Chelsea Rendon, Jordan Diambrini, Jeanette Samano & Kade Wise
Coming Out of the Woods
By Jay S. Jacobs
An old, dark house, in the middle of nowhere. Strange sounds emanating from the night. Six young people hanging out, wanting to party and hook up, but suddenly they start to disappear. Bodies start to pile up. What’s happening? Who is doing this? Will they make it through the night?
This is a pretty traditional nightmare that has fueled a whole slew of horror films. However, Murder in the Woods takes that formula plot and adds a bit of Latin spice to the mix. With a cast including Chelsea Rendon (Vida, A Better Life), Jordan Diambrini (The Outfield), Jeanette Samano (Your Move), Kade Wise (Empire), José Julián (A Better Life) and Catherine Toribio (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) and action icon Danny Trejo, the movie takes horror ideas and gives them a culturally-diverse, new-millennial spin.
Filmed a few years ago and a favorite in the horror film festivals, Murder in the Woods is finally getting a wide release nationally in drive-ins and theaters – with a Video on Demand soon to follow.
A few days before Murder in the Woods was set to debut we got together with Rendon, Diambrini, Samano and Wise to chat about the movie, the importance of diversity, what is scary, what it’s like working with Danny Trejo and living in a post-pandemic world.
What was it about this script that intrigued you?
Chelsea Rendon: It was written for me. (laughs) I had worked with Yelyna De Leon, the writer, on the Oscar-nominated film A Better Life in 2010.
That’s a great film…
Chelsea Rendon: She played my moms. We connected, we hit it off. We stayed friends and then a couple of years later she was like, “I want to write this horror film. I want to write this slasher. Are you down?” I’m like, yeah, sure! That’s why my character name is my name – Chelsea – because she wrote it for me. We filmed this in 2015.
Kade Wise: Every single character was a diverse character. If I had to think back and really consider the script in its entirety, every single character is a diverse character. Then, per the execution of those characters after the story was shot, every single character, although it was diverse, was told in a very unbiased, American, old-fashioned way. It was very cool to see that distinction between the two.
Jordan Diambrini: It was certainly just a beautiful piece of art we were able to generate together. What really turned me on to the script was the message of diversity we were sending in it. To be a part of it was fantastic.
I enjoyed the fact that while Murder in the Woods is in many ways a traditional slasher film, it also added some Latin spice, so to speak, to the dish.
Chelsea Rendon: Chelsea definitely adds that. (laughs)
With the totally crazy state of the world, why do you think that diversity and inclusion is important even in things like horror?
Chelsea Rendon: It’s important everywhere. Yes, in Hollywood, and yes in the different genres, but in the world. When it comes to politics. When it comes to board rooms. When it comes to teachers. In general, we need to have diversity and we need to have respect for one another. I’m glad that we can do this in our small way in media, because they say media ends up influencing politics. If we can be diverse and we can show Latino characters as heroes, then let’s do it and let’s change this negative narrative. But again, it’s important not only in Hollywood, and not only in horror but in general.
Why do you think the idea of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with the potential of evil lurking is such a universal nightmare?
Chelsea Rendon: Yo, I know. There are so many projects where you get stuck somewhere. Or the car breaks down. Or you lost service. Now it’s like you lost service. Back in the day it was like there was no service. It’s one of those things where we want to know what could happen.
Kade Wise: That should even play onto the Americanized setting of it in itself. We take for granted what it means to be safe in America. Well, I don’t want to say we take for granted, but it is taken for granted what it means to be safe in America for some people. Obviously, some not, considering the climate that we are in right now.
Jeanette Samano: I’m thinking it just brings a thrill to people when it comes to horror films. The unknown, that’s what makes everything so scary, not knowing what’s going to happen next. For me, I’m terrified, like oh my God, what’s going to happen? Even though I’m in the film and I already know what’s going to happen, I still get kind of scared… (hides her eyes behind her hands) but I think that’s the reason it’s so much fun.
