Debbie Does Horror: A Talk With the Amazing Debbie Rochon by Owen Keehnen

Debbie Rochon heads just about everyone’s list of the most talented actresses working in horror and lower-budgeted films today. In 2002 she was crowned Scream Queen of the Decade (1990-present) by ‘Draculina’ magazine in a poll conducted by reader votes. To date this charming actress has appeared in over 100 films. Some of her credits include ‘Tromeo and Juliet’, ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Depraved’, ‘Santa Claws’, ‘Black Easter’, ‘Lurkers’, ‘Cybervengeance’, ‘Blood Relic’, ‘Dr. Horror’s Erotic House of Idiots’, ‘Dead Clowns’, ‘Lord of the Undead’, ‘Severe Injuries’, ‘Head Cheerleader, Dead Cheerleader’, ‘Terror Firmer’, ‘Dead and Rotting’, ‘Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker!’, ‘Playmate of the Apes’, ‘Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part 4’, ‘Witchouse 3: Demon Fire’, ‘Abducted II: The Reunion’, ‘Alien Agenda’, etc.

She has died so many delicious ways!

However, the way I like Debbie best is as a crazed killer (i.e. ‘Bleed’ and ‘Hellblock 13’) rather than cowering prey. Her no-holds-barred depiction of psychotic Jane Toppan in the chilling ‘American Nightmare’ out Hannibal’s Hopkins and out ‘Shining’(s) Nicholson if you ask me. It’s simply brilliant down to the smallest detail.  In addition to her stellar performances, another wonderful thing about Ms. Rochon is that she is a working actress, a very working actress. This woman is never content to rest on her laurels or choose only starring roles, she is constantly seeking new and challenging parts and as a result has grown enormously as an actress over the years.

In talking with Debbie Rochon one thing is evident (besides that she’s fun and down-to-earth!), she simply loves the genre and is always up for giving her all to whatever project she is working on…and with this woman’s talent that is plenty!



  Owen: Debbie, how are you?  I think I have been a blithering fan ever since 'Hellblock 13'.  Do fans writing you give you a lot of encouragement?

Debbie: Wow, that is such a nice thing to say! It's amazing the wonderful things that fans say to me and it really helps me through the rough times. Seriously, I have always said if it weren't for the kindness of the fans it really wouldn't be worth it! Some days you get the notion to just quit and then you receive an amazing letter at the post office that tells you that your work is appreciated by somebody and that's enough to get you excited again.

Owen: First off I just want to say you are a miracle Debbie.  I mean you were a homeless teen in Vancouver, dropped out of school in 7th grade, and here you are at the top of your game.  Talk about triumph over adversity!  Did having that strong "I'm going to be a great actress" vision save your butt?

Debbie: Yes a strong stubborn will saved my butt for sure. The experience of being told I was good as an extra at age 12 had A LOT to do with it. I just happened upon a role in "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains!" and as trite as it may sound, that compliment made me proud for the first time in my life up until that moment. I think the assistant director who said that to me probably saved my life seeing I was homeless and things could have gone one of a million ways for me. I have always been very strong-minded and that's what has kept me in the game so long. I don't think of why I can't do something but how I'm going to try and make something happen. I've had a lot of failures but my strong denial abilities just allow me to plow through the bad stuff! The only thing that truly tripped me up was my accident in 2002 when I had all my fingers on my right hand almost completely cut off on a film set due to carelessness on the part of the production. I was in a pretty deep depression for a long time after that. I am just now starting to feel better but will be forever disabled to a certain degree. I had 2 operations and have recovered a decent amount of agility and movement in my fingers.

Owen: That sounds horrible.  I knew you had been injured but I didn't know what it was.  Did that experience make you more cautious when it comes to dealing with the technical and prop aspects of low budget horror?

Debbie: Yes I am very VERY cautious when working with people. I have made a few people completely rewrite their contracts before I will sign them! One of the scariest things these days are the filmmakers who don't want to take responsibility for their own sets! Can you imagine running a set, which is a place of work, and expecting people to sign contacts that says they're not responsible if you get hurt while making their film? That's insane. I strongly suggest to anyone out there working on non-union films not to ever sign any contracts that make such statements!

Owen: I love that your career has embraced the gamut of indie film --- from the sexploitation flicks, to parody, comedies, T & A horror, straight on horror...  What about the independent scene makes it preferable to Hollywood's A-list?

Debbie: Well I have always said I would love the paychecks that the Hollywood folks get! But I love the characters in the indie scene. You never get to play crazed, evil bitches like you do in this genre. And that is without a doubt what I love to do most. So I would have to say the great characters and wonderful devoted fans make this indie world worthwhile for me.

Owen: You really do seem to love it a lot. Is that what bonded you with pal Joe Bob Briggs and your eventually stint as a columnist for the Joe Bob Report?

Debbie: Well that's a long story but he was aware of my writing in the early years of Femme Fatales magazine. He needed someone who could write short gossip column like items on what was happening in the genre scene. He loved Melissa Moore's writing, she did the column before I, but she was better at long form plus I think she was just about to move into the country and raise horses at that point. So when my stint with FF ended in 1994 he called me up and I wrote the column until he folded The Joe Bob Report a few years later.

Owen: What is your typical determining factor when choosing projects?  Is a big juicy role or a big juicy paycheck more tantalizing to you?

