Dee Wallace can be called many things – a mother, a self-help guru, a multi-talented actress, and arguably the most beloved cinematic parent of all time. Wallace is the mother of a generation of film fanatics, starring in E.T., Critters, and Cujo. As Karen White in The Howling, she instantly became my favorite horror leading lady. Currently, Wallace is still breaking the mold and leaving any sort of horror actor restraints in the dust by recently being nominated for a day-time Emmy and enjoying a successful run on the Amazon series, Just Add Magic.
A consummate professional, Wallace is one of the rare faces of horror who has been able to keep from being pigeon-holed in the genre. It’s an unfortunate stigma in the industry that isn’t shaken nearly as much as it should be, as there is an incredible cast of thousands working in the horror film industry these days who are so much more than maniacs, bikini-clad victims, and grumpy psychiatrists hell-bent on defeating the monster. Wallace’s daytime Emmy nomination for her role as Patricia Spencer in General Hospital only went to further cement her status as one of the industry’s leading talents.
One thing you can’t call Dee Wallace is complacent. You’d be hard pressed to find a more passionate and outgoing person in the business these days. I recently had the honor of speaking with Dee during a rare quiet moment in her day-to-day schedule. There was a hiccup along the way to us speaking on the phone, as schedules got crisscrossed and upon apologizing for the umpteenth time for the inconvenience, Wallace simply chuckled and said, “Shit happens, you know?” and that’s when I knew I was going to be talking to one hell of a woman.
RAVENOUS MONSTER: You’ve enjoyed success in theatre, television, and film. Is there a particular medium you prefer to work in most?
DEE WALLACE: I prefer film and TV because you have the opportunity to do it again—to make it better with retakes. I haven’t done stage in some time and, quite frankly, I get kind of bored doing the same thing over and over, so film and television is a lot more organic and allows the actors to have a little less structure to their performances.
RAVMON: Of all the films you have done, has there been one particular set that was the most exhausting?
DW: Oh, that would be Cujo. Hands down. They treated me for exhaustion after Cujo and quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything as emotionally and physically taxing as that film. I’m also extremely proud of the work I put into that film. Blood, sweat and tears. I shed it all! (laughs)
RAVMON: You are a part of the highly-anticipated Death House, which is a who’s who of all-star horror icons.
DW: That would be my second hardest film! (laughs)
RAVMON: I can’t imagine why!
DW: Hopefully my fans will embrace the different path I’ve taken with this character. It’s different than anyone I’ve ever played before. I play a Nazi and I’m really not a good person at all. We shot it in an abandoned prison. I’m extremely sensitive to energy and that place did not have good energy – it was freezing cold, dank, dusty, a very unsettling atmosphere, but wow, what a great look for the film! (laughs)
RAVMON: The film is getting a ton of positive buzz generated and Harrison Smith has really put together a heck of a project.
DW: Harrison Smith knew exactly what he wanted and what he was doing. We got some great performances. Cody Longo and Cortney Palm are very good in it. They are two actors who are still pretty young but you can see how much talent they have. This wasn’t an “easy” film, for anyone, I don’t think. Again, there’s that thing we do where you push yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. That’s what creators do.
RAVMON: You also have a very strong presence in the spirituality world and with your self-help work. With such a busy career, how do you juggle it all?
DW: It’s like anything else – you make a choice and then you create an intention. Make a deal with yourself that you’re going to follow through. I didn’t know how to write a book but I had a mentor that said, “you’ll never write a book if you keep saying you don’t know how to write a book.” Step by step by step, you learn how to write a book, right? I love all my books but I have a warm place in my heart for Bright Light. It’s my autobiography told through the journey of all the film and television work I’ve done. It’s a really good read for people and they’re able to get a lot from it for themselves. I enjoy everything I do and it’s definitely a busy time for me!
RAVMON: As one of the most recognizable faces in the industry, especially in horror, how often do you get approached on sets and told, “I grew up loving you! I had such a crush on you!”? Does it put things into perspective for you, just how big a part of a lot of people’s lives you were?
DW: Oh, absolutely. I hear from my fans all the time and that’s one of my favorite lines – everyone’s grown up with me (laughs). I get ninety-year-old gentlemen and four-year-old girls in my convention lines. I’m very fortunate, blessed, to have that opportunity to touch so many lives. And to still be able to work! A lot of actresses in my age range aren’t quite so blessed in continuing to work and do what they love. I have a great team on my side and I work very hard. I love going back and forth between the healing and the acting.
RAVMON: How did you get on board with General Hospital?
DW: My late husband, Christopher, had done a soap before and I remember him coming home from the first day, ash white, and saying, “I don’t think I can do this,” and then after the second day, coming home and being so alive and excited, “I got it. I got it and I love it!”