Jordan Diambrini: You’re cut off from the outside world, man. You have no communication with anyone. You’re in a desolate and bleak cell. It’s just cold and dead and horrible. (laughs) Sorry, not to make it all negative, but there is something thrilling about that. Also, horribly frightening.
Kade Wise: To go up into a place like that, which is just rural and isolated, I think it’s easy to go, “Yeah, nothing’s going to happen. We can have a big old party.” Until something does happen, as it usually does in situations like that.
Jeanette Samano: Or does it? I don’t know… (Kade and Jordan laugh)
Kade Wise: Or does it? We invite the evil eye…
Jordan Diambrini: We invite the macabre, man.
Kade Wise: The tupacabras.
Chelsea Rendon: I’m not a big horror or slasher fan, because I get scared really easily. But sometimes when I watch movies, I’m like I wouldn’t do that. Why would you go there? Run away! Why are you investigating the sound? Don’t do it! I think in real life in a crazy situation I would survive. Maybe that’s why people watch it, because they want to feel like I’m smarter than the characters in the movie. I would do this. Give them a tool that they could put in their toolbelt in case of emergency. Who knows? But that’s something I think everybody enjoys watching, people being stuck somewhere and like: Oh what???!!!
That old house in the middle of the woods certainly looked creepy on screen. What was the place like to film in?
Kade Wise: I’m still having nightmares to this day.
Jeanette Samano: The floors were creaking…
Kade Wise: I’ve been going to therapy.
Jeanette Samano: Yeah, it definitely shook me a couple of months after. I was telling the boys that I was having nightmares, or I couldn’t sleep after filming. We were shooting at night, but shooting at the house was so easy, because they literally just put is in the environment and they said, “Play.” And we said, “Okay!” It was fun. I had a lot of fun doing it, even though it was really scary.
Chelsea Rendon: Yeah. I definitely got scared a few times on set. We did pretty much night shoots the entire time. It was cold. It was scary. I was 21 when we shot this, too, so I was like a little baby. Like, aughh! But it was fun.
Jordan Diambrini: It wasn’t as scary for me because I had people around me. I had a whole cast. If I were alone, and there was no one around me, yeah, I’d probably be crapping myself. So, I’m glad I was surrounded by a cast, you know? (laughs) I had some awesome people.
Kade Wise: I’ll be honest, refreshing my memory on how I felt in certain nights, there were nights where it was like… yeah, the entire cast and crew was on the first floor, and on the second floor there was nobody around. I definitely thought twice before I started stepping into rooms by myself. I wasn’t scared, I just didn’t feel entirely comfortable.
Chelsea Rendon: The house was cool. I love seeing it in other projects. They used the house a couple of times in different episodes of Criminal Minds. I remember watching being like: I shot at that house. I’ve seen it on multiple shows. I think Rizzoli and Isles used it as well. That’s fun for me when I’m watching other projects and I’m like: I did that house. (laughs)
Chelsea, you said you’re not a big horror film fan. What kinds of things do scare you?
Chelsea Rendon: Everything. That’s the sad thing. That’s why I don’t watch a lot because I get scared by everything. Even in my house, the ice machine makes noise. The air freshener shoots out in the middle of the night sometimes. The water machine makes noise. Raccoons or cats run on our roof and I’m like (looks around frightened) what’s happening? What’s happening? And that’s without having a horror aspect to it, without watching a scary movie. I’m a big sissy-la-la. That’s just me at the end of the day. (laughs)
The four of you – as well as José [Julián] and Catherine [Toribio] – all seemed to connect, even if your characters didn’t always. In such a small, tight-knit cast, when did you know that things were working out and you were connecting with your castmates?
Jeanette Samano: For me, I definitely think everybody worked well together. The chemistry was amazing. Everybody really sharpened each other’s swords every day on set. Everybody really brought it to the table. I think that it really shows on screen, so I’m really excited for people to check it out.
Jordan Diambrini: We were working off of each other and we were really able to build something special. It was fantastic.
