I started my 2019 interview season on Thursday, January 10th when I spoke to actress Melanie Kinnaman. Melanie is the 2nd actress from Friday The 13th: Part V that I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, the first being Deborah Voorhees last year. In addition to Friday The 13th: Part V, Melanie Kinnaman has worked on movies like Thunder Alley and TV shows like Saturday Night Live. She’s also an accomplished dancer and a former model, and we discussed all that and more in this conversation.
Say hello to Melanie Kinnaman!
Johnny: Hi, Melanie. How are you?
Melanie: Good. How are you?
Johnny: I’m good. I have my questions ready to go, starting with this: Before you were an actress, you were a dancer. What kind of dancing did you do?
Melanie: I did everything. I started at an early age, and I started with ballet and tap. I then did jazz and modern dance, and started performing professionally at the age of 13.
Johnny: Alright. Did you dance on any TV shows, and if so, what were your favorite songs to cut a rug to?
Melanie: I danced more on stage and in Off Broadway shows. I also danced in many commercials. My first was for Dr. Pepper when I was 19 years old. I danced to all kinds of music. I still dance and I teach occasionally when I have the time.
Johnny: Cool. If my research is correct, you spent some time as a model as well. If that’s true, who were your favorite designers to work for, and what are the most outrageous fashions you can recall wearing?
Melanie: Oh, man. Let’s see. My favorite designer is Karl Lagerfeld but I never worked for him. I loved Betsey Johnson and Vivienne Westwood. I had to wear onstage, in a fashion show, just a pair of underwear, and they put me in a leather coat over it, but the leather coat was kind of skimpy, so I had to walk down the catwalk in underwear (laughing). That was pretty wild. It was beautiful underwear, but nonetheless, it was still underwear.
Johnny: Yeah. The era of fashion spanning from the 70s up to the late 80s has always struck me as an interesting time for fashion.
Melanie: It was, yes, especially Vivienne Westwood, and I did get to wear a lot of Betsey Johnson, a lot of the punk stuff that was big at that time. It was interesting stuff.
Johnny: Definitely. To my next question: My first exposure to your acting actually came via the special SNL Goes Commercial, a collection of commercial spoofs from Saturday Night Live. One of those fake commercials was Network Battle Of The Ts and As, where IMDB says you were uncredited as portraying Cheryl Ladd. Is that true?
Melanie: That’s true. It was a great experience. I got to meet Gilda and Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
Johnny: That sketch premiered on the 4th season premiere hosted by The Rolling Stones. Were you in the audience for that episode?
Melanie: I was backstage, actually.
Johnny: Oh, cool. What was it like?
Melanie: It was just a wild scene. It was a party. I mean, they were professional. They got the job done. It was one of the best seasons, but it was just a party backstage. You couldn’t tell the difference between the actual shoot of the live show and the after-party (laughing). It was a lot of great fun.
Johnny: Yeah, it definitely was. Of course, that sketch was a spoof of the programming that was made popular by Fred Silverman during his work before he got to NBC. When it came to your acting work, although you achieved your great fame in the 80s, what was your favorite acting gig in the 70s?
Melanie: I did the Off Broadway play Celebration” written by the musical theatre team, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. They are best known for the play The Fantasticks.
Johnny: Besides your appearance in Battle Of The Network Ts and As, did you do any other background work on Saturday Night Live during your time in New York?
Melanie: No, I did not.
Johnny: As The Rolling Stones had hosted the SNL episode we discussed, and as you spent some of your youth in the 60s, who did you prefer: The Beatles or The Stones?
Melanie: The Beatles.
Johnny: Alright. Jumping into the 80s, you played a character named Maria on General Hospital. Was that a one-shot appearance, or did you do several episodes and haven’t gotten IMDB credit for them yet?
Melanie: Yeah, I did a lot of episodes. It was actually my first gig when I came to L.A. I actually came out for that, and it was supposed to be a couple of months, as I recall, but I ended up being on for six months and they killed me off. I was playing a German spy during the time of Scorpio and Luke and Laura, and Rick Springfield was on. Again, it was different because doing soaps was new to me, so it was a whole different way of working and shooting. It was very intense and I learned a lot.
Johnny: Playing a German spy, what research did you do for that?
Melanie: Well, I got together with a German friend who had moved to New York City. She had a very thick accent, so I learned from her the dialect, and then I went to a speech coach. I did a lot of research on spies and espionage, and covert operation and covert behavior.
Johnny: I can imagine that the German spy angle was interesting, what with the 80s being the last decade that the Berlin Wall was up.
Melanie: Right. The German dialect was difficult to pick up, but I did it.
Johnny: Cool. We now come to 1985, where you played Pam, the Final Girl of Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning. What drew you to that project, and what was your favorite part of filming it?
