My newest interview subject, Christine Elise, first made an impression on me via Child’s Play 2, the advertisements for which scared me when I was younger, but led to enjoyment of the film as I got older. I would later see Christine in projects like Head Of The Class and Beverly Hills, 90210, and be impressed by her acting skills. In addition to her acting, Christine Elise is also a writer who has not only written scripts, but a novel as well, Bathing And The Single Girl, and on top of that, she’s an accomplished photographer. After having met Christine Elise at the Chiller Theatre convention in April of 2019, as shown in this interview’s cover photo, I knew that I would love to interview her. We spoke about acting, writing, Christine’s punk rock background and more on January 31st, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know her.
Say hello to Christine Elise!
Johnny: Hello, Christine.
Christine: Hello. How are you?
Johnny: I’m doing good. Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this.
Christine: No problem.
Johnny: Alright. I have my questions ready to go.
Christine: Okay, let’s do it!
Johnny: Starting with this: Your first experiences in the world of entertainment came via your involvement in Boston’s punk scene. What did punk teach you that you would carry with you into your acting career?
Christine: It taught me to embrace originality and the things that made me different from other people. The punk rock community really embraces people being themselves and totally being different, making your own clothing and looks that aren’t about trends, but about expressing your own individuality. I think that’s the most important thing as an actor. It’s yourself, your own personal life history, your experience and perspective, so I learned at a really early age to value those things. I did not feel compelled to conform, and I think that’s been a very big part of me forever.
Johnny: Alright. Similarly, as the meaning varies from person to person, what does punk mean to you?
Christine: I guess it means what I said, being creative and honoring the ways in which you are different. As far as a personal aesthetic, a personal style, I’m not one who thinks punk is anarchy or being destructive or negative. I don’t have any associations with it like that, which I think a lot of people who don’t consider themselves punk rock would think. I think it’s about offering something alternative to mainstream culture.
Johnny: Alright. One more punk question: If you were asked to name your top 5 punk albums, what would they be?
Christine: I would say the very first Public Image Ltd. record. I was a big Cramps fan, so maybe Gravest Hits. I was a huge Siouxsie And The Banshees fan, so Kaleidoscope. The first Echo And The Bunnymen album, and what else? Let’s just say anything Elvis Costello.
Johnny: Alright. Speaking of music, one of your earliest jobs was as an extra in the video for Billy Idol’s song “Don’t Need A Gun”. What do you recall the most about that shoot?
Christine: As far as being an extra at that point in time, it wasn’t something I was really seriously pursuing. I was kind of taking acting classes, and I had registered with the extra company because it was 40 bucks for a couple of hours of work, and in those days, that wasn’t bad money for a couple of hours. I lived at Sunset and Normandie, and the shoot was at Hollywood and Normandie, so it was like a four-block walk up to where the shoot was. It was just being an extra. I was a Billy Idol fan, but I didn’t get to meet him or talk to him or anything, so it wasn’t a particularly memorable experience, but it was fun.
Johnny: Yeah. I think you had better experience as an extra than the time I did extra work in a music video. At least you got paid money for it. My payment was tickets for the film festival which the music video was promoting, which wasn’t bad because it was in my hometown, but some cash would’ve been nice, admittedly.
Christine: Right, right.
Johnny: This isn’t about me, though. It’s about you, and so let’s go to my next question. One of your earliest credits was playing Rhonda Gielgud in several episodes of Head Of The Class. What was your favorite part of working on that show?
Christine: That was a hard show. It was just fun to be getting work as an actor at all because it seems impossible, and if you’ve never gotten a job, getting one seems like an impossibility. It was a young cast, but not all of them were particularly friendly, although Khrystyne Haje and Kimberly Russell were very sweet, so that was fun. Dan Frischman was super, super-sweet. I met Leah Remini, who was the female lead in The King Of Queens. She and I did our first episode of that show together, and she stayed an early actress friend of mine. It’s fun to watch her succeed as well as she has, but sitcoms? I’m not comfortable with that brand of humor. i don’t do sitcom humor very well. I wish I did, but I don’t, so I don’t think I was very good on the show (laughing). It was exciting to do work and then, a couple of months later, see myself on TV, so it was a novel thing at the time. That was really exciting for me.
Johnny: Well, I think you did a good job on the show.
Christine: Thank you.
Johnny: No problem. Going to my next question: Jumping onto the big screen, you played Kyle in 1990’s Child’s Play 2, which celebrates its’ 30th anniversary this year. What do you think has given the Child’s Play franchise such staying power?
