Morgan McCarthy: Hanging with Horror's Latest Devilish Wonder by Brian Kirst

Morgan McCarthy is an icon of diversity - eclectic actress, fantastic make-up artist, fun individual and my latest favorite thing. She is currently setting the Houston horror world on fire with her roles in 'Necrophobia' , 'Closet Space' ( ) and the upcoming 'Flesh Keeper' which sounds like a gory winner. McCarthy, who grew up in Africa, also served as head make-up artist on 'Necrophobia' and has plenty a fascinating tale to tell. So all you Stan Winston admirers read on and rejoice - your new heroine has finally arrived!


  Brian: You're a makeup artist and performer. Were you tying relatives down, as a kid, and making them look dead or forcing 'em to watch you tap dance - or goddess forbid, both?

Morgan: Well, I'm sure my sister has some harrowing stories to tell. As a VERY young child, I had been known to use acrylic paint and make her look like she had been bludgeoned with a hammer or some such blunt object.... that and the occasional disemboweling. Then laying her out on the kitchen floor for the parents to find when they got home from work! I have awesome parents. They never scolded me for any of it... in fact I remember my mother passing down some of my uncle's med school text books so I could brush up on my knowledge of anatomy.... but my favorite one was the communicable diseases text book! The pictures were awesome. - As for the acting side.... my mother says I've always been dramatic.... HA HA!

Morgan: Well, I grew up in Africa, which holds so much beauty and just as much ugliness. The people there suffer unimaginable hardships and yet still intrinsically hold an incredible sense of humor throughout their everyday lives. From a young age I witnessed some really horrible things (tribal warfare, government coups, the bombing of the U.S. Embassy) but the strength that the local people held throughout all of these things instilled an appreciation for making light of very dark topics like death and disease. As a child I identified on a very base level with the importance of horror films. I find that the horror genre is an expression of the methods humans use to cope through thick and thin. - I come from a long line of artists (painters, jewelers, fiber artists) so my own self expression initially materialized in the form of painting and sculpting which ultimately led to makeup and special effects as one uses the basic principles of painting and sculpting to create the effects. That and trying to recreate what I saw around me and in films. - I think my interest became fully realized when a woman in the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso decided that she was going to launch a full-scale play, 'The Little Shop of Horrors'. She made EVERYTHING.... from the intestines and severed limbs of the Dentist character to a huge Audrey II puppet that had to be manipulated from the inside, by a marine no less! My mother was the costumer and so I got to watch everything get built from the start. The whole thing blew my mind! I couldn't believe that anyone would try to do everything I had seen in film, but on stage, LIVE! It was definitely the most inspiring thing I have ever experienced. Actually, I still have one of the smaller Audrey II puppets in my front entryway at home!

Brian: Tell us a bit about some of the effects that you produced in 'Timmy the Greeting Card Guy'.

Morgan: Well, Y-Guys Films was the first group of people to really give me a chance to practice makeup on film. We went to university together. They actually started as an experimental sketch comedy troupe called Ubertoast and they asked me to come aboard as their stage makeup and effects artist. They were a lot of fun because they really challenged people to think outside of the box.... VERY dark comedy. They really challenged me with effects like coming up with how to slice a parasitic twin off of it's host brother's back with a chainsaw, on stage (My Parasitic Twin) or a bear tearing someone's arm off and then spraying the audience with blood being pumped out of the limb (My Father, The Bear)! - GREAT fun. They started making films and brought me in to do some animal effects in 'The Angst Bunny' and then kept me on to do a few burn effects for 'Timmy the Greeting Card Guy'. I enjoyed creating the effect of Timmy's plastic bicycle helmet and unitard being melted into his skin when he gets electrocuted. Yummm!

Brian: What has been the most gruesome, kick ass awesome make-up effect that you've created thus far?

Morgan: You know, I don't really know which is the most gruesome.... I mean, Mel House and Stacy Davidson have done a bang up job of packing their films with some awesomely gory stuff! It's really incredible! My favorite makeup effect to date would have to be a very subtle one actually. Stacy had been discussing with me how to go about designing the makeup for the character of Mr. Joad. We wanted to achieve a slimy quality about him... in fact, I think the exact words Stacy used where, "I want him to look like engine grease is oozing out of his pores." We tried different mixtures of things but ended up using brown powder and charcoal powder mixed with some tanning skin tint that beaded up right inside the actor's pores.... it was really lovely. - I have always been interested in the subtle effects because I enjoy the challenge of creating an effect that people don't notice on a conscious level but subconsciously develop a strong base judgment or feeling about a character. Expressing psychological journeys with makeup, like a character that has been through immense emotional turmoil, is really what I find fascinating because those subtle color choices or brush strokes ultimately affect an actor on a base level. It's really incredible to apply the makeup away from the mirror then allow the actor to see it. Their whole mood and body can change in a split second all because of the makeup!