Melanie: I went in, and it was just another audition as an actor. You know, you go to multiple auditions. That day, I can recall they already told me it was a Friday The 13th, which really didn’t mean a lot to me because I hadn’t seen them. It was an interesting character. There was a lot more written on paper in the script than you actually see on screen. In the final project, Pam is very limited in character development. From what you see, it’s just a lot of running and screaming, but on paper, it was an interesting character. I enjoyed the research on that and I enjoyed doing it. I had a few auditions, not a lot. I’d say they brought me back maybe two or three times. By the third time, I had to improv being murdered. Everybody was there: Me, Frank Mancuso Jr., the director Danny Steinmann, the casting people. It was a small room, and when I finished the scene, I looked up and they all looked wide-eyed, so I thought, “I might have gotten this. I really nailed this”. They called me a few hours later, which really was not the way they normally did it. They would wait until the next day, they would call the agent, and the agent would call you and you’d find out you got the role, but they called me that night. I was very happy.
Johnny: Did your dance training help you when filming Part V?
Melanie: I think it was an athletic ability, not just that, but I stayed fit. It helped a lot. You had to be physically fit to do that role. The hours, the condition outside of 30 degrees, soaking wet and running…If you weren’t physically fit, I don’t think most people could do it.
Johnny: Alright. I asked this of our mutual friend, and your Part V co-star, Deborah Voorhees when I interviewed her last year, and now I’ll ask you as well: What do you think fans saw in the Friday The 13th movies that critics like the late Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel did not?
Melanie: That’s an interesting question. Well, Siskel and Ebert were looking at it through a different lens. Fans come open-minded with just pure love of the genre and the desire to be thrown into it, to be afraid, to be shocked, to be frightened beyond belief. They also liked the very first, so there was a continuation. After the original, that set the tone for the rest of them for the fans. Once the fans latched onto the original, they wanted to see more, more, more, more! They came into each one, II, III, IV, V and up with that affection. They have a love for horror, that type of horror, the 80s horror. They were accepting as they walked into the audience. The first frame, the credits start to roll and they start to scream. They’re already accepting, whereas Siskel and Ebert were coming from a different angle entirely.
Johnny: Yeah. Their stance on 80s horror in general was that, to them, it was all “dead teenager” movies as they put it, and they thought that it was sending a bad message to kids, but I’ve seen the work of the audiences who grew up on Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street and so on, and they’ve been very open-minded. They’ve created great works, and it seems as though they’ve been able to utilize these movies in order to help them work through fears and problems and turn them into art.
Melanie: Correct. Yes, I agree.
Johnny: As Pam was the final girl in Friday The 13th: Part V, where do you suppose a follow-up story would find Pam?
Melanie: Well, there was a script. I was signed on for Part VI, and so was John Shepherd, and then John decided he didn’t want to do it, so that stopped the whole process because Part VI was picking up where Part V ended. John, who played Tommy Jarvis, was going to become the new killer, and I was there to help. I’m sure I met a great demise in Part VI, had it been fulfilled. Pam was going to continue on her quest to help him to persevere and find his way out of his terrible mental illness as best as she could. Obviously I don’t think there was much hope for that, but she was very optimistic.
Johnny: Okay. Also in 1985, you played Star in the music drama Thunder Alley. As Thunder Alley was about a band, did appearing in it inspire you to attempt some non-theatrical singing yourself?
Melanie: Well, I’ve always been a singer, so I had been in projects, bands and things like that very early on. It wasn’t foreign to me. I’d been in the scene for a long time. In the late 90s, I reformed a band I had started called Bliss, and we played everywhere in Los Angeles, all the big clubs like The Whisky A Go Go, The Roxy, The Troubador. We were playing a lot, and then I started getting some acting work again so I couldn’t do both. I became very close friends with Leif Garrett, who was the star of Thunder Alley, and he continued his singing career after that. I learned a lot from him as far as how to maneuver your way through the music industry, which is completely different from film.
Johnny: Okay. Did Bliss ever release any albums, and what music did you play in the band?
Melanie: We were an alternative pop band, not unlike Blur and Garbage.
Johnny: Aaah, interesting. All bands have outrageous stories from the road. What are the wildest stories you can recall from your travels and performances with Bliss?
Melanie: I have no Bliss road stories that I can share because all parties involved are still alive!! LOL!
Johnny: Have you considered doing an IndieGoGo to remaster a compilation of Bliss’ music for people who are familiar with your acting, but may not be familiar with your musical side?
Melanie: Funny you should ask. We are working on performing again live and will first play in and around Los Angeles and then maybe travel to other cities.
Johnny: Rock on!