Chelsea Rendon: We were all kind of friends. José and Rollo [Rolando Molina] also worked with us on A Better Life. I had met Catherine through the business. Jeanette and José knew each other. I knew Kade through the business. And I really had a lot more connections.
Jeanette Samano: I think probably a week in everybody started to get a little more comfortable. But everybody’s chemistry was pretty good off the bat. I knew José beforehand. I’ve known him since we were younger. I didn’t even know he was a part of the project at first. Then he was like, “Yeah, you should totally do it.” Then I got cast and I was like, woo! So, it worked out.
Chelsea Rendon: Everybody ended up coming and hanging out. It was fun. You’re on set for 14 hours playing and stuff. That was the beautiful part of it.
Jordan Diambrini: They were a blessing to be around. I was really new to being involved with acting at that time, that was one of my first big parts. I was able to really connect with the actors. Kade was really cool. He was really warm. He was really showing that older brotherly love a little bit when I first came on there.
Kade Wise: I was the new guy as well. We were the new guys just singing “Kumbaya” together in a barn in the middle of Topanga Canyon.
Jordan Diambrini: Jeanette: amazing, sisterly, awesome love that she had.
Chelsea Rendon: It was just one of those things where we were all hungry and excited to be on set. Just excited. (laughs)
Jordan Diambrini: Everyone was just so nice with me and were cool with me that I was the new guy. That’s what I loved about it.
Chelsea Rendon: Compare that to [her TV series] Vida, we became a family. I literally bug my brother Carlos. In real life he came to my house for Thanksgiving. For my film The Tax Collector, I had known Bobby [Soto] and Noemi [Gonzalez] for years. Now we’re playing cousins and they are playing brother and sister. I think that’s a beautiful thing.
Kade Wise: I would say yeah, agreeing with Jeanette, it took us about a little under a week and then everybody started to fall into their groove. Other than that, it was a great experience. The whole month just went by and we had a great story out of it.
Chelsea Rendon: The Latino community in Hollywood – The Latinx people – we all know each other in some way or another. It’s a small knit circle. Even though there’s a lot of us and we’re all talented and stuff, we know each other. I think that essence comes to it. Then again, Latinos, we just love. We’re just so fun. When you put a bunch of Latinos together, it’s always a good time. (laughs)
What was it like working with an icon like Danny Trejo?
Chelsea Rendon: Oh, my God, Danny Trejo. Machete. He was so cool. He was really, really cool. It was so fun to just be on set with him. He’s still chillin’, you know what I mean?
Kade Wise: Danny’s amazing. Danny is just such a sheriff. He has the characteristics of a sheriff naturally, so when he put on that outfit, that costume, it’s like okay, that’s Sheriff Lorenzo. It was very nice working with him. Me as a new actor at that time, still new-ish, upcoming actor at that time, I learned a lot from somebody like that who has a lot more expertise.
Jeanette Samano: He definitely has a dad sense to him, but he’s also very strong-willed. It’s all about his business and working. I love that about him. He was great. I honestly learned a lot from him. I think people are going to be really surprised when it comes to him showing up on screen.
Chelsea Rendon: I’m glad I’m not the only one that takes naps on set. He got to take a break. In between scenes, it’s a night shoot. You take breaks when you can if you’re not working. It was fun to see that he’s just like me and he needs a nap, too. (laughs)
How have you been dealing with the whole shelter in place world?
Chelsea Rendon: I have been staying home. I’ve been staying safe. Been watching a lot of TV. The last six weeks I finally started working out, because I had gained ten pounds in the first three months of quarantine. So, I’m like, alright girl, you need to stop. You want to work after this. (laughs) I think as actors, we’re used to the off and on. You don’t have work for the next couple of weeks, so you’re chilling at home anyway. So, it wasn’t a big thing for me, but it’s hard for me not to see my friends. Not to see the family, like I’m used to. I do have my little pods where it’s like okay guys, we’re only going to see each other. We hang out. We’ve gotten tested to make sure we’re in the clear. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve also got an amazing boyfriend that lets me annoy him all the time. I’m like, hey babe! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! (laughs again)
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 14, 2020.
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