Debbie: Money eases the pain living in NYC there's no doubt. But even still I really don't take something just for the money anymore. I have to be excited about it. And it doesn't have to be the lead. The character just has to be something I feel I haven't done before (at least not that EXACT character) and something that sounds FUN. It can be hard work fun, not literally ha-ha fun but fun to me is hard work in a satisfying role anyway.

Owen: Your commitment to your roles is quite well known and highly respected.  First off, what is the craziest/most unusual thing you have ever done to prepare for a role and secondly, where do you draw the line...and does that line sometimes blur?

Debbie: The silliest thing I have ever done for a role is go to the zoo and watch apes move before playing an ape in "Play-Mate of the Apes." I have studied victims for roles like Jennifer in "Nowhere Man" and studied psychopaths for roles like Jane in "American Nightmare." I studied Lewis and Martin comedies before shooting "Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots." On Both "Nowhere Man" and "American Nightmare" there was a blurry line after we would finish shooting for the day. There was also that sort of feeling while I was playing a victim in "Abducted II: The Reunion" because I just got into it so much it was exhausting.

Owen: When you are playing an insane character (like Jane Toppan in 'American Nightmare’) what is the most important thing for you to keep in mind to stay in character?

Debbie: You must always stay in character. You have to focus on whatever puts you in that state. It will wear off after time, and then you have to find something else that works. Nothing will constantly work so everyday you make a movie like that is a new struggle with your method. Some days it's easier to get there and some days it feels really impossible. But it's also important to let it go if you have a huge amount of down time and just rest your mind otherwise you would REALLY go insane and that's not the point of acting.

Owen: Do you have a favorite role of yours when you've watched the movie and said, "Man, I nailed it!”  Better yet, give me your five favorite performances for the Debbie Rochon performance time capsule.


1. Nowhere Man

2. Death Defying Acts

3. American Nightmare

4. Terror Firmer

5. Witchouse 3: Demon Fire

6. Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots

7. Bleed

(It’s so hard; most films are great memories for their own reasons!)

Owen: You've also had a close association with Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Studios bunch (with films like 'Terror Firmer' and 'Tromeo and Juliet').  What did that intense period of working with them teach you about making films?

Debbie: I have known Lloyd since 1992. He'll always be a great friend. I have learned so much from him I have forgotten what I knew without him in my life! But film related I would have to say he taught me to take chances. He's really like an absurdist painter in a crazy way. You can act big and dumb and that is not what Troma is about. You have to combine a grounded character with HUGE choices and that makes it funny. You can't play the jokes in Troma movies or it doesn't work. I think he has taught me to take big risks.

Owen: Since you are so respected for your acting and commitment to roles how much freedom do directors give you with character?  Is the initial vibe you have with the director a big factor in your choosing projects?

Debbie: Usually the directors give me total freedom with my roles. I have worked with a few good directors but I would like to work with more good directors! Directors who give you direction and can actually improve your performance. That's what I hope for and enjoy. I do like to be left alone a certain amount but I always would much rather have input from someone with a vision who knows what they're doing.

Owen: Somewhat tying in with that it seems so many actors these days have a desire to direct.  Is that something you want to do in the future and if so, what have learned in front of the camera that will come in handy behind the camera?

Debbie: Well, I have not been bitten by that bug yet. I do not under estimate what it takes to be a great director! But I certainly know a lot about filmmaking. I have learned about what sort of coverage I like and one needs. I know enough about editing to know instantly (even without trying to think about it) if we have shot enough to actually cut the scene together. I have a very good visual instinct so that has always helped me. I use that a lot when I create new characters I like to draw them. Unless it's a very small one-day role then I usually just show up and improvise it.

Owen: I'm curious too, your popularity hasn't really manifested in that sort of false "No more nudity for me!" kind of stance.  Care to comment?

Debbie: I have never had a problem with nudity but I don't especially enjoy it either! It's really just part of the job! I think if you want to get into the film business it's almost a prerequisite. Even big budget movies have it. Films imitate life and life has nudity in it. ;)

Owen: You've made well over 100 films to date.  That's amazing.  Do you have some sort of ultimate career goal?

Debbie: You mean number wise? That's a great question! Maybe I should stop at 300? That’s a nice round number!

Owen: What are you working on currently and what projects do you have lined up in the future?

Debbie: I am currently shooting "Raptureous" with Kamal Ahmed (ex Jerky Boy), I will be headed to Buffalo for 5 weeks to shoot "Poultrygeist: Attack of the Chicken Zombies!" directed by Lloyd Kaufman. I just shot a couple of shorts, one directed by Neil McCurry called "Possessed" and one called "Black Jack's Magic Room" co-starring Michael Risley. I have been working on my show at Fangoria TV called Trailer Park, which features hilarious trailers from sci-fi and horror films of the 50's and 60's. And other very cool projects in the works including a possible sequel to “American Nightmare”!

Owen: So what is something that scares Debbie Rochon in real life?

Debbie: Ticks. I really, really hate ticks.

Owen: What's some small bit of trivia or detail about you that will shock readers of this interview?

Debbie: I'm a sex change? That's not true. Maybe the fact that I'm a homebody and love to cook? That's true. I used to be a hit-woman? That's not true. At age 16 I put myself through finishing school and was taught how to work a runway. That's true. Anyone shocked yet? If you go to and buy my new brand of coffee you'll live longer? That MIGHT be true! ;)