Nicole Kingston: Turning Straw into Gold with Scarecrow Slayer's Feisty Heroine by Brian Kirst

The talented Nicole Kingston may have battled a vicious man of straw with a rocket launcher in 'Scarecrow Slayer' , but it is her heart of gold that will help her slide down the perilous slopes of show business. After appearing in the as yet unreleased shocker 'Scorpions!' , the funny, down to earth Kingston has been slowly working her way up into the majors. She's recently made appearances in the comedy '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' (with Poppy Montgomery and Tori Spelling) and the Lifetime Network thriller 'Officer Down' (with Sherilyn Fenn and genre favorite Casper Van Dien). I expect many more credits in the future from the charming Kingston and so should you! So, spend some time with her at and in the engaging interview below. You won't regret it. Hell, having grown up in a mortuary in the Midwest, she might even give you some casket suggestions for when that special, inevitable time in life comes!

  Brian: What were your first performance inspirations? - Miss Piggy in 'The Muppets Take Manhattan' , A young Natalie Portman kicking butt in 'The Professional' - Your local tap dance instructor and her annual 'Welcome to Spring' recital?

Nicole: My mother took me to see a production of 'Annie Get Your Gun' when I was five, and I was hooked It was only a high school production, but it was just as magical as if it were a Broadway show to a five year old girl. After that my mother carted me around to see every bit of theater we could find in our quiet corner of Wisconsin.

Brian: Did growing up in a mortuary prepare you for the twisted humor of films like 'Scarecrow Slayer' and 'Scorpions!'? (Or do you think it would be more quaintly ironic if all you got to perform in were 'Little Women' retreads?)

Nicole: Growing up in a mortuary isn't all that weird, since it's all you really know. It's when you stop living in the mortuary that you realize how different it is to not have large groups of people, often strangers, crying next to a corpse in your living room on a nearly weekly basis. - The environment was bound to have an effect though. In retrospect I suppose it is a little weird to have a favorite casket as a child. The mortuary had a whole showroom of caskets to select from - and I had a favorite. It was a shiny pink casket with chrome handles and a crushed velvet interior. It was an absolute Cadillac among caskets - and I loved that thing. Then one day, it was gone. I cried and cried; you\rquote d think I'd lost my puppy or something. - Living that way does instill a quiet sense of irony about everything though. That can be helpful in the film business, whether you're making a horror film or Shakespeare. The fact is it's kind of a crappy business, full of empty promises and serious disappointments. If you want to hang in with it you either become hard, jaded, and selfish (diva-like) or you learn to stand back, find the irony and laugh at it.

Brian: You have performed in a wide variety of stage productions everything from musicals ('Bye Bye Birdie' - as Kim, I am assuming, doing your young Ann Margret thing) to traditional fare ('The Glass Menagerie') to more stylized productions ('The Adding Machine'). Do you have a favorite style of theatre to perform (classical - comedy?) and what has been your favorite theatrical role thus far?

Nicole: Theatrically, I think my strength is found in more dramatic material. In spite of having the lead in 'Bye Bye Birdie' theater play that I was in when I was twelve, called 'Tales of the Great North Woods' It was a corny, but rather sweet play. I was Little Feather a Native American girl who communed with the forest creatures and said unlikely things like "I am Little Feather, the FIRST girl, AND the first friend to all the forest animals." The part is still special to me because I was traveling with the show for a whole summer, and it was one of my first acting gigs.

Brian: Have you found it difficult to move from theater to film? I know in film you have to be much more subtle than on the stage.

Nicole: I prefer working in film because it is "smaller" more subtle. I'm not one of those flamboyant theatrical types. I don't mean that as a knock at all; it's just that on stage you really need to be more of an extrovert. You have to be the sort of person who sucks their energy from the audience and transforms that into the performance. - I think film offers introverts a place to perform. When I say I'm an introvert, I don't mean that I'm some wilting daisy. It's just a matter of where you get your energy. Introverts need time alone to recharge and get their energy and extroverts can just take it from other people. Film offers a lot of moments of down time between scenes that allow for this sort of thing.

Brian: You ferociously battled the titular straw man in 'Scarecrow Slayer'. I have a feeling that the cold filming nights were your worst enemy on-set enemy though. True?

Nicole: I come from the Midwest, so I know cold. The thing is, we don't run around in it half naked. The part demanded that I do just exactly that, and I was up for it - but it was cold and windy. The rest of the crew were bundled up in layer upon layer like they were involved in the siege of Stalingrad while I was sporting a halter top that said "Hottie." As an actor you have a choice to bitch and moan about it or suck it up and, as I said before, find the irony in it and laugh.

