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An Interview with Zoe Daelman Chlanda Print E-mail
Written by Elaine Lamkin   
Friday, 19 August 2005

I’ll Bury You Tomorrow”, the weird little film about small-town funeral home shenanigans, from director Alan Rowe Kelly, marks the cinematic debut of the amazing Zoe Daelman Chlanda.  As Dolores, the girl for whom the words “’til death do us part” have no meaning, Zoe has created a character at once both sinister and to be pitied.  And a girl who knows far more about mortuary science than any female mortician or coroner should (healthily) have knowledge of.

Other than your birthdate and place of birth, there is very little about you on the IMdb. How about a brief synopsis of The Zoe Daelman Chlanda Story - your background, education, how you got into acting, the usual fun stuff?

I was born and raised in Manhattan except for a few years when we lived in Long Island. My parents divorced when I was eight and my mother and I then moved to Stuyvesant Town on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Despite limited funds my parents were committed to my having a good education - from nursery school on, I attended private schools. Until I joined the United Nations International School (UNIS) in 4th grade, I attended Montessori schools on Long Island. Soon after my mother became the Director of Admissions of UNIS, she realized that it would be the perfect school for me and she enrolled me! It was my school until I went to university. I really am so grateful I went to UNIS. Even today, most of my closest friends are from UNIS. I was very athletic always on swim and diving teams. I studied ballet from age 5 through 15, and played the flute from age 10 to 18. And I was always interested in acting! But wasn't everyone?! Especially growing up in Manhattan! So I kept quiet about wanting to be an actor. In college I chose dance as a major because I could think of nothing else that I would enjoy studying at SUNY Binghamton. What a change Binghamton was from New York!! I hated it! But, it was my doing or rather my not doing. I had taken no interest in college, not researching schools or anything! Somehow, I had got into SUNY B.  At the time it was a fairly competitive college, but I was an unwilling student. In my sophomore year, I finally got motivated and applied and got in to Tisch School of The Arts at N.Y.U. as a transfer student in my junior year. Well, I was back in the city - going to dance classes during the day and going dancing at night. I never went to my academic classes. I knew it was a waste of my parents’ money and my time. So, I returned to Binghamton for my senior year to just get school over with! One year later I was out of school and back in Manhattan sharing an apartment with friends on the Lower East Side, working as a waitress, going out, and not much else. One day I thought, "This isn't cool anymore." It would have been fine if I had found something that I could really feel passionate about but that wasn't the case. I was getting bored and restless, but what did I want to do? On impulse, I moved out of the apartment and went to Miami to think. Five weeks later, I returned to New York City and enrolled in an acting class. Once I had decided that I wanted to be an actor, I studied with Catherine Gaffigan (a wonderful acting teacher) and this time I was completely motivated. It took 2 years of training before I went on an audition. To this day, I still contact Catherine Gaffigan when I need acting guidance. With respect to the film, Catherine kept me grounded with my approach to Dolores, reminding me to focus on what Dolores was made of, why she acted as she did. Actually, I've been acting my whole life through dancing. Acting allowed me to incorporate my voice, and that was very liberating. Acting is perfect for me. It incorporates everything I've studied. And it just feels so damn good (at least when you're doing it right and by that I mean being in the moment) I support my "acting habit" with my Pilates studio, "Absolute Brooklyn Pilates", located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It's my constant paycheck and a project that I am very proud of.

How did you come to be involved in "I'll Bury You Tomorrow"?

I met Alan at a photo shoot! I was putting a "comp. card" together and he was the makeup artist on set. Well, you always seem to spend the most amount of time with your makeup artist (on any set) so you start talking. I mentioned that I was an actor first, a commercial print model second. We talked for a long time before he mentioned a script he was working on. A horror film. Perhaps he would send it to me and I might read it? I said sure! But I must tell you that in the back of my mind, I was doubtful. Doubtful that I'd ever get a script in the mail. So, I was interested, but saved my enthusiasm for when and if I ever received a script. Sure enough a couple of weeks later I received part of the script, "I'll Bury You Tomorrow". A few weeks after that I received the rest. I'm starting to think this Alan guy walks the walk. How refreshing!! And exciting! Then Alan called and asked if I'd come audition in front of a camera! O.K. So I knew this was it - either I'll get there and they'll ask me to take my clothes off, or they will actually have me read with another actor. I got there and there was a room full of people - Alan, cameramen, and other actors. I was psyched! I read for it and met some other people working on the production side of the project. Alan called me soon after that day and offered me the lead role of Dolores! A lead role in a feature! My first!

What did you think of the script the first time you read it?

CRAZY! And thrilling! Up until then I was always sent and cast for "young mom" or "girl next door" roles. This was going to be FUN. I was getting the chance to really flex my acting muscles. The character (Dolores) was very complex.

Jerry Murdock mentioned the story behind "IBYT" is an "interesting one". Do you have any good stories to tell?

I'll leave that one to Jerry!

What was your experience like, shooting the film? And was Dolores a complete departure for you, character-wise?

Shooting the film was a long process! We shot every weekend for a year and a half! It was guerilla filming at times! We didn't have permits for all the locations, but that didn't stop Alan - he wanted the location, we were going to do it! And just duck when the cops came by! We all stuck with it because we all felt we had something really good on our hands. I personally stuck it through because of Alan. I believe in him as a person, a writer, and a director. We developed a friendship during shooting that remains today. Dolores was a complete departure for me, character-wise. I have never played such a distressed character. She is a woman who has been pushed to the breaking point. We all have a breaking point, but thankfully, most of us don't reach it.