Christine: I think it’s because dolls are creepy like clowns are creepy. It’s one of those things that most people find creepy inherently, so it hits a visual thing in a lot of people. More importantly, I think, Don Mancini has written them all. It was Don Mancini’s creative vision from start to finish, and they are doing a TV series this Summer, but the fact that it was Don and a single vision that didn’t get recreated by another person with a new vision. A lot of franchises get reinvented, and they abandon the history that’s already been established for the franchise. With the Chucky series, the history is still honored in the storylines, you know? Don has had a unique ability to sort of go with the flow, so to speak. When Scream came out, and horror movies were getting self-referential and sort of meta or comedic, he was sort of able to tweak it with the Bride Of Chucky and Seed Of Chucky installments. When that went out of style, he came back more into straight-on horror, which is where it is now with Curse Of Chucky and Cult Of Chucky. It’s gotten more traditional old-school horror. I think that horror fans are really loyal, and I think that Don’s consistency of vision is the reason it has the longevity it does.
Johnny: Very cool. I have to ask this: If a doll like Chucky could achieve sentience in real life, and you found yourself crossing paths with it, how would you handle the situation?
Christine: If I had to deal with Chucky in real life?
Christine: That’s a really tough question to answer, and I don’t have an intelligent answer for that as it would never happen. Having worked with Chucky, and having a Chucky doll in my house, I don’t find him particularly scary.
Johnny: Well, that’s fair enough. To go to a different credit, from 1990 to 1991, you played Karen Lanier on several episodes of China Beach, a character who works on making a documentary about her mother’s and others’ experiences in the Vietnam War. As you’re an active photographer, which I’ll be getting into more detail about later, would you say that playing a fictional documentarian was a harbinger of your later work in the field of photography?
Christine: No, not at all (laughing), not at all. I didn’t actually make a documentary. I just pretended to. Photography and film-making are different things. Film photography and still photography are different things entirely, so no, I don’t think it did.
Johnny: Alright. To go to my next question: For several seasons of Beverly Hills, 90210, you played the character of Emily Valentine, so what did working on that show mean for you?
Christine: That show was special for a lot of reasons. It was a massive, massive, massive hit by the time I joined the cast. It was sort of surreal to be standing in the supermarket and seeing, on the magazine stand, the faces of the people I had been working with that day. It was a unique experience. I’d never done a show that had that kind of profile. It was the first show that got me recognized in the street and at the mall. I couldn’t even go to the mall for a couple of years because I would get so hassled by fans. That was really a unique experience. No other job I’ve done since has had that level of exposure or gotten me that level of exposure. It’s a mistaken concept that people have that when you stay friends with a lot of people you work with on projects. That doesn’t happen that often. It did happen with China Beach. I’ve got good friends from China Beach that remain my friends to this day. It also happened with 90210. I lived with Jason Priestley for five years, so a big, important part of my personal life came from getting that. A professional job led to a big change in my personal life, and Jason and his wife and kids are still my family. Jason’s wife is one of my best friends, and his kids consider me like an aunt. Personally, it’s gifted me some of the best relationships of my entire life.
Johnny: That’s very lovely. Staying with 90210, in several episodes of the show, you sang the song “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. I liked your singing voice, finding it to be reminiscent of two of my former interview subjects, Jane Wiedlin and Pleasant Gehman, like yourself versatile performers who came up in the punk scene. Were you ever asked to record an album, and if not, would you consider doing one in this era and perhaps crowdfunding it via Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?
Christine: No, because that wasn’t my voice you heard singing (laughing). It’s not on the DVDs, but I sang, acapella, Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”. In the show that originally aired, that was my voice, but “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” was not my voice. They had me in the studio singing it, and I am so incredibly not a singer. I’m absolutely devoid of talent as a singer. They had to hire someone to do most of my singing, and that voice singing that you thought was mine was doing the back-up singing for Cher. She dubbed Jennie and Tori and Shannen as well, so no, I am not a singer, and nobody’s ever mistaken me for one (laughing). If you heard my singing voice, you would never consider me for a record.
Johnny: Alright. To go to my next question: After you left 90210 in an acting capacity, you returned for a few episodes as a writer. What was it like to write for the actors as opposed to working alongside them?
Christine: It was really fun. The fact that the show is a serial, and the storylines for the characters are sort of set up early in the season, the arcs for each character, means they kind of know, in broad strokes, what’s going to happen for the entire season. When you come in as a writer for an episode in the middle of the season, you don’t have any real creative control over where the story goes. They give you an outline that says, “In this scene, Brandon does whatever. In the next scene, Donna and Dave kiss or whatever”. They have this plot going on, so really, the job for a writer, as I was on that show, was to basically fill in the dialogue. They give you the bone structure of the entire episode, and you just fill in dialogue, so it’s not a difficult job. I was very familiar with the show for obvious reasons, and I knew the characters well, so it was an easy job for me to do and really fun. It was actually eye-opening to see actors interpret the words that I had written as you would actually perform them, because they don’t always interpret it the way I envisioned it. It was really eye-opening because it made me think of all the words I ever said from other writers that I may have spoken, and I wonder if they’re frustrated that I interpreted their dialogue differently than they had intended, but it’s really surreal. It’s surreal to sit in the house by yourself and write dialogue, and then, in a couple of months, you see it on TV. It’s really fun.
