Ella Mental's Mad Lab Picture Show: A Budderboddom Xmas - in a few
words, what is it about?
This show is
essentially about a kooky mad scientist, Dr. Ella Mental, who is trying to
make a snowman come to life, and while she figures out how to do so, she
also hosts us through an “educational film” as she likes to put it,
the 1972 film Silent Night, Bloody Night. In her crazy preparation
for her experiment she has to overcome several obstacles like her alter
ego Hydie, and Gruber the Sorcerer. But along with her two sidekicks,
Roscoe and Mr. Butterbottom she learns what the magic of Christmas can do.
What can you tell us about
shooting the show as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shot the movie in one day. The environment on set is so much fun and very
relaxed. Our crew is like one big family. We had hot apple
cider and home cooked chili and spent the day laughing and making magic.
Ella Mental conceived in the first place, and did you have any
creative input on the conception?
husband Johnny Johnson [John
Johnson interview - click here] and I had been mulling over the idea of creating a
horror host character for some time. He really left it up to me to
make the final decision on who I wanted her to be. I knew I wanted
to play a mad scientist of sorts and really like the Jekyll and Hyde
theme, which would allow me two different characters to play with.
The overly enthusiastic Barbie, and the sadistic deep voiced mistress. I
think the Dr. Ella Mental name was the hardest part for me to decide in
the end. One funny little part of her character is she gets hiccups when she
gets flustered, that causes her to take her special potion which
inevitably turns her into Hyde. I took the hiccup concept from my own
life because I have these bizarre hiccups every hour for the last 6 years,
and I have seen many doctors to try and find out why, but they can’t
explain it. It’s nothing serious, just my own weird little quirk, so I
choose to use it and add it to Ella’s persona.
Ella Mental-shows seem to have been made very much in the spirit
of kiddie-shows - so do you consciously base your performance on
presenters of those, and anything else you draw upon to bring Ella to
think a big influence in The Mad Lad Picture Show is Pee-wee’s
Playhouse. Growing up as a child in the 80’s you could not help
but to love that show. It had such an influence on me as a small
child. It was wacky, fun, educational, with puppets and crazy
visitors, truly something you can go back and watch now and it still holds
up. I feel like it was an adult kid’s show in some ways. We
wanted to put that same vibe into Dr. Ella Mental’s show. We
wanted it to be goofy, but very adult. I think it gives it a very
different element that I haven’t seen much of recently. I am also
a huge fan of Lucile Ball and as a kid I watched I Love Lucy all the
time. I added a bit of her quirkiness to Ella’s character.
Ella Mental's alter ego Hydie - how liberating is it to play her,
and between her and the good doctor, whom do you like to play more, and
who do you think you've got more in common with, personally?
really enjoy playing Hydie. She is so raunchy and does not give one
fuck about anyone but herself. I think I have more in common with Ella but
sometimes wish I could be more like Hydie.
much of a Dr.
Ella Mental-show is actually scripted, how much improvised?
all of it is scripted. Mr. Butter Bottom’s dialogue in the script
usually just says “gibberish”, so we never know what he is actually
going to do, which is fun. If someone has an idea to change or add
something on set, that happens, but not too often.
Ella Mental-shows you are usually pitted against a duck handpuppet
and an imbecile (and I'm sorry for not finding a more political correct
expression) - so how hard is it to not break out in laughter all the time?
we break all the time! And that’s what's so great about it!
Jarod Kearney who plays Mr. Budderboddom is especially hard to be straight
around. He will just pull out props from his coat and start singing,
and of course we have no clue it’s coming in the shot so we all bust up.
The Duck Roscoe, played by Talon Borelli, is the voice of reason and
always cracks us up with his dry deliveries of his lines.
Jay Barber, Mariah, Jarod Kearney
and Talon James Borrelli as the handpuppet
what extent can you correspond with the humour of Dr.
Ella Mental, and would you consider yourself a humourous person?
I keep in company with a lot of funny people and I hope that is has rubbed
off on me over the years. I will say that I am not afraid of being
silly or looking stupid which I think helps free me up from over-thinking
things and allows me to be more funny. My humor in particular is
very goofy, silly, and a little dirty. I have been known to even
shock the boys with some of the things that come out of my mouth.
Timing is something I have had to learn over the years. When to make
a face and how to deliver a line is something I will forever be working on
and perfecting in comedy.
Mental-shows are directed by your husband John Johnson [John
Johnson interview - click here] - so what's your collaboration
and I work so well together and we love what we do. He has such a
vision and passion that inspires everyone around him, including me.
We are a great team and feed off of each other’s strengths and are not
afraid to tell one another when something does not work. We listen, we
debate, we laugh, and we believe in what we do. I can’t ask for a
better partner in crime!
Any future Dr.
Ella Mental-adventures on the horizon?
hope to do many more projects with Dr. Ella Mental! Nothing has been
written out as of yet but we will definitely be doing a couple of more
films with her this year!
usual field of expertise is special effects and makeup - so was
Ella Mental your first excursion into acting? And how much do you
enjoy the experience?
practical makeup and effects is what I primarily focus on. It’s
become my passion. Acting is something I defiantly tried when I was
younger and it really didn’t click until now. I think my
experience of being on so many sets and being behind the camera as crew
has reduced my fear of being in front of the camera, therefore making me
more comfortable with my choices and not afraid to give it my all.
My first acting excursion on film was on one of John’s film’s called Alucard, a retelling of
Dracula, and I played Lucy Westenra. It’s
actually where I met John and it was one of the best experiences! My life
was never the same again! That was about 11 years ago now! I really enjoy
character acting and really transforming into someone else for a role.
Mariah has just done FX-work on Camille Keaton
Speaking of special effects and
makeup - do talk about your company Bio Duck FX for a bit!
company Bio Duck FX started in 2008. I wanted to pursue a career in makeup
and I wanted it to be more than just my name on the sign. I wanted
to create a business that could encompass a team of creative people who
want to make movie magic. The name is strange, but that’s why I
like it. Bet ya there is no one else out there with my company’s
did you get into effects-work to begin with, and did you receive any
training on the subject?
have always been an artist from a very young age; from sketching to
sculpting I loved it. I fell into the special effects world by way
of a filmmaker who was making a movie and in need of a SFX artist but
couldn’t afford one. I volunteered, and had a friend who went to school
for SFX show me how to cheaply do a body burn, and it worked very well!
I fell in love the whole process on that set and haven’t looked back.
I am self taught and am always learning new techniques and about new
products. This line of work never gets old!
Actresses, special effects
wizards, whatever else who inspire you?
SFX – The
KNB guys, especially Nicotero. Rick Baker, Jack Pierce, and Lon
Chaney as well! So many great artists but those are my top 4.
Brian Froud as well! I always loved his art and creature concepts.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Tim Burton’s Batman, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream
Warriors, and Star
Also have a
weakness for a good milkshake and watching the Hellraiser movies.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
Okay… I am
going to say this…I am a huge Batman fan, I even read comics.
have to admit that I hated the latest movie, The Dark Knight Rises. I
just…. it really disappointed me, I have not forgiven it yet.
Twilight-movies. Wft… I never have watched one all the way through
just cause I got so bored.
movie's/your company's website, Facebook, whatever else?
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
favorite food is nachos J
for the interview!