The Real Housewives of New York City alum Jill Zarin spoke with Wicked Horror about Night of the Wild, her first film role. In the movie Zarin plays Liz, a dog owner who is obsessed with her “babies” and who wants to coddle her pups constantly. Unfortunately for Liz, the film is about a town where all the dogs turn into blood thirsty monsters after a meteor lands in the area. Zarin enthusiastically shared with us what it was like to be in a horror film after her time on reality tv, and even shed some light on her future both as an actress and in the horror genre.
Wicked Horror: So what was filming like for you? (Unlike with The Real Housewives of NYC) You have normal ‘everything’s fine and I’m taking my dog to the groomer’ shots but then you also have the ‘oh no, half my face is gone’ traditional horror scenes.
Jill Zarin: I was there for a week, but it was like everything happened in one day. Everything was very, very organized and the way it started is you had to film a day, and you had to film a night. The first week that I was not there they did the day to night scene. When I got there they started the first day at like 9 o’clock. Then the second day they started the day at 11 o’clock. Then the third day they’d start the day at 3 o’clock. Then the next day they’d start at 6 and do an all-nighter. That way your body could kind of get attuned a little bit to working at night, you know what I mean. They were very thought out about it.
That’s the other thing. You can’t be clean and dirty in the same day. Like you can be clean and then get dirty, but you can’t get clean again. I had to do my dog, like dog store shots with the dog or with Kelly, and the house shots before I could do anything with blood. Once I got bloody I was done for the night because there weren’t showers there and stuff. So I really loved that I didn’t have to be dirty the whole time. You know, being a horror movie you expect to be bloodied up, or a zombie movie or whatever, bloodied up and everything. So, you know, you don’t get to pick and choose a glamorous take.
And I did try, even though they know I have a thick New York accent I really tried to tone it down. I mean I can’t get rid of it, but I tried to close my vowels and things that I could do easily. So anyway I tried to be more generic so that they wouldn’t think ‘what’s this girl from New York doing there?’ or be too obvious. You know, they cut out the scene I had with my daughter in the movie so I’m kind of sad. That’s what it’s like when you act, you never know what will be cut, but it told the story of who Liz, my character, was and where she was from, and why she was there and all that stuff. So I kind of “appear”, but that’s okay.
WH: It’s definitely disappointing. It’s one of those things where I’m always someone who wants to know more about the characters. Even if it’s going to be something where everyone gets hacked to pieces at the end. I still want to know who they are.
Jill Zarin: I know, and I feel the same. The other thing was that I had this whole drama with my daughter about going off with her friends in the forest and all that stuff and it literally could have been a conversation with my own daughter. So it was very real for me. …Kelly played my best friend and in real life we’re friends, so that was fun to be able to film with my friend. We hung out and ate together and that was fun.
WH: That also probably helped bring a lot of authenticity to the role.
Jill Zarin: Right, yeah. …Then Rob Morrow saving my life – what could be better than that? What a hunk he is. He has an interesting hobby. He plays guitar. He brings his guitar on set. Since he’s an expert he knows there’s a lot of downtime so while they’re setting up lights he plays guitar.
WH: So does that mean that before your next role we can expect to hear that you’ve picked up an instrument?
Jill Zarin: I’m thinking that if I got a regular gig I’d need to start knitting. — No, I was practicing my lines. …I spent a lot of time practicing my lines. That’s the hardest part of acting, memorizing lines.
WH: Do you think that was the most challenging part of the role for you, just getting the lines down?
Jill Zarin: Absolutely. Just getting the lines down. Everything else is fine. Acting, all of that. It’s just knowing the lines. That’s something you can learn and get better at over time — that’s what I’ve been told. I was told that if I did it more often it wouldn’t be so hard.
WH: Well there you go. More encouragement to keep acting.
Jill Zarin: I know! I gotta get my next role.
WH: I do want to ask, speaking of your next role – You’ve been a designer, author, motivational speaker, you’ve done reality tv and the laundry list of your other accomplishments – how did that lead to you being on the Syfy channel, getting attacked by dogs?
Jill Zarin: …I have no idea. No, what happened was my manager called me up and said “can you act?” and I’m like “sure I can act!” I had done White Collar before, and I went to acting school when I was in the fifth grade, when I was a little girl, and I think that acting for some can be a natural gift. I’m not a song writer. You know, if you have a song writer they can get a tune in their head and it comes out of their mouth and a designer gets an idea in their head and can produce clothes. With acting, some people can kind of just do it. It’s part of the skill set that I have. So when she says “Can you act?” and I say sure then she says she had this part that came across her desk of Liz and that it had my name on it. I think what triggered me for her was the dog. I’m a dog lover and everyone knows I love my Ginger. She was on the show (The Real Housewives of New York City) a lot and she knows that everywhere I go I bring her so when she read the script she thought ‘Oh my God, Jill Zarin is perfect for this role.’
The way the role is written is that Liz is obsessed with her two little dogs with bizarre names. The scene was cut that explains that I’m taking the dogs to get ready for the Westminster Dog Show, and I was coming in to get them groomed and they were acting very weird. So I’m going in to get them groomed and say to her in my very New York-ish kind of way that my dogs need to get massaged, and she looks at me like I have three heads. Like who gets a dog a massage? I’m like ‘who doesn’t?’ and then I’m like ‘watch, I’ll show you’ and they cut back after I’m showing her how to give the dog a massage and she’s looking at me really weird which is when the dog bites her.