Johnny: Very cool, and as you’ve kept busy as a writer, were you asked to write for the CW reboot of 90210 or the mockumentary BH90210 that aired last Summer?
Johnny: Okay. Well, I’ll return to your writing in a couple of questions, but to return to acting, you played Jen Platt in the Abel Ferrara film Body Snatchers. Based on the plot of that film, do you ever think that some of the people you encounter in your life might not be the real deal, or have you been lucky enough to encounter primarily honest people in your life?
Christine: I feel like I have been lucky enough to have primarily honest people in my life. I think that I come across as a no bullshit sort of person. I don’t think people who meet me anticipate that I’m a fool or tolerant of bullshit. I think that I present a more intimidating character (laughing) to people, so I don’t get fucked with very often.
Johnny: Alright. Honesty is always a very good policy.
Johnny: To jump back to TV, you spent a season on ER playing the character of Harper Tracy. What do you recall the most about series creator Michael Crichton and executive producer Steven Spielberg, and what advice did they have for you that you would carry into your later creative endeavors?
Christine: Michael Crichton was never there. Steven Spielberg was only on set a couple of times. I didn’t have any interaction with either of those gentlemen, but the people that executive-produced that show, the crew of that show, had been on China Beach, so I knew a lot of them and had a relationship with a lot of the people. I remember John Wells, who was the showrunner, and the biggest advice John Wells gave to me was to write and keep on writing. Every time I’d see him in the future once I left ER, he’d say, “Are you writing? Are you writing? Are you writing?”, so it was encouragement to write that I got from that show.
Johnny: That’s fantastic. To jump back from the small screen to the big screen again, you played Darby in the mockumentary The Thin Pink Line, which featured a wide array of talents ranging from SNL veterans to another former interview subject of mine, the late Taylor Negron. What are your favorite memories of that movie?
Christine: That was a job that I did for friends. The people that directed that were just good friends, so it was funny. My scene was shot in my own backyard. It was just a bit of a romp. I didn’t get paid or anything. It was an afternoon in my backyard with friends, so it was just fun.
Johnny: Alright. Well, to return to your writing, a project that is very close to your heart is Bathing And The Single Girl, which has been both a novel and a short film. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, as this was a very personal project for you, was there any hesitation about making it public, or were you eager to get it out?
Christine: Well, it’s fiction, first of all. I had done the short film first. I had written the piece to perform live in a theater here in L.A called Upright Citizens’ Brigade, so I wrote it and participated in a show there called Four Stories And A Cover. My friends saw it and said, “It was so funny. You should make a short film from it”, so I did. I did 100 film festivals with the short film, and towards the end of that cycle, somebody saw it and said, “That’s really great. If you have any other stories along this line, you should write a novel”, so I did. It’s not a memoir. It’s not an autobiography. It’s a novel. I think it’s still brave because I intentionally blurred the biographical lines between myself and the heroine in the book so that people would be confused as to whether it was true or not, but it isn’t true. It’s courageous because people will assume it is true, and the stuff that goes on in the book is embarrassing, but the vast majority of it is just entirely fictional. A couple of stories here and there are true, but I’ll never tell which ones.
Johnny: Alright. Well, I think it is a testament to your great talent as a writer that you were able to surprise people like that. You may have answered this a little bit earlier, but as I’ve asked several other talents who have written books, what has writing provided for you that acting has not?
Christine: Autonomy. Acting is a group effort. As an actor, I come into a set that’s been built by somebody else. I say words that have been written by somebody else. I wear clothing that’s been chosen by somebody else. Acting is a very collaborative thing, and writing a novel is a very singular thing, so I get to entirely exert my idea of what’s funny or what’s art. At the end of the day, it’s just me and a very different experience of being creative than on set and collaborating with other people and their visions. With acting, you’re also dependent on the other actors and what they give you to work with, so writing is entirely me. If you love the book, I get all the credit. If you hate the book, I take all the blame, and I like that, actually. The pressure of acting is living up to other people’s expectations of you and for you. With writing, I just have to live up to my own expectations of myself.
Johnny: Fantastic, and you certainly are a great writer. As I mentioned earlier, you’re also active as a photographer. Who have been your biggest influences as a photographer?