I had never done a soap before. I found out what part they had pegged for me and it is such a pivotal role, a character the show has been talking about for thirty years. Then I found out the casting director and I go way back from when I very first started, so I read it and my heart really understood who this woman was and what her role was, how important her role was. I have to say, it was a huge learning curve for me but I had a really remarkable time doing it and felt that I grew considerably.
RAVMON: Netflix and Amazon series are really gaining steam these days. What has your experience been like working on Just Add Magic?
DW: Beautiful! All the people at Amazon are just great. It’s a nice family. Not too much pressure, which is nice, and it allows for some creative input, which is nice for an actor. I was thrilled when I got the call that we got picked up – the show has gotten great reviews and ratings, so I’m very excited and really happy that the show is doing so well.
RAVMON: One of the things I love most about the horror scene is the horror convention schedule. You are one of the sweetest and most exuberant people on the convention circuit. What keeps bringing you back to these shows? DW: You know, I’m one of these actresses that loves to do them. I like to meet my fans. The core of all of my healing work is love and the best way to experience love is to exchange it. That is a constant at a lot of these shows. They say everybody should get at least four hugs a day and look how many I get! It’s a wonderful exchange. If you’re there and there for the right reasons, you know, the thing is, if you really love being there and you really love the people and the interacting with the people, you make your money. So I don’t keep my focus on the money aspect of it. At a recent show, I met a kid who was actually born in the backseat of a car while his parents were at the drive-thru watching E.T. I’ve heard of people conceiving in the backseat during one of my movies, but never actually born during one! (laughs)
RAVMON: Another project you are extremely proud of is your teddy bear, BuppaLaPaloo, which teaches self-worth and love through positive reinforcement. What led to this creation?
DW: I unequivocally know that the basis of all things is love. The more we get back to love, the easier our life flows. The biggest challenge is we aren’t taught to love ourselves. We are taught to love others, to give up our time, even our toys when we were little, to show our love for others. I know from all the healing work I do that our biggest challenge is getting back to loving and honoring ourselves. It’s really the beginning of everything. So I got involved in a lot of brain studies and was shocked to find that how we see ourselves, our value in the world and belief system in how the world values us, is fortified when we are four years old. So I created a toy.
The child pushes the paw and BuppaLaPaloo says a positive statement to the child, who says the statement back to the bear, so there’s a bonding moment with the toy. Saying strong, first-person statements and repeating it every time the child plays with it. All those things build up great confidence and teach children to love themselves and understand that they are worthy. Stopping bullying, anorexia and so many other psychologically damaging issues with our youth today begins with instilling that self-worth and self-love at such a young age.
RAVMON: You’ve worked with so many child actors. While they don’t like to admit it, every parent has a favorite kid. Who is your favorite film child?
DW: I would probably say Danny Pintauro (Tad Trenton in Cujo). Not because I don’t love them all equally, but we had such an intense ride together. Every day, every scene was so demanding. I just thank God every day for that role and that relationship. Robert (MacNaughton), Henry (Thomas) and Drew (Barrymore) were phenomenal child actors (in E.T.) but it wasn’t as intense a ride for me, with them, as it was with Danny. So if I had to pick one, it would be Danny.
RAVMON: Cujo is such a fantastic film. Was there ever consideration of ending the movie the way the book does, with Tad dying?
DW: We discussed it early on and I felt it’d be crazy to kill the kid at the end. Half the theatre audiences would have never read the book and this is the ‘80s – we don’t do that, killing kids in movies. These days, the kid probably dies – and it still would have been a terrible decision. As a mother, I would have been pissed off. Stephen King even said that he got more hate mail than anything else he’d ever done by killing the boy in the book, so he definitely approved of our ending.
RAVMON: Where can people listen to your talk show?
DW: You can go to my website and it’s on the home page, Conscious Creation. You can call in, you can listen online – it’s a free call-in show. You can talk to my channel and get some clarity, answers, and guidance around anything you want to ask.
RAVMON: What do you get out of your self-help and healing career?
DW: It affects how I can handle the emotional challenges that happen on a set. I have tools that help me keep balanced and forgive myself when I can’t stay balanced!
The healing work is a way of life, a way of being, so it goes into everything that I do. It’s a way of life that I embrace, so it certainly goes into my acting, for sure. Except for Death House. I’m a female Hitler in that film so I don’t bring much of my healing work to that role! (laughs)
RAVMON: What advice would you offer to an aspiring actress?
DW: I would say be yourself. Every actor thinks they want you to be someone else but they’re really looking for you to bring your stamp into what the part is. Know who you are, be true to who you are and then you have to choose and commit. Stay happy. It’s a tough business. It can challenge your state of happiness and when that happens, you’re fighting an uphill battle.