You name it, Judith Lesser has probably done it in the creative world. As an actress, puppeteer, writer, producer and artist (to name just a few of her credentials), she has seen the creative prism from just about every angle possible.
Having recently moved to New York after a successful stint in Chicago where she worked with renowned companies such as Redmoon (with whom she had the chance to travel to France for the World Puppetry Festival in 2009) and Dream Theatre Company, just to name a few.
Not only is Judith a blossoming actress with a true passion for the art as well as the horror genre (bonus points!), she also works at Catharsis Productions as a presenter for their sexual assault prevention program called ‘Sex Signals’, which has drawn international acclaim for its use of scripted material, improvisation and audience interaction to take on the issue of consent. Like every other Woman In Horror I’ve had the privilege of getting to know with this interview project, it’s clear Judith isn’t just looking out for herself and her own career- she’s poised to make a much bigger difference in her community.
Quite possibly the coolest accomplishment of Judith’s career thus far is the founding of Elephant & Worm Educational Theatre Company, which she co-founded with three of her friends. The group leads in-school writing workshops across the Midwest, adapting children’s stories into plays and films. How cool is that?!
I was first introduced to Judith by the film ‘Slices Of Life’ (www.slicesoflifemovie.com) last year and after watching the film and bonus features, she immediately became one of my favorite women in horror on the indie scene.
1. You are an absolute Jill of all trades (screw Jack, hahaha). To whom or what do you attribute your non-stop work ethic?
Haha. Screw Jack indeed! For the past few years, I have definitely worked on many very diverse projects both in film and on stage and I love it that way! I think it’s my desire to push myself as an artist and a person that keeps me motivated to work hard. And I love being busy! Although when I go from performing for children one day to working on a project like ‘Slices’ the next day, it can be interesting to say the least. I just have to make sure not to get the two mixed up! ;).
2. You’ve carved quite a niche as a thespian. Who or what led you into the world of acting, both on stage and on camera?
I saw a production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ when I was in 5th grade and I thought to myself, “I just have to be up there!” Ha. Really. It’s true! Although sadly, I’ve never been in that show. Maybe someday. But I focused on theatre throughout middle and high school and then majored in it in college. I (-very briefly-) was going to be pre-med, but I soon found that if I wasn’t performing I was more or less miserable! I just get such a high from performing both live and in film that I can’t imagine my life without it.
3. ‘Slices Of Life’ was an awesome indie flick. I particularly loved your segment, ‘Pink Snapper’, where you portrayed a reincarnate of one of my favorite women in horror of all time. What was your experience like on the set of ‘Slices’?
Where to start?? Well…There was a lot of blood! But really, Anthony, Eric, and the whole TinyCore team really made me feel at ease and welcome from the start. Then when I met everyone in the cast at the read through, I knew that we really had something special and everyone really was a joy to work with on set. What sticks out the most in my mind is the day we filmed the scene in the bedroom with myself and Galen. (I won’t go into too much detail for people who haven’t seen the film yet!) But we spent pretty much all day covered in blood and just when it started to dry, we’d get blasted with a super soaker full of more. I imagine there are people out there to whom that sounds awful, but it was a total blast! What should have felt like a long day actually totally flew by. When I took a shower at the end of the day though, it looked like someone had been murdered in the tub, so I did feel bad for whoever had to deal with that!
4. With ‘Slices’ under your belt, are there more film roles on the horizon for you?
Well, in May of last year, I made the move to NYC after several years in Chicago. Anthony was kind enough to introduce me to many of his filmmaker friends there. In the coming months I’ll be working on a short film called ‘State of Disorder’ with Jerry Murdoch and produced by ‘Slices’ very own Alan Rowe Kelly! So I’m thrilled to begin working on that. Another great film that I wrapped not too long ago is ‘SciFiSol’ directed by Joseph R. Lewis who is a terrific Chicago filmmaker. It’s a SciFi musical epic (speaking of working on diverse projects) and is going to be making the festival rounds soon so keep your eyes peeled!
5. What makes for a great horror film in your eyes?
That’s a tough one! There are many films I love for many different reasons, but I guess it all boils down to an interesting premise. I think that’s what made ‘Slices’ so great. Not only were the stories entertaining, but they were based on really great, creative ideas. The segments were fun and caught you off guard and even sometimes made you think. Although, there’s something to be said for an old fashioned bloody slasher film too. It’s always fun to see a lot of gore!
6. What are a few horror movies you absolutely love?
Well one of my absolute favorites is Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead’ and I loved ‘Drag me to Hell’ too. One of the loveliest horror films I’ve seen is ‘Let the Right One In’ (The Swedish version. Although the American version was good, but essentially a knock off). With all of the Twilight garbage that’s out there, that film made you see how beautiful vampire lore can be.
7. What has been the highlight of your professional career up to this point?
That’s a hard question too. I don’t really think I can pick just one thing. I think it’s my cumulative body of work of which I’m the most proud. I do really feel like I can tackle just about any type of project that comes my way. Although, ‘Slices’ is definitely up there! Sorry if that’s a cheating answer!
8. Who are some of your favorite women in horror, either behind the camera or in front of it?
Well I’m a die hard ‘Buffy’ fan, so I have to say Sarah Michelle Gellar has been a longtime favorite of mine. And I of course have to mention my lovely and talented ‘Slices’ co-stars, Deneen Melody, Toya Turner, and Kaylee Williams!
9. What do you hope to accomplish with your career as a whole?
As cheesy as it sounds, I hope to make an impact in people’s lives with what I do. Whether it’s to entertain or educate or terrify(!), I hope that people are left with a lasting impression of me and my work. I also want to continue to work with people whom I admire and enjoy. Life’s too short to do things you don’t care about with people who don’t care about you!
10. What advice would you offer a young woman interested in becoming an actress?
Work hard and never give up. I’m sure it sounds cliché but it’s so true. There are always going to be people out there who doubt and there are times when you’ll doubt yourself. But just keep doing what you love no matter what! And also, don’t compare yourself to others. It’s a waste of energy and the chances are pretty good that there are plenty of people comparing themselves to you!
11. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working currently with a touring stage show that will take me all over the US and to Asia in the coming months as well as with my children’s theatre company, Elephant & Worm. I’m on a short horror hiatus but I hope to be back at it and bloody soon!
It was a real blast getting to chat with Judith and I look forward to the next time I get the opportunity to do so!
Please check out the website to the company Judith co-founded, Elephant & Worm, at:
Also learn more about Judith and her career on her official website!