Brian: In 'Necrophobia' and 'Closet Space' you've dealt with two classic staples of the horror world - the basement motif and the tight confines of the closet. What dark and dreary place freaks you out the most in real life?

Morgan: Well, just a quick side note, my character in each film actually dies in the SAME place... seriously! The cave where zombies in 'Necrophobia' maul my character, Jesse Chase, and the secluded cave space Kristin is drug to in 'Closet Space' , is the same set! - I think probably the freakiest place I've ever been was, in fact, another cave! It was a miner's cave in the Ngong Hills in Kenya. Actually, I had no idea I was claustrophobic until I got about half way down into it and realized it was FULL of bats! I really don't find bats menacing generally, but when you are in a tight space and you can't see and you can hear little squeaks and scuffling and things flying past you and there isn't really anywhere to go and you have people ahead of you and behind you.... Yikes! I'm getting myself worked up the more I think about it! ::Shudder:: .... ok, moving on.

Brian: How did you get involved in 'Necrophobia' and can you tell us what Stacy Davidson was like to work with?

Morgan: I responded to a flyer Odyssee Pictures had posted at the University of St. Thomas drama department! They were looking for someone with makeup knowledge and I figured it was a total long shot but I had been going to uni for two years and had been given the opportunity to do some independent studies in makeup and work on some stage effects, as well as working with Y-Guys Films. I decided I was ready to try my hand at a full-scale horror film. - I was originally hired to be the assistant makeup artist but the head makeup artist ended up moving to LA to work at one of the big studios out there. I got thrown into the fray and never looked back! It was a steep learning curve for all of us involved and we all learned a lot about ourselves and our capabilities and limitations. I think we got through it with stubbornness and luck but without the IMMENSE amount of talent in everyone involved, I don't know that even those qualities would have pulled us through! - I definitely applaud Stacy for biting off so much in! He has done a lot for the Houston film community since his undertaking of Necrophobia. He started the Houston Film Organization, which meets every first Monday of the month, and he has really brought local Houston filmmakers out of the woodwork! I think he is and will continue to be invaluable to putting Houston on the map in regards to independent film.

Brian: Can you tell us a little about who you play in 'Necrophobia' and what thrills, chills and utter mayhem we can expect to experience upon viewing it?

Morgan: I play a character named Jesse Chase. She is the underdog of the film. She is picked on by the other characters but definitely gets her revenge in the end... just my kind of woman! I go from wearing glasses and a jean jacket to drenched in blood from head to toe and kicking ass.... nough said.

Brian: How did your involvement in 'Closet Space' come about and what was Mel House like to work with?

Morgan: Mel was still looking to cast the role of Kristin and Stacy recommended me along with passing along some 'Necrophobia' footage. So, Mel sent me a script and I really enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun to read and I couldn't wait to get started on the project! - Working with Mel was a lot of fun. He is extremely focused on set and I have a lot of respect for his ability to keep the shoot going. He really allowed us, as actors, to take control of the characters and really make them our own. - Actually, both Mel and Stacy have been incredibly supportive of my work and were a huge help in getting me involved in 'The Flesh Kee' per, coming soon!

Brian: Can you tell us a little about your character in 'Closet Space' and how she differs from other roles that you've played?

Morgan: Well, I tend to play nerds.... HA HA.... I think there is a very good reason for that as I am one of the biggest nerds I know. On paper, Jesse and Kristin had the potential of being very similar characters but I took it as a great challenge to make them different people. Jesse Chase ('Necrophobia') is very sarcastic and generally pissed at the world. She can come across as a total tightwad and that is why the other characters like to mess with her so much. Kristin is a lot more socially savvy. She knows she is a nerd and is ok with it. I tried to give her a sense of humor about everything. She has a lot more "Morgan" in her than Jesse did.... although they both express certain sides of my own personality. Both of the characters wear glasses that I wore at one point.... Jesse's are the glasses I wore in school in the early nineties and Kristin wears my current glasses.... take from that what you will.

Brian: Lastly, any future projects you'd like to clue us into or recipes for tentacle matzo ball soup that you'd like to share with the gourmet portion of our reading audience.

Morgan: Keep and eye out for 'The Flesh Keeper'. Full of cannibalism, disembowelment, slicing and dicing! There are some great recipes for human remains strewn throughout that film!