Rya Kihlstedt is an American actor best known for her role as Michelle Ross in the TV series Dexter. She has also been in films such as Home Alone 3, Brave New World and Arctic Blue. She plays the role of the demonically possessed Judith in the found footage mockumentary horror film The Atticus Institute, which comes out on Blu-ray March 23rd. We caught up with her to find out more…
STARBURST: Tell us all about The Atticus Institute
Rya Kihlstedt: I know they’re calling it a horror film but I think it’s more a psychological study and thriller. It’s told in a documentary style using almost as much still footage as film. It’s about a woman who, over the course of the story, becomes more and more possessed. We do it without CGI; it’s old school 1970’s!
How did you get into the role of Judith?
The biggest challenge was that I wasn’t sure how to be possessed. Figuring out how to build a character that has been taken over by another character. Finding that helplessness and taking the audience along for the journey was challenging. I think as an actor you always try to draw from something that you’ve experienced in life and find parallels. This was about understanding where a lack of control comes from.
What drew you to the role?
For me, it was involving and caring about her and the doctor. I wanted to understand her plight and situation. I was surprised how much William’s character also gets involved. It’s a horror film that isn’t a horror film; it’s character drama.
What was it like on the set of Atticus Institute?
These little movies are really something special. People are there for one purpose. There’s something they want to make. These things can be a crapshoot. This one was a total joy.
It was fast and we were constantly wishing for an extra week to shoot. They were some amazing guys doing the special effects and they were incredible. Chris (the director) knew exactly what he wanted and let everyone get on with their work and it all came together. They were days were we laughed really long and hard. It was a great set to be one. We worked very hard and really focussed.
You’re best known for your work in Dexter. What draws you to scary stories?
Dexter is a dark show, but my role wasn’t particularly dark, she was a police psychiatrist. Really, it was more an exercise in listening, being still and understanding how to respond to what people are telling you. Figuring out how to embody that was fun. I’m not dark by nature, but it was a very interesting arc. When you audition for a television show, you have no idea what the plot is going to be, so you don’t know what you’re signing up for. I was really impressed with the team on Dexter.
I have lots of little bits. I’m developing a television show with my husband and I’m working on some small films. I’m involved in a theatre company and I’m also an artist, so I’m all over the map.
What is your ideal role?
Good question. I love story driven projects. The stuff I fall in love with are the smaller things; the human stories. I like to create my own and explore that way.
Why are small budget scary movies so popular?
I have no idea why people love to be scared because I hate it! I don’t think that The Atticus Institute is a horror movie. My son has recently discovered horror movies. I love doing small movies though. I think, sadly, the movie industry has turned into this giant behemoth with big budget extravaganzas that have far less heart than I’d like. Every giant movie should have to fund a low budget movie.
What advice do you have for young actors?
It’s a whole different world now. If there’s anything else you love as well, do that at the same time. It’s a business that ebbs and flows. And do theatre. Go where the love is.
The Atticus Institute is out on DVD and Blu-ray from the March 23rd.