She acts. She sings. She writes music. She… winds up on a morgue slab in an abandoned hospital with maniacal cult killers on the outside and hideous monsters on the inside.
That’s not where we expected to go in our description of Kathleen Munroe, but with her new film “The Void” due out on Friday, it’s a road we’re forced to travel down after hearing about what her character is put through in the movie. All that said, if things that go bump in the cinematic night are not your particular cup of tea, you can also currently stream Munroe in the new Amazon comedy series “Patriot” or watch her latest music videos featuring songs from her upcoming full-length album. Needless to say, she has been very busy.
We recently sat down with Munroe to discuss the masterful puppetry of “The Void,” her spaghetti western inspiration and our preteen excitement for “Supernatural,” which we forced upon her like hideous monsters inside an abandoned hospital.
TrunkSpace: We have an unhealthy, preteen girl-like obsession with “Supernatural” so we thought we could start there if you don’t mind?
Munroe: (Laughter) Of course. I get it. You’re not the first. It’s a fun show.
TrunkSpace: Being from Canada originally and with the show having shot there all of these years, is it sort of a right of passage for actors from Canada to appear on the show?
Munroe: I think it kind of is. We get so lucky with some of these shows just sticking around. Like that one just seemed to keep going, so yeah, it was amazing because it kind of spanned a generation, or a couple generations of actors coming up and ones that are more established. Yeah, it was definitely like earning your stripes going up to do an episode of “Supernatural.” I actually think the first episode that I did, was maybe like the second job I ever booked in LA and then went back up to Canada to do it. It really feels like an initiation, yeah.
TrunkSpace: It was quite awhile ago that you appeared on the show, but it has a large base of rabid fans, as evidenced by us asking these questions. Are you still recognized for having appeared in the show?
Munroe: Now and then. I did two episodes of the show and played two different characters, which I think there are a handful of us that did that. It’s really cool that they were open to that over time. It’s really people who are obsessed with the show who would even recognize me from it. I really only did the two, so it’s not like I was a face of the show or anything. So when people do know that I did it, I know that they’re like mega fans of “Supernatural,” which I think is really cool. I was fanatical about “Star Trek” growing up and so anyone who is fanatical about something, I totally relate to. I’m tickled when anyone knows me from that.
TrunkSpace: Sticking with the genre, your new film “The Void” is due out this week and people seem really excited about it based on what we’ve seen on social media.
Munroe: Yeah. It’s crazy. It’s cool to see that. We’ll see what people think when they actually see it, but I really love it. I chased after it when I saw the concept video because I just think Steve and Jeremy are so immensely talented. I was really happy to finally get to do it with them. I think they really succeeded in doing what they wanted to, so I’m excited to see what people think. You never know, but I think it’s something that I can stand behind.
TrunkSpace: The trailer looks like it has a combination of freaky mind-bending horror and then the gross out elements. Is that a fair assessment?
Munroe: Yeah. Totally. And the cool thing is that, for me, I’ve avoided doing anything that feels like sort of torture porn. I’ve certainly avoided as much of that kind of violent misogyny as I can and not that that is a characteristic of horror movies in general, but I think that exists. I think that there is also some stuff… the gratuitous dismemberment stuff isn’t really my brand. But what they do in the gross out stuff is just the most unbelievable artistry when it comes to puppets and practical effects and the performers who are acting as the monsters are just phenomenal. To me it’s like dance and gore and painting and sculpture and stuff. The gross out elements are absolutely there and they don’t hold back from them, which if you’re going to do a movie like this, why hold back at all… but it’s also never just for the sake of seeing how much we can torture people. It’s right along the line that I get excited about because I love those John Carpenter movies with the practical effects and I think that’s what drew me to it.
TrunkSpace: Those practical effects hold up over time.
Munroe: They really hold up. I remember being pretty late to see “Total Recall.” I didn’t see that movie until I was in my early 20s and it was just like, “Holy shit!” As over the top as some of it is and as cheesy as some of it is, it’s still integrated. When your action is integrated in the space that you’re acting in, I think it just feels different. With the practical effects and practical builds, it keeps an integration for the action of the movie that I think you just feel.
I think it’s a realm where creativity and creative problem solving really triumph. In any movie you’re working under certain constraints, whether it’s budget or time or location. I’ve never done a massive blockbuster, huge budget movie, but I’d imagine even then you’re working within certain boundaries, so the practical effects really benefit from highly creative thinkers because you have to figure out how to make something really impactful and really cool and something that pushes things forward within, often, some budget constraints or time constraints. The solutions that came out of some of those problems, I think, made for better parts of the movie because of the level of creativity that Steve and Jer have. If there was a problem, the solution would end up being sort of better than the original idea because they’re just really good at doing things on the fly and thinking things through.
I think what becomes clear, I hope anyway because I think this is true… there’s a mythology to it. And it’s a mythology that those two guys have thought through. It’s airtight to them. They don’t explain it either in the movie or in interviews, but you get the sense watching it that there is an internal logic to this world and whether we understand every detail of it or every origin point, isn’t the point. The point is that we feel like we’re immersed in this realm that they’ve really constructed in a very complete way. It’s a testament to their outside-of-the-box thinking and their meticulousness, without ever wanting to be kind of spoon feeding the audience plot details or mythology that they feel that they could just imply.
TrunkSpace: That’s a good approach to take because oftentimes if feels like some full-length horror films could be really great shorts but that the core concepts don’t always hold up to a feature.
