Monica Potter has been a steady actress for over a decade, while also balancing life as a mom. The acclaimed actress is at most challenging as a wife and mother helping to defend her home from a trio of killers, which involves shooting a gun and getting her hands dirty, in “The Last House on the Left”. Potter talked exclusively to Paul Fischer and warning, SPOILERS EXIST IN THIS INTERVIEW:
Question: This is a very risky genre to do. I’m just wondering what – was it the attraction of playing a woman who ultimately becomes a very strong character that appealed to you? Or was it just the rush of doing a film like this?
Potter: I actually liked it because it was it spoke to me as a parent and the filmmakers, too. You know, Wes Craven is the best in the genre, as far as I’m concerned. And then seeing Dennis’ film Hard Core. I mean he didn’t do anything gratuitous in it. It was very real, and very character-driven. And that’s what attracted me to this. I thought, “I really like this woman. I like the character, I like the family. I love the relationship she has with her daughter. I love”-you know, and I’m like that. I’m very overprotective of my kids.
Question: How old are your kids?
Potter: My kids are three – she was just here, Molly. And Liam is 14. And then my oldest is 18.
Question: Wow. There’s a huge gap in ages.
Potter: Eighteen and three. [LAUGHTER] I know. I have one every decade. So I started in my teens, then I had one in my 20s, and then my 30s. Enough now. No more.
Question: You sure that’s it now?
Potter: No more. I’m done. I don’t need to have one in my 40s. I’m gonna wait, maybe, to adopt? I don’t know. If I want any more kids, I’ll adopt one. But.
Question: Well, clearly this is not a movie you do for your kids.
Potter: No. They’re not allowed to see this. Not even my 18-year-old. I told him, “No way.” He’s like, “I’m 18. I’m allowed to see it.” I’m like –
Question: He’ll sneak in and see it.
Potter: He will.
Question: Like all teenagers.
Potter: Yeah. I mean, he’s – he’ll be in for a shock. Because that rape scene is like, what you say –
Question: It’s pretty tough.
Potter: Oh, yeah.
Question: What is grueling about doing a movie like this? I mean, when you have to react to fear. What are the challenges for an actor to do that? To react to fear?
Potter: It depends on how you’re feeling on the day. Like, the scenes that we shot when we get Sarah’s character to get Mary off the porch, those were tough, because we were very tired. Tony and I were all very tired by the time we came to shoot this. Which helped, but it also – it hurt. Because when you’re that tired, the emotions are harder to find. You know, we had done it over and over and over. So you have to know when to hold back, and know when to let it go. You know, those scenes, we didn’t rehearse too much, which was helpful. And Sarah was also helpful, because she’s so good that in just looking at her little face, you felt so sad and so compelled to help in some way, as a parent. So to me, that was the driving force behind those scenes, for sure, was her performance.
Question: You also drive some of the violence in this movie, which is very rare for a female character to be responsible for some of the carnage.
Potter: I know. I know!
Question: Was that tough to do, as a female and as a parent?
Potter: Well, you know, I don’t know, because – I didn’t think that it was that – from what you guys are telling me now, it’s like, “God, you really kicked everybody’s butt in the movie.” And I’m like, “But it was like, she had to keep doing it, because she wanted to make sure all of her bases were covered.” You know, if she would have just given up and just done one person, then the other person would pop up. You know, it’s like – it was exhausting, but it had to be done.
Question: Did you enjoy shooting the gun?
Question: Did you enjoy participating, and being much more a driving force behind the action, rather than just purely a beautiful addendum?
Potter: Well, I did, because – I didn’t enjoy shooting the gun. I’m never comfortable with those scenes. I’m not comfortable handling guns, or doing a lot of violent things. But I thought for the role, it was necessary, because her daughter was almost killed. And now they’re staying in their house. And to protect her family and her – this is her home, you know? I like the fact that they didn’t just sort of – the writers and director and Wes didn’t want to put the parents in the background, as sort of passive characters. We were the driving force, to protect our home and our daughter. Which I think any parent would do.
Question: NowI think the morality of this is interesting, because at the end of the film, without giving anything away, the husband does something which questions the morality of the piece. What did you think of that?
Potter: I wasn’t sure about that scene in particular, if they were going to keep it or not. I know they’ve talked about it being there, and then not being there. I think it was justified, because it was sort of like that last final cherry on top of the sundae, if you will. Like, this is – I also thought it was fun. I mean, I wouldn’t do that in real life. But it’s a movie, you know? And it’s like – I think, yeah, the movie could have been fine without it. But I think the audiences may want to root for that, too. One final little – I have yet to see that. I’m interesting to see how that scene turned out. Did you like that part?
Question: Now in the screening I went to, which was a junket screening – so, you know, there were no general public there – the scene where you shoot the girl in the shower got a round of applause.
