By JOSHUA “PROMETHEUS” SCAFIDI
Barbara Kingsley was kind enough to chat with Rue Morgue recently about her upcoming film, HONEYDEW. Written and directed by Devereux Milburn, the film also stars Sawyer Spielberg and Malin Barr. HONEYDEW tells the story of a young couple (played by Spielberg and Barr) who are forced to seek shelter in the home of an aging farmer (Kingsley) and her peculiar son when they suddenly begin having strange cravings and hallucinations taking them down a rabbit hole of the bizarre. Check out our conversation below:
What can you tell us about HONEYDEW, Barbara?
Well, asking me, as one of the characters – it’s all going to be in Karen’s point of view. It’s a psychological thriller. It’s about a young couple who kind of lose their way on a research trip about brain diseases. They’re camping and they find out they are on private property and the journey kind of goes off. From Karen’s point of view, these people need her help. She has a strong mothering instinct, but she also has a very strong religious upbringing and a strong personal moral compass. She lives on the razor’s edge with that. Everything that transpires after that is an accountability issue on one side or the other.
How’s that for cryptic? (Laughing)
Well played. That’s a talent. Where did you get inspiration for your character Karen?
In terms of the woman that I created, I’ve got a forty-six-year stage career behind me. Some film and TV, but this was my first starring role in a full-length feature. When I first met the character, Karen, on paper, she was many things that come from my own matriarchal line. I come from a long line of hardscrabble farmers. When I was a kid, we spent part of our summers with our great-grandmother and great-grandfather in Iowa. She had a garden, and I would watch her walk back from the fields to the house with her apron loaded down with melons and tomatoes and she would sell them out of the back of the house.
I had a lot of elders in my life so the behavior and the way that the elderly think, was easy for me to tap into. A lot of the fears and attachment to the land, and how unforgiving it is. That was kind of built-in. Also, Devereux Milburn, the writer/director gave me this little clip of his grandmother and she was such a whimsical human being. That helped me understand how Devereux had written Karen.
So, you drew from personal experience?
That’s really all we’ve got. My body and my voice.
Is that what attracted you to the project? How did you get involved?
I was recommended to Devereux by a friend. When I saw the script, first it was an opportunity to test myself in terms of a starring role. I was also very attracted to the fact that one of the protagonists/antagonists was female. An elder female, and a farmer. That’s unheard of. I also think Devereux’s writing is gorgeous. I spent six weeks learning that script word perfect. He really deserved to see that character come to life.
That actually leads me to my next question. What was it like working with Devereux?
If he asked me to lick paint off the floor, I would do it.
You’d just be in?
I’d be in. I’m totally in with him, and anyone he collects as a team. So talented.
Everyone worked well together, then?
Oh yeah. Well, if not, I didn’t know about it. We had a great time. This was thirteen days of doing a feature film. There wasn’t a lot of time off going on, but there was always a little time carved out every day where we got silly. It was great. Great people.
HONEYDEW also stars Sawyer Spielberg, son of a very famous man bearing the same last name. How was it working with him?
Sawyer has a theatre background and a small theatre company. I’ve met his dad, but I certainly like his work. He was all there. He’s an open wonderful human being. He was so open and accessible.
That’s actually a really big compliment. Being all there and being open to the other actor and their emotions is huge.
There are a lot of things asked of you in a film. You have to become kind of vulnerable and emotionally naked. It’s a very vulnerable thing. So, I hope that I served him in the same way. And he’s game! He ate all that food! I couldn’t believe it!
Are you a horror fan, Barbara?
I am a fan of creating the characters you find in horror films. I can’t watch them. I’ve never done a horror film, but I have done horrible characters in stage plays. I think I am known in some circles as someone who can create those off-center characters and give them a full dimensionality. My kids and their life partners love horror films. My daughter-in-law is an amazing makeup stylist in the horror genre. I love The Shining. It was more about what you didn’t see.
I know you did a lot of theatre, but tell me a little about yourself. What else are you into?
My husband and I are both actors. We raised our children in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. We’ve been lucky enough to make our living as actors. There is a lot of theatre in the Twin Cities. I did some Broadway cover stuff. I wrote a play. I felt very strongly that I had not had a chance to partner with my colleagues of color in my career. White, especially elder, white women don’t show up in stories of color, in the traditional canon. So, I decided to write a piece. That’s my professional life. My real life is I’m a mom! I’m a nurturer. I can jam and jellies. I embroider dish towels for Christmas. I like gardening, I come from farmers. My husband and I have a plot in the community garden in Astoria, NY.
If you had to sell me the film in one sentence, what would it be?
A cautionary tale…
Okay! That’s a good one, and you didn’t even miss a beat! Talk to me about Marvel’s Jessica Jones. What was that experience like?
I have to say, that was a women heavy team. I had the best time. I went in with the same point of view I always do. My job is to be invisible until it’s time to do my job, and then I do my job as efficiently as possible with as much authenticity as I can bring. Then my job is to leave. They just let me do what I wanted to do. The two stars, Krysten (Ritter) and Rachael (Taylor), we all started having fun. They started playing with me. They said the loveliest thing. They said it was great and it was fun. If somebody can say that to you after the long week that they worked….
That’s quite a compliment. What do you have coming up next? Anything else you wanted to mention?
I’d like to tell you I’m doing all kinds of things. There’s no theatre. Nothing to audition for if you’re not a Broadway show that’s coming back.
Hopefully, that will start coming back soon.
We really hope so. We hope that HONEYDEW’S release on VOD on April 13th will open up some pathways.
I really appreciate the time. Thank you!
I appreciate the call! Thank you!
You can see Barbara in HONEYDEW, streaming on VOD on April 13th. Be sure to check it out!