Judith: "I've always wanted to act and sing...
ever since I was a little girl".
Conducted by Phil
July 8th, 2004
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“They’re coming to get you Barbra”
The immortal line first heard in 1968’s Night of the
Living Dead which is not only one of the best horror films ever made, but
well respected and credited as being one of the best films ever made.
I had the absolute pleasure of chatting to Judith O’Dea
about the role that made her a household name amongst film thespians and
genre fans the world over.
Read on for all the details on how she became involved
in a little film, which ended up earning itself a big reputation.
Did you always want to act or
did you just stumble into it?
I've always wanted to act and sing ...ever since I was a little girl. It
was the most natural thing for me. I'd practice on my own every day. My
parents never had to ask. That love of performing spans generations.
Great Grandfather Stanley, on my mom's side was in British Vaudeville and
my father...well, there was nothing better for him than minstrel shows and
four-part harmony singing. We used to perform little shows together for
the neighborhood. Such great memories.
How did you first hear about
'Night of the Living Dead'?
Karl Hardman called me. I was in Hollywood at the time hoping to make it
big in movies. Now, that's sort of a strange twist, isn't it? Karl asked
if I'd like to come back home to audition for a film he, Marilyn
(Eastman), George (Romero), Russ (Streiner), and Jack (Russo) were
planning to make. All of us had worked together over the years doing
commercial work in Pittsburgh. I said, "Sure!" And the rest is history.
Assuming that you went for an
audition, what were your first impressions about George Romero and the
I did have to audition. George...everyone involved took the whole process
very seriously. I felt they all wanted to make the best film they could
with what limited resources they had. If this project was successful,
then it could lead to bigger and better efforts.
When did you find out that you
had the lead role of Barbara, and how did you feel?
I don't quite remember when I found out, but it couldn't have been too
long after the audition. I CAN tell you though that I was absolutely
thrilled. All I wanted was the chance to be the most believable "Barbara"
that I could possibly be.
Did you have long to prepare?
There was no advance preparation that I recall, at least on my part. We
would talk through what was expected in the shot(s), and then go for it.
That included much of the dialogue as well.
How long did the shoot last,
and did it go smoothly?
For me the shoot lasted a steady two weeks or so. Then I was called back
a month or so later to do some pickups. Everyone helped out...makeup,
film loading, etc. I'm sure there might have been some rough moments, but
for the life of me I can't remember when or what they were.
Did you get along with your
fellow cast members?
We all got along just fine. It was a monumental GROUP effort.
Do you still keep in touch
with any of them?
I see Karl, Marilyn, Kyra, Russ, Jack, Bill, and George on rare occasions
when we all show up at a horror convention at the same time.
"I understood exactly why many people
were quite upset with our story.".
Did you ever think about
leaving the project due to conditions?
What were your feelings about
audience reaction when the finished film was finally released?
Having been terribly scared by a horror film when I was growing up (THE
HOUSE OF WAX with Vincent Price), I understood exactly why many people
were quite upset with our story.
Were you surprised by the
Totally surprised...and extremely grateful.
How does it feel to be the
star of what is considered one of the best movies ever made?
Wow, what a question. It's hard for me to get a handle around that, Phil.
But if something must be said, it would be that I feel more grateful than
there are words to adequately describe. Making NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
has affected my life in so many, many wonderful and unique ways. I just
want to say THANK YOU.....thanks to ALL of you who still believe it to be
a very special film worth remembering.
Have you seen the sequels and
what did you think of them?
I haven't seen all of them, I'm embarrassed to say. But got a kick out of
the one I did see (DAWN....)
What did you think of Tom
Savini's re-make in 1990?
To be honest with you, I see it as something a little different than a
re-make. Tom modernized the story...so much so that Barbara's character
changed dramatically. That took it out of the re-make category for me.
Do you feel that Patricia
Tallman handled the role well? It can't have been easy for her as she had
a lot to live up to!!
Patricia did an excellent job. She made the role her own.
Did you like the fact that the
character was able to become a version of the modern woman?
Well, now.... sometimes even modern women have "stalled" moments until
they can pull it all together. We're all different though, aren't we?
Each of us will act in her own unique way.
Have you seen the recent
re-make of 'Dawn of the Dead'?
Not yet. But I will.
You recently participated in
Jason Paul Collum's documentary 'Something to Scream About'. Were you
flattered to be asked?
Yes, I was, very much so.
Did you enjoy the attention
I'd be a huge liar if I said no.
Do you admire your fellow
scream queens? After all they have had to work at it for years, whereas
you have only really had one role and will forever be remembered.
God bless them ALL!
Are you surprised when people
such as myself, who was born almost 15 years after the movie was made, are
familiar with you and your work?
Indeed I am, Phil.
"It's not that I shied away from it...believe me".
Why did you shy away from
further film work?
It's not that I shied away from it...believe me, I absolutely love film
work. It's just that most of my work calls were for the stage or
commercial voice overs. Guess I just wasn't seen as a 'Hollywood' beauty.
But oh, how I would have enjoyed doing character work. Who knows, maybe
there's still hope for me yet.
You made an appearance in Mark
Tapio Kines 'Claustrophobia' (I've been talking to Mark for about a year
now, and am interviewing him too....it's a small world!!) How did you
become involved in the film and how did it go?
Boy, that's a rather convoluted story. Ask Mark. I think he'll remember
far more clearly than I do. It all happened around the time he was
releasing his first film FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS (Verify that title for me,
would you Phil?) and I was trying very hard to produce my OWN movie PLAY
ME AGAIN, SAM. Mark gave me some very helpful feedback to keep me headed
in the right direction.
You are also appearing in 'A
Moth to the Flame'. The film has an excellent cast. How is that going?
Principal shooting will not begin until the fall. I'll know better
Can we expect to see a lot
more of you then?
Oh my, I sure hope so. :)
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."
You can visit Judith's official web site right here: www.judithodea.com