Christine: My mother and my stepfather. My mother’s a photographer and my stepfather is a watercolorist, and the subject matter they were both drawn to is decaying Americana, like old, abandoned drive-in theaters and gas stations and 50s architecture and beautiful motel signage in neon. That kind of thing, so they very heavily influenced the kind of things I’m drawn to as far as photography. It was my parents.
Johnny: Alright. What pieces would you say were most proud of having photographed?
Christine: There’s two. There’s the Bettie Page self-portrait where I posed as Bettie Page sitting on the floor. It was a nude. That one I’m really proud of.
Christine: I’m also proud of one that I saw in Birmingham, Alabama. I do photo collages, and you can’t necessarily tell in the photo that it’s a collage of more than one photograph. I’ll take a beautiful, stormy sky that I got in Nashville, and then meld that with a hotel I shot in Arkansas, so the sky is more dramatic than the sky in the original photograph of the hotel. It’s that sort of thing. There are two theaters in downtown Birmingham. One is a big, beautiful 30s movie palace called the Alabama Theatre, and across the street is a theatre that, when I was there, was totally dilapidated. It was a total shock to me. You’re seeing the Alabama Theatre neon through the window from inside the dilapidated theater, but it’s not physically possible because that window doesn’t look out on what I have it looking out on. Those are my two favorites, my Bettie Page self-portrait and the Alabama Theatre, Birmingham collage photo.
Johnny: Fantastic. You kind of already do this with your collaging. I was going to ask if you considered venturing into mixed mediums and maybe combining photography and painting, but the photo collage is already kind of like that.
Christine: It is, and for a long time, I trained myself to do digital colorizing of 1930s classic movie photos, pictures of people like Jean Harlow and women like that. I’ve colorized them, which is painting with a computer, using Photoshop instead of a paintbrush, so I’ve done that, too.
Johnny: Alright. Would you ever do a coffee table book of your photographs with the stories behind them accompanying the picture?
Christine: I would love to (laughing), but I can’t produce it myself because that’s a super-expensive thing to produce. I would need to have somebody else do that. I would need somebody to finance it for me, but I would love to. That would be fantastic.
Johnny: Alright. I certainly hope that opportunity will come along someday. To go to my next question: You’ve attended a decent amount of conventions, including Chiller Theatre in Parsippany, NJ where we, of course, met last April. What’s been the most rewarding part of attending conventions for you?
Christine: Friends, personally. Alex Vincent, who was the little boy in the Chucky films, is like a brother to me, but he lives in Florida and I live in L.A, so I only get to see him at conventions. The most rewarding thing is that we got to be friends again after, like, 30 years. It’s also great because it’s like being on location to shoot a movie, but without any of the responsibilities of shooting a movie (laughing). It’s fun to be able to travel out of L.A. It’s like a little paid vacation, and I get to hang out with actors I’ve worked with in the past and don’t get to see often. I get to meet people that I admire, and I get to meet fans. They compliment you about your work, and that doesn’t suck, so there’s nothing about them I don’t like. I really like them a great deal.
Johnny: Well, I certainly did enjoy meeting you at Chiller Theatre. I had presented you with a press photo from your first appearance on Head Of The Class, and we talked about the importance of being yourself. That really stuck with me because you’re certainly a great example of being true to yourself, and I really admire that.
Christine: Thank you.
Johnny: Staying with conventions, what’s been the most wonderful piece of memorabilia you’ve signed at one?
Christine: That’s tough. I’ve signed a lot of really incredible original art…Fan art, Chucky art. People who come with one-of-a-kind, original art to have signed. A French man named Jordan Samper gave me a black-and-white portrait he did of me and Chucky, an oil-or-acrylic painting that’s hanging in my house. I haven’t signed it, though, but I’m really happy. It’s a beautiful portrait. I like it a great deal. I would have to say the one-of-a-kind original art is the most fun to see.
Johnny: Fantastic. I now come to my final question: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Christine: That’s a hard one. I hope that I’m working a lot more than I have for the last ten years, that’s for sure. I’d like to have written a second book in the next ten years. I guess work more and write more (laughing). I see myself doing new and interesting things that are challenging and rewarding.
Johnny: Alright. I hope you do get those opportunities, and that does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time to do this. I hope you have a fantastic afternoon, and I look forward to what you do next.
Christine: Thank you. Have a great weekend.
Johnny: No problem. Bye.
Christine: Bye bye.
I would like to thank Christine Elise for taking the time out of her schedule to speak to me. For more about Christine Elise’s life and work, you can visit her official website, which has links to all her social media. You can also visit her YouTube channel as well, a channel full of recipes for vegan food as well as the many different aspects of her career.
Coming soon to the Flashback Interview are conversations with actresses Sondra Currie and Deborah Dutch. Stay tuned for those, and thank you as always for your support.