What most people would say to her is ‘Are you okay?’ but I didn’t say that, I said “What did you do to my dog?!” because (Liz) is just that crazy about her dogs. Getting their names down took me so long, but I don’t even remember them now… So my manager sends me two pages of dialogue. She says record yourself and send it in tomorrow. And I’m like “Woah Nellie”… I practiced at my friend’s house… So I did this audition tape, not thinking I’d get it, and it’s very flattering how it happened. It was sent to my manager who obviously knew it was me, and then my manager sent it to Scotty (the casting director) and once it left his hands they did not associate that clip with Jill Zarin. They sent it on like other talent, with five or ten other girls auditioning. So they sent it on not knowing it was me and they gave me the role not knowing it was Jill Zarin. I didn’t get the role by being a Housewife or by bringing more press – you know what I mean – they hired me because they thought I was the best one for the role.
WH: I was actually impressed across the board by the quality of the acting in the movie. Made for tv movies have a sort of a bad rap for lower budgets and poor acting and things like that that wasn’t the case. It was a great thing to see, and I’m excited.
Jill Zarin: Thank you. You know I have my share of haters from being a Housewife. When you’re on Housewives you get haters, so I would love it if you would write that. It might help stall off some of the heat that’s going to come my way Saturday night. There will be people saying ‘Oh she can’t act’ and ‘she’s this, she’s that’, so having a professional like you who has seen a lot of (horror) would be nice and I’d appreciate it more than you can imagine.
WH: I’m sure being in the spotlight you get a lot of flack in general, but since you keep putting yourself out there you’re obviously more susceptible to people sharing their opinions. Even the bad ones.
One thing that I did want to ask, speaking of jealousy, how did your chihuahua Ginger handle you spending so much time with other dogs?
Jill Zarin: It’s funny. I wanted to bring her to the set, and in hindsight I probably could have. You know, I’m a new actor and I didn’t want to overstep any bounds or get into any trouble. Plus I didn’t know what kind of laws surround having animals on set and things like that. You know, it sounds terrible, I of course missed my husband and my daughter but leaving Ginger for a week was terrible. The only time we really don’t take her, aside from this, is when we go on a cruise and even then it’s very very hard. She’s usually RIGHT here. That (leaving her) was the hardest part. I actually wish they could have put her in the movie because she can really show some teeth! She is vicious. She’s not nice to anyone except me, including my daughter. She’s so jealous! The moment my daughter walks in the room she starts growling and bares her teeth.(Returning to the movie) I tell people that this movie is scary. If you get scared, then watch it anyway but try to imagine what it actually is. Sugar water and a lot of the sound effects were put on after. Like they are still dogs, they weren’t making those sounds when I was there. Sure, they might have growled a little, but I don’t think an animal could even make some of those sounds! In TV land they make those kinds of sounds. That’s one thing that’s so great about the editing, that they could put together this scary movie. I mean, I was there and when I was there it didn’t look like it was all that scary. NOW it looks scary.
WH: Oh definitely. They did a wonderful job with the post-production editing and adding music. I think you’ll be very pleased when you get to see it.
Jill Zarin: It’s great with the meteorite and the town… And you know it’ll be so great getting to see the script come alive. You know, when you see the script you think ‘how can they make a movie out of this?’ they’ll talk about picking the apples in the fields and the guys on the thing, and I’m just thinking ‘I don’t get it’ but then when you see it, it’s like ‘Wow, they made that paper into real people now.’ When someone writes a story and it comes alive, it’s very cool.
WH: Oh I agree completely. Plus to see all of those different characters and the character development come to life. It’s always neat to see how the back story comes into play, and makes them seem more real and makes for a better movie.
Jill Zarin: You should ask for that in your review (referring to some of the cut scenes which featured more character background). When something like this does well, there’s always a chance for another movie. They’re (Syfy and other networks) very receptive to the fans, bloggers, and public opinion. …Horror has become very popular because of Sharknado.
WH: Between wildly popular things like that, American Horror Story, Hannibal, and the mainstream horror tv. Now we have Scream Queens with Jamie Lee Curtis just starting up, so there’s a great deal out there. — Knowing that it is such a popular genre, now that you have your foot in the door. Do you see more horror or sci-fi projects in your future?
Jill Zarin: I am the scream queen. How’d you like my screams, by the way? Sometimes they add sound effects or amplify things. That was not a sound effect that was added or amplified. I heard my scream and I know they did not amp me. They didn’t need to! Sometimes I know if it didn’t come out right they’ll have to fix it in post, but I know my scream.
WH: That’s wonderful.
Jill Zarin: I would definitely say I want to be a scream queen. I love horror, and I can’t wait for the phone to ring. I hope it does.
WH: Well I’m sure we’ll be seeing more with you in it.
Jill Zarin: I hope I do (get more horror roles). I’d love outtakes! Give me back my scene. (Viewers) Like character development, and not just for me but for other characters I’m sure there’s an interest. They just run out of time, but I’d still love to see that extra footage.
WH: If nothing else, just putting it on Youtube and use it as promotional material. Throw us a bone, here.
Jill Zarin: If that’s what the fans ask for, I think they’ll listen. I hear it in meetings all the time (how important it is to listen to fans when they reach out) Through Twitter, Instagram, and blogs.
WH: It’s definitely amazing to see how much interaction fans are having these days with talent, like yourself, and also with networks. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to start a movement to get that extra footage out there.
Jill Zarin: I have wonderful, wonderful fans. I have an incredible base from all over the world. (Those in) Australia, England will be asking and wanting to know how I did. They love me and get frustrated when they can’t see things I’m in.
So there you have it. Filmmakers, Jill Zarin is waiting for your call! Be sure to check out Night of the Wild on Syfy on Saturday October 3, 9/8 Central.
**Note: All images in this post were provided by The Asylum.