Potter: Oh, somebody said that they liked that. And I had forgotten about that scene.
Question: She was such a horrible character.
Potter: Oh! She was like a rat, wasn’t she?
Question: How hard is it to work with actors who are playing such antagonistic roles?
Potter: When I first met all of them, we didn’t really hang out that much and I’m glad that we didn’t, because I didn’t want to become best buddies with them at first. As time went on, we sort of became closer, and we would start having dinners on Saturdays together, because we were all each other had in South Africa. So it was a little tough, because you had to act like you still really hated them. But they’re all really good people. Like, Garret, and – well, Aaron. They’re all amazing, and so sweet. But that’s why they’re such good actors, because you believe it.
Question: Geography, the location and the setting, is a principle character in this. What was it like filming this on location?
Potter: I actually really liked South Africa.
Question: Why did they film there?
Question: Purely for financial reasons? â€¨Potter: Yeah, I think so. You get more bang for your buck, you know? But I liked working there. I didn’t like being that far away from family here.
Question: Did they join you at any time?
Potter: No. I thought about it, but I didn’t want to put them through that flight, time change, taking them out of school. It would have been really tough. You know, I didn’t want to have them go through any of that. Having to get up, and re-do their school work. And especially my older two. The baby, maybe. But even still, I wouldn’t be able to give her the attention needed, because I was so focused on this. And we were working nights. So she would be asleep when I would be working. And then when I’m sleeping, she would be awake. So it didn’t make much sense. So Granny came out. My Mom came out to take care of them. Which – I was really very lucky. Very thankful for that. She helped me out a lot.
Question: You’ve had a very interesting career. You’ve been at this for a while. In fact, when you were younger, I know that there were comparisons made between you and Julia Roberts.
Potter: There still are! There still are..
Question: How would you define your career, and your aspirations at this particular juncture?
Potter: I think they’ve changed throughout the years. You know, I moved back to Cleveland in 2000 to raise the boys, because I had just gotten divorced. And I was there for about four years, and I’d pretty much given up. You know, I just sort of went, “You know, I’m gonna start over, and just settle in in Cleveland, and stay here. And if I’m supposed to go back to work, I will.” And I tried to work from there, and had to turn around and come back out to LA, and pack up the boys and find more work. So it’s never been – I’ve never been comfortable, if that’s the right word. I’ve never been to a point where – you know, you can go and buy a $2 million home or whatever, and rest on your laurels for a while. I’ve always been a working actress. Working hard, trying to get to the next step without sacrificing the morals and the kids’ lives. Their lives. How I like to raise them, so that’s tough.
Question: What kinds of things are you looking for at this point? How tough is it out there for you?
Potter: I’m doing a TV show right now which I just wrapped. It’s called Trust Me. It’s for TNT. We just finished our 13th episode.
Question: How is it doing? I’m hearing mixed things.
Potter: Yeah, I am too. I don’t know if we’re doing that great.
Question: It’s a tough market, isn’t it? Well, if TNT does some good work.
Potter: Yeah. So, we’re moving. I have to do another press junket tomorrow for this show. We’re moving time to Tuesday nights, to hopefully find a different audience. I don’t know.
Question: You’re playing the additional member of the agency?
Potter: Sarah. Yeah, I’m playing Sarah. And she’s a fun character. She’s a lot of fun.
Question: Was doing TV a way for you to sustain a degree of security?
Potter: Yeah. And also a way to stay in town. TV’s much different. It’s – [SNAPPING FINGERS].
Question: And hard, too. The hours.
Potter: Yeah, the hours are long. It’s mentally draining. It’s hard, because I like movies, too. And I like being able to go away and focus solely on the project, and then coming home. I’ve never been able to do things back to back to back, for some reason. Because – I don’t know how actors do it. Because I think your work suffers, and your home life suffers. And I’m happy doing one or two things a year, and hopefully sustaining a character on television.
Question: Is it tough, being a Mom and being a working actress? Like any other working mother, I guess.
Potter: Yeah. I mean, I have help, for sure. I have help. But just making sure that – you always feel like something’s left out. At the end of the day it’s like, which kid didn’t I pay enough attention to? Or what scene didn’t I get to do the right way? Or what bill didn’t I pay? Or what did I forget at the grocery store? You know, those types of things. But you just try to do the best job every day. Hopefully it comes together.
Question: Do you know when this is done? You don’t know if you’ve been picked up for another year.
Potter: I don’t think we’ll know until – I want to say the middle of March.
Question: You can’t really commit to doing anything.
Potter: Well, I could, but they would have to put me in second position. Which means I could go do a pilot, but then the studio that I work for has to put me in second position. Meaning if my show gets picked up, the Trust Me show, then I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my obligation.
Question: What about a movie?
Potter: A movie, I could do.
Question: Are you looking for a movie?
Potter: Sure. I would love to do a comedy.