Munroe: Yeah. They also know the traditions they’re working in. The movie embraces some of the archetypal characters of the genre movies. They’re not trying to make the most complex character portraits, although I think they do a really good job of giving us stuff to do that felt human… but they still give a good nod to the genre where they’re trying to kind of push it forward without breaking it open completely in a way that would sort of disrespect the tradition.
TrunkSpace: In the trailer it looks like you’re lying on a morgue slab. Safe to say that things don’t end well for your character?
Munroe: (Laughter) I’m not going to say that it doesn’t end well. I’m going to say that we go through some… through some tricky stuff. I won’t give any spoilers here, but I think part of what made me excited about this is that there is… there are three main female characters in the ensemble and they all really have a trajectory and they get some good moments. They’re not just the victims. So… yeah, things get tough for a bit.
TrunkSpace: Things go as best as they can in a horror movie?
Munroe: As best as they can in a horror movie set in a broken down hospital with cult killers outside and monsters inside. It goes as well as it could go given those circumstances. (Laughter)
The guys were great about leaving some ambiguity in a lot of areas of the story and I think that my character exists in a bit of ambiguity ultimately, which was cool.
TrunkSpace: So when you’re shooting a movie like “The Void,” do you go back to your hotel room and look behind the shower curtain and under the bed after a long night of shooting? Do you carry the eeriness back with you?
Munroe: (Laughter) Well, the thing that was so cool about this because I’ve never done something with this level of practical effects… and I don’t think things with this level of practical effects happen that often… and so what was wild was, the scene on the morgue table… there’s an effect that happens with sort of some puppetry. Some creature stuff happens to me on that table. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked in a way that what I was looking at in that space is what you see on screen. They built a whole sort of false body for me and had people hidden around the set operating this creature in a way that makes it just so real and so consistent… my reactions could be consistent with what we end up seeing because it’s not CG. I could look down and see these things that look like they’re happening to my body and because the guys are so good, it REALLY looks like it’s happening to my body. So, it’s FREAKY as HELL. With CGI, you’re imagining things. With this kind of stuff, you’re seeing it. And then, to go home to our hotel room in Sault Ste Marie, Canada… a pretty isolated place… and kind of look down and now I know what it’s like to see a creature inside my own body… it’s freaky. It’s totally freaky.
TrunkSpace: You’re also starring in “Patriot” for Amazon. From your perspective, how much has the industry changed from where you started your career to where you are today in terms of the amount of work available to actors given all of the new content creators and providers working in that space?
Munroe: It’s been dramatic. I feel so lucky to have seen this sort of upswing, especially in TV because that’s where I tend to get hired. I love doing features and I feel really lucky anytime I get the chance to do a good one, but I earn most of my living doing TV. And so to see the expansion in content… I guess it’s insisted on distinctiveness. I think the things that rise to the top now are things that are unlike other things. Because there’s so much that you can choose from, what really is going to make an impact is stuff that’s different… that we haven’t seen. Just in terms of creativity as an actor or creativity as anyone working in the industry, I think it’s a really, really exciting time because… like I know for “Patriot” with Amazon… one majorly stated criteria was distinctiveness. And Steve Conrad who created the show I give credit to 100 percent with this… just made something totally different, pulled no punches in terms of… he didn’t shy away from his vision at all. He just made the thing he wanted to make and we were given the parameters, largely, to make it. It couldn’t be more exciting because we get to be creative in a realm that’s also a commercial realm. It’s encouraging and it’s really, really cool.
TrunkSpace: It feels like a great time for actors to just act and not get caught up in that whole A-List mentality.
Munroe: Totally. And I’ve always thought of myself as a journeyman. I’ve been very lucky to work relatively consistently since I started. I’m not a mega star household name, but I work. And now with the stuff that’s coming out, it is… it’s really dream stuff. It’s great. It’s possible to have a really fulfilling career and I honestly couldn’t feel luckier right now.
TrunkSpace: And aside from all of this on-screen excitement, you also have a new album due out soon.
Munroe: I do! Thanks for paying attention. (Laughter) That’s just something that I love doing. Music was my first love, I guess. I don’t have any memory of not playing music. I’ve always done it. Now it’s a luxury to have some time off and be able to make some songs. I recorded in Hamilton, Ontario where I grew up with this guy named Mike Keire who produced with me. And then I can just call my friends in who are talented, amazing, generous musicians who come and help out. I’m really excited about it. It will be coming out… I’m not sure the exact date, but within the next two to two and a half months. And I’ll be getting content out bit by bit before then.
TrunkSpace: What did you set out to accomplish musically with this album that maybe you didn’t get to do last time out with your previous EP?
Munroe: This one is bigger in terms of instrumentation. The thing that I wanted to do with this collection was make it a little more ambitious. It’s a little more holistically moody. I was watching some spaghetti westerns and I wanted to have this feeling of… like sort of movie music from those old spaghetti westerns. I kept hearing strings, so I enlisted the help of an amazing musician named Anthony Carone from Ontario to arrange some string parts. So together we kind of worked out these… and he did all of the heavy lifting… but we worked out these pieces that incorporate strings and pedal steel and stuff that really has a vibe that, to me, feels pretty western. And that was what I wanted to do with this… capture a vibe in a pretty holistic way across the record. I hope we did it. I’m really proud of it and I’m really proud of what the people came in and worked on it did.
Learn more about Munroe’s music here.