Johnny: In 1982, you played an uncredited role as a character named Tanya in the Hill Street Blues episode “Stan The Man”. 7 years later in 1989, you played a credited character named Tanya in the Cheers episode “For Real Men Only”. Was that a coincidence, and if it was, what stood out the most to you about working on those two shows?
Melanie: My role WAS credited. My name appears in the closing credits on Hill Street Blues. To be able to work with such great actors on Hill Street and Cheers is my greatest lasting memory.
Johnny: Your most recent onscreen appearance came when you played Jamie Saxon in the horror short Slasher Fest ’85. How did you get involved in that project, and what did you like most about working on it?
Melanie: Well, the writer/director Jonathan Mince got in touch with me because he was a fan of Friday… Part V, and he told me he was a fan of my work. He contacted me and we met. He gave me a script and told me what the project was and what his plans were for it. That’s how that came about, and very quickly it happened. I mean, I met him and within a month or so, we were shooting. It was shot in Bakersfield, California in the dead of Summer, so it was like 109 degrees. It was scorching hot and it was an all-outdoor shoot. It was grueling, but I had my training from the grueling Friday The 13th Part V. It was just different. Part V, it was freezing, and this project, it was boiling hot. It was great because I got to collaborate with the director, which you don’t always get to do. Like I said, Jonathan was the writer and director, so I got to have a lot of input into the character and the project. That’s always great.
Johnny: Alright. You’ve made several convention appearances over the years, so what’s been the most rewarding part of attending conventions, and what’s been the most wonderful piece of memorabilia you’ve signed?
Melanie: The best part has been meeting the fans and seeing how much they loved the film, how much the series meant to them, in particular Part V. The loyalty to the Friday The 13th franchise has been amazing., and just the genuine affection all the fans have for the films, and the people in them, has been a fantastic surprise to me. When you’re isolated in your own world doing your own thing, and not meeting the fans, you have no idea the impact this had. Facebook has helped with that. Social media like Instagram and Twitter have helped with finding the affection and the impact these films have had on people. I would never have known that without going to the conventions and, of course, without social media. It really brings it right to you, and that’s been the greatest benefit, the greatest gift, and the biggest surprise for me. As far as memorabilia, people will come from other countries far, far, far away, and they’ll bring memorabilia from their countries. I’ve signed posters and artwork that I’ve never seen before from Italy and Portugal and Spain and Japan, so many places. It’s been incredible. I wish I could have them, but you know they’re bringing their prized possession and having you sign it, but just to see the kind of artwork and posters and lobby cards that come from all the different countries is fascinating.
Johnny: Yeah. I know you were at the Chiller Theatre convention in 2013. I really hope you’ll come back there someday.
Melanie: I’d love to come back. I hope they reach out to me. If not, maybe I’ll reach out to them and see if they’re interested in my coming back there. I would just love that. I’m a native New Yorker, so any time I get to go home to the New Jersey/New York/Connecticut area and get to see fans from my home part of the country is very exciting for me.
Johnny: As you’re friends with Deborah Voorhees, will you be appearing in her upcoming film 13 Fanboy, or are you not at liberty to say?
Melanie: I actually wasn’t aware of it until recently, and no, no one’s reached out to me to do it, so perhaps they have their own ideas and plans for the project. There are a lot of factors, I’m sure, and I have not been approached about it.
Johnny: Alright. I now come to my final question: Barbara Crampton wrote an editorial a few years ago about her displeasure with being referred to as a Scream Queen. When you’re called a Scream Queen, do you find the term offensive?
Melanie: No, I love it. I love it because it’s meant with affection. When someone calls me a Scream Queen, I don’t take it as a limitation because I’m so many other things, and I’m comfortable in that. Scream Queen is just a part of me, and I take it as a badge of honor, actually. I think it’s great, and I’m in great company. I mean, Jamie Lee Curtis is a Scream Queen. There was a TV show, Scream Queens. It’s meant with love to have that tag, I believe.
Johnny: Alright. Well, that about does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.
Melanie: It’s been such a pleasure. We appreciate your interest in the horror genre. I think it’s a great thing.
Johnny: Thank you very much.
Melanie: It was great talking to you.
Johnny: It was great to talk to you, too. I hope you have a wonderful afternoon, and I look forward to your next projects.
Melanie: Thank you very much. Are you on the East Coast?
Johnny: I am.
Melanie: Well, I hope to meet you at one of the East Coast shows, or maybe the next time I’m in New York.
Johnny: Cool. Have a good afternoon.
Melanie: You, too. Thanks a lot.
Melanie: Bye bye.
I would like to thank Melanie Kinnaman for taking the time out of her schedule to speak to me.
Coming soon to the Flashback Interview is a conversation with actress, stuntwoman and skin care consultant, among many other things, Mindi Miller.
Thanks as always for reading, and have a good day.