stand. As I said - easy.

Adrienne in The Fog (1980)

You subsequently appeared in other horror films including Creep Show, Swamp Thing, and The Thing. What drew you to the horror genre?

Actually, nothing drew me to horror. I don't like watching horror films and aside from some of the ones I've done, I've probably only seen a handful by choice. I think the genre sort of found me. After the success of The Fog, those were the films I was offered. I did comedy, too, but those are the ones I'm associated with. And believe me, I love doing them - when they're well written and directed - and they've given me a great, long-lasting career for which I am incredibly grateful.

Adrienne in Swamp Thing (1982)

How have the acting roles you’ve been attracted to changed since you first started out?

The characters have gotten older. That's about it. I'm still attracted to strong women's roles, sometimes the villain, sometimes the heroine, rarely the victim.

Is there a film, or role which you are most proud of?

I love my role of Ruthie on HBO's Carnivale. Pretty proud of her. And 5 years ago, I played Pippin's Grandmother in the National Tour of Pippin - singing my song while doing an entire trapeze act which ended with me upside down 15 feet in the air with no net. Proud enough of that to put it on YouTube.

What’s the best advice a director has given you on a film set?

The first scene I did for John Carpenter in Someone's Watching Me was a scene where I reveal to Lauren Hutton that I'm gay. John wrote it beautifully. We shot it on the first day and John came over to me and said, "That was great. Let's do it again, and do less." less. It's film, not stage, not four camera sit-com. Do less. I.E. Let the camera do the work.

Are you currently working on any projects?

I just had my fifth book published - a collaboration with the many actors who appeared in the original stage productions of Grease, entitled Grease...Tell Me More, Tell Me More. I have several films in post-production and just finished filming a short horror film Curiosities. And I am doing an Amazon Prime series created by one of my favorite authors, Harlan Coben's Shelter. I spend several days a week narrating films and TV series for the seeing impaired. And putting the finishing touches on a pilot episode based on my second novel Love Bites, which we're hoping will find its way to your favorite streaming platform sometime soon. Thanks for asking!

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