It may be their last moment in the sun, but these stars will shine brightly once more before they go out. In Hollywood history, their stars had a short life, it seemed. But they always burned brighter than anyone else before they finally dimmed. At Master Mystery Productions, we let our stars shine for as long as possible and give them a chance to show just how dazzling they are. In this behind-the-scenes post, we let the stars of What Happens at Sundown reveal their stories behind these brilliant characters who bring new meaning to the term “extra.”
All cast photos were taken by the amazing Michelle Stallings, frequent MMP photographer, Skeleton Key Winner (Femme Fatales), and Founder’s Award Winner for 2015.
ROLL CREDITS: The Making of What Happens at Sundown (Part 2)
Helena Rothschild was an acclaimed Oscar®-winning actress (Death of an Unwanted Man, 1942) from the 30’s and 40’s who is trying to rebuild her career after several disastrous marriages, a health scare, ageism, sexism, and the rise of television, shaking the core of her career in film. Although she despises the medium, she takes the role on the television show, Sundown, under the maxim of “better the devil you know.” Longtime MMP veteran performer and mutli-award winner, Monica Lorenz (Skeleton Key Award, two-time Diamond Mask Award, Founder’s Award) helms this role and provides her thoughts on this complex woman:
“She clutches her well-deserved Oscar tightly in one hand and with the other, the faded memory of being one of the beautiful artisans of the silver screen of the 1930’s and 40’s. She had claws back then, so they said, never backing down from a cat fight in an effort to remain relevant in Hollywood. She nonetheless saw the sun set on her biggest dream, on her career. She was forgotten, seemingly left for dead for two decades before tiring of her cabin fever and brushing off the dust and debris that covered her. She became steadfast in her dedication once again, taking a job on television in hopes of re-launching her career. She is determined to force the sun’s orbit to change just so that it’ll rise for her. She is Helena Rothschild.”
Kim Hyatt was a two-time Oscar®-winning actress (Dove’s Last Stand, 1938; Crumbling Mansions, 1941) who had a severe breakdown in 1942 after being trapped inside a studio fire that killed three people and left her hands disfigured with burns, forcing her to wear gloves for any future jobs. Traumatized by the incident, Kim has spent twenty years in isolation in hospice care, recuperating. Sundown is her first major job and her comeback to the world of acting. Master Mystery Productions veteran and Skeleton Key Winner (Anonymous, 2017), Leslie Blake, takes on this unique and challenging role and shares her thoughts on the character:
“Kim is a fragile woman. A woman once at the height of her career, she is now stuck there, and only a shadow of her former self. She longs for the days she was fearless and bold. She misses the glamour of her previous life. After the fire and the subsequent hospice stay, she’s now, despite her fear, trying to reclaim her life as it once was, starting with a role on television.”
Victoria Camden is an actress in the ill-fated Sundown episode playing the role of the handyman’s wife who shows up at the sisters’ house after he vanishes. Victoria is a young actress struggling to get into the industry. Despite her parents being former studio crew, producer consensus seems to be she should stick to sewing rather than stagecraft. Depressed, she’s started to exhibit early signs of alcoholism which led to rumors that she may have hit and killed a producer’s son while driving drunk. Sundown is her first major acting role and her big chance to prove herself. Talented MMP newcomer, Rebecca Witherell, makes her debut in this fascinating and fabulous role, and she gives us her take on what makes Victoria tick:
“Victoria’s most prominent trait is her ability to rapidly switch from an innocent young girl to a volatile wild card at any given moment. I love that about her character. There’s this duality of innocent vs. instability in her that I love doing, especially how those two sides of her seem to blend together occasionally and show her true personality, which is just a damaged and emotional young girl. Victoria is such an intense character, and I’m a bit of an intense person, so we mix well together.”
Elijah Samson is an actor in the ill-fated Sundown episode playing the role of a handyman who shows up to maintain the house the sisters live in. Elijah has worked as a supporting and character actor in Hollywood for years and has developed a world-weary, highly pragmatic view of the fantasy of Tinseltown. What he lacks in ambition, he makes up for in serious commitment to his characters. Writer/director Daniel Stallings, who has been seen in such roles as Simon Pritchard in Goodbye Hollywood, General Major in The Last Garden Party, Edgar Giraud in Bury Me in Paris, Tobias Davenport in Ode to Agatha, and Dr. Alan Fleming in Anonymous, provides insight into what makes Elijah tick.