Brian: You got to do the dance of worship around the great Tony Todd on 'Scarecrow Slayer'. (That bloody hospital gurney scene rocked!) Do you have any specific memories about working with the amazing Heir Todd?

Nicole: My first impression of Tony Todd was how enormous his hands were. My hand was completely lost in his when he shook it. He's just a big guy, but it's easy to lose sight of that on screen because he's in proportion in everyway - so it's not like he looks freakish! He's just BIG! You can get some idea of how big he is if you look at the scene where he is shooting the lever-action rifle at the off screen Scarecrow - the gun looks like a toy in his hands.- The thing is, in spite of his size, and that great deep voice, he's not at all imposing in person. He exudes a certain quiet, centeredness that makes it very pleasant to be around him. On screen he comes across as so desperately intense that you would never suspect that he is really quite at ease off screen. -It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with him. I'm only sorry that our scenes were limited to what they were.

Brian: You got to "blaze with glory" with an awesome flame thrower in 'Scarecrow Slayer'. Are there any other weapons you are just dying to use onscreen?

Nicole: It's funny. They referred to the rocket launcher at the end as some sort of Russian rocket launcher that fired incendiary explosives. They called it a "Bumblebee" or something. The art department was on a limited budget so they just used a spent U.S. Army LAAW rocket tube, which they could get free, to simulate the thing. My father was rather proud of that scene, because he used LAAW rockets when he was a Green Beret in Vietnam. - I would love to use any weapon in an historical film, especially a western. It would also be fun to shoot a gatling gun like the one Arnold Schwarzenegger uses in 'Terminator 2' - now that would be fun!

Brian: Can you tell us a little about the movie 'Scorpions!' and the character that you played in that fun sounding flick?

Nicole: 'Scorpions!' was a film that was never released. I've never seen more than a few minutes of footage myself. I was chased through the desert by your average fifty foot long Emperor Scorpion. This scorpion was in desperate need of the kind of attitude adjustment that I gave the Scarecrow but it wasn't to be.

Brian: You played a supporting role in the comedy '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' with Poppy Montgomery and Tori Spelling among others. Do you have any crazy-cool memories about working on that film?

Nicole: I had a very small role in that picture, since it was cut down to about one line. If you watch the film, I'm the drunken girl named Lucy pawing at Paul Schneider as he arrives at the party. I didn't have a lot of interaction with Poppy Montgomery, Jennifer Westfeldt or Tori Spelling, but I seem to recall that they were instrumental in making sure we had a useable toilet on set after the enormous cast/crew managed plug the three toilets in the house in which we were shooting. I guess some calls were made and a porta-potty showed-up at their insistence. I suppose that says something about them! They weren't THAT particular, they, like the rest of us, just didn't want to have to go in the bushes! You see! Movies are really not that glamorous to make!

Brian: You worked with horror genre veteran Casper Van Dien and Sherilyn Fenn in 'Officer Down'. Do you have any pertinent recollections about working with them and/or on that cops taking law into their own hands thriller in general?

Nicole: I was happy to be in this movie of the week for Lifetime network. Again, it was a small role but it was the one that got me my SAG card. If you don't blink you can see me delivering a package (and a line) to Sherilyn Fenn. - Sherilyn Fenn was great to me. She was very friendly and helped me hitch-up my ill-fitting uniform pants. Again, this was a show that was operating on a limited budget, so they were re-cycling/sharing costumes. The only cop uniform that came close to fitting me was the one Casper Van Dien wore, and it was still QUITE big on me. In between takes Sherilyn would help put me back together. I suppose a little gaffers' tape might have done the trick, but Sherilyn was a great help.

Brian: Lastly, any future plans or words of wisdom (IE: Don't battle a nasty creature from hell in just your shorts and a friend's tiny tank top) that you'd like to leave us with? And - thanks for doing this. It's been beyond keen!

Nicole: If you watch 'Scarecrow Slayer' you'll notice that the rocket launcher is used in several scenes, but I am the only one who is able to actually make it fire. I suspect this is because my character, Mary Anderson, was the only one who bothered to read the instructions which are clearly marked on the side of every M72 Light Anti-Armor Weapon. I just think that's important. In fact, if this film has any theme to it whatsoever, it's probably exactly that - always read the instructions before using an anti-tank rocket.

Brian: And to think - I didn't catch that on my first viewing! Oh well, I better check it out again and really pay attention this time! - Thanks again, Nicole! You rule!