Jessica’s Zombie Adventure Or One Ingénue – Extremely Rare: Talking With Jessica Lynn Johnson by Owen Keehnen

Jessica Lynn Johnson is new to the horror scene. She is currently promoting her first big role as Danielle Stevenson in Scott Goldberg’s zombie flick 'THE DAY THEY CAME BACK'.  In the movie Danielle’s younger brother, Brandon, is eaten by zombies – causing Danielle to have a nervous breakdown. (Talk about a crappy day!) It’s a very emotionally draining part, but Jessica proves she certainly has the ummm…acting chops to handle it. Unfortunately Danielle isn’t quite up to the challenge of surviving a zombie attack. Towards the end of the flick she becomes a very rare steak dinner. And we’re serving her up right now in this exclusive interview.



  How did you get cast for the role of Danielle Stevenson for 'THE DAY THEY CAME BACK'?

Persistence, persistence, persistence, and yes, hopefully talent too. I auditioned for Scott and Marlene months before I was actually cast. I prepared a couple of monologues, tried to show both my comedic and dramatic side. They then had me read from the script, and I knew immediately that this would be such a fun project. A very gritty, very bloody, down and dirty kind of film. So, I screamed my lungs out and tried to make those zombies come to life. It was a great audition, and Marlene told me later that she thought I had the part in the bag. After months writing Scott at least once a week, reminding him how much I wanted to work on the film, finally preproduction things were taken care of and official casting could begin. Scott asked me to play Danielle, and I was thrilled.

In the role of Danielle you display a lot of pain due to the death of Brandon, your brother. How did you tap into that? Can you explain?

Fortunately I am an older sister in real life, I have three younger brothers and therefore it was easy for me to empathize with Danielle's loss. A lot of times before we'd shoot a scene I would do some acting warm-ups replacing Brandon's name with the name of one my brothers and run around screaming their name. It helped me get in the moment, although I am sure I looked like a crazy woman.

I’ve heard some great things about the guy. What was it like working with director Scott Goldberg?

Scott is a very unique person. I have NEVER worked with anyone like him in my career. He is very open to change. I mean we could be filming a scene and someone would decide to take their character in a whole new direction, change some lines, add a little twist to the plot, and if Scott liked it, he'd allow it. For instance, I thought Danielle would vomit when running across the bridge right after her brother had been killed because of the physical and emotional trauma she'd endured. Scott said, "let's try it" and bought me some vegetable soup. Each day was unpredictable and new. Scott has a great eye for interesting camera angles and would often think of ways to capture a scene that no one else would have ever thought of. He is also very self-motivated; his energy alone would carry us through some of the really long days.

Something else I want to hear about from “the trenches”. What was it like working with budget constraints in primarily a no-budget film?

I have to say, I was surprised. I knew it would be low budget, but I didn’t realize just how low budget. It was hard to keep up my energy for an 18-hour day living off of soda and pizza. In a way the conditions were helpful because often times everyone was very physically drained and therefore we could use that towards the scenes. Our characters were very physically worn down, so in the end it all worked out for the benefit of the film.

How long was the shoot?

It was a several month process, but we'd only be on set for a day at a time. Sometimes, there were a couple of overnights where we'd stay at Scott's house. And our days on the set were incredibly long days. There was a lot of crapping in the woods, picnic style dining, basically a very camp-like environment.

Sounds ummm – rustic. Going along with that what was your most memorable experience from working on 'THE DAY THEY CAME BACK'?

I think my death scene had to have been the most memorable day of shooting. It was a very emotionally exhausting day in that it was my last really big scene as an actress, and it was the end of my character's life. Just the end of a lot of things. It was a beautiful set, the water behind us, the sun going down, the sandy beach, and then you have the opposition of all this beauty with a group of disgusting zombies coming towards me, ready to end it all. Danielle, knowing she couldn't swim, just gave up. She got tired of running.

Were there any negatives from working on 'THE DAY THEY CAME BACK'?

I am a very organized person. So, I had to get use to Scott's free spirit, impulsive way of doing things. I think it is so important as an actor to learn that each set is different, every director is going to have a different way of doing things, and you just have to morph. So, although the lack of food, long days, and unpredictability was at times difficult, it was a great learning experience.

And the positives?

It was all positive. Even the "negatives" I mentioned all worked to the betterment of the film. It was an awesome location, perfect to make our reactions truthful because we did feel really stranded out in the woods. I had never really done a horror, zombie film, so it was such a crash course in that genre. It was very therapeutic. If I had a bad week, Danielle's life was at stake, so I could just yell a little bit more, run a little bit faster, and get it all out of system that day.

So did this awaken some hunger in you to be in more zombie films?

Yes, absolutely. I'd really like to kick some zombie ass in the next one though rather then just running all the time.

Any future projects you’d like to brag about or plug or promote?

I recently shot a commercial that will run on the east coast during the Superbowl for an east coast builder. I also have a one woman show entitled "Oblivious To Everyone" that has been up and running off-off Broadway since March. Always try to stay busy.

That’s some diverse work. All the best to you Jessica and we hope to see you in more horror movies in the future.

Thanks Owen.