“Elijah is one of the old guard. He’s something of a relic in the fast-changing world of the 1960’s. A fine character actor which helps him to get jobs, but he doesn’t have the drive to make a name for himself. He’s a workhorse. Sometimes harsh and cynical, Elijah doesn’t buy into the Hollywood dream that has enticed so many people for generations. He sees it as a business, a deadly one too. He plays the long game and doesn’t rock the boat. But the murder may unseat him from his comfortable, if dingy perch.”
Madam is the Rod Serling-esque host and narrator who also serves as the writer and director of the episode Sundown is shooting that day. Cool, calm, collected, she is referred to only by a polite form of address throughout the show, an intensely private individual who will reveal nothing about her past or present. Sundown is her baby, a product of her unique mind and creativity. Most of the cast and crew of the show treat Madam with extreme respect and a little trepidation. Madam is very dangerous, and she revels in that. MMP vet and brilliant actress, Cat Kreidt, returns for her third Master Mystery Production after an award-winning performance in Bury Me in Paris (Diamond Mask Award) and a vocal role in Famous Last Words. Here she shares her thoughts on the incomparable Madam:
“This character has been very fun to play. I always love portraying a strong woman, even if she is a little intense. Madam’s history is what I find so intriguing. In order to make it in the male-dominated field of film directing in the 60’s, she’s had to develop a thick skin. Rhino thick. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. I like to think she didn’t come to Hollywood a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails girl. She was a wide-eyed, innocent girl with big dreams just like everyone else. Her jaded persona was hard-won, learning she would either be the hunter or the prey. She made her choice and never looked back. Success comes at a price…”
Bob the Cameraman is filming the episode of Sundown. Bob is mostly silent and watchful, a background character with the presence of a ghost. When he makes his presence known, everyone feels it. He is described as a bit of a “magpie,” attracted to glamour, shimmer, and shine. But through it all he wears a disquieting sneer. A man of few words, it is difficult to gauge exactly what Bob is feeling. Diamond Mask Winner Matthew Bradford returns for perhaps his darkest and sleaziest role yet, and he proves some insight into how he created Bob:
“This is my third collaboration with Master Mystery Productions but my first time playing a character that is so opposite of my own personality. Bob is obnoxious and blunt, delivering nasty remarks with an insulting tone. I could never be this harsh in real life! So for this character, I had to draw on my experiences with unpleasant people that I’ve encountered. It’s about capturing the abrasive tone and body language of an antagonizer. People are mean for a reason. Bob harbors secrets, and definitely has a motivation behind his behavior. After years of working in the industry, he’s acquired a thick layer of show biz dirt, and relishes wallowing in it. That’s what I love about portraying him. Where else can you unleash your inner jerk and get away with it?”
Miss Lockwood is Madam’s browbeaten assistant, glued to the safety of her clipboard. Fidgety, detail-oriented, obsessed with perfection, Miss Lockwood does very good work, but it is hampered by Madam’s authoritarian behavior, as Madam always pushes for bigger and more. There’s a bit of hero worship regarding Madam, as Miss Lockwood harbors secret dreams of being a director. Amber Stull joins us for her first Master Mystery Production in the role of Lockwood, and here are her thoughts concerning her character:
“I view Miss Lockwood as a dangerously intelligent young woman, who is desperately trying to find her power in Hollywood. At first, she probably began as naive and soft, but later realized she would have to adapt into a conniving pupil to Madam. It’s not about hard she works, but the dirt she knows in order to make her name known. I created her character as frustrated and annoyed as possible. Miss Lockwood is sick and tired of taking orders and waiting for her opportunity–She’s ready to seize it.”
Our Hollywood insiders have made their red carpet debut, but what they will wear to opening night? Step into the magical world of Master Mystery Productions costuming to learn about the detail we went into the design a period piece and embracing our Hollywood glamour past in Buffalo in Taffeta: The Making of What Happens at Sundown (Part 3)!
And don’t forget your tickets! They’re $20 each and are on sale now at Red Rock Books in Ridgecrest!
–Master Mystery Productions