What was it like both being directed by and co-starring with director Alan Rowe Kelly?

Alan's a great director. He is able to make the actors feel as if they're having a hand in the direction of their character. He will discuss scenes with you and let you improvise. He is really dedicated to getting the best performance, and sometimes that means changing lines here and there. He was married to the final product, rather than to the written script. His flexibility created an environment where all the actors, I think, flourished. Alan was so nervous about acting! But he protests too much! I think he has a very real interest in acting and needs to continue pursuing it! He has since "I'll Bury You Tomorrow" and I'm very supportive of him doing this.  My scenes with Alan were delicious! Dolores and Corey were so catty towards one another!

How about Jerry Murdock - he seems like such a talented actor, fooling so many people as Mitch and Jake Geraldi?

Jerry Murdock is fantastic! What a pleasure working with such a professional! And what I mean by that - is someone who works, continues working, and really gets in to it! Jerry will do whatever it takes - researching, improving, costume. He was always there for all the actors. We were lucky to have him. He never lost his energy.

What about some of your other co-stars - any stories about them that you care to share? Bill Corry and Katherine O'Sullivan were very memorable as The Beeches.

Bill Corry and I worked together closely because Dolores and Mr. Beech had quite a relationship. Alan couldn't have picked a better actor to play the part. I like Bill very much. We traveled together to the set often. He's not afraid to take chances with his acting. Katherine's performance was inspirational to me. She's a working actor with many years in the business. Sometimes she would finish a scene and we would all be stunned, like, "whoa! Mrs. Beech IS a lunatic!" She really brought that character to life - giving it a quality that was unexpected and glorious. None of us realized how twisted Mrs. Beech was until Katherine stepped in to her shoes.

What did you think of your character, Dolores, and how did you prepare to play her?

I embraced her immediately. With her upbringing it's amazing that she didn't cause more damage along the way. Dolores lives in constant fear and the only thing that's kept her alive this long is her raw will to survive. I prepared by researching schizophrenia, the medication one takes for it, the side effects of that medication physically and mentally, and how people do and don't manage this devastating mental illness.

How was it for you, playing the necrophilia scenes, dancing and cuddling with "corpses" and all?

They were my love scenes. I played them as such. Yes, they were corpses, but that's what everyone else sees - Dolores sees them as her intimate companions, there was nothing disgusting about it. They were her loves. The ones that would never hurt her.

What exactly WAS wrong with Dolores - taking all those pills?

Dolores was a schizophrenic. She had to wear several hats in order to deal with life. She didn't have multiple personalities, but a few that she relied on again and again when things got out of control (her standards of course).

There is some pretty disturbing stuff in this film - pedophilia, murder, body snatching - were you ever concerned about how starring in a film like this might affect you or your career?

Yes. I knew that if I did a bad job it would negatively affect my career. If I did a good job, It would be positive. I didn't judge the content of the story. I judged the writing, and the director. Then I signed on. I'm not interested in views on the subject matter of the film. I am interested in my character and her journey within the film.

Did you have to research anything on the mortuary business prior to the movie? Learn anything interesting or disgusting you care to share?

Absolutely. I was very interested in embalming. Specifically the room temperature (which is kept on the cool side for preservation), the smell (very antiseptic and sickening at the same time?), and the sounds. For example the sound of cutting open a dead body. The sounds of the machines used to suck all the blood out. And then I had to get comfortable with all that. It's a job like any other at the end of the day. That's what I needed it to be if I was to portray Dolores convincingly. She was a pro in the mortuary.

How long was the shooting schedule of the film? What kind of experience was shooting the film for you?

The shooting schedule was never set to begin with. We were going to shoot for however long it took to finish the film. And it became clearer and clearer that because of the budget we couldn't count any particular schedule. But I knew that if Alan didn't give up we'd somehow get it done. From the beginning I counted on him for this. And here we are!

What sort of fan reaction have you had since the DVD was released?

For the most part the fan reaction has been so supportive. And I can't pretend that I don't smile because of it! I love it! It makes me feel so good! I'm so thrilled that people are enjoying the film and appreciating my contribution to it!

Do you have any new acting projects lined up and can you tell us anything about them?

I'm very excited about collaborating with Alan again! We begin shooting a new film together this fall! I will let him share the rest of this exciting news!

Do you know if we'll ever see any more of Dolores Finley in a future film?

It's certainly possible. Her story won't be finished until she meets her demise.

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

The Omen” was the first movie I remember that brought fear in to my life. I would think about that movie and not be able to be without lights and sometimes without my parents, or at least my dog. It invaded my thoughts. I was spooked. Recently I was spooked by "The Others". That movie stayed with me for quite some time. It made me uncomfortable.

Any favorite horror authors or horror books?

I don't think so. Not any that come to mind. I haven't read any horror novels lately, or really in general. When reading for pleasure, I usually end up with drama.

Is there anything you would like to add that I haven't asked you?

I think you've covered everything.

Is there anything you would like our readers to know about Zoe Chlanda or "I'll Bury You Tomorrow"?

We're both worth paying attention to. :)

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