[Interview] Asta Paredes Talks ‘Return To Nuke ‘Em High’ Volume 1

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Always the sleuth, Chrissy suspects something terribly wrong is going on inside the classrooms of Tromaville High School. The glee club has suddenly turned into a violent gang of psychotic mutants. Though they’re completely opposite of each other, Chrissy has to team up with Lauren in order to solve the mystery in “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1.”

I spoke with actress Asta Paredes about her role as Chrissy, dealing with the practical effects, and how she came up with the “Pollution Nerdz” viral series for the film.

Bloody-Disgusting: Tell me about your role in “Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1.”

Asta Paredes: Chrissy is an environmental blogger. She is a highly inquisitive person. That probably has to do with the fact that she is an orphan. And she’s a feisty person who’s kind of trying to figure herself out.

BD: What interests you about the character?

AP: I guess what I’m most interested about the character, especially with the Troma project, is how Chrissy began to shift and change as I began to audition for her. She has a structure. She was an investigator. She’s kind of like that curious spy, Nancy Drew, in a modern world. I’ve always been drawn to detective shows, procedural dramas, things like that. So I was very interested in playing a character who had a role in driving thought and looking into mystery. Chrissy is perfect for that.

BD: Tell me about creating the relationship, building the chemistry with your co-star, Catherine Corcoran, who plays Lauren, Chrissy’s lover.

AP: It was effortless. It’s the best word I’d used to describe it. We slowly got to know each other, not so much as Chrissy and Lauren. We were able to lay down a foundation that allowed us to not even have to use words to communicate what we wanted to do with our characters. So much so that, we used to share looks on set. And that became part of the actual shooting schedule. “Shoot Asta and Catie looking at each other!” It kinda reminds me of Roman Polanski’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the intense longing that you feel when you watch that production. That’s the same thing I wanted to bring to this.
Also, we became close friends after the first callback. We auditioned separately initially and then we became really good friends.

BD: The glee club mutates into a gang known as the Cretins. Tell me about staying in character while being surrounded by the FX, make-up, and visuals gags.

AP: It was actually like having a Q, like Q as in James Bond, on set! It was like you knew who you were. You have the training. I laid down the character. You worked on the script. And then suddenly, I have all these gadgets, who’s its and what’s it, and different factors to work with. So I got to work with great people like Drew Bolduc, Jason Koch, a wonderful team, and Kaleigh Brown, the woman who made my “penis.” So she and I had to work together a lot. It’s a fun dynamic in itself.

BD: Was it a challenge when dealing with all those practical effects?

AP: Yeah! Working on a film set itself is challenging, especially if you’re used to live performance. It’s a lot more to do with endurance, when you physically have a carry a practical effect, that a person has to pick up twenty pounds. You have to shoot all night into the morning. It’s really about the physical and mental endurance; keeping it fresh as much as you can mentally. Learning to deal with splattered blood, goo, mud, dust, fireworks, and all sorts of things. Just learning another stage is why Troma is such a great film school for people.

BD: Lloyd Kaufman has made a series of sequels with “Class of Nuke ‘Em High.” Tell me about putting your own spin, a fresh take on the franchise while keeping with Kaufman’s directions.

AP: I think he managed to revive the franchise by taking the initial story back to its roots, much like a lot epics and sequels tend to do in going back to the root of it. We went back to “Nuke ‘Em High” itself, not a college. It’s the actual high school where it all began. It’s like revisiting a war zone. You’re seeing the wreckage and seeing how people survived years later.

Lloyd is great because he considers all the current events, all the social issues. He considers how people will view it on that side. And then, he wants you to do the work as far as the character’s integrity goes. So he expects nothing but your full work ethic. Once you give him that, he allows you to put your say.

So having said that, on this production, everyone got to put in a creative voice as long as they were able to stand up for it, bring relevance to it. And he made sure his direction stayed in the same universe of “Nuke ‘Em High” – fun, campy, and all that. You just had to bring yourself to it.

BD: You also wrote, shot, and directed the viral segments for the Pollution Nerdz Tumblr page. Did this help you understand what direction you wanted to take with your character?

AP: Yeah! I wrote, directed, and worked on “Pollution Nerdz.” It was just an acting project that I wanted to do, just because it’s been a few years since I’d been in high school. Social media is a huge thing. So I worked on that and it helped me bring more to Chrissy because I realized the attention span of the character. I realized the idea of having to log something in. It reminded me of Lovecraft type stories. What if Chrissy disappeared? What if something happens to her in Volume 2? We don’t know. This is her archive.

I thought of someone who needed to archive everything. What is the mentality of that person? Are they very paranoid or are they savvy? I don’t know. That’s kind of something I wanted to explore with that. Unfortunately, I got to work the majority of that after the production was over, but I did have to do it six months prior to the actual film because I wanted it to be something of a prequel of sorts. I didn’t want to give anything away for the actual film. Lloyd encouraged me to actually publish it online so that people could have it as a little Easter egg.

BD: You were also in Funny or Die’s short, “Battleship Pitch Meeting.” Do you have a preference over comedic or dramatic roles?

AP: I think the best comedy is inherently dramatic. And the best dramas have a sense of humor. So it’s hard to pick when you think of it that way. I love and adore comedy only because it goes back to the basic need of film medium, which is escapism. Being able to leave your humdrum life for a little bit and…I don’t know…smile! I think drama can have its place as long as its relevant to the viewer, whether that be in the social matter or a personal matter for them. I think comedy can overcome that normally. I’m usually torn in the middle.

BD: “Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol.1″ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May. And now it will be screened at the New York City Horror Film Festival. What were your expectations with the audience and have they changed?

AP: I honestly would say that I thought audiences were going to love it because I loved it! But then, deep down I was actually surprised at how much people did love it! And I was also surprised at how many people actually understood the transcendent message of extreme satire that we were trying to accomplish. I now hope that through the screenings that we’ve had and that the screenings we will have, which I’m excited to see what the horror community in New York think, I’m hoping they are able to give a sincere, critical eye and know that it is a joke, and not to take it too seriously, but take it to heart if anything.

BD: What other projects are you working on now?

AP: Right now, I am working on a couple of things but I cannot say until after January. Other than that, I am upping my game with reviving my martial arts skills, dance, and overall, just enjoying New York City.

“Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1″ will be screened at the New York City Horror Film Festival on November 14, 2013.

For more about the upcoming screenings of “Return To Nuke ‘Em High,” click here.

Interview by – Jorge Solis