Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bonnie Morgan Crawls into our Nightmares, an Interview

Actress Bonnie Morgan scares her way out of screens and into our hearts. Or perhaps into our nightmares.

Horror fans enjoy reminiscing about the first films and scenes that scared them. Maybe it was Pennywise peering through the street gutter, or the white face of Michael Myers appearing in the dark. In 2005, Bonnie Morgan scared a generation of fans as Samara chasing Naomi Watts’ character with her infamous “spider crawl” in The Ring Two.  Now, a decade later, Samara is back in Rings, and Bonnie Morgan plays the role in its entirety, bringing back the crawl that made the character epically frightening—no CGI required. Contortionism is one of Bonnie Morgan’s specialties.

“Buckle in for the ride. Samara is here to stay. She never sleeps. The first sequence will terrify you,” Bonnie told me. I had the honor of speaking directly to Bonnie to get the inside scoop on Rings, learn about other upcoming projects, and received some inspiring advice for making it in Hollywood.

“I’ve played many scary monsters, but Samara has been my favorite to create. I enjoy doing terrifying more than anything else. Samara is near and dear to my black little heart,” Bonnie states.

As a little girl, Bonnie loved to scare her sister and her sister’s friends. Bonnie would pop out from behind the couch and laugh as the other kids screamed in fright. They called her “Gollum” because of the way she could creep and crawl. Bonnie’s the daughter of third-generation circus performers and is also a trained stunt-actress. She’s deeply connected in the horror genre, too. Her father famously played the stunt-double to Cujo, and her aunt was Jason Vorhees’ first victim.

From scaring her sister to scaring the world, Bonnie delivers terrifying like no one else. In a Rings prank, the actress played Samara in a department store and crawled out of a television display to scare unknowing costumers—the video went viral and had over 200 million views in less than 24 hours. She’s also known for the possessed Rosa in The Devil Inside.  Every part of Rosa—vocals, spasms, twists and turns—is played by Morgan. It’s a great role to watch to see her diverse talent.

Her acting career started early—she was an Oscar Meyer Weiner kid and had roles in several favorite shows from the 90s, like Quantum Leap, Blossom, Step by Step, and Dr. Quinn.

But the turning point, Morgan told me, was her role as a Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. “It was that movie where I played and created innovative movement,” she says. The live-action movie with Jim Carrey as the Grinch and Ron Howard as the director got her noticed by lots of other Hollywood stars.

When you get the amazing opportunities that she’s had, Bonnie says, “Make yourself invaluable. Be ready. Train hard. Work hard. Find people to train with. Ask who they train with. Have a specialty. Pitch in and help out, and always do what makes you happy.” On the phone, Bonnie’s enthusiasm is as powerful as Samara is scary. Her love for her work and fans is genuine, and it’s easy to tell that she’s someone who goes above and beyond.

“It takes six and a half hours to get into Samara’s make-up,” she says. “I’m at the studio by 4:00 a.m. or earlier. In total, I wear 43 appliances.” Her legs, arms, neck, chest—every part is covered to bring Samara to life. She’s also hooked up to hoses because Samara is always weeping—she’s the girl in the well, after all. In addition to the 43 individual pieces and attached hoses, she’s covered in paint and gels. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to make Samara genuinely terrifying.

Morgan’s evolution becoming Samara is now a legendary story. The director, Hideo Nakato, originally wanted to go with CG. The stunt coordinator, though, had a better idea and contacted Morgan. That’s when Morgan created the spider walk. “Real is always more scary.” The spider walk originated on her living room floor, and when the director saw Morgan’s work, she was hired to create the spider crawl for The Ring Two. Now, she not only plays Samara in Rings, but she’s also the inspiration behind possession movies using contortionists instead of CGI to create more realistic and haunting movements. As a contortionist, she also holds a title in the Guinness Book of World Records for staying in a two by two box for nearly three minutes with two others. And after so many stunts and rolls, there is one only thing that scares her: being buried alive.

Morgan’s skills landed her parts in a variety of successful Hollywood projects. She’s had roles in Minority Report with Tom Cruise, a hilarious part in Piranha 3D—remember the victim eaten alive through the inner-tube? That’s Bonnie Morgan. In Men in Black II, she became known as Jabba the Butt—she’s the one with a head-like appliance placed on her rear. The list goes on and on with stunts and roles in films like Hellboy II, Fright Night, and Peter Pan, and television roles on hits like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, CSI, Criminal Minds, Castle, and more.

Morgan has a variety of new projects coming, too. In the spring, she’ll be on the small screen for Sundance’s Hap and Leonard, a “swamp noir,” she says. Among other things, “you have a gay black cowboy hunting down a murderer who is killing children,” Morgan says.

Additionally, Morgan is thrilled to have just joined a major sci-fi franchise overseas.  “I can’t tell you what it is yet, but it will be amazing.”

What’s Morgan’s favorite horror movies? If you don’t love her already, you will after her first response. “IT. I love Tim Curry. Also, Pet Semetery. That scared me because we had a pet cemetery near our house. I also love Killer Klowns from Outer Space, even if it’s not really scary.”

Rings opens in theaters February 3. Hap and Leonard season one is available now on Amazon, and season two premiers March 2 on Sundance TV.

Follow Bonnie on Facebook, Instagram, and be sure to check out her website and her IMDB page.

About the author:

Joe Chianakas is the author of Rabbit in Red, a horror trilogy. Rabbit in Red won best horror book of 2016. It was picked up by Horror Block and sent to thousands around the world. The second book, Burn the Rabbit, hit #1 on Amazon’s hot new horror releases and is available now. The trilogy concludes this fall with Bury the Rabbit. Follow Joe on Facebook or visit his webpage here

Readers will find a fun tribute to